Blog

Becoming a Statistic

“And when you feel the world wrapping round your neck,
don’t succumb”

-Marcus Mumford

Growing up I was known for my positive outlook on life and eager determination to find the good in everyone. Today, this still holds true. That being said, there have been so many people who have come in and out of my life that have made this a challenge. What I am going to talk about today was something that happened to me seven months ago. This is something I really struggled with deciding if I should post about. It’s very personal and, to me, embarrassing. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me or treating me differently because of it. I feel ashamed talking about it but that’s exactly why I’ve decided to do it. I, and anyone else who has experienced what I have, shouldn’t have to feel ashamed to talk about what happened. After all, I didn’t choose to be sexually assaulted.

I am a college student at Texas State University. Going through Freshman orientation it became clear that there was a particular topic that they were really focused on. That topic was sexual assault. We were sat in rows with about three hundred kids and shown videos and slide shows about sexual assault. We went over stats about it – you know, the ones that go “one in every four girls is sexually assaulted during her college career” or something like that. I’ll be honest, sitting through all these presentations I found my self barely paying attention. After all, it would never happen to me, right? I wasn’t a big partier or drinker so I just assumed I would never be put in a position that would allow for that to happen. I remember being so bored I began talking with the guy sitting next to me, who I had just met, to pass the time. That guy next to me would end up becoming one of my closest friends. He would also become the guy who would sexually assault me.

Before I go any further I want to say that I don’t hate this man. I did for the first few months but as time has passed so has the anger. He disgusts me and I have lost every single ounce of respect for him but I do not hate him. For the sake of the post I will refer to him as Tom. I will not use his name because I don’t want to out him or cause problems for him in anyway. He made a mistake, as we all do in life, and I sincerely hope that he can figure out what is wrong with him so he can live a full and happy life. Alright, back to the story.

Tom and I met in the summer of 2015 at our orientation for Texas State University. Even though Tom was a freshman he was actually twenty years old. He had been in the Army Reserves, causing him a late start to the university life. He and I hit it off immediately. We shared the same sense of humor, enjoyed the same movies and shows, and were both facing the first year of university together. We discovered that we both lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and made plans to hang out in the summer before we started school, which we did. Flash forward to the start of school, we became the best of friends. He lived in an apartment and I in a dorm, meaning I had meal swipes. I would swipe him for lunch at least once a week and he would often come hang out with me in my dorm between classes. There was never any interest in forming a romantic relationship, at least in my mind, as I adored the friendship we had. He always made me laugh and could cheer me up from the worst of moods. Soon enough he became apart of my circle.

If you know me, and I mean really know me, you’ll know that I have serious trust issues. Developed from incidents that occurred in my childhood, I rarely let people in. I let him in. I told him all about my past, things I rarely even speak about, and he listened. So he was fully aware of my trust issues, which to me makes what he did to me so much more painful.

Fast forward to my Sophomore year of college. A few months into my Sophomore year it had become apparent that Tom and I had grown apart. He had become very distant from me. No matter how much I tried to reach out he would barely respond. Finally one day I had invited over for dinner with me and my roommate. I had to practically beg to get him to come but I really missed him and wanted to see him. There was my first mistake. He finally agreed and came over. It wasn’t soon before we were laughing and enjoying each others company like we used to. We played Call of Duty and watched some movies and suddenly it was one in the morning. When the movie finished I turned the T.V. off and expected to walk him out the door. Then came the words, “Can I just stay the night?” Now, Tom had stayed the night at my apartment before. Usually because he had been drinking and didn’t want to drive. This time when he asked something felt weird. All I knew is that I didn’t want him to stay. So I told him that I had a test in the morning, which I did, that I needed to get up early for. He followed with “I have a lot to do tomorrow and need to get up early too so this will help me.” I didn’t know what to do. I have this thing where I really struggle with saying no to people so, against the horrible gut feeling inside me, I allowed him to stay. There’s my second mistake.

We both got into separate sides of my queen size bed and I moved as far to the edge as I could. I then said, “Stay on your side. No touching.” So right there was my verbal statement that I did NOT want him to touch me. I honestly didn’t think it was going to be a problem so slowly I drifted off to sleep. There was my third mistake.

When you sleep you are at your most vulnerable. Letting someone else sleep in your bed with you, in my opinion, shows them that they have your highest degree of trust. So you can imagine my shock and horror when I woke up to find my body pressed firmly to Toms, spooning style, with one arm holding me tightly to him. The other hand was up my shirt, aggressively fondling and squeezing my breasts. Because of the position he was holding me in, he couldn’t see my face nor I his. But I could hear his heavy breathing and I could feel his penis pressing into my back. I had no idea what to do. I was scared to say something. I mean what would I say? I couldn’t believe it was happening. Someone I trusted so much, someone who I thought respected me and cared for me was violating me in the worst of ways. So I just laid there, pretending to be asleep. For five minutes I laid there, praying to God that he would stop on his own. It wasn’t until I felt his hand traveling down my stomach, towards a particular area, that I knew I had to do something. I saw my phone laying next to me and got the idea to move a little and knock it over onto my bedside table, creating a loud noise which would cause me to “wake up”. So that’s what I did and it worked. I got up to grab my phone and went to the bathroom. I sat in there in utter disbelief of what just happened. I couldn’t figure out why he did it but all I did know is that I needed to get him out of my house. The time was six-thirty so I decided I would tell him that since I’m already up I’m going to start studying. So I walked out of the bathroom and did just that. He then turned over and said he was going to go back to sleep. I was starting to grow more impatient and anxious as I was creating more reasons of why he needed to go, to which he would respond with a reason to stay. So finally I told him that I was going to a coffee shop so he needed to leave. With a sigh he got up and made his way out.

That was the last time I saw him.

After he left I was still in shock. I tried to laugh it off as a funny thing that had happened. I tried to find a way to convince myself that it was okay. We were friends after all. It’s not a big deal, friends can do that, right? It wasn’t just some random person, this was one of my closest friends so I tried to convince myself that the circumstances were different. Well that mindset worked for the first few hours. As the day went on I started feeling worse and worse.

Then I started blaming myself. I searched every interaction we had and tried to see if I had led him on in someway or done something to deserve this. My body felt disgusting. I felt disgusting and it wasn’t long before the tears started. When I got back from class I immediately ripped my bedding off and threw it in the washing machine. I deep cleaned my room hoping to get every ounce of evidence that it had happened out. Unfortunately it didn’t work. For days I hated going into my room. I hated my bed, the one place I used to love and feel the most safe. I remember calling my mom crying, telling her how stupid I felt for being so distraught about this. I felt I didn’t have a right to be as upset as I was and was ashamed about how much it was affecting me. After all, it wasn’t as if I was raped. It was just some groping. I didn’t have a right to be upset.

WRONG. 

This is the point I am trying to get across by writing this. So many people downplay an incident like this happening because they are ashamed to admit how much it hurts. It doesn’t matter what kind of sexual assault you faced. Anything done to your body in a sexual manner without your consent IS awful. It’s emotionally devastating. You have every right to be upset about it – to cry about it. You have every right to report it to the authorities, even if it is just groping, if that is what you choose. I struggled with this incident for so long because I felt like if I spoke out to anyone they would think I was overreacting or just being a baby. That they would think that I had no reason to be upset or in mourning. But I did have a right, and you do too.

A few months after the incident Tom did reach out to me to apologize, though the apology was not what I wanted it to be. When I asked Tom why it took him so long to apologize he said ” It took me realizing that you weren’t ever text me back and looking at your snap stories and feeling bad for what I had done. I figured that you would eventually text me…” This is what probably angered me most. I’m not going to lie, at first I was going to forgive him and let him back into my life. But this response broke me. YOU are the one who did something bad. YOU are the one who ruined our friendship. It was not my job to reach out to you to fix things. YOU sexually assaulted me. YOU should have tried to fix it that morning when you did it. You shouldn’t have even done it.

Life will never be the same for me after this. I didn’t have much trust left in me. Men made me anxious. Friendships with my other male friends were tarnished all thanks to one persons actions.

In the past few months I have begun to heal from this. As I mentioned before, I no longer hate Tom. I can’t change what has happened but I can learn from it. I can choose not to let Tom’s actions ruin how I view the world. I have met so many honorable men who have proved to me that I don’t need to be afraid of them. Most importantly I learned not to let the bad things that happen control me. I gave Tom my trust. He violated it. He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last. Unfortunately it’s incidents like these that help us to learn and grow. If I stopped letting people into my heart because of Tom I would be so alone. Instead, I am so much stronger than I was before this happened. So, thank you Tom.

Please, if you have been sexually assaulted, tell someone. Talk about it. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. It was NOT your fault and you shouldn’t have to hide what happened. I am the type of person to keep all my feelings and emotions to myself, afraid to reveal my true feelings to the world. I despise sympathy and don’t want people to have to deal with my issues so I understand the appeal to keep such an incident to yourself. But from experience I can tell you that the only way to fully heal and move on is if you work everything that happened out with someone. Trust me, I know it won’t be easy and it will be painful reliving all the events but once you do, you will begin to heal. Coming to terms with this incident is one of the reasons that led up to the death of my anxiety and depression.

I hope this post helped anyone who is struggling. Remember you are loved. You are important. You are beautiful. You are enough. You are you.

-madison

The Day the Anxiety Died.

Anxiety. “A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks” according to the Merriam-Webster. To me, it was death. It was a feeling that never left. It stayed eating away at everything I was and wanted to be. It was ruining my social life, my career and my academic career. But it wasn’t even the anxiety itself that was unbearable. It was the thing that came hand-and-hand with it. The panic attacks. I could cope with the anxiety, as it was with me everyday of my life. I couldn’t deal with the panic attacks. For those of you who have never experienced one, you are lucky. Everyone has a different experience when going through a panic attack. For the purpose of this blog, I will try and guide you through the ones I have. Imagine going about your day as you usually do. Minding your own business, not a care in the world. Then suddenly it feels as though someone has taken a metal bar to your chest. Then, even if you’re in a large area, it feels as though walls begin to tighten around you. It gets harder and harder to breathe. Vision becomes blurry. Sounds become unrecognizable. A throbbing feeling in your chest travels up and feels as though it’s gripping your heart, squeezing the life out of it. You feel like you want to scream- sometimes I have. All you can do it sit and pray to God that it will end soon. Sometimes it does. Other times it lasts for hours. That is what a panic attack is like for me. In my early years I never experienced a panic attack. Unfortunately for the last few years they have be come more frequent. In the last few months they had become a weekly occurrence. It didn’t matter if I was home or in public, it came when it wanted to and it was excruciating.

Then there’s the depression. The feeling that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The constant state of darkness and doubt. The self-loathing and sadness. I have struggled with depression since before I can remember. It’s always there. Even on days when I feel happy and content, it’s there waiting. Recently, it had become unbearable. I couldn’t eat or sleep. Waking up in the mornings was growing increasingly more difficult, as was getting the motivation to leave my apartment and attend my college courses. I’m not going to lie, I let it get the best of me towards the end. I skipped classes, laid in bed instead of doing homework and my other responsibilities. Then I would see that I failed something and would fall into an even deeper depression. It was a vicious cycle. I was put on medication to try and fix me but nothing would work. I just kept falling deeper and deeper into this pit of despair.

I tried everything under the sun to try and rid myself of it. From all sorts of medication to more natural ways of healing, nothing seemed to work. I was falling in deeper. My thoughts were becoming darker as I was turning into someone I didn’t even recognize. All the while the people around me had no idea this was happening and the ones that did had no idea how to help. It was getting hard to cover up the random tears that would fall out of my eyes as I was eating dinner or the lack of interest in things I used to love. I was losing hope.

Then something utterly amazing happened. One day I woke up and it was gone. Follow me as I explore the reasons why I believe this happened.

Remember you are loved. You are important. You are beautiful. You are enough. You are you.

-madison