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Natasha’s Story

I have thought about how I would tell my story for a long time. I thought it would be powerful, inspiring, cathartic even. As I sit down to write this, I feel frozen. I feel uncomfortable, dirty even. If I put these words down on paper, they now exist in the real world.

My story is not unique. It isn’t a Lifetime movie or documentary worthy. But at the very least, it is mine.

I went to college away from home. My small town began to feel suffocating through high school and I knew I needed to push myself to be on my own somewhere new. The University of Oklahoma wasn’t exactly the adventure most would envision but it felt leaps and bounds different from the town I grew up in without a stoplight.

College was fun. I joined a sorority, became close with my roommate, and made friends I enjoyed. I went to the football games and all of the after parties. After a while, I had a pretty good routine in place.

A few months into my first year, my roommate began talking about this funny guy, Nick, that she and her group of friends kept running into in the common areas of campus. My roommate hung out with a different crowd than I did so I listened to her funny stories but never anticipated meeting him.

One night, I went to a party at one of the local fraternities with a girl in my sorority. I used to call her a friend, but looking back, I don’t think either of us enjoyed each other past companionship to social events. We showed up to the frat house and made our way to where everyone was drinking, dancing, and playing pool. My “friend” had seen someone she knew and quickly ran off to greet that person. Almost immediately, a guy came to talk to me. After some small talk, I realized this guy was the same Nick my roommate had talked so highly of.

Nick and I talked for a few minutes about my roommate and the stories I had heard from her about her friends running into him and his friends in the commons. He was extremely friendly and welcoming. After a few minutes, he offered to get me a drink. The last thing I remember is Nick bringing me a plastic red cup with a warm smile on his face.

I woke up hours later in an empty room. Part of my body was on a small futon, the other part hanging off onto the floor. I looked to the right of me and saw my bra laying next to me on the floor. My clothes were on my body but disheveled and uncomfortable, as if put on improperly. My phone was wedged in between cushions on the futon.

I also realized I was alone. No one in the dorm with me, despite clearly being inhabited by more than one person. I eventually was able to stand and looked around the room to see if there was anyone nearby. After looking around at the desk in the room with some papers and photos, I realized this was Nick’s room.

All I wanted was to go home. I gathered my phone and my shoes, straightened my clothes, and quickly found my way out of the fraternity. I walked the 10 minute walk back to my dorm room and laid back in bed. I still didn’t realize what had happened to me, and in that moment, I was not interested in trying to remember.

Over the next few weeks, I increasingly began to feel that something was wrong. I discovered that an item had been forced up inside of me so far that I had to get a doctor to remove it. Not long after, I suffered a miscarriage alone in the girl’s dorm shower. My RA saw me upset and I told her I “made a mistake.” She was the only person I told about the miscarriage for years.

My RA told me I should call the campus medical clinic, which I did. Once at the clinic, I discovered that the doctor examining me was the girlfriend of a member at the country club I worked at. I saw her frequently and waited on her and her partner for months after the miscarriage.

There was no avoiding it anymore. Pretending that the state I was found, the injuries I had, and the unwanted pregnancy were too much to deny. I knew someone had sex with me. I wasn’t able to say “that” word to describe what had happened to me. Not that I told anyone anyway.

I began drinking more recklessly. I got a DUI when I was 19 years old. In a drunken, tearful fit while being booked at the local county jail, I told my arresting officer I had been raped. That was the first person I ever told about my assault. This officer, still knowing he had to book me for the DUI as I was underage and well over the legal limit, listened to me cry until I couldn’t anymore. He asked me if I wanted to make a report, which I declined, but he sat with me anyway. I remember his face often.

Less than a year later, I got another DUI. I was irritable with most people. I began feeling angry and almost violent when I was touched without consent, even by loved ones in gentle ways. I went through months and years of being uncomfortable with physical touch by my partner. By my father. By men I trusted. To no fault of their own. Alternatively, I gave myself away to other men because at least I had the power to make the choices in those moments. I became hard to love - partly because affection repulsed me. The other part was because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be loved. I was damaged. I still feel this way.

Over the years, I shared parts of my story with people I trusted- my sister, my partner, who is now my husband, and my best friend. But I would only share snippets. Sometimes I would go back to the people I told and say I made it up - living with the shame of someone knowing what happened to me, what I thought I allowed, was too much. I’d rather be a liar than a rape victim.

I didn’t want to be seen as damaged. Or stupid. Or be compared to someone who has experienced something similarly but much worse. I didn’t even tell my therapist I had been seeing for seven years.

I convinced myself that what happened to me was not that bad. I diminished the heaviness of feeling as insignificant as a human could feel- used and taken for what a man wanted without any consideration as to the impact he would have on me for the rest of my life. If I diminished how heavy this felt and broke myself up into tiny, unloveable pieces, it was easier to carry this with me. I could be strong enough for that.

If I could make myself into tiny unloveable pieces, it wouldn’t be as painful when the next person inevitably decides I deserve so little..right?

I was the perfect “deserving” rape victim. I did everything wrong. I went to a party with someone I didn’t trust. I took a drink from a stranger. I didn’t acknowledge what happened as a rape until after it happened. I rarely cried. I never filed a police report. I felt stupid, naive, angry, used, and broken.

25% of women in college were victims of rape or attempted rape. 84% of victims knew or were acquainted with their assailant. 27% of women who were raped actually called it that- rape. These numbers have never made me feel so alone, yet so seen.

I finally let the people close to me, and even those I barely knew, make me feel seen. My husband stood by me in moments where I couldn’t be touched and treated him almost as if he did something wrong. My friends validated my experience and shared some of their own. My mom showed grace to me and reminded me to show grace to myself.

Most days I still have to convince myself that my assault was not my fault. That it was bad enough. Despite now having a career working with trauma survivors, I still struggle with these thoughts. The negative narrative that I carry with me, and that society reminds me of daily, is loud. I share my story, amongst the others brave enough to do so, so that one day a narrative of survivorship, worthiness, and strength is the loudest in the room. 

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