Not A Victim. Not A Survivor. A Fighter.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

It’s been over two months, and there are still days where I completely crumble. There are good days and bad days, so drastic and so emphasized that it’s unbearable at times.

After I was sexually assaulted in February, the first week back for the spring semester, it seemed like everything changed. It seemed like I’d changed, and that I would never truly be the same after that. And to an extent, I have changed, but not in a defining way. I am stronger but I am still me, and I will let no one take that from me.

You don’t understand until you’ve been through it; no matter how sympathetic you may be, it’s a unique feeling like nothing else. That someone could take advantage of you in that way, when you are so vulnerable, is a feeling like nothing else. Even if you’ve been sexually assaulted, no experience is the same, but it’s important to support one another regardless of what we’ve been through.

As someone who has already struggled with anxiety for years, the depression that came with the trauma and grief was new and shocking and devastating. I am, still, a motivated, dynamic, bubbly and passionate person, but the side of me that I feel is me feels like it has been stripped away. My roots are being uprooted nearly every day in an unexpected and sudden way and sometimes, I don’t have control.

There are days where I’ll admit that I can’t get out of bed. I have never in my life felt what I’ve felt these past few months and keeping my head above water without letting anyone down is as near an impossible task as it is to stay alive some days. It’s not easy, but it’s been two months and I’ve made it— so if anyone seeing this thinks they can’t keep going, I want you to know that you can, and you are stronger than you know.

On February 2, I woke up and I was in a blur. I barely spoke and I didn’t eat anything. I didn’t realize what had happened until later in the afternoon, because I hadn’t been able to say no— I hadn’t been able to say anything. I did not ask for it. I was vulnerable, he knew that. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, I didn’t have my glasses on, I could barely see. I didn’t ask for it, and it should not have happened, period.

For a long time, I didn’t cry, I couldn’t. I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened, and even now, I still have trouble.

It’s only been two months, and I have to constantly remind myself that I am still healing, and it may take much longer to heal from this.

Not only have I been desperately reaching for my motivation to return, I often have to force myself to go to class, one of which was with my abuser, to wake up in the morning, to not sleep all day, to see anyone and to leave my room. It was worse in the beginning, but I still have many days like this. There is no right way to “get over it.” It’s possible that it’s something I’ll never get over, but I refuse to let it define me. I will spend every day becoming even stronger than I was.

I don’t like the terms “victim” or “survivor” but that’s me personally. Other people might use those terms, but it’s my choice not to define myself with them. After all, only I can decide how I move forward from this, but I will control it.

While every experience is different, I think it’s important to share my own experiences not only so that people affected by something similar can understand, but those who hopefully never experience it can also understand what a difficult place it is to be in.

I have never felt so guilty. So insecure. So empty. So angry. So sad. So worthless. So scared. In the whirlwind of emotions that come after this trauma, it’s a nearly daily battle of what emotion is going to come out and how I am going to handle it— or if I’ll be able to. In the beginning, I’d drag myself to class and come back to my room and stare lifelessly at the ceiling for hours. It’s a mixture of feelings like no other, and I wouldn’t want anyone to ever experience.

It’s not only the feeling that something that was out of my control was somehow my fault. It’s also the feeling that no one will ever be able to understand what happened, and that I’ll never be able to open up to someone about it. It’s the fear that I’ll never love or be intimate again. That he’ll come back. It’s anxiety about how I will control these emotions when the rug is pulled out from under me, when there are tiny flashbacks to that night when I’m walking to class that make me stop short. It’s having to leave class when your professor brings up sexual assault cases. It’s scared that I’ll never feel like myself fully again. It’s the fear that no matter the words I use, I’ll never be able to describe it.

The hardest thing for me is not to pretend that I’m fine. Brushing away these dangerous thoughts and these strong emotions and letting myself feel is something I’m still struggling with. I know that I can make it through, but there are some days where I don’t even believe myself. There are days where I don’t trust myself. There are times where I feel completely alone when I’m surrounded by people who love me and would do anything for me.

It’s no one’s fault. It’s not mine. It’s his, and he knows this, and he ran from it. I wake up every day, and I have to deal with the aftermath and piece myself back together. But I am going to fight every day, to the best of my ability, because I’ve worked too hard to let the actions of one individual take away my light. No matter how hard it is, no matter how much I want to give up, I won’t.

I refuse to let my life and my light be taken away because of this, but I hope that, in some ways, you understand that it is important to be patient with everyone. Every single person you encounter deserves kindness because, at the end of the day, you don’t know what someone is going through, and what it took for them to get up that morning.

Be patient, be kind and treat everyone with respect. Stay strong and lift others up the best that you can.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault and you need to talk to a trained support specialist, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or begin an online chat at www.rainn.org. For Hofstra students, on-call counselors can be reached 24/7 by calling Public Safety at 516-463-6789.