A Survivor not a victim

Shana, Canada



Hi, I would like to share my story with other girls who have been struggling. It's been 3 years now since I was sexually assaulted in college. But right now I am struggling much to find meaning in my life as I am undergoing surgery in areas where I was hurt. I read your book recently, "Invisible Girls" and it was so helpful and very "real" to me. I wanted to write my story out today as I am trying so hard to let go of so many mixed and suppressed emotions. I have a lot of anger, guilt and shame that I keep bottled up and take out on myself. I am a survivor and no longer a victim. However, why do I still feel like the only way to let out my feelings is through purging? I have a hard time allowing myself to enjoy things for pleasure yet. I am waiting for test results this week to see if more surgery must be done. Here is my story:

I was a junior in college when I went out on a "date" with a nice Christian good-looking young man. I met him outside class earlier that day, and he just asked if I would like to go out that night....why not? He had lied to me and told me he was the same age, major and many interests as me. Also did not tell me he was one of the defensive players on a football team...I should have guessed being so tall, muscular and strong....what can I say I am "naive"? Anyway, so I met him at 8pm that night still not quite dark being in early September. He talked as we walked and asked me if ok to go off campus just for a nice "summer evening" like walk....why not, I love walks and being outside anyway. He then kept buttering me up with all the things any girl would want to hear to make her feel good. He told me had a special place to show me, a place he likes to go when feeling down. I told him I was feeling ill that night and at that time was very underweight due to my illness. He kind of smiled and led me up a hill holding my hand with a flashlight. Trust me he said as my foot was slipping as the hill was steep and now much darker outside. We got to top of the hill, and yes, looking down was a beautiful view of the campus and all the lights. It was quite breathtaking.

However, this moment did not last long as he had moved to step B of his plan. He put his "rape kit" on the ground and took off his sandals and spread out a blanket. He beckoned me to come to lay down and get comfy. I said no I rather stand and look at the lights. He persisted and started to massage the "erroneous zones" of my body to try and relax me. I kept pushing him away, and this angered him. So now he got more forceful and pulled me down. I sat down until. Next, I knew my body was horizontal and he was on top of me "wrestling" me as he would his younger sister, so he says. But why would he still do that if she is 18? sounds wrong to me. I tried using my wits and sense of humor to crack jokes. He would laugh and my body was in many positions that hurt and felt like Gumby. I told him to stop very assertively and finally twisted myself out and got up. I told him to knock it off and I know what he was up to. THen he got extremely defensive and angry and attacked me as an angry bear.

This point, I was not sure if I would ever see my dorm room again alive. It was me under him, and no longer were his intentions sexual...but more of power, control and physically abusive. I was his "doll". Barbie as he called me. He took his 200-pound body on my 80 some pounds and literally bounced and tried to suffocate me. After 20 minutes I was losing air and now gasping.... I was not screaming and then he freaked out as he saw my face was turning blue and heard some of my bones crack....he got off me and ran away. I was left alone on the hill to my pain feeling so empty and hurt. I ran after him yelling at him to help me down the mountain as I was too weak to do anything. My chest felt sunken in and could barely breathe.

Long story short I was told by campus police and state police I was like a lamb to slaughter and blamed it on my "malnourished" state of mind for being so naive and not thinking straight. The young man was given community service as I took a leave of absence from school to go home. There I went through medical tests to find ribs broken....but mostly my heart. A year later my gi illness got worse, and my colon stopped working. Last year I was given surgery to have a bag and now every time I see it I feel like a piece of crap. I have regained my lost weight back due to illness, but now I feel so fat and ugly. Doctors do not understand that my pain is not in my head and am often told till this day that I am just craving attention. I hate my curves, and I still struggle to be ok with looking feminine.

Sorry if I did not end my story on a light note. I am struggling and am reaching out to a therapist still. I don't want to give up hope and thought sharing would be a way to release some pain without inflicting harm to my body. My question though will I ever be ok with my body and not want to hurt me anymore?

thanks again.



Dr. Patti responds: 

Dear Shana,

I wish I could say your story is unusual... But it is not. So many young women are blamed for date rape and then the young men, often football players or some other sort of frat type are let off. I am so sad to hear that you were hurt and that he was given community service. And how absurd that it was your fault because of your "malnourished state". The good news is that you actually are alive after this insane brutal attack and that you reported him. Often girls tell me it does take three years to kind of release and deal with abuse. You are at the perfect age to heal. You already are a survivor and see you are not a victim! 

On another note, you are very aware of your serious body image issues. Because of your eating disorder, you have become physically compromised as a result of your emotional condition. Deal with the issues around your eating practices. Yes, find a therapist who will not make you feel like a freak, find a therapist who will help you through your body image issues. Find it in your heart and soul to love yourself and forgive yourself and try not to take anything out on your body. To answer your question... I have worked with so many young women who have hated their bodies, they have purged, starved, eaten themselves into oblivion. And yes they have also healed. You are quite young; you can heal, you can begin to stop hating your body and being preoccupied with how you look. Yes, you can heal. Please find someone who will love you and care for you in the therapeutic relationship. Keep "Invisible Girls" by your bedside, when you feel hopeless read about Garnet, Pearl, Iris, Daila and all the other wonderful girls who have healed from sexual abuse and found their way back to healthy wonderful lives. 

................................xoxo, Dr. Patti.