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Things That Are Hard to Say – Part 1
I was sexually assaulted 3 times during my senior year of college by the only person I trusted with my whole body and soul. Not accepting our break up, he took it upon myself to make me “react” and pay attention to him using his body when I started ignoring the hurtful words. I was harassed by this person all year to the point where I was so scared for my safety that I stayed up all night, sitting on my futon with scissors in my hand. To have my trust shattered in that way did such immeasurable damage to my psyche. The stress of the situation sent me to the hospital twice before the end of winter quarter. Every time I saw him on campus, the panic attacks were so bad I stopped being able to function. I said nothing to anyone because I didn’t want to hurt this person’s reputation or disappoint my community. When I asked him to stop coming to my dorm, where I lived and worked, he said “no.” I stopped leaving my room except to work. When I asked him to stop contacting me or dropping by my room, he did not. By spring, I stopped going to class, barely slept and barely ate. I got so close to not graduating that year that I delayed my acceptance of my law school offer of admission until summer. I was terrified every day and let someone else turn the place that I loved into a prison. I convinced myself that if I could just graduate and leave, I could be okay.
The thing is though, I was sick, and wishing away the problem just didn’t cut it. I spent the summer before law school on the couch debating every day whether I should actually go and being harassed via electronic mediums. All of my past trauma and a huge shift in my family structure left me feeling completely unmoored with no ground to stand on.
A month after starting school in August, I moved into my own apartment with a roommate I didn’t know. With no one to pretend for, I stopped getting out of bed. It took a breakdown in the dean’s office to get me into therapy. It was there that I began to unpack how unhealthy and abusive my relationship had been riddled with angry jealousy, sexual manipulation and isolation from my friends. It was there that I got the strength to block this person out of my life. No more late night texts. No more phone calls. No more Facebook. But blocking didn’t stop the night terrors nor quell the depression. It was there that I first talked out loud about suicide.
If anything, writing this is not about blame, but about my personal journey and truly being an ally and friend. When I broke up with this person, the overwhelming response was that the Black community had taken a hit, or that the breakup wouldn’t last and we would get back together because we were meant to be. What no one knew was that this wasn’t the first time I had tried to break up nor did they know that I was wrestling with a huge bear called “self doubt” that told me even though things were not good for me, I couldn’t be without him. I didn’t want to get back together, I wanted to get out which is what I was trying to do. This is an urgent reminder that things are not always as they seem, and our words always have power.