My Greatest Regret

Buckle up, readers, this is a long one!

Two plus decades ago, on my 3rd week of freshman year in college I was raped.  That’s how I lost my virginity.  I was a goody-goody, Catholic girl who had never smoked, drank, partied, lied to my parents and I wanted to save myself for marriage.  I wasn’t attacked by a stranger; it was someone I knew.  Both of us were sober and it happened in the middle of the afternoon.  I was an active, willing participant in the physical contact we shared up to a point.  Then he started hurting me and I told him to stop.  I told him I changed my mind, that I didn’t want to do this, to please stop and get off me, I wanted to leave.  He told me it’s supposed to hurt, to be quiet, it would be over soon.

I was a wreck for almost 2 years after that.  No.  “Wreck” is too mild of a word.  I was paranoid, unstable, in fight or flight mode most of the time and I didn’t even know why.  There were three, possible reasons that I came up with to explain why I had become a crazy person: 1) I was grieving the loss of this boy because he had broken up with me, 2) I was grieving the loss of my virginity (my mind could not deal with it being rape at the time, so it convinced me that I had merely lost my virginity), or 3) I was possessed.

After a few weeks, my mind did what the human mind does best and protected me.  It gathered all the memories of that afternoon, tucked them away in a locked closet and no longer let me have access to them.  Unfortunately, that left me with no “rational” explanation for the paranoia, being unstable and always in flight or fight mode.  I thought I was mentally ill.

I had this terribly urgent need to get out of the state where I was attending college.  I didn’t know why, but such a frantic, desperate need to stop drowning had to be heeded.  I transferred to another college two states away and I though I had solved the problem.  I ran out of the frying pan and into the fire!  That is my greatest regret.  I should have left college, gone home and gotten help.  I only got worse without help and the new college provided so many more problems!  I had been so sheltered as a child that I was not ready for, nor could I handle, the diversity of human nature that attended and taught at the second college.  But that’s fodder for several other blog posts!  ;o)

I wasn’t the only one who suffered for those two years.  My poor parents  went through Hell, too.  There were days when they couldn’t even bring themselves to pick up the phone when their crazy daughter called.  They didn’t know what to do for me and their hearts could not been torn into any more pieces and still survive.  I was pulling them under with me!

The urge to flee did not go away once I was two states away from the scene of the crime.  I would be in the middle of class, on a public bus, making a sandwich in my dorm or sleeping when the urge to run hit me.  My skin started crawling, all the hairs on my body stood up and I literally wanted out of my skin.  I tried to peel my skin off once, but my nails have always been week and brittle because I don’t like milk, so I didn’t get far.  It’s funny, looking back, because I was at culinary arts school and carried a briefcase full of knives around with me.  Why didn’t I ever think to use one of them to peel my skin off?  I’d certainly skinned enough meat in class!  That beautiful, complicated mind of mine must have kept that thought in the locked closet, too.

I still didn’t know what I was so afraid of, but the urge to flee was so desperate that I had to heed it.  I went to Florida for a long weekend with some of my friends.  I visited my grandparents in Vermont.  I walked out of class and hid in bathroom stalls for hours.  These urges to flee came more and more frequently, from weeks apart, to days apart, to hours apart.  I also realize that the feeling of security after fleeing was getting shorter and shorter until even running did not rid me of whatever it was I was escaping.  That was when I came to the horrific realization that I could not run from “IT” because it was INSIDE ME.  I truly believed that I was possessed by an evil spirit and there was nothing I could do about it.

Throughout this entire time, I had not turned to God for help.  I couldn’t.  I had mortal sin on my soul and I wasn’t praising and thanking Him for the good things (of which there were none) so I wasn’t worthy to ask for His help.  The only solution I could come up with to end my pain was suicide.  However, at the time, the Catholic Church still considered suicide murder.  So, even if I went to confession before killing myself to receive absolution for the mortal sin on my soul, committing suicide would have been another mortal sin and I’d go straight to Hell.  I was already LIVING in Hell on Earth and at least one day I would die and it would end.  I could NOT be in that state for eternity!  I know that does not make sense, but when you are crazy, so are your thoughts!

So one night, during my last semester of my associates degree, I talked to God.  I didn’t want to live anymore!  I could not fix this or get rid of this and my whole family was being effected by the demon inside of me.  I could not commit suicide and never see Him nor my family again, if there was even the slightest chance that this horrible sinner might get to Heaven, so I asked God to take me.  No, I BEGGED Him to take me!  I selfishly pleaded with Him to put me out of my misery because I was not strong enough to bear this, whatever THIS was, anymore!  I was never going to be a productive or even functioning member of society and I feared I would just go madder until one day I would not stop myself from banging my head against the wall when I saw blood.  I feared I would just keep going until I killed myself and I worried how that would effect whoever found me.  Once again, it’s amazing to look back on the crazy way of thinking I had.

I cried and begged for several hours and at some point I collapsed, exhausted.  I felt such despair when I woke up, alive.  He had given me His answer and I was right all along: I was not worthy.  He didn’t want me in Heaven with Him.  I was on my own.  I know now I really wasn’t.  Because the thought of suicide never entered my mind again.  That was Him.  And I decided to seek out counseling.  My parents had been begging me for almost two years to talk to someone but I refused because I believed they would lock me up in a padded cell for the rest of my life and I’d have no opportunity to kill myself in there.

I never questioned back then why I did such a 180 and went to therapy, but I know now it was Him.  All I had to do was ask and He gave.  Some may say that if God truly existed and truly cared about me, He should have stepped in and helped me earlier.  But that’s the beauty and the curse of Him giving us Free Will.  He will not interfere and force Himself on us but he waits with open arms and scoops us up whenever we turn to Him, no matter what we’ve done nor how much time has passed with our backs to Him.  I hate that it took me until the age of 36 to learn that about Him, but I know it now and am so grateful for it!

I started visiting a counselor and she did not laugh nor call the men in white jackets to haul me away when I told her I was possessed.  She asked me why I felt that way and to describe to her what it was like to live in this body for the last two years.  She was kind and was so sorry that I’d carried this for so long.  She wanted to find out when I became possessed to help her figure out the solution to getting the beast out of me.  We walked backwards through the previous two years and reached a black hole.  There was a week, the 3rd week of freshman year to be exact, that I could not account for.  But I was a normal person before that week and then possessed after it.

Each session, she gently asked different questions, trying to narrow down what could have happened that week and I could not help her.  Then one day, she found the door.  I didn’t realize it existed, but once she found it I got defensive.  It must be there for a reason so I must protect it!  I would not open that door!  She was honest with me.  Opening that door would probably make me feel even worse than I had the last 2 years.  The process of getting better could be more hellish than being sick.  But she promised me that it would eventually get better and she would be with me throughout the whole process.

I thought about it for days.  When I went back, I handed her the key to that door.  I was so embarrassed to find out after all this time that I was acting like a crazy person merely over a breakup!  I had put my parents through Hell because I was the only fuddy-duddy left that wanted to remain a virgin until I was married?!  I apologized profusely to her; my face had never been so red.  She got up from her chair, came over to the couch where I sat and gently placed her arms around me.  “Honey, you were raped,” she said quietly.  “What?!  NO!  You’re crazier than I am!  Weren’t you listening?”  “I was,” she replied sadly, “and you were raped.  It doesn’t matter that you consented to some things or if you consented to everything and then changed your mind later.  It doesn’t matter how little or how far along a couple gets.  If at anytime one person no longer wants to participate and the other does not stop, it’s rape.  You told him it hurt.  You told him to stop.  You told him you changed your mind and he did not listen.  You were raped.”

She just held me gently for several minutes while my mind processed what she’d said.  I went through a lot of emotions – denial, incredulity, anger, fear, grief, and finally relief.  I wasn’t possessed.  My “demon” now had a name.

She was right; climbing out of the Hell I’d been in for two years was worse than being in Hell.  Reliving it all, processing it all, wondering how I could ever trust myself again to judge someone and the regret that I didn’t seek help sooner.  She asked me if I wanted to report the crime.  I didn’t have to, it was a personal decision for me to make with no judgement from her either way, but she wanted me to think about what I wanted to do.  When the details came out from behind that locked door, I remembered that there were 2 other people present in the room at the time.  If they did not help me then, I didn’t think I could count on them to testify for me in court.  I didn’t want to live through it all publicly, only to have the trial turn into a character assassination on me.  So, we worked on getting me better only.

Then one day I was chatting with my friend *David and got the worst news.  David asked, “Do you remember that guy you were seeing the beginning of freshman year?  Well, *Daisy was using the restroom in between classes the other day and saw something strange written on the wall of her stall.  It said, ‘Stay away from *John Doe!  He is a liar and a rapist!’  You don’t think it’s the same guy, do ya?”  I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.  I couldn’t breathe and the room around me started to go black.  Is it possible that he did it again?  I felt so guilty for locking my memories away for two years.  If I had only gotten help right away and reported what happened to me, maybe he would not have been able to do it someone else!

I was a wreck for days and still was when I went to my next session.  My counselor said all the right things – you couldn’t have known, it might not be true, you’re not responsible for his actions, etc. – but it didn’t help.  Finally I stopped crying and said, “I want to report it.  Help me.”

A month later, my mom drove me to the college campus where I was raped, the same campus where *Daisy had seen the message on a stall in the ladies room.  The campus detective who took my statement was wonderful.  I told all the details, no matter how embarrassing nor how much that thought in the back of mind screamed, “He’s going to tell you you weren’t raped!  You participated in this!”  I guess he saw the self-doubt in my eyes when I finished, because he said, “I’m so sorry you were raped. Have you received any assistance?  I can recommend help for you if you need it.”  After I assured him that I was covered, he asked, “Do you want to name your attacker?  You do not have to.  Just walking in here is so brave but I have to ask.  It’s OK if you don’t; most do not.”  I provided the detective with his full name.  He asked me if I wanted to press charges or if I just wanted the report on file.  I told the detective what *Daisy had seen on the wall and asked him to check for other reports at this college and locally.  “I only wish to file at this time. However, if you find another report, you call me and I will press charges.”  I cried.  He put his big hand around mine and said, “It’s not your fault.  Not what happened to you nor what was written on that bathroom stall.”  He handed me a box of tissue and then left to type up my report.

My mom had been silent since we walked into the police station.  She had never heard what happened to me until I told the detective.  She put her arms around me.  “I’m so sorry I put you and daddy through this for the last two years,” I cried.  We left after I read over and signed the typed report.  The next day the detective called me to let me know he’d checked all reports at his college and another college the boy had transferred to and found no other reports that named him.  That did not make me feel any better.  Most rapes go unreported.

I don’t moan over what happened nor beat myself up over the two years I suffered.  My mind knew what it was doing, at the time knew what I could and could not handle and I am grateful for that.  My mind only had one responsibility and that was to me and my survival.  However, I know now the quality of my life and my parents could have been so much better if I’d sought help sooner.  And I’ll always think how my lack of action might have affected the author of that bathroom “graffiti”.

“We all do things we desperately wish we could undo. Those regrets just become part of who we are, along with everything else. To spend time trying to change that, well, it’s like chasing clouds.”
― Libba Bray

 

* Names have been changed.

10 Comments

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  2. lukeholzmann says:

    I know too many friends who have been raped or sexually assaulted. One is too many, but it’s far more than that. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve had to say some of the same things the campus detective told you. …

    ~Luke

    Like

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  4. Mel says:

    I still remember freshman year so clearly & not until you told me about this a few years ago did I have any idea that happened. You are stronger than you know & God was with you the entire time. Just like he was by my side the entire time I was going through my issues (and still is thankfully!) Love you!

    Like

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