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(Ali Simeone) — It struck me today on my morning run.
Running (read: crawling) up a rocky incline, huffing and puffing, I realized today is my three-year mark—three years since my sexual assault. I stopped mid-way up the hill for a moment but knew this was not the time to collect my thoughts, so I settled with catching my breath and trudged along.
I am 21 years old now and a senior at Amherst. My assault occurred three years ago as a freshman in the basement of a piss and vodka scented, stark social dorm. Every time I decide to attend a party in Pond Basement, I prepare myself—recognizing my breath hitch when I glance at that dusty couch in the corner. The memory surfaces without fail.
On a day-to-day basis, I thankfully don’t have to deal with it. In fact, most of the characters and major plot points of that God-awful horror movie have been removed or avoided—for the sake of my own sanity. The prolonged aftermath of my assault became bearable and is currently “fine”. I still have my blow-ups; nights when I take off all of my clothing, blare music, and deliberately throw my pillow, chairs, and anything else within a two-foot radius. My suitemates know not to check on me when Frank Ocean croons along to the rhythmic thuds against my wall.
But I’m collecting my thoughts here because my college career is coming to a close–the majority of it spent as a survivor of sexual assault. Processing my experience has come after too much (but entirely necessary) emotional and mental probing and several therapy sessions crumpled in my counselor’s chair downing mini Reese’s cups between each heaving sob. I’ve simultaneously cursed everyone and everything and no one and nothing in particular. I’ve had so much anger that I couldn’t see straight. It all served its purpose. Jesus, I’ve been there. Like fuck I’m going back.
So I’m not who I was back then. But where am I now?
After careful consideration about how to word this, I’ve realized: I have no fucking clue. I thought I was going to have this sort of dramatic conclusive realization as a senior, a way to close out this chapter of college survivorship experience, like what this all means.
I don’t have one. Do I need one?
Certainly this experience shaped me. I probably wouldn’t have become a Peer Advocate; I wouldn’t have met some of the most amazingly brave and thoughtful people on this campus. There is so much I wouldn’t know about myself; how I deal with shit hitting the fan, how I speak and act with dignity, or how to genuinely respect others and myself, not just sexually.
But I’m not saying that rape made me this person, on the contrary, rape took a hammer to my image in the mirror. It’s my job to carefully pick up the shards of glass, and more or less, put myself back together in some satisfactory fashion. But the pieces don’t all fit the same way anymore, and there’s no way they can. The image is piecing back together quite differently.
And all I can say after three years of exhaustively working through my trauma at this point is: it’s okay.
I could take this time to tell everyone about how I really feel and how I’ve been wronged but that’s not my concern right now. I could think about who I would be or how my life could have been, but it’s not my concern either.
Really, I can only be concerned with who I am right now and how the hell I’m going to run up that stupid hill, accepting the fact that I might have to catch my breath sometimes.