“I understand why it takes years to come forward”

**Trigger Warning: This piece talks about rape**


 With all of the recent Bill Cosby allegations that have come out I have felt more and more drawn to the story. Each time a victim came forward, I just knew they were telling the truth. It pained me to see such criticism of them. To hear them be called “sluts” and that they were “asking for it.” Even if they wanted to have sex with Cosby, no woman wants her choice to be taken away. No woman willingly takes a pill, knowing it will knock her out and hoping she will get to have sex while she is unconscious. That is rape. There is no consent there. I knew how painful it was for these women. I knew exactly why they waited 30, 40 years to come forward for some of them. I understood that for most of them, the biggest victory was to be believed and to be heard.
When I was 19 years old, I was raped. It shocked me to the core. I was a good kid. I was on honor roll my whole life. It happened in the middle of my freshman year in college. The guy I was dating was so different than any other guy I had dated in high school. He wasn’t into sports and he didn’t get good grades. He was not in college and he played guitar in a band. He wore cool hats and smoked a lot of weed. He said sweet things that made me feel really special.
And then he raped me. It happened so quickly I wasn’t sure at first what happened. But I knew it was wrong. I just couldn’t bring myself to think rape. One minute we were having fun, making out, but I was clear that I didn’t want it to go further. That I didn’t want to have sex. He made me smile. And then all of a sudden I was crying and I was in pain. He was forcing himself in me and I thought it had to be some mistake. I said Stop! I pushed his chest as hard as I could but he was stronger. I started to cry. Please stop I said, tears slowly making their way down my cheeks. And then he said words I never ever thought I would hear. Just a little longer he said. It’s been two years for me. He had completely transformed from a cool guy who made me feel special to a monster. I pushed him again and it did nothing. It was clear he didn’t care. Finally he stopped and rolled off. He put his clothes on and left the room. I curled up, hugging myself, crying at first. I always had thought rape was like lifetime movies. Someone that came up behind you with a knife in a dark alley. Not someone you trusted as a teenager. I was supposed to be smarter than this. I was a smart person. I had dated great guys before this. How could I be so stupid? I actually thought about going to the police. What if I left right now…I thought and just went to the police station? Well a few problems with that. 1) I didn’t have a car. I had gotten here by train and he had picked me up at the train station. 2) No one else knew I was in town besides my roommates who were two hours away back at school. Therefore I thought if my mom knew I was home, that I basically snuck home to see a boy, she’d be so mad at me and I’d be in trouble. 3) I don’t know why but I just thought no one would believe me. I was still so surprised. If I was such a bad judge of character, then wasn’t it partially my fault? And I had come to visit him willingly. And I had liked him. So I was to blame. And if I was to blame, then maybe the crying and the pain was over exaggerating. Maybe I was just being dramatic. Maybe I should just forget this ever happened. I was on a good path here. I ran cross country and track at college. I worked hard. I had good friends. I had big goals of finishing college with honors in 4 years and getting a good job and helping people. This could derail those plans. I was a good girl. I was smart. So obviously I couldn’t have made this big of a mistake. This kind of thing didn’t happen to girls like me. I needed to put this behind me. I needed to pretend like it didn’t happen. So I told myself it didn’t happen. And I never told a single person about what really happened that day for 5 years. In the moment that I suppressed my rape, I became numb.
Did things get better? Yes. Did I get therapy for it? I attempted, but was too scared. It took me forever to admit to myself what happened. I had extreme anxiety. I had panic attacks, insomnia, depression, and my seizures, a previous condition, got much worse. I still managed to graduate in 4 years. I still kept my great friends and made many more. I have a wonderful husband and children now. It’s been over 14 years now. It took about a decade to think about it much less and to accept and not cry about it if I came across a trigger. My triggers were the type of hats he wore that I used to think were so cool, anyone who has his name, anyone mentioning him ever, a song that we used to like or a phrase he used to say to me. I think of these women and that they had to endure years of seeing the Cosby show, and hearing others, even their family talk about how wonderful and funny he was. So how could they overcome that? When one comes forward, no matter how far in the future it is, I imagine it makes it a little easier to come forward although it is still a huge decision. I know I would think about it if someone else came forward about the man who raped me. It was 14 years ago. Someday it will be 40 years ago. But to a rape survivor, the details of the night/day they were raped, that their choice was taken away from them, that never goes away. It stays with you forever and you can play it over in your head like it was yesterday.
A piece of me was taken that day that can never be replaced. There is no reviving it. It is dead. A light went out were darkness crept in for a long time. The darkness has slowly gone away but what happened is irreversible and the damage is irrevocable. It took a long time for me to accept that there was a piece of me that I would never get back. I already had one choice taken away and I could stand anything else being taken away either. I couldn’t process that the two went together. When I finally said goodbye to that girl I had control back. I knew that if I wanted to be a good person, a person who could be happy and full of joy, I would have to build myself up again, and start fresh. If I didn’t I would most certainly drown. And I very nearly did. It has taken years. And there have been so many ripple effects of this act that I never expected, that I completely understand why these women waited years to come forward. It makes total sense to me. I wish for a moment others could see it through my eyes. To see it through all survivor’s eyes. Then there would be no doubt and no question of truth and no victim blaming and shaming. Only understanding. And realizing that the shame is his, not the person who has fought tooth and nail to survive after an attack. It is a world that someday, I hope we can live in.

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