The past comes back around

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The past comes back around

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This time last year, I wrote an opinion about my experiences with sexual assault for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I talked about my tattoo and how those experiences have affected my life for years after. Since then, I have worked to try to trust men and open up to people about what I have been through. Then a couple weeks ago, I was at a local bar when a man I had never met before decided to very forcefully kiss me and grope me. After all the progress I thought I had made, I have taken a major hit, and I am not yet sure how many steps back I have taken.

Every day I am paranoid that I will see him on campus. Will he remember me? If so, how am I supposed to react? Do I tell him off? Do I act like I don’t know him? Or do I just ignore him altogether? I am terrified to go in public places and find myself hiding in the office more than usual. I am hyper aware of males when within five feet of them.

I have so many things in my life that I would rather not think about already, and every time I remember this, my past comes snowballing back until I am on the brink of tears and try to shake the thoughts out of my head. I do not know why this affects me the way it does. Comparatively, it is a minor happening, yet I just cannot shake it off – try as I may.

Since that night, I have been depressed. Every day I have thoughts of being worthless and broken. I think how it does not matter whether I am 8, 18 or 22 years old, nothing changes. I feel defenseless and useless, like my life is just for the pleasure of men. Logically, I know that none of this is true, but that does not make the thoughts go away. The night it happened, I loudly cried to my friend in the backseat of the car letting out all the fear, frustration and misery it brought back.

I try my best to remain positive and hopeful though. I know it is not experiences like this that define me. Rather, they refine me. With every hardship I endure, I become stronger.

That is what I would like to say, but honestly, there is not a hopeful thought left in my mind. I wake up terrified and go to sleep defeated. I keep telling myself that it will get better, and I know it will – but when? I still have not moved past the events from four years ago. All I can do is put on a brave face and wait it out. I know this is not the healthiest response, but it is the only way I know.

However, I will not be a victim. I am a human like anyone else. Bad things happen, but so do good things. I have found a person I know I can trust through this experience. I have not openly cried in front of anyone since my mother’s suicide five years ago. Having someone listen to me without judging or blaming me while also offering words of comfort – words I have not believed for a long time – solidified their place in my heart. I am grateful for the friends I have made in college. It is nice to remember that I am not alone.

No matter what happens, I am not alone.

You are not alone.