I Survived Rape & Incest, & Have Since Reclaimed My Virginity

College student. Lover of country music. Spanish speaker. Social butterfly. Sorority woman.

These are just a few identities to describe me. Another phrase to describe me?

Virgin.

Does that surprise you? Yeah, I get that a lot. When peers – and even elders – find this out about me, I almost always receive a look of confusion. "Really?" they say. "How do you manage?"

How do I manage? It’s really not that big of a deal. I don’t wear any sort of chastity belt, and it isn’t like I don’t come into contact with men. Believe it or not, my Catholic upbringing has little to do with this. I was in a two and a half year relationship in high school, I have a ton of guy friends, I frequent the frat party scene (more nights per week than I’d like to admit), and I adore dirty dancing and making out with a passion. I’ve had the opportunity to “lose it” more times than I can count. My best friends have open, casual sex often.

So, what’s different about me?

I’m a survivor of rape and incest by my own father. 

Unlike the stories you’ve heard before, my case is not a “typical” college horror story. I won’t beat around the bush: it happened more times than I can count when I was very young, as long as I can remember, up to age 11, to be exact.

This has led me to stay celibate in college, and at this point, absolutely affects me in my choices and college decisions. I don’t like to call it “daddy issues,” even if that’s exactly what it is. I have major trust issues, and while sometimes all I want to do is hook up, I feel like something just still isn’t right for me.

This surely isn’t something I share openly, or often. I don’t know at what age, or how, it all began, but it thankfully ended when I was 11 years old. For those years in between, nobody knew what I was going through. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what I was going through. I was convinced and persuaded that it was the norm. I hated it always, and I lived in fear of my father; but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I could act like a brat or a perfect angel, but most days out of the week, the same events would transpire. It became systematic, something I learned to live with.

My parents divorced when I was a baby. My father was a meth addict and an alcoholic. I spent most of my time with my mother or grandparents, but once I got a bit older, I started spending weekends and many weekdays with my father. As an only child, I had no defense, and my mother had no idea until I was much older; again, I didn’t know it was wrong. I thought all parents did that with their children.

When I was 11, my father was caught during a drug deal and arrested on the spot. He was charged with countless offenses involving drugs, violence and theft. It was at that time that I came forward to my mother. I was infuriated with my father for being arrested, so I sought revenge by telling the secret he had threatened me with for my entire life. My mother called the police, and I had to testify in court against my father with him sitting right in front of me. To my confusion, I was convinced by authorities that what happened to me was wrong, completely illegal, and absolutely disgusting. I will never forget looking my father in the eye and having to admit to being raped. It was more humiliating than empowering.

My father, obviously and thankfully, went to jail. He was kept in one of the nation’s highest security prisons, and was indicted on many different charges. He sent me countless letters and got a hold of my phone number and called me up to 10 times a day, all of which terrified me. After my denial of his contact and threats from my mother and his attorney, he laid off somewhat. The anxiety and panic disorder that developed from all of this has still not gone away. His parents would show up at my home and school. My mother and I moved homes three times, and I changed my phone number four times in three years in an effort to rid myself of him. It didn’t work forever. He requested me as a Facebook friend during my senior year of high school, even after I thought I made myself completely hidden. Long story short, he was stalking me.

Thanks to his good behavior in prison and his parents’ great lawyer, he was released much earlier than planned. In my mind, he still should have been in prison for life. He got out right before my high school graduation. He moved back home to his parents (who lived in the state bordering my high school’s state), and even had the audacity to show up, uninvited, to my high school graduation, only to be taken away by police because it violated the restraining order I have against him. Moving to college was terrifying, but I've taken extra precautions to stay under the radar and safe. Living in a big city where I feel as if my safety is at stake daily isn’t easy, but with the help of my family and friends I've found my new home here; one where my father hopefully will never find me. 

Since his arrest, I've been in intensive therapy. I've seen psychotherapists, hypnotists, psychologists, and psychiatrists of every sort. I do clinical therapy, as well as crano-sacral and other psychotherapy. I fell victim to self-harm for four years after his arrest, and have attempted suicide twice. I've been diagnosed with depression (and since overcome it), as well as generalized anxiety and panic disorders. I suffer from panic attacks on a monthly basis — memories of rape and anything surrounding my father are a couple of my biggest triggers, but almost anything can get me anxious. Therapy has helped me cope greatly, and I've learned to not turn to self-harm and suicide as a means of dealing with things. Learning to love others and myself has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever attempted. I’m proud to say that every day gets a little bit better. My father has found my family in their new home, but has yet to find me at college, as far as I know. I’m still not sure if our relationship will ever be repaired, or if I’ll ever be ready to speak to him again. In the meantime, I’m just working on being a survivor, instead of a victim. 

I’m all about identity. “Virgin” is something that I identify with, just like I identify with being a white, heterosexual female. Yes, my technical virginity was taken from me at an extremely young age. But after years of fighting and therapy, I've reclaimed it. My virginity belongs to me, and not to the person who wrongfully took it. My virginity is something that I own and make my own decisions about. Nobody gets the opportunity to decide for me what to do with my body and my heart. And after what I've experienced, I can’t walk (or, better yet — sleep) around like sex is some sort of reckless activity.

To be clear, I absolutely want to have sex – I just don’t act on it because I don’t believe it’s time for me yet. Let me put it this way: just because I’m still fighting my fears and past experiences, doesn’t mean I don’t have sexual attractions like any normal college kid. The issue with rape survivors is control: we seem to either have too much, or none at all. There is little balance. You know you’ve heard a "joke" or two about how that one girl who sleeps around a ton has “daddy issues.” Perhaps she does – when one has been through such a horrendous experience, they often look to more love for validation and affirmation. I went the opposite route. Since I have no control over what happened to me, or my feelings about it, I've decided to control one of the only things I feel like I have left from that situation: my reclaimed virginity.

This situation taught me to stay strong, because I know where I’ve been. I know that my decision to remain celibate during my college years will only reward me with something beautiful in the end.

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