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My Story


click the above photo for additional pictures of me

My name is Lis and I am currently a second year law student. I will be twenty-five in December of 2004 and I will be nine in June of 2004. I say this because my life ended and began over eight years ago, on the night just before my high school freshman year was finished. I was raped by a person I thought I could trust.

Those of you who have been raped probably can relate with figurative death. You are no longer the person you were before you were raped - that person is gone. You are transformed into the person who was raped - the person who is afraid of the dark, has nightmares and flashbacks and battles depression.

Understanding the person I was before I was raped is a very difficult task for me. She is a shadowy figure, transformed not only by time, but by the scarring of rape. When I look back on her now, my first instinct is to be angry with her - for being naive, for being young, for trusting so quickly. There were many times during the past four years that I hated her - I blamed her for being raped and I cursed her for the problems I encountered after I was assaulted. But when I’m being fair with myself, I can catch a glimpse of who she was.

The "before" me

I have lived in a very small town south of Boston for my entire life. I am the oldest child of three, with a younger brother and sister. Growing up, I was always on the younger side of my peers. When they were interested in boys, I was still interested in horses and make-believe games. By the time ninth grade rolled around, I had only a vague interest in the opposite sex and spent most of my time with my best friend, doing art projects and continuing to live in the world of a kid.

At the end of ninth grade, I developed a crush on a junior, who was a popular football player. After awhile, we began talking on the phone - stupid stuff. I can’t even remember now what was said, but he would chat with me and I was flattered.

One night, around midnight, he asked if I would like to go for a walk with him (he lived only three streets down). I was thrilled that he wanted to do something with me, so I climbed out of my window (it was past my curfew and my parents wouldn’t have let me leave, so I had to sneak out) and walked to the end of my street, where he met me. He suggested that we walk to the elementary school’s playground and "talk." Off we went.

The playground was specially designed to look like a ship. It had two large sections for the boat, both with two floors, slides, ropes, etc. We climbed to the second floor of one of the sections and sat down by the orange tube slide to talk. I don’t remember what was said.

Horribly out of control

After awhile, he leaned over and began kissing me. I accepted this, but when he began to shift his weight on top of me, I pulled away and tried to start up the conversation again. He started kissing me again and this time pushed me onto my back. I began telling him that I wanted to stop - and it was from there that things began spinning horribly out of control.

He didn’t stop and although I said "no" many times and tried to fight him, he raped me. I don’t remember how he got my shorts off, and sometimes I still am angry at myself for not being strong enough to fight him off, but he won.

After it was over, he threw my clothes at me and told me to get dressed. He had ejaculated on my stomach and I can still remember what he said, "That stuff sticks to everything. Use your shorts to clean yourself off."

He told me to stop crying several times. Then he said that he wanted to "hold me," and he didn’t let me go until he had "held me" for what seemed like an eternity. Then he said that he needed to go home and he left.

He told everybody it was consensual

And so did I. I made up this alternate reality for myself, in which I had some control and I made myself believe that it was consensual. I don’t think the word "rape" was in my vocabulary at the time. It certainly didn’t occur to me that a crime had been committed when I was walking home, or when I was taking a shower, or the next day when I stayed home from school and laid in bed crying. I was so ashamed and felt like I had done something bad - and I was afraid to tell my parents because I had been doing something wrong at the time - sneaking out. So I told no one. I kept it a secret and didn’t say a word about it for three years.

He, on the other hand, told people that we had consensual sex. When I think about it now, that in itself was a dumb move, because by law he had also committed statutory rape - I was underage at the time and he was nineteen. But nobody thought about that - they just branded me a slut and tormented me for several years.

People told me that he said, "f*cking her is like f*cking a bean bag." I’m still not sure what that little simile means, but at the time it hurt. Kids I didn’t get along with would use him against me - all it took was a mention of his name and I would have no other choice but to leave the room. School became hell.

My life was hell

I stopped eating and used food as a weapon against myself. I would feel good if I could make it through an entire day without eating. I became dangerously thin and at times I would make myself throw up because I felt guilty about the food I had eaten that day. Again, I didn’t know that what was going on with me had a name - anorexia - nor did I know that many survivors of sexual violence develop eating disorders in an attempt to control something in their life, or to punish themselves because they believe what has happened to them was their fault.

By the time 11th grade came, I was miserable, thin and running out of reasons to live. At the end of 11th grade I caught mono, and because I was so weak, my body couldn’t fight the disease. I ended up in the hospital and missed two months of school.

During the summer before my senior year, my best friend (who had moved to Virginia one year before) asked me if I wanted to spend my senior year in Virginia and stay with her family. I decided that it was a good opportunity - they had a bigger school system, I would be able to meet many new people and experience new things and I wouldn’t be known as a slut.

Although I missed my family, I believe the year I spent in Virginia saved me. I began eating again. I was much happier and I was actually able to tell a few people about what I had been through.

Healing

When I went to college, I began my healing. I started by writing down all of my feelings in a journal and talking to other survivors on the internet.

I also bought a book, After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back by Nancy Venable Rainn, and began reading about her story. My next step was to find help at my college. I contacted a member of the sexual assault support group at my college, called "Safe Space," and began meeting with her. She took me to a clinic to get an HIV test (I was very afraid after the rape that I had contracted the AIDS virus), which was negative and she encouraged me to join the group, which I did this past spring.

In the fall of 1999, I began training for Safe Space. I expected it to be very difficult, because I have a hard time talking about what happened to me. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, because I never actually had to counsel other survivors. My involvement ended with administrative tasks.

In the Spring of 2000 I transferred from Union College to a different college. I have joined the Rape Crisis center here and will begin training with them in a few weeks. I will have more direct contact with survivors than I did with Safe Space, so I expect it to be harder, but I'm not worried. I feel strong enough right now to do it.

Healing no longer seems like an insurmountable task - it’s just a difficult one, but I do feel better every time I chip away a piece of the barrier between the woman who was raped and the girl she was before.


Update: June, 2000

I have survived another anniversary. Much has happened since I last wrote here. I went into therapy and dealt with many of the issues surrounding my rape. I think that I am finally beginning to heal from the rape itself, and it is only the aftermath that I have left to deal with.

I was thinking today about second grade, the year before they built the playground on which I was raped. We had an old playground with these two, identical metal structures, jungle gyms. One was for the girls and one was for the boys. Neither sex was allowed to enter the other's "safe zone."

One day at recess I was playing on the swings, when this boy in my class came up to me and threatened me - I don't remember what he said, but I remember being afraid. It is my first real memory of being afraid of a boy. And what I remember most clearly is looking to the recess teacher, a woman, for help. She did nothing; in fact, it was like she was blind to what was happening. So I turned and ran as fast as I could to the girls' jungle gym. I climbed to the top, and then I was safe.

I think that what I need to deal with now is the feelings of betrayal I have for women in general. Why didn't the girls in my class stand up for me when I was being tormented by my classmates? Why do women dismiss rape victims as "whiney" or tell their survivor friends to "get over it?"

I am in a new stage of healing and a step closer to recovery.

Update: January 2004

It has been a long time since I updated this page. I am now a second year in law school, and I am doing better than I could ever have imagined. You can connect with other survivors at Pandora's Aquarium, a message board and online support group. It is truly a special place, and I hope that you will visit if you need someone to talk to, or want to tell your story. Get there by clicking the image below...

a message board for all survivors of sexual violence