I am a clinical psychology graduate student. My current research project aims to learn more about why sexual assault happens and how we can improve risk prevention.
In my third year of college, I experienced sexual assault. I didn’t seek counseling at that time. I battled clinical depression and anxiety, self-medicating with alcohol. After graduating, I spent five years working in the entertainment industry. During this time, I worked with an incredible therapist on processing my past and finding happiness. I chose to get sober, so that I could fully experience my cathartic healing. Through these years of guided introspection, I realized that my passion had always been to better understand the human condition: our mind and our behavior. Rather than continuing to explore this through the lens of visual storytelling, I decided to go back to school and study clinical psychology. I could not be happier with my decision, and although grad school is a lot harder than I anticipated, I finally feel like I am living fully, as my authentic self!
It was the end of the semester of my junior year, just before we went home for the holidays. In January I would be studying abroad, so I wanted to celebrate with friends. I went to a party with some of my sorority sisters. It was hosted by some members of a men’s varsity sports teams on campus, at their apartment. One of the guys who lived at the apartment flirted with me. He was cute and seemed interesting, so I decided to go to his room with him and maybe we’d spend some time kissing before it was time for me to go home. We sat on his bed and he kissed me, but then he immediately became forceful.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, his leg was broken. Contrary to what you might think, this gave him a “leg up,” if you will. His cast was so incredibly heavy that once he was on top of me, I couldn’t push him off. I tried. I said “no,” quietly at first, “I want to stop. I want to go.” He had me pinned down. As he pulled down his shorts and my underwear, I said “no” louder, but he never even made eye contact with me. He pushed inside me and raped me. Then he got up, pulled his shorts back on, and left the room, closing the door behind him.
I felt completely numb, both heavy and light at the same time. I was disoriented, but not in a substance-induced way. I just couldn’t fathom what had happened. In fact, it took me many years to even say the word “rape” in my head, much less out loud. So, I called the university police and asked for their service where they follow behind you in their car on your walk home (my school was not in the safest neighborhood). They let me ride in the backseat this time, because it was so cold outside. It never occurred to me to mention to them what had happened. I didn’t want anyone to know.
I felt humiliated. This guy is friends with my friends, he’s a top athlete, he’s a charmer, everyone likes him. Why was I even in his room in the first place? Why did I even go in there? They all saw me flirting with him, anyway. Who would believe me? I must be so promiscuous that I would end up in his room. It’s my fault this happened. And so the negative self-talk continued, and I never reported the incident.
My Healing Journey
My journey began years after the incident, when I finally chose to forgive myself and let myself heal. As I mentioned before, after the incident, I studied abroad in Europe. I stopped having a period once I got there, and for weeks I didn’t sleep, so terrified that I might be pregnant with his child. I replayed the night in my head, and imagined what I might do if his baby were inside me. A professor in the study abroad program confronted me about my lack of sleep and my slipping grades. She encouraged me to seek help. Instead, I went to a pharmacist and bought a pregnancy test. Not pregnant. Relieved, but still burying the pain deeper and deeper, I began spending my nights drinking until I was drunk, until the pain felt far away and the world seemed glossy and dreamlike. My depression and the drinking continued into the next semester, back at school. I lost friendships because I stopped answering texts and calls from the people who were worried about me. I spent my days lying in bed, numb, skipping class, anxiously observing my life spiral downward. I spent my nights partying, temporarily silencing the negative thoughts through my reckless behavior. I dropped out of school and spent a semester waitressing back home. A close friend who had stayed in touch gave me a serious pep-talk. She reminded me of who I was, and encouraged me to go back and get my degree.
After going back to school and finishing my final semester, I graduated college and moved to a new city, where I knew I could start fresh. There, I found the therapist who would help me rebuild my life, find my true self, and finally heal from the incident. Thanks to her, I learned to set boundaries, confront my deepest fears, self-soothe, forgive myself, and ultimately, love myself. Amidst this healing process, I met a wonderful man and began a new relationship that has now become a wonderful, healthy marriage full of respect and love. I put in a lot of hard work during my four years of therapy, but I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am now had it not been for my incredible therapist. She also guided and encouraged me when I chose to get sober and faced the initial obstacles of sobriety. It was her wisdom, compassion, and talent for healing that inspired me to change careers and pursue this path of becoming a clinical psychologist.
I am still healing in some ways. I have not fully forgiven myself for not reporting the incident. On very rare occasions, when I am alone, I look at his social media profiles. I look at his pictures, and wonder if he ever hurts the girl in his photos. I wonder if he ever thinks about that night, if he ever even realized what he did. I wish I had confronted him, I wish I had told someone, I wish I were brave enough to tell him now. I still carry these feelings with me, but I am moving forward in my journey and continue to heal each day through self-care, forgiveness, and love.
“You are not the person he made you feel you are that night. You are not to blame for what happened. You are a survivor.”
Veronica! You are such an inspiration. Thanks for being brave and sharing your story here. I would also love to hear more about your research findings!
Thank you so much, Jill! I hope to publish after I’ve defended my thesis this spring. <3
Thank you for sharing your story, Veronica. I had a similar experience, I’m sorry that it happened to you too… it means a lot to me that you shared your story!
Thank you, Nicole. I am so sorry that you had to go through something similar. It means a lot that you shared that with me! Sending a hug. <3
Thank you for sharing your story!!
Thank you for the support, Sara! <3
Thank you, Veronica. You are definitely worthy, valuable, and good enough!!! Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.
Your words mean so much to me, Cheryl. Thank you. I appreciate you! <3
One of the many things that I love about your story is your honesty around the continued struggle over not reporting the assault to the authorities. More than 80% of women don’t report it either, so that you for sharing this and opening the door for other women to feel connected in this struggle. I also really love your letter: “You do not have to hide. You are worthy” Yes! Thank you for your vulnerability and love in sharing your story!
Thank you, Lindy! Your work with I Am A Rockstar has helped so much with my healing process, as I’m sure it has with so many other women, too. <3
Thank you for your honesty and your story you chose to share. It’s exceptional that you have chosen to further your career and help others. Thanks for sharing your story it’s so inspirational and gives me hope!
Thanks so much for your kind words, Naomi! One day at a time, right? 🙂 Sending you light and love.