Genuinity is the most important aspect of my life; being anything but yourself, and saying anything contrary to what you believe seems ultimately a waste of time- one day we all must explain ourselves and grapple in our own ways with the loneliness of personhood. I spent the better part of my life constantly worrying about what other people thought, what they wanted from me, what they expected of me. I dressed accordingly, never spoke out of turn, and fit the persona that was crafted for me. I was convinced I was the one pulling the strings on the puppet show of my life.

The day I was raped, I remember thinking, "Is this what I want? Am I ready?" It was not in a dark alley way, I was not blacked out, and it was a beautiful summer night. I left my door unlocked, waiting for another nightly visit from the boy that paid me more attention than anyone else had that entire month. My door was unlocked and I kissed him as his hands wandered my body. I paid no attention until it was already happening; by then it felt too late. I asked myself those questions- Do I really care this much about my virginity? Does this define me? I figured, this must be what I want; I am not in pain, and it's already happening. If I try to stop this now, I'll only admit that the whole thing was out of my control. 

I told myself that this was okay, that I had wanted it to happen and so it did. I told myself not to even question how I felt about it, because it was over. I painted the proper picture and sold it to all of my friends as "the summer I lost my virginity," not "the summer I handed my body over without my consent." This was a year before I graduated high school.

My senior year of high school, I admitted to a boy what had happened to me; I remember feeling humiliated, tainted, untouchable. He told me he loved me, and I gave him my body in return. He told me I wasn't tainted, and so I stuck with him as he betrayed my trust, as he cheated and lied and took complete control of my life. 

My freshman year of college, I ended that relationship, and I was left to wander in the vacuum left behind. I was in a foreign city, with a body that didn't feel like mine, a life that felt completely hollow. Desperate for love, I turned to anybody who could offer the brief shimmer of possible love as they held me in their arms. I gave them all my body, too, and all I asked in return was a small amount of affection. I had lost count by December. I was sexually assaulted again, this time meekly voicing my protest and being physically shut down, fighting back tears just to appease the monster that wouldn't stop until I bled. I was hollow; I felt like all of those men held the deed to my body and the rights to my mind. 

I don't think rape victims are ever "lucky." I don't think that just because I was not violently assaulted, I should feel grateful in any way. The only way I am lucky is a product of the person I am I have become in spite of all this, someone who says, this will never happen to me again. I will respect myself enough to say no. I will respect myself enough to stand up for my body, and to know that no one has the right to touch me, to affect my mind, to make me feel like I owe them something.

I will never pretend that this has not happened to me. I will not pretend that in moments of vulnerability, I have not let it happen again. This is a part of who I have come to be, and that is heinous, but I refuse to hide it. Many of my close friends have also been sexually assaulted; many people do not realize just how many of their friends have been made victims of assault and rape. 

The day after Donald J. Trump was elected President, I remember thinking about the times I had been assaulted. I remembered each time I handed over my body, each time something was taken and used and discarded from me without my consent, feeling so grateful for my little blue birth control pills. The day our current president was elected, I was crippled with the fear of losing the object of that gratitude, the fear of no longer having control over my body and my reproductive rights, just when I am finally learning to stand up for my choice and my right to say no. The idea that we may one day, soon, live in a country where free and legal abortions, as well as affordable birth control, will no longer be the norm saddens me more than the all the times I handed myself over without my consent combined. Because the aftermath, that which I cannot change about those events, makes me who I am today. But if I am lucky, the only way that that is true is that I still had the option to take control, even after I gave it away. 

Elisabeth Boniface

Issue No. 18 • Spring 2017