Just over a year ago, I went through a traumatic sexual violence experience. What started out as a care-free night out with my best friend turned into a nightmare. We started out bar-hopping in Lincoln Park- hardly a rarity for two girls going to college in the city. Without going into too much detail via email, I went from being buzzed yet coherent to waking up the next morning in a strange apartment not remembering a single thing. There was a man on the floor next to the bed I was on. I recognized him as the bouncer from the bar we were at. I was woken by my friend who was sobbing and terrified. I soon was overcome with terror as well. She told me she had just been raped and that we needed to leave. I was disoriented and couldn’t see straight, but we both managed to leave the apartment and catch a cab home- the price of our ride home was over 30$.
After spending an entire day in the hospital, I learned that the man had attempted to rape me, raped my best friend when she intervened and that we had both been drugged.
My experience with the cops and investigators was one of the most upsetting parts. That was the first time I encountered the traumatizing effects of rape culture and victim blaming. Investigators would not arrest or look for the man, even though we knew where he worked, because we had been drinking with fake IDs. Two college students at a bar underage seemed to be deserving of what happened to us. A female investigator even told me, “You know you’re lucky. I usually deal with cases where people die. You could really have gotten yourself in a bad situation.” I began to believe that I was to blame for everything that happened. That this was how the world worked, and I got in the way.
I now know this to be untrue. I went to counseling, and am currently seeking more outlets to help me cope with what happened. I’ve taken on a project to help coordinate an event on behalf of ALMAA (Advocacy, Living and Mentoring After Assault). I now run their twitter page, @ALMAACares and try and update it as much as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to go through and read articles and statistics and events that are still going on. But I know I want to fight rape culture and create a light for those effected by sexual violence. I have so many amazing people in my life right now who have proved that my fears aren’t true, and that there are amazing souls and good people out there who care. I’ve learned to stand up for myself and others and what is right. I still get scared, I struggle with extreme anxiety, but I wake up everyday wanting to move forward and fight for my happiness. I only hope that all humans are able to experience what they deserve: unconditional respect, compassion, love and acceptance.
Thank you for your time and hearing part of my story. If you are a survivor yourself, please know: you are not to blame. Though the world at times may seem like a dark and terrifying place, there is always a light. First and foremost within yourself, and your will to fight on through trauma, and also within the loving people who are there for you without judgement. You are beautiful, you are strong, you are breathing, you are fighting. You are life.”
Written by: Keara McGraw