The day after my 22nd birthday, I was raped. It was my senior year of college, nearly a year ago, and I had gone to a house party. There, an acquaintance led me to his room and had non-consensual sex with me while I was visibly intoxicated, after I had said no.
I immediately told a few friends and family members. About two months later, I reported the incident to my university’s police department. And now that I've come to peace with my assault, I speak about it openly.
Usually when I tell people that I was raped, I get looks that vary from sympathetic to suspicious. Almost always, and with all good intentions, people say, “Don’t think of yourself as a victim. Look at it this way – you’re a survivor!”
They assume I want to be a survivor. As if putting that label on me will immediately transform my view of my rape, or magically erase my memories from that night.
I don’t blame them. It’s not easy to respond to someone who tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted. Even having endured it, I grasp for the right words to comfort those who disclose their experiences to me. Some people choose to call themselves survivors and it genuinely encourages them in their healing process. It promotes regaining control of one’s life, which can be critical in trauma recovery. I understand that.
However, I can’t seem to identify with the label “survivor.”
Maybe it’s because my rape wasn’t violent. I didn’t have to fight for my life. I “survived” having drunk, unwanted sex. I wasn’t beaten or drugged or forcefully pinned down. I knew my assailant.