Editor’s note//Trigger warning: description of sexual assault found below.
It was September of last year and I had just moved away from home to university. With this massive life change ahead, I was faced with a wave of anxiety. The commitment of university and the challenges of living on my own for the first time were difficult for me to adjust to. I ended up dropping out for a multitude of reasons (as explained in my previous essay Why Giving Yourself A Break May Be The Right Thing To Do After Someone Dies.)
The sexual assault I experienced during my first year was one of the triggers for my depression and anxiety; it was also a major contributor as to why I dropped out. This is my story.
I was 18 years old and college was new territory for me. During those first few weeks I learned more about the social aspect of university that went hand in hand with the educational aspect. In an effort to make new friends, I went out to a party with a girl I met in one of my classes.
We arrived at the house party that was close to school and she introduced me to a bunch of people. I walked around, enjoyed myself and had a few drinks that I never set down. Suddenly I became extremely dizzy and felt like I had drank way too much even though I knew two drinks was not enough for that to happen. I had difficulty standing up, and began to lose my vision. I tried talking to some people around me but I couldn’t form a coherent sentence.
I remember some people laughing and joking that I had too much to drink, when I know that this couldn’t be true. Two drinks wouldn’t have made me feel this way. Many of the details from the rest of the party are blurry to me, but I do remember waking up to my friend yelling my name, pushing a guy off me and helping me put my clothes back on. I remember crying. I remember feeling terrified.
I had no idea how to even begin to process what had happened to me.
I woke up the next morning and couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t go to class or leave my bed for a long time. I was absolutely devastated and terrified to walk out into the world and see people, and in particularly, guys.
My sexual assault in those first few weeks of university and the wave of emotions in the weeks that followed, they all impacted how I continued to grieve for Matt, my boyfriend. My depression and all I was grieving was now twofold — losing my sense of agency during that party reminded me of all I didn’t have control over with Matt’s death. My rape informed my way of grieving and made it more complex to live through.
Not having my best friend and the person I loved the most to help me through such a traumatic experience made it all just that much harder.
The fact that I was away from home and the support system I knew definitely didn’t help. I’d just started to find my footing at university and realizing this made it too uncomfortable for me to reach out for help then and there. I was afraid of being told that it didn’t happen, especially because if asked I wouldn’t be able to pick his face out in a crowd. I was terrified that I’d be the subject of victim blaming for an event I had no control over.
After being sexually assaulted, I missed Matt and the support he had willingly always given me. I wanted Matt there to help me.