Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault/Abuse
July 4, 2015 was the first time I got way too drunk for my own good and cried myself to sleep. Living with anxiety means I cry myself to sleep often. That wasn’t new to me. It was the fact that once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop.
The most important bit to show you that this was not your usual college girl behavior was that I was the only one who was drunk. Everyone else had been drinking, but at a reasonable pace. I couldn’t get to the bathroom without tripping over my own feet. I was loud and, really, begging for approval from my friends. And yet, they all safely drove themselves home and I was, once again, alone in a house that didn’t belong to me.
Now that over a year has passed since that night, I can look back on it and the days before it and realize what it was that I was thinking.
A day or two before this, I had met up with a guy from an online dating site. We met at a park near my house that’s always relatively busy. He gave me the creeps but I didn’t know how to get out of this situation since I had walked and there was no real ending point to a park date. He kept talking about how much we had in common and I grinned and nodded without adding to the conversation. He talked about how he really felt like he could talk to me about anything. I felt bad that I didn’t feel the same way, but I held my tongue.
So, he came to my house. Or, really, my grandmother’s house. He commented on how nice it was and asked where I was living. I motioned toward the basement and before I knew it, he was sitting on my couch, glancing toward my open bedroom door. I sat next to him and tried to continue the conversation in a way that would allow me to keep my distance. But, once a man of this nature makes his way in to your home, you aren’t going to be able to keep your distance. So next thing I knew, he was pulling me on to him. His tongue was snaking its way in to my mouth and I tried to push back, yet he didn’t notice. At least, I like to tell myself he didn’t notice. Because if he did, then he’s a real rapist and not a guy who forgot to ask.
I honestly don’t know what lead to what but suddenly I was in bed with a stinging hand print on my cheek. My mind has blocked out what lead up to that. I don’t know if I was fighting and that’s why he slapped me or if it was a kink he failed to warn me about. At that point, I flipped myself over so I wouldn’t have to look at him. With my face in the pillow, I thought about how this was rape. But then I shot back at myself that I never actually said no. That I was the one who agreed to meet him at a park instead of Starbucks, which had been my first offer to him. I hadn’t gotten this vibe online, why was I suddenly disliking him? As all of this bounced around in my mind, my body was lifeless. That is, except for the tears that were soaking in to my navy blue pillow. The rest of my body was one that no longer belonged to me.
And so, two days later, I still thought about how I almost accused an innocent man of rape. So I drank until I stopped thinking about it. But once I was alone in the same bed, with sheets that hadn’t been washed yet. I couldn’t help but break down. I ended up sleeping on the bathroom floor. Not because I had thrown up from drinking, but because I couldn’t stand to be in my own bed. I couldn’t even stand to be on the couch that I had allowed him to sit on. The only place he hadn’t touched was my bathroom.
I eventually got a call from him about how he just got out of jail for throwing something at his wife. And yet, I still wanted to think he wasn’t in the wrong. She was crazy and had probably done the same thing but he was the one getting in trouble. A few weeks later, I realized that this was who he was. He was an abuser. It didn’t matter if you were married to him or if you had just met him, he was going to make you fall for him somehow, and then take you away from yourself. His goal in life, it seems to me, is to have as many women as he can, all to himself. And when I say that, I want you to know that I am no longer the person I was in June of 2015. The Leah Reed I knew and loved is gone. He took her out the door with him.
I also want those who know me to know that who I am with right now has never forgotten to ask permission for anything. Our first kiss was consensual because I asked him if it would be inappropriate for me to kiss him. If I go quiet while we’re in bed together, without saying anything, he stops to check in with me. Because my PTSD means I shut down and can’t talk when I have an episode. Once I felt like I could tell him the story, he took me to get new sheets so I could stop staring at navy when we spent the night at my place. No matter the time of night, he will hold me until the nightmares go away.
I am lucky to have found someone who can do that for me. Not everyone has that. And I want other survivors to know that if you need someone to hold you until the nightmares go away, I am here for you. Reach out and I will hold your hand while you pick up the pieces of you that seem to have scattered in the wind. Maybe I’ll find the ones I’m still missing while we look for you.
And know that the person you were before will never come back. The pieces you will find won’t be perfect fits but you will be whole again one day. You may have to borrow glue from family, friends, and new partners so everything will be held together by something that isn’t yours. But, eventually that glue will feel like home and you’ll be able to make it a night without a nightmare. You’ll be able to have sex without seeing navy. You’ll be able to love your new self as well as the new people you find in your life.