Growing up, my mom and I would watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit every night. No joke. If you had asked me then, I would have told you that I was basically an expert on crime and detective work. If you had asked me then, I would’ve told you exactly what rape was. Rape was walking down an alley and being attacked by a man that was hiding in the shadows. Rape was getting drunk in a sorority and being attacked by a frat boy. Rape was just another episode of a TV show I watched every night before bedtime.
To me? Rape wasn’t real.
It was something horrific that happened in movies and TV. It was something that friends of friends have heard of, but it was never real and present in my own life. Until it was.
October 2013, I (like every other college-aged girl) had downloaded Tinder and met a boy. We had gone on one date and he seemed very nice. He was a returned missionary, he went to BYU, we had tons of mutual friends, etc. I mean, it seemed totally fine.
Thanksgiving 2013 was the first year that I didn’t spend a holiday at home with my family. Everyone was out of town and I was in my off-campus apartment all by myself for the whole break. He called me and asked if I wanted to go get pizza and watch a movie with him since his roommates were also all out of town. Seemed alright… right? I went, and it was fine. His TV was in his room, so that’s where we went to watch the movie.
We made out and then he told me that he didn’t want to drive me home because of all of the snow. So I said, “ok.” I mean snow sucks, right? So, I fell asleep in his bed.
I don’t really want to go into the graphic details and I hope you can understand why, but I woke up around 2 AM to him on top of me. He had pulled my pants down while I was asleep and I woke up screaming. Obviously, it was all really scary, but it was also really hazy at the same time. It’s kind of hard to explain; it felt like an out of body experience. It went on for a few minutes minutes until I was able to punch him and kick him off. I demanded that he drove me home ASAP. And he did.
I got home, sat in the shower on the floor and cried. I went to church that morning and went straight to my Bishop. I didn’t know what else to do. He seemed like the only adult that I could turn to. We talked, I told him everything and he just kind of sat there. He finally asked if I was planning on going back to BYU (I wasn’t taking classes that semester) I said yes. He said that this kind of behavior wasn’t appropriate if I wanted to return to BYU. He said that I didn’t deserve what happened, but that there were things that I could’ve done to prevent it from happening. For example: I shouldn’t have been there by myself, I should have walked home when he told me he couldn’t drive home, I shouldn’t have been there past curfew, etc. He then asked if the guy was temple endowed. I said yes, because I knew he had served a mission. He said that he was more concerned for the guy because he had already made temple covenants. He said that it didn’t really sound like the kind of thing to report since I went there and broke honor code willingly and what not.
My bishop gave me the Miracle of Forgiveness and told me to meet with him again in a month. I did and well… that was that.
I’ve struggled with the idea of sharing this part of my life with the internet world for a very long time. It’s for sure not my “brand.” But, a very special dinner made me realize how important it is to share my story and to heal.
I was able to attend a Honey Organization Survivors’ Dinner a year and a half ago. I sat at a table of women that had been through the most terrible things. It was a safe place to talk, but when I was given the floor to talk, I told them that I was just there in support and that I didn’t have a story of any sort of sexual assault. At that given moment I had told 5 people what happened to me. At that dinner I saw the strength and power all the other women had after confronting their battles head on. I wanted to feel that– I wanted to feel powerful. I hadn’t felt power or control over myself since he took that away from me. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I confided in one of my best friends that night about what happened to me and about what I was going to do to take back control.
It wasn’t until two months ago that I decided to tell my parents. After speaking with several people and a new LDS Bishop, I knew that this was the next step. I sent them an email because I couldn’t bear to say any of it over the phone. To this day, I can’t tell this story and use the R-word out loud. I can type it, I can text it, but I just can’t say it. It just still feels so unreal. Telling my family was a weight lifted off of my shoulders. My parents knew that something had changed in the past few years and I think reading everything answered a lot of their own questions. It felt like I could finally breathe a little easier.
A month or two ago, I was speaking with a friend (who most definitely did not know my story) and he said, “You know… I’m surprised at how many girls are actually sexually assaulted. I met the cutest, sweetest girl and she later told me that she has been assaulted. I couldn’t believe it.” The surprise in his voice was so unreal to me. But, I understood it. I understood the thought that rape couldn’t be real. There is no way one human being could do that to another human being. It doesn’t happen in my cute Mormon community and it surely can’t happen in Provo, UT.” I understood what he thought, because I thought the exact same thing up until it happened to me.
I’m sharing this with you because I want to help put a face to a word we’ve all heard, “rape victim.” If you know me in real life or even from my social media, I’m sure all of this is a big surprise. As a young girl (thanks to Law & Order: SVU) I had an idea of what a rape victim looked like. It was not what I see in the morning everyday when I look in the mirror. It wasn’t me. But, it’s so important to acknowledge that sexual assault victims are everywhere and they all look very different. Sexual assault is very real, it’s time we start acknowledging that.
Real quick, let me just jump up on this soap box: Your body is YOUR body. No one (and I mean NO ONE) has possession over your body. You don’t owe anyone a dang thing. Abuse is abuse, whether it’s physical, sexual, or emotional. I know it’s easier said than done, but if you find yourself in an abusive situation, you have to get out. You have to save yourself. Also, everyone has their agency and sex is not a “if and then” situation (if you do this, then you have to have sex.) If you have been abused, no matter the circumstances, it was not/is not your fault. I don’t care if you were drunk, I don’t care if you were breaking the honor code, and I sure as hell don’t care how long your skirt was… it was not your fault. It will never be your fault. Please remember that.
I will not let any of this break me. Last night I woke up from a horrible dream and couldn’t sleep for hours. The nightmares, the being scared of falling asleep, the fear of being alone with men that I do not know well, it’s all still there. But I believe that there is a light at the end of all of this.
I want to end this with my testimony of love. I know that seems ridiculous given how heavy this post was, but I know that love is the light at the end my tunnel. I have a Heavenly Father (and my parents here on Earth) that will help me through this. Not only that, but there are so many resources out there to help people who have gone through these types of things. If you are a victim, know that I love you. Rape, pain and assault is all very real, but so are you. I understand you, and I see you. You are not invisible. You will survive, just like I have, and just like we will fight every day to do.
Here is a link to Honey Organization. Seriously, obsessed with them and all of the work that they are doing. If you are a victim, the loved one of a victim, or if you just want to get involved, please check out their website.