‘There’s no way to prove he didn’t know you didn’t want it.’ Fighting back tears, I said, ‘I was asleep.’: Sexual assault survivor represses memory for 3 years. ‘If this is what I needed to go through to learn all of this, then I am thankful’

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of abuse that may be triggering to some.

“Walking into the sleep study office I was so nervous. Nervous about the results, but even more nervous about the fear I felt to sleep in an unknown place, being hooked up to cords and not having the door locked. I was terrified someone was going to come in and rape me while I was sleeping and unprotected. I couldn’t believe I was having these thoughts and I couldn’t understand why. The next morning, I decided if I ever had this thought again, I would talk to my counselor about it because I couldn’t figure out why I would ever have a fear like this when I never had it before.

In 2019, my mom had gallbladder surgery and I had decided to go into the hospital to see how she was doing. When she told me she might have to stay over, this overwhelming fear came back. About 3 years later and never thinking of it once, it came back. I was terrified my mom was going to be raped while she was sleeping in this hospital and I would not be there to protect her. I was shocked this thought had come back after all these years and I couldn’t understand why again I was thinking this when I had no reason to.

The next day on my drive to work, as a teacher, I was still racking my brain about why I was having this fear of myself or the people I love being raped while sleeping in an unfamiliar place. In an instant, my life changed. Just like that, when I parked my car in the parking lot of work, I had this terrible memory flood my brain. A memory I had hidden from myself for 3 years. I hid the memory of being raped by a guy I almost dated. I had met his family a few times, met his friends, stayed overnight with him, and one night I woke up to him raping me.

I remember being so confused and not sure what to do. I was terrified to say anything because, during my first serious relationship, there was a lot of abuse that taught me to not say no. When your body goes into fight or flight mode, the body has the option of camouflage to protect itself. That’s what I chose to do in this moment, I chose to camouflage myself by forcing myself to go back to sleep. When I had woken up later, my brain and body just told me to GET OUT, GOT OUT NOW!

I didn’t understand what had happened, but I knew it made me feel uncomfortable, and I was in danger. I can take myself back to these moments and in this particular one, I was so shaken and panicked. I wouldn’t be surprised if I left things there. Before I left, I went to the bathroom as quiet as I could, as to not wake him. I remember glancing in the mirror and just staring at myself. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, but I would imagine I asked myself, ‘What just happened to me?’ I got in my car and got the hell out of there.

The drive home in the middle of the night felt much longer than it was. I cried out of confusion and this disgusting feeling I felt. I didn’t feel like a person anymore. I felt like an object or an empty hole. I texted my best friend and told her what happened. It’s incredible how the brain wouldn’t let either of us see what had happened. It was too painful for me, and it was too painful for her. She seemed just as confused as me and we just came up with the conclusion that he was a necrophiliac; that’s the only way we could explain it.

The next morning, he texted me. He seemed to have been in a panic because all at one time, he Snapchatted me, texted me, and Facebook messaged me. Clearly, he was worried about something. I asked him why he was having sex with me while I was sleeping and his response was, ‘Are you mad?’ I never spoke to or saw him again.

So, as I bring myself back from this memory, I realized I needed to go into work and be an interactive, happy, supportive, and excited teacher. As I have for 3 years prior, I stuffed all this mess back into the closet it was hiding in and decided to think about it after work. It needed to go away for now. That night, extending into the weekend, I experienced things I never knew sexual assault survivors deal with.

I was so shocked I never saw this memory for what it was, so I was constantly thinking about it, trying to remember it entirely. This caused me to feel it within my body anytime I was thinking about it. I can go back to the first night I was feeling it in my body. I was sitting on my bed crying and stuffing my blanket around me so my vagina was protected. I wanted this to stop, but I didn’t know how to make it. I felt it would never stop. It was like being raped repeatedly, 24-7, for 3 or 4 days.

I didn’t think I was going to report any of this to the police because I didn’t have the conversation between him and me anymore, and I didn’t think they could do anything without it. But then I had this thought of, ‘What if he’s still doing this to other women, or to someone before me?’ I then changed my mind and went that weekend to the police station in his city.

I told my mom about all of this and she told me if I wanted her to come with me to report, she would. I really appreciated this because I was so nervous. I had never been to a police station and never reported anything before, the only prior knowledge I had was from watching Law and Order SVU. I wish I had walked in to see Olivia and Elliot, but unfortunately, I did not.

When I got to the police station and finally was able to talk to a police officer, and he led us to a hallway. I guess it was where I was going to report this, in a hallway where anyone could walk. When I started telling him more, he led us to a room, but it was no less private. I told him what happened and he asked questions. But every so often, he would say, ‘It doesn’t seem like you knew him really well.’ I was getting so frustrated with this statement continually being said.

I knew him at the time, but no, I don’t remember his address or his aunt’s address. I don’t know where he works or lives now. I didn’t keep tabs on him for 3 years after he raped me. But also… does it matter if I knew him really well? Would that change the fact he raped me? No. The officer was genuinely nice and did seem to care, but this was not the last insensitive statement.

Also, when I was telling all this personal information, there were constantly other police officers coming in and out of the room. They may not be uncomfortable with the information they were hearing, but this is the first time I’m talking about it to someone other than my mom and had spent the last 4 days reliving it, I didn’t appreciate anyone being able to come in while we were talking. This experience was less than ideal and I am truly glad all I wanted was for it to be on file.

Two weeks later, another detective called me and left a message telling me he wanted to give me an update about the report I had filed. I called back several times before getting a hold of him and he told me they talked to the DA and nothing would be able to be done. This wasn’t a shock but I still asked why. He said, ‘There’s no way to know that he didn’t know you didn’t want it.’ I said, fighting back tears, ‘I was asleep.’

He told me to hold on a minute while he read my statement. I knew then he didn’t care. He didn’t even know who he was talking to. He came back and told me there wasn’t evidence, which I knew, and he began giving me advice on how to not get raped again and that maybe Tinder wasn’t a good idea. Tinder didn’t rape me… I didn’t get myself raped… he raped me… because he is a rapist. Period.

I kept myself together and thanked him. I got off the phone and couldn’t control my tears any longer. I truly didn’t expect anything to happen, I knew, logically, I had no proof. But I didn’t feel heard either time talking to the police officers and I didn’t appreciate being blamed. I did absolutely nothing wrong. And I wouldn’t even do anything different. I did what I had to do to survive… and I did.

The brain is an amazing thing and I thank it for protecting me, but also letting me see what it was hiding. It has been a crazy journey, dealing with being raped. I am dealing with things I never knew sexual assault survivors deal with. There were times in counseling that I have cried to my counselor, asking her, ‘What do I do with this?’ This pain… this anger… this sadness.

She taught me that with this, we educate and we make people aware. We use our voice, which is so powerful, to promote change. So that’s my job now. The things that I have learned about sex, boundaries, myself, and educating people about the details, has changed my life. If this is what I needed to go through to learn all of this, then I am thankful. I got a tattoo to represent this change.

‘A lotus flower because

like a lotus flower,

I too had the ability to rise from the mud

and bloom out of the darkness and

radiate into this new world.'”

Courtesy of Caitlin Banks
Courtesy of Caitlin Banks

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Caitlin Banks. You can follow her on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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