“When I was growing up, I was always told I was ‘so strong.’ That for someone my age, I had already gone through so much. Initially, I really liked being told that. It made me proud. Then 2009 came around to teach me just exactly how ‘strong’ I really was.
It was October and I was staying with my boyfriend at the time. I was 19 and assumed I was invincible. One night, an ex-boyfriend of mine kept calling me, harassing me. He was threatening to beat up my boyfriend and me. For some reason, I felt inclined to prove I wasn’t scared of him, so my boyfriend and I decided to drive over to him.
It was a bad idea. Once we got to his house, he immediately ran up to the car and began punching the driver’s seat window. We were lucky enough that he didn’t hit it hard enough to shatter it. I got out of the passenger’s seat and walked over to him, attempting to calm him down. While I did this, my ‘winner’ of a boyfriend drove off, leaving me alone with him. Just then, the cops arrived. I can only assume that one of the neighbors had overheard the altercation and decided to intervene. By the time the cop arrived, I had already told my ex-boyfriend to leave, and began walking off alone. When the cop showed up, she asked me if I was okay and if I wanted a ride home. I told her I was waiting on my boyfriend to come get me. He never came.
By this point, it was very late. It was nearing 11 p.m. and getting colder by the minute, so I started to walk home. It was going to be an hour walk if I was lucky. On the path home, I was passed by an SUV. I remember thinking to myself that I hoped it would stop and pick me up, that I didn’t have to walk all the way home in the cold. At that moment, it turned around and pulled into the parking lot I was walking towards. The man inside the SUV asked if I needed a ride. Initially, I felt put off by him, but I ignored my gut feeling, assuming it was stemming from the recent altercation, and got in the SUV.
He asked me where I was headed, and I told him. When he announced he wasn’t going in that direction, he offered to drop me off as close as he could. I thanked him and gazed out the window. He then began complaining about his girlfriend. He said she had cheated on him and left him, that he was heartbroken. I assumed he just needed to vent, and I understood. I myself was on the rebound from my first true love. Then, suddenly, I smelled gas fumes in the car, one of those facts I can never forget. It was so strong and so out of place. He told me he felt like drinking and asked if I wanted to come along. I told him no. We stopped at a local gas station where he got out and went inside. I debated getting out as well and walking the rest of the way back. Again, something felt off, but I reassured myself I was only overreacting.
He got back into the car and we headed back out onto the road. He asked me questions about my relationship and about who I was. He even said he would just take me home. The closer we got to my apartment, the more excited and hopeful I started to feel. I thought I had finally made it, that I had been overreacting after all. Just then, he drove straight past my home and looked right at me. I mumbled, ‘You just drove past my apartment.’ He stared at me and asked, ‘Do you think I’m not going to take you home?’ I nodded my head yes and that’s when he turned to pull into the parking lot next to my apartment. He didn’t stop though. He turned around in the empty parking lot and made a turn to get right back on the road, heading in the opposite direction of my apartment.
I opened the door to his SUV and contemplated jumping out. I thought it would have scared him enough to just let me go, but it didn’t. He reached down beside him, next to the driver’s door, and told me to the shut the door. I thought he was reaching for something, and I didn’t know what. At this point, all I wanted was just to make it home.
He kept driving. The lights became fewer and the houses became fewer. I kept crying, I couldn’t stop. I knew he was going to rape me, but I didn’t know if he would kill me or not. I felt so helpless and alone. He turned into a neighborhood and drove up and down the streets, but it was well lit, so he left. I thought he would just give up, he would just become too frustrated. That was when he found the entrance into the woods. Some open gate in the middle of nowhere. He went through the gate and drove until the field became clear. After he parked, he turned to me and said, ‘Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.’ It took me nearly 10 years to cry again after that.
In that moment, something in my brain shifted. It was like all the emotions had shut off and the only thing I could think about was my survival. I went completely calm. All my fear had subsided, and I was flooded only with thoughts of what my next move would be. He told me to get out of the front seat and get in the back of his SUV. I got out and I remember standing there, looking over my right shoulder. I could see the light and the stars, and I knew that if I ran, he would catch me, and he would kill me. I looked back to my left, where he was, and knew I would have to give up this part of myself to make it out alive.
I got in the back and he proceeded to rape me. I said no, I said I didn’t want to, but nothing stopped him. I just didn’t want to get him angry. I remember lying there, smelling the gas fumes come off from his skin, and it was like my spirit had left my body. I felt like I was floating on the ceiling and that my body was just there. I just wanted it to be over. When he was done, he cried. I had to console him. I told him everything would be okay, that I just needed to get back home.
When I got back in the front seat of his car, I asked for a cigarette. I wanted to make sure I left my DNA with him. I asked if I could use his phone to call home, so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He let me borrow his phone and even let me make the phone call in private. I called my mom. I left her a message of what I thought would be the last words she would ever hear from me. I told her I loved her, that I loved the girls, to tell everyone I loved them, and I would see them soon. I knew it would be another trace between me and him. I didn’t want my family to have unanswered questions, and I didn’t want him to hurt another woman like he hurt me.
He got back in and we left the field and started driving home. It was the longest drive ever. He even took a wrong exit on the way back. When we got to my apartment, he demanded my number. I gave it to him and got out of his SUV and walked behind it and memorized his license plates. I remember the cops being so shocked when I told them I had his tag number. He was found that same night.
Court was a stressful experience, but I knew I had to do it so he wouldn’t hurt anyone else. When the first court date arrived, he fired his lawyer to postpone the process. I remember feeling so frustrated, but almost relieved that I could postpone the dread I felt. My heart felt like it was in my throat and my stomach was just a bottomless pit of feelings. When I met with the district attorney, he told me my perpetrator mentioned that he ‘should have killed the bitch when he had the chance.’ I already knew that killing me was in the forefront of his mind when he kidnapped me, but hearing those words confirmed it. It made it all very real.
The DA told me how smart and collected I seemed. She was amazed at how I managed to convince him to take me home that night, and how I took steps to ensure evidence. When she reviewed his arrest records, it was clear he was an escalating offender. He had been involved in minor fights, domestic violence, and robbery just to name a few. I left her office with a feeling of accomplishment. That I was winning this personal fight between him and I.
The next court date he opted for a bench trial. This meant there were no jurors, just the attorneys and the judge. I remember feeling slightly more prepared and confident. Then they called me into the court room. I looked at him when I was on the stand, but only once. I never wanted to remember his face. I refused to let him haunt my dreams.
I was prepared for all of the questions they asked. Some of them made my skin crawl. They asked me why I got in his car, what I was wearing, and if I wasn’t sure that I pressed charges because I decided I didn’t want it and regretted it. I had to answer them and not let them get to me.
When I was done, we waited for so long that it felt like forever. Then, finally, he was found guilty of rape and kidnapping and sentenced to 20 years in prison. I felt like I had accomplished something, like I had saved someone else and maybe even prevented the loss of life. I felt like I could finally put everything I had gone through behind me.
This incident changed my whole life. For a very long time, I was lost and confused and unsure of everything. Now though, I am a strong and independent woman. I have set out goals and accomplished them. I have traveled the world while I was in the United States Navy. I obtained two Bachelor’s degrees. One in Psychology and one in Criminal Justice. I am currently in graduate school for a Master’s degree in Social Work, and I have every intention of attending law school. I teach pole fitness classes and have come to love my body. I am active with the #MeToo movement and enjoy sharing my story with other survivors and those that want to know how they can help. I am engaged to a man who truly loves me, cares about me, and supports me.
I have made a choice to be a survivor after what happened to me. That I wouldn’t let it hold me back, and in that choice, I found my life’s work. To advocate for change, to use my story as a catalyst for others. It’s not to say that there aren’t hard days, or that I don’t still have lingering effects of everything I went through. I do. But I am stronger than those days. I care for myself on the bad days, even if that means staying inside on my couch all day. I love myself and have forgiven my attacker. I refuse to let those toxic feelings invade my body any longer. I know that to help others, I must first help myself so I can take the steps necessary to do that.
My story is not who I am, but it is part of what has made me myself.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sasha Georgiades of Kaneohe, Hawaii. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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