How Being a Sexual Assault Victim Changed My Outlook on Self-Worth

I was a senior in high school and thought I knew everything. Finally, the world was at my feet, and I was ready for the day that I could make decisions 100 percent for myself. Yet, all it took was one event to change the trajectory of my life. It took me getting into a car with a guy I trusted to make me look at myself differently. That one event made me realize all the cruelty my mom had been protecting me from.


Like most promiscuous teens, I engaged in casual sexual encounters. It was nice to get the attention of some of my male classmates. It was November 2008 when I discovered what sex was. It was Election Day, and I decided to lose my virginity on a whim. I would later realize that was mistake number one. However, as I continued to learn my body, my needs, and even myself—other people saw the girl I hadn't discovered yet. As a thick plus-size girl in high school, I didn't understand that boys like the flower but don't acknowledge the roots. So, I associated that male attention with genuine feelings. This would grow to be mistake number two. I moved on from my first and eventually found interest in my middle school crush once again. So, you can only imagine the feelings I felt when he was a notification in my MySpace inbox. We sent a few messages and decided to link before linking was an actual thing. Our first encounter was everything I imagined it to be. We continued our weekly encounters for months. Until he decided that he would share me with his friends one day without my consent or knowledge, I remember that cold day he picked me up. We pulled up to the house and proceeded to go in. We were undressed and in the middle of our "quickie" when it happened. His friends entered the room with the intent of raping me. He had given them all the information about our location, and they just waited on his signal. It was five guys and only one of me. All I could do was cry and pray that God covers me. Thankfully, he heard my prayers, and magically one guy had forgotten the protection. I remember at that moment not knowing what made me feel dirty. I'm not sure if it was being walked in on by the five guys, being completely naked, or the fact the rape didn't happen because they forgot the condoms. I don't remember the threats they made, but I remember the feeling of shame. Although the gang rape didn't happen, my trust was violated. They had seen me in my bareness, and I took pride in being untouchable. But they had seen everything, and now I had to see them at school each day. A part of me died that day. The girl that was so carefree and vulnerable stopped growing. I had grown to trust him, and he played on that trust. He played on my naivety and even my feelings. All it took was one moment for him to violate me, and that violation would play out in my life for years after that.

 

For years I would carry the guilt and shame of even allowing myself to be vulnerable. I blamed myself for being so trusting and how I even allowed myself to get put in that position. I was covered that day, but many of them after me weren't. He would complete his acts with other girls due to my silence. I was too afraid to speak out, and my only regret to this day is that I remained silent after it happened. I'm sure my mom was trying to figure out why her daughter had changed. I'm sure my best friend at that moment wondered why I wasn't myself. But it wasn't easy to tell them that I had been violated, and it would take ten years to have that conversation.

 

Yet, I've come to realize I was the victim, and he was the predator. That one event changed how I view men, how I carry myself, and how hyper-focused I am on my safety. But I'm writing this to finish my process of healing from this and to offer forgiveness. Looking back at it, I was looking for my self-worth in someone who was just as lost as I was. He was trying to figure out life just like I was. It doesn't make what he did any less wrong, but I've learned grace goes a long way. Just know you are worthy to anyone dealing with the aftermath of spoken or unspoken sexual assault. That one event doesn't define your future. You are loved in spite of. You are seen even if it's just by me. I refuse to allow one person to stop me from getting the love I desire and that I'm worthy of. I'm someone's wife, and the only way I can become that is to heal this significant cut in my childhood trauma. I'm a victim of sexual assault, and I am healing in spite of it. My worth was never determined by someone who didn't see theirs. This is my truth, and I won't allow myself to bleed on others anymore. Pain doesn't have a space to evolve in my life—only love and healing do.



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