I AM A RAPE VICTIM.

Seems like that’s the only way to start this story.

So you know exactly what I am.

My credentials and credibility are right in front of you.

I am a rape victim.

I am a rape victim.

I am a rape victim.

……

There it is.

….

That was probably easier for me than it was for you.

The harder part is deciding what to write next.

Because there a million things I want to say.

There a million things I want to tell you.

A million things you need to know.

So let’s start with the whole million shall we?

The millions of us out there who are victims.

The millions of us who have experienced a rape.

THERE ARE LITERALLY MILLIONS.

And I am just one of them.

Yes, I am a rape victim.

But I stopped living like one a long time ago.

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And I’m telling the story.

 Since I’m sure you are wondering anyway.

Because so many are curious.

So few inquire.

“I am a rape victim”

I will say.

It’s a statement often followed by silence.

So powerful that few know how to follow it.

“When did it happen?”

“How old were you?” 

“Did you know your attacker?” 

So many wonder. So few ask.

So many are afraid to ask.

BUT SO MANY NEED TO HEAR THE ANSWERS.

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When I was 13 and about to start high school, I was sexually assaulted by six men at once.

When I was 19 and in my first year of college, I was raped by someone I knew.

Those are the years in the record books.

The years that make me a “rape victim.”

Those are the years you’ll look at, learn about, and come to a conclusion from:

“Yes. She is a rape victim.” This is proof.  

But what you don’t see on paper are all the other years in between.

The years that were taken from me.

The years I didn’t “become” a victim, but actually “lived” like a victim:

By trying to erase the memory of how I became one in the first place.

Trying to.

Because that’s what so many of us try to do.

For so many years.

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Like the year after my first assault, when I was 14 years old and decided to keep it a secret.

Someone said, “you must have asked for it.” So I remained silent. 

Or the year after that, when I was 15, and pretended like it never happened.

Because the friends I told stopped being my friends.

And the adults I told didn’t believe me.  

 So I tried to stop believing it too. 

And then the years I was 16, and 17, and 18, and 19,

when I was finally able to convince myself

It never happened.

Because I just wanted to be normal like everyone else. 

But it did happen.

And when I was 19 and it happened again,

I just decided it didn’t.

Because no one ever told me “it’s not your fault,”

So I continued living like it was.

Living like I was a victim.

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An attack is not just one moment.

It’s a lifetime.

It’s being raped of a childhood.

Being blamed for an attack.

Labeled as “a slut.”

Looked at as “a weirdo.”

Growing up unable to connect with others.

Spending years just trying to “be normal.”

Constantly ignoring a pain.

Continuously living in denial.

Never. Ever. Talking about it.

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But this is is a conversation we need to have.

Because if we  don’t talk about it,

No one will learn.

Victims won’t heal.

Attacks won’t be prevented.

The stigma will linger.

Nothing will change.

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But we need change.

Stop victimizing the victims and start helping them live and let go.

We can’t let go of something when we pretend it never happened. 

Stop silencing your children and minimizing their trauma.

We learn from you. And if you are ashamed, we will be too. 

Stop telling your girlfriends they “asked for it.”

We didn’t ask for it. We asked for acceptance. 

We need to stop punishing victims by silencing them.

Blaming them.

Belittling them.

Branding them.

Burdening them.

We need to stop doing all of those things.

And start letting stories be heard, understood, and accepted.

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I hated being called a rape victim.

Because the only thing that ever made me a victim was

having to live

pretending it never happened.

For fear of being judged,

unaccepted

ridiculed

laughed at

punished.

Calling me a victim made me feel defeated.

It made me feel impure.

It made me feel less than.

Not because it represents the horror and pain of something I once experienced,

But because it made me feel like I should keep silent

and remain inferior

to my attackers

and to people who looked me differently because I was attacked.

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Maybe I am different.

But it doesn’t make inferior.

Maybe I was attacked.

But it doesn’t give you the freedom to attack me.

Maybe you don’t understand.

But you should at least try to.

And sure, maybe I did experience something traumatic.

But I overcame it like a fuckin warrior.

And I am damn proud of that.

Because even though I am a victim.

I’m sure as hell not living like one.

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