After a year and a half of emotionally disengaging, the emotions came flooding in one day. My engagement had ended on the cusp of me facing the reality of being raped. I was angry. Bitter. I hated all men, especially my rapist. I never wanted to get married. I could not even imagine bringing children into a world where this was possible. I quit working at the Library. I finally felt like I could justify quitting to my parents. I insisted that I was not able to complete homework at work after all. The little I was paid wasn’t justifying the time I was losing when I needed to be working elsewhere. I was no longer working with my rapist. However, we were still together in the same small College.
The Architecture College at my University was one of the smallest. We shared a common library, computer lab, wood shop, and metal shop. We each had our own assigned Studio Space in which we were expected to work. We had 24/7 access to the Architecture building and it was known as the only building on Campus in which you could always see someone working. The entire college had a Studio class during the same three-hour block Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Every year we had half a dozen lecture series where our entire college would sit in a lecture hall and listen to a famous designer explain their work. If you were in the college you knew where other students were in the Architecture building and you could easily find them.
All this to say, I saw my rapist on a regular basis. He treated me like a close friend and still as if nothing had ever happened. When I began dating someone else and subsequently engaged, he backed-off, but now he swept in. He was eager to try to comfort me in the wake of my failed engagement. He would frequently come find me just to talk. Middle of the day, one in the morning while I was working in my studio space. It didn’t matter, he knew where to find me most of the time. When I sat in a college-wide lecture I would immediately and instinctively locate him in the room and keep tabs on his whereabouts.
Before when I had seen him, I was still repressing the rape, but now I was actually processing what had happened whilst facing him on a regular basis. I had learned to emotionally disengage with him, and I would sit there in silence as he spoke with me completely dumbfounded that he was so oblivious to the fact my life was falling apart because of him. I felt vulnerable. Unsafe. The thought that he could rape me again, or even anyone else for that matter, was more than I could bear. All I could do was fall on my apartment floor at the end of the day and cry. I became hopeless. Overwhelmed by the evil in the world. Suicidal.
I don’t think I will ever truly be able to put into word the emotions I felt during this difficult time. My whole world came crashing down upon me and I felt as though I was being pinned down by an overwhelming burden. A burden, which I could not even come close to bearing. I felt hopeless, that life was not worth living. I felt completely worthless and that I had nothing to ever offer anyone relationally. I don’t know how I faced people during the day and then returned home to my apartment where I was met by a flood of emotions. It was all I could do but lie on the floor at night crying uncontrollably with a razor blade in my hand, cutting myself.
Why did I feel such despair? I had managed to repress my rape for over a year and thus not deal with the emotional repercussions, but now those emotions were flooding over me. I could not escape it and it made me feel worthless. It shattered my trust in every human being. I found myself afraid to go anywhere that might result in being alone with a man. The thought kept creeping into my mind: would he rape me too? Was he strong enough to overpower me? In fact, whenever I met a man, my initial reaction was to access if I thought he could overpower me. I burned with hatred toward men and felt completely repulsed by the idea of sex and especially fearful of the pain that accompanied it. I was jealous of women who had been raped and then their assailants killed them. Why was I still here? Why didn’t he turn on me after he was done and end it all then and there? Why was I left to go on and suffer? To deal with everything I felt?
I could hardly sleep and the days seemed to blur one into another as I repeated the same agonizing cycle day after day. I tried to slit my wrist several times, but I could never quite bring myself to the point of pushing hard enough or being persistent enough to succeed. I started to realize that my efforts were in vain and I turned to medications, hoping that if I took enough it would kill me. I overdosed several evenings, only to awake the next morning and realize the medications had only knocked me out.
This was the age of pre-texting; instant messaging, “IM’ing.” I had been “IM’ing” with my ex-fiancé’s best friend. He was in seminary in another state and for some reason I felt like I could chat with him. Probably because my ex-fiancé was a terrible confidant and had told him everything I had shared about my rape. While we were together I felt he had betrayed my trust with this, but now at least his friend knew what I was going through and I didn’t have to explain anything. I am not sure if he reached out to me or I reached out to him, but regardless I confessed that I was not doing well. I told him my rapist kept seeking me out and trying to comfort me. He responded with “I bet he is.” It was short and simple, but it confirmed my fears that my rapist sensed my vulnerability and was trying to exploit it. I alluded to passing out from overdosing on medications. He sent me his phone number and asked me to call him the next day and let him know I was “still here.”
The next morning when I awoke I decided I was finally done. I was determined not to see the end of that day. I could not keep doing this. Since I had promised to call, I picked up the phone. He was out so I left a somewhat cryptic message with his roommate: “I am here, but by the end of the day I won’t be.” I went to my medicine cabinet. There was still a medication I hadn’t tried. I had been in a car accident a couple months prior and had been prescribed some powerful pain medication. I grabbed the bottle and poured out a handful. I would try this first and move onto something else if I was unsuccessful. I headed out the door to my classes.
It was the end of the semester. Final presentations were underway for my studio class. I had to present that day. By mid-morning I felt so sick, my heart was racing and I broke out in a cold sweat. As I sat there feeling terrible I realized I did not want to die. I had made a mistake. I desperately pleaded with God not to let me die. I finally got up and decided I needed some fresh air. I grabbed my cellphone off my desk in studio and headed outside. I glanced at my phone once outside and realized I had missed several calls and I had a voicemail. I listened to the voicemail. It was my college Pastor: “We need to talk. Call me!” I called him back. He knew. My ex-fiancé’s friend had started making calls as soon as he received my message. My college Pastor told me we needed to meet. I agreed, but asked if I could first give my end of the semester presentation since it was the equivalent of my final exam for that class. He agreed and we set a time to meet at my apartment.
When I pulled up to my apartment he was waiting for me. We walked upstairs to my apartment and once we got inside we sat down on the couch. He then told me he wanted everything. Anything I had used to try to end my life I needed to give him. I went and collected all my razor blades, my knives and every medication I had in my medicine cabinet. He then told me I needed to come home with him. That I could stay with his family, but I could not be left alone. I agreed and I packed up a bag. We returned to the parking lot. When we reached the parking lot another man from my church walked over to meet us. Apparently, my college pastor hadn’t come alone, and this other man had waited in the car to pray for me. I got in my car and followed my college pastor to his house. He had three young children and thus a house bustling with constant activity and noise, a welcomed distraction.