The Fall and Rising From the Ashes
The bitterest truth that I had to face was understanding the depth of trauma. Not just the type of trauma that forms after an injury but the ones that are under the surface, winding through veins, in the dark places of a soul...in the parts of the mind that we lock away. The kind that hides. Goes dormant. Waits until you aren't ready and makes you face the reality that you've lost something you'll never get back. Innocence. I grew up sheltered, protected, and a little misguided. Intelligence didn't skip me but street smarts certainly did. I didn't have a road map to navigate through the ins and outs of the bad things that could lurk around corners...and it left me open to grooming at fifteen. He changed me in a permanent way. The internet let him in and my yearning to feel important, needed, and wanted, kept him there to imprint on a psyche that wasn't emotionally or mentally mature enough to understand the repercussions of actions. Mistakes were made and spirals became trainwrecks. I carried the burden of a closeted life into my college years and it left me exposed to the unfathomable. A predator saw me from a mile away--cloaked in something that resembled friendship, disguised by a pretext that ripped away the last shreds of dignity. I had no reason to doubt them but I should have. The drink in my hand, the fuzziness floating through my head, and the spilled champagne gave me no warning. That's when the lights went out. That's when it went dark and every action that followed was no longer my own. He took my memories. My self-worth. My sense of security. My dignity. Bruised, broken, and confused...I spiraled. I tried to cover the marks on my face and scrambled to find what was left of my clothes, but he'd done his homework. He destroyed everything. He made it look like a blackout gone wrong and was already telling me the opposite of the truth. I already knew the truth. I felt it in my gut. I was raped. Another light within me flickered and went out with a smirk on his face. This man actually wanted to touch me after violating my body. I backed into a corner. I shrank. I sobbed. I kept repeating the word "why" like it was a singular mantra, without refrain. He had no answers. Just excuses and justifications for his actions. I heard every word that no one ever wants to hear. "No one will believe you", "I have her, why would I need to drug and force you?", "It's your word against mine.", "You know that this is all in your head, right?" I believed him. I did not seek justice out of fear. Out of humiliation. Out of a lack of faith in myself. It nearly killed me and, despite scars that haunted me for six years, part of me wondered if I deserved it. That was my rock bottom and it followed me for a very long time but the choice to rise from the ashes has stuck with me. I refused to let him take me down. I refused to let his ghost take away what remained of my spirit. Seventeen years have passed and I'm alive...but he isn't. He blamed me for a life shattered but a guilty conscience never fades. He chose not to live with the consequences that I bear the weight of every day of my life. There's a part of me that regrets the chance to report him but I know that I look at my life as a series of experiences (traumatic or not) that have permanently etched into the darkest parts of my heart. I lived. I can hold my head up high and know that I overcame more than anyone should. My rapist might've taken away something that I can never get back but I refuse to drown. I refuse to give up. I refuse to give in. I refuse to see my broken pieces as less than incredible; lined with gold.