December 16th, 2016. The day before my college graduation. The day before I met a part of myself I would never be able to say goodbye to. The day that my entire world, my life plans, my journey changed forever.
I said no, I said I wanted to walk away from a relationship that was destroying my every ounce of confidence. I had finally built up enough courage to stand up for myself after 2 years of being (ab)used. And for some of you who may not understand how imbalance of power works-when the oppressed says “no thank you” or “these conditions are no longer suitable for my growth”- the authority bites back. Like when a dog is given a command to sit and they instead walk out of the room, they are met with a repercussion. It is the same with a relationship where an imbalance of power exists. I said no. I disobeyed a command and was immediately given a five finger reminder to the face that I am to be obedient and that I do not hold control in my relationship. Even with a little blood seeping from my lip, I said no. I was leaving but not before he he fought to maintain his control anyway he knew how: syllables of worthlessness being spit from his tongue and anger in his eyes like laser beams into my soul. He owned me. I was his for as long as HE wanted. But I stood my ground, I said no. I had tears in my eyes, I was uncertain of how that night was going to end, had thoughts about how I was to walk across the stage with bruises all over my face. But instead of hitting me, he threw me to the ground. He took off my clothes and he raped me. The man who a moments before said he was in love with me. That he would do anything to make sure I was happy and growing. The man who sat at my parents’ table for Thanksgiving and said he saw a future with me. He raped me.
And I had no fight left in me. I used every ounce of strength I had to say no, to stand my ground and end a 2 year relationship. I was prepared for a physical struggle-never a sexual assault and the horror that followed. I didn’t move until it was over. Only then did I manage to stand to my feet and walk out the front door. I walked across the stage the next day and received my degree, I celebrated with my family and friends and I went to work the day after but I was empty inside.
It has been 2 years almost to the day, and the date still haunts me like it just happened. I can still feel the rough, brownish carpet beneath my bare legs, I can feel his anger pushing down on my throat, I can still see the white popcorn ceiling with the fan on a low setting. The fan with the whale ornament I gave him for his birthday hanging from the cord. I remember trying to count how many times the whale swung around, losing count to the black cloud that was taking over my consciousness. I can still feel the sweat droplets falling onto my belly button and hearing the metal pieces of his belt clashing against each other.
Seven hundred twenty-four days have past and I can still close my eyes and experience it all over again. As each day passes, moving the calendar closer to that date, the more real the entire experience becomes.
But this year, I am going to do something to celebrate that date. I am going to celebrate who I have become, what I have accomplished, and what I have learned in these last 700 plus days. I was a little angry in my last post, still trying to decide how I was going to let this day affect me. Thankfully, I was given some insight since about who I am, what I have experienced and how much strength I still have within me. And I have begun to reflect on myself and this time of year in a new light. I have given myself some patience and begun to implement strategies in order to allow myself to be vulnerable and successful at the same time. This started with acknowledging that it happened, I experienced something traumatic. And it did not kill me. It definitely darkened my sense of humor but it did not kill me. And it has continued with daily reminders of my competence, my confidence, my strength, and my ability to change the world. It is so easy to let that dark cloud overcome every particle of your personality, especially as certain dates/anniversaries creep up on the calendar. But self-forgiveness over the past few days has lessened the pressure on my chest and allowed some light to break up that darkness. There are so many things I could’ve done differently during that relationship, I could’ve fought back or I could’ve ended it when I first felt the toxicity seeping from it. But I didn’t and it changed who I am and how I see myself in the mirror. Some of these changes have been hard to look back at but they don’t have to be. It is amazing what perspective can do for any challenge we are given. I wish you all the ability to look at a certain date, anniversary, or current challenge that has been giving you trouble with a different light today. Show yourself some kindness and forgiveness and watch magic happen.