I Finally Told Someone

Trigger Warning: This article discusses rape and sexual assault.

I finally told someone.

In truth she was far from the first person I’ve told about being raped. Very far from it. But my new doctor might as well be the first ‘grown up’ I’ve ever told. To be clear, I’m not a child. I am a 21-year-old college student who is incredibly stubborn and has always preferred to sort out my problems on my terms. There have been a few times when I almost disclosed my predicament to figures of authority, but each time I have succeeded in keeping quiet.

It’s hard to stay silent. It’s hard to speak. I still haven’t figured out which is more difficult or more necessary. It’s been five years. I have never ‘sought justice.’ That thought never even crossed my mind. I had no proof, and I had no interest in spending years of my life fighting a ‘he-said she-said’ battle in the public eye of my small town. In my sophomore year of college I met a girl from my town who actually had fought that battle, and she confirmed that there was no point in burying your own reputation and sanity for such a criminal. Except, of course, if he did it to someone else.

I stayed silent. For the most part I still do because any figure of authority threatens to break the carefully constructed defenses around my fragile psyche. I don’t react to any other kind of triggers. He isn’t worth that. I have achieved a state of being where I know he isn’t deserving of causing me pain. Few people are, but especially not him. I am quite comfortable with this state of being, but I know it is precarious.

When I entered this doctor’s office for the first time, I stared at the familiar ‘new patient’ questionnaire. I’m sure you’ve all seen one. I hope that you have no problem filling one out, that you don’t get snagged on the ‘prior conditions’ or ‘allergies’ questions, and I hope your heart doesn’t skip a beat at the ‘sexual assault’ question.

“Have you ever been sexually assaulted?”

I had to skip the question.

What was I supposed to say? “Yes?” That would be the honest answer, but something about circling those three letters makes it so undeniably true, that it threatens to open the floodgates. What will happen? What will they ask? Will they ask if I got a rape kit? Will they ask for evidence? For me to recount what happened? Or worse, will they not care?

I went back to the question at the end because I felt that circling nothing was worse than lying. I started talking to the new doctor. She was very calm, very reassuring. Then she asked me the same question.

“Have you ever been sexually assaulted?”

I swallowed hard, still not knowing if I was going to be honest, or just how honest. I’ve only been raped once, but I’ve been assaulted more than that — after all I am a female American college student. I still had time to lie, to leave her wondering if I was a statistic or if, by some miracle, I would be joining the ranks of the girls who sleep well at night.

Suddenly I was telling her. “There was an unfortunate incident, before I came to college.” Her pained look might as well have been lifted straight out of a pamphlet which gathers dust on the shelves of college clinics. I told her that I had dealt with it, that I was good now, and that my rabbi helped. Half-truths really, but more honesty than any figure of authority would get from me.

I don’t know why I told her. I’ll leave that to the shrink who will never hear about my rape.


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