It’s been a full year now. 1 year. 52 weeks since my world was turned upside down and 52 weeks since the thing that you think could never happen to you….happened to me. When I decided to start a blog, I’ll admit, this instantly came to mind as the topic for my first post. Not because I necessarily intend my blog to focus on incidents like this but, because I want my blog to be honest. Desperately honest. And this was honestly the most jarring thing to ever effect my life as an adult. I want this blog to be a safe space. I want readers to feel that they are not alone, and on top of that….welcomed with kindness and understanding….regardless of the topic we are discussing.
I will not be revealing names or personal specifics like that within this post for two reasons: the person isn’t worth my time (they have already taken up enough of it this past year) & I don’t mean for this post to be about them, it’s about my experience and being open about it. This is me closing the door on them. By finally being open about my experience and refusing to let my anxiety keep it bottled up I am releasing the negative energy that has been weighing me down.
So here it goes: I am going to type the sentence that I have been avoiding at all cost for an entire year — “I was sexually assaulted.”
Simply typing the sentence genuinely makes my skin crawl. I am not the type to be a victim of anything. I am a feminist. I am a leader at work. I am the person everyone runs to when trouble strikes and for advice. I’m optimistic and smiling. I’m Sydney— these things don’t happen to me. Until it did happen and I questioned almost every part of myself. This past year I have worked and struggled to get back to myself, to who I am, to the me that I worked so hard to become before the incident. I don’t know if I will ever view things the same as before— I will likely never be that person again. In some ways that is terrifying. In other ways, it has allowed me to truly find myself and decide what my priorities are in this life.
As a society we teach our women not to dress a certain way, not to drink too much, not to be alone with people we don’t know…in order to prevent these incidents. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t dressed inappropriately (I was wearing a bathing suit), I was not wasted (had a few glasses of champagne over the course of several hours), and unfortunately I was with someone I thought was trustworthy and nice. And yet here I am— writing a post about my sexual assault. And to be perfectly clear: even if I was naked, wasted, and in ill company…I still would not have deserved it or been asking for it. That’s the most absurd thing society teaches women today and I hope maybe this post can make even one person see that. It could happen regardless of who you are or how you behave. Victims are not to blame. Ever. Yet it’s completely common for victims to feel guilty afterwards and be too scared to tell anyone— even their significant other or family. Even knowing I did nothing wrong I still felt ashamed and conflicted.
There are several things that stick in my mind about the incident. I remember having a nice time and then all of a sudden it wasn’t nice anymore. I vividly remember my arms being held by one individual, while another touched me inappropriately, trying to remove my bathing suit. I remember tears and a feeling of panic that Dan would think I cheated on him and wouldn’t believe that I didn’t choose this. I remember wishing he were there to save me, instead of gone on tour overseas. I remember saying “Please, I don’t want to cheat. Please.” and I’m honestly still not sure why I thought sexual assault would be cheating— another example of why we need to change the way our society views these occurrences. I remember their responses of “This isn’t cheating, no one will tell him right? He will never know. This doesn’t count.” I remember thinking, Please, let me wake up. This isn’t real. I’m going to wake up now. Wake up. I remember the breath on my skin and the tightness on my arms. I remember hearing them negotiating over my body as if I didn’t matter— “What do I get if I do this while you watch? A weekend vacation?” I also remember a moment of resignation — and closing my eyes tight in hopes I could just pretend I was elsewhere — I gave up, the thing we, as strong women, always tell ourselves we would never do…but eventually you do. Then, most importantly— I remember a sudden, desperate moment of determination — and kicking & screaming until they released me. I tried contacting everyone and anyone I could think of, but it was late and Dan was overseas without service. Looking back at the texts, I know I was going through shock…they were simple and made no sense: “Help. Im scared. Please help me. I want to go home. What do I do?”–things that make no sense out of context. I’ve been asked before why I didn’t call the police— and I honestly don’t have a clear answer for that. I remember thinking: Sydney, don’t make them angry or let them know you’re not okay. Pretend. You got away and they are leaving you alone now so just make it home and it will be fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. Just go. So I went. I sat in the car with one of them as they drove me home and they tried to make light conversation— clearly testing the waters to see if I would tell anyone. I sat quietly, terrified, and couldn’t get out of the car fast enough.
My face was swollen from crying, I had bruises down my thighs and on my arms— I cried to the point that I physically threw up. When Dan had cell service and received my messages, he was there for me, as were my two closest friends. He did not blame me as I oddly feared during the incident— nor did he break up with me. He told me he loved me. He asked me details. He told me I was crazy for thinking he would leave me. He supported me and was there for me, as did the rest of our friend group. I am so grateful to have a group of individuals— they know who they are— who were there for me, no questions asked. Not everyone is so lucky.
Throughout this past year, I have had moments where I felt strong and felt that I was healed. I have then in the very next breath started to cry simply because that person showed up in my Facebook newsfeed and I couldn’t fathom how they continued to exist. I have had moments where I lashed out at others for seemingly no reason. I have had moments where I terribly pre-judged others based on shared qualities with the person in question. I have had days where I felt depressed and hopeless. I have had nightmares about it that felt so real I woke up sobbing and waking Dan, next to me. I have had moments where I mistrusted and alienated someone from my friendship based on no fault of their own—but out of distrust for new people.
I have also however had good days. I have had days where I look at my loving partner and cannot stop telling him how much I love him and appreciate his ongoing support for me. I have had days where I don’t think about the incident at all. I have started doing the things I love again. I have had moments of determination to help others going through this, like now. I have had thoughts of a future where this will almost seem like a story I read somewhere— instead of something that I experienced. I have days where I feel like myself.
One thing that especially changed was my outlook on how I present myself. I was always a very open, carefree, and social person. This incident made me suddenly question my feminist views. I began to blame myself for what happened, thinking: “Do I seem like I deserve that? I mean, did I deserve it?” It took me some time to get back to myself and re-aquaint myself with the true nature of things. And I want to stress the importance of, as women especially, not listening to the constant stream of insults, judgements, and ridiculous expectations people throw at you (and that at times we are all guilty of subjecting others to). It doesn’t matter what you wear, how subdued you are, how much makeup you choose to put on, or if you choose to be friends with mostly guys. What matters is your character; how you treat yourself and others. Be your genuine self and try your best to extend a bit of kindness to others every day–because you don’t know what they may be struggling with. One of my next posts will address this more in depth, as this is something that is a constant work in progress for us all, especially as women– we should be uplifting one another, carrying each other through these hard times– we have enough working against us already.
What has gotten me through this past year is this mantra: Love & Light. Wherever I go—whatever happens to me: I will trust and focus my energies on kindness, goodness, and positivity. I will not be a victim in any sense & I will not allow others to determine how I live. I will take each day at a time and focus on my goals. We can overcome anything in this life with Love & Light. As Rumi said: If light is in your heart, you will find your way home. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Join me?