Not a victim, but a survivor

Story by Emily Albrent, Op/Ed Editor

I asked if she had hope for the future.

“Oh, hope,” she said. “I guess, I’m not clinging onto hope that life will get better, because that’s my decision.”

One summer changed the life of a woman who said she never thought it would happen to her. She recounts the story of being raped and feeling powerless to stop it.

It all began with a family vacation. There was a man her family had known and was a regular worker at the vacation site. One day he asked her if she would like to go out on a date to see a movie, and she accepted. As they were driving in his truck to the movie theater (the closest one was an hour away) the man, three miles away from the vacation site, pulled off onto a dirt road.

There was a nearby lake, and he asked her if she wanted to go swimming. She declined. He began to pressure her and say he would not watch her get changed. She diverted his attention and told him she just wanted to go to the movie.

Nothing more.

Things started to unfold, and the boy said he had a bunch of movies and his laptop in the back of his car, which had plenty of room for them to watch a movie. She accepted and picked out a movie, “What Happens in Vegas.”

As the movie progressed, she drank a soda he gave her. It became quickly apparent the man had drugged her drink and was waiting for the effects to take place. Soon she felt sick and woozy and asked him to take her back to her family. He refused and started to take off her clothes.

She said she felt immobile, numb and unable to stop what was happening.

“First was the shock … you never expect it,” she said. “I guess it was just like what is my family going to think? What are my friends going to think? This isn’t how I wanted my first time to go. This isn’t what I wanted … it was three years ago and he can go to hell.”

She has not fully informed her family of what happened to her, and she does not think she ever will. Her father is a police officer and her relationship with her family is not as strong as she would like. She considers her friends her family because they support her and help her through the emotions.

Director at the Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault at UW-Eau Claire Amanda Leiknes said many times, sexual assault creates additional problems.

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, around 81 percent of women who have experienced rape, stalking or physical violence by an intimate partner have reported short or long term impacts related to the violence they have experienced.

“We see a lot of people that exhibit alcohol and drug addiction, we see eating disorders, we see sexual behavior changes … we see people exhibit self injurious behavior like cutting,” Leiknes said. “It’s the most expensive crime that we have in the country.”

Being raped has affected the trust the survivor has with men.

She has had a cycle of abusive relationships and is just now able to form a relationship with a man she said she desperately wants to trust with her whole heart. She is still not 100 percent able to trust him, and has informed him of that. She said she has no idea when she will be able to trust again.

“Part of me wishes that I would have done things differently, but part of me is glad because it has helped me grow stronger,” she said. “It put me in a depression and anorexia, it has taken a lot to work back.”

The future is always on her mind.

“Every day I sit there and think, ‘Am I ever going to get married?’ ‘Am I going to be able to get married?’” she said.

She and her family still go back to their vacation site, but she has reclaimed it as “her place” because it wasn’t the place that raped her, it was the person.

“I will never forgive, but forgetting is what I hope,” she said. “Just wake up one day and forget about it.”