Five years ago, I was put in a situation I never believed would affect my life. I went to visit my godfather, and his kids when I was seventeen years old. After dinner we decided to listen to music and hang out. I was then offered alcohol from my godfather. Being seventeen, depressed, and thinking it was just a drink I said yes. One led to three, which then led to five. I wasn’t feeling well and told him I needed to step outside. My body felt as though it were on fire, and that I was suffocating from the heat. We went for a walk around the block, and that’s when my life changed. My godfather grabbed the back of my hair and began kissing me. I tried pulling away but had no success. After what felt like eternity he stopped, and I thought I was free. I tried getting an explanation out of him, and his response was “I wish when I was younger, I had someone to help me with my first kiss that I really trusted.” Before I could even move, he was kissing me again.
After what felt like even longer, I was finally able to get him off, but I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. In that moment I forgot how to function. Later that night after all the kids fell asleep, I told him that I wanted to talk about what happened. I wanted him to know that what happened outside was completely inappropriate. My plan fell through the cracks, because what I thought would be an apologetic conversation turned into my godfather raping me. There are parts I couldn’t remember after the event, but what sticks with me most to this day is how he treated me after. He threw my clothes at me like I created a problem. He kept a watchful eye on me the rest of the night, and into the next day. He deleted text messages he’d sent me, and told me that I couldn’t tell a soul, because he would get in trouble.
He would get in trouble, but it was completely acceptable that my body, and mind had been violated beyond measures. He would get in trouble, but I would have to live with the “what ifs”, “it’s all my fault”, and the nightmares. He would get in trouble, but it would take me five years to even think about dating. The next morning, I still couldn’t function properly. My body hurt, I felt sick, and that it was all my fault. It took me a week to tell my mother what happened. The only reason I told her so soon was because I didn’t want to exist. My body wasn’t mine anymore, and I didn’t think it was possible to move on.
After an emotional rollercoaster of talking to a detective, having a rape kit done at the hospital, and countless hours spent in a psychologist office he got away with it. He walked, and never looked back. While I was stuck grasping for air. Just when I would think I was getting better I would be triggered by a certain smell, song, and even the worst running into him at the store. It was this ache that I couldn’t get past. My body felt like it would forever be a prison.
I can tell you now that my body is free. My body is mine again, and I’m stronger knowing that I have a voice. That night wasn’t my fault, and the shame that I put behind it needed to go away. It took trial and error multiple times to get where I’m at now, but it’s possible. I’ve been admitted to the hospital, seen multiple therapists, psychologists, read PTSD books, listened to lectures, reached out to others who had PTSD, allowed myself to cry, worked through the shame, and challenged myself. I knew that I didn’t want my Godfather to have anymore power over my life. It took waking up every day knowing that I’m going to keep fighting even if I stumbled the day before. It was recognizing what my triggers were and limiting my interaction with them. It took being vulnerable with my therapist and admitting the shame I felt. Then the biggest challenged I faced was forgiving my Godfather.
Last month I realized that to recover from this trauma as much as I could I needed to forgive. I’m not stating that his actions were good, but I’m forgiving him for the pain he caused. For the fact that his life was so low that he needed to take advantage of a teenager to feel better about himself. I didn’t know when I would fully forgive, but I immediately knew when it happened. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain, but you’ll understand when it takes place. Do I still struggle though with moments? I do, but they’re further apart and a little easier to overcome. That trauma will always be there, but it won’t define me.
If you’ve experienced sexual assault or know someone that has please know that it takes time to heal. The body was completely violated, and the mind must heal from it. Allow yourself to have grace, and self-compassion. Celebrate the small victories, because they’re big. Remember that not everyone will be understanding or accepting. Surround yourself with individuals that support you and lift you up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because you don’t need to fight this battle alone. My three biggest supporters were my aunt, a friend, and my therapist. I was able to overcome such an awful trauma, because they were by my side. Most importantly I want you to take away from this that it is NOT your fault. You’re such a strong, kind, and brave soul. Keep fighting, because your life has worth.