In 2005, when I was 17, my virginity was robbed from me. I have gotten used to the idea that there are two of me: the one before the event, and me after the event. It happened when I was in high school, just months before graduation. I kept it a secret for years because I felt like I had done something horrible.
Since I had been diagnosed with high-functioning autism as an elementary schooler and struggle with social cues, I assumed all of his abuse was my fault. I have a hard time with body language, and he knew that, given that he was my boyfriend for months before the first offense happened. He took advantage of me anyway. The first time it happened, I said, “I’m not interested in sex.” I wanted to wait until I was married. He backed me into a corner, forced me to take some powerful prescription pain pills that nearly knocked me unconscious, and disrobed me.
He had sex with me in spite of my wishes. The term “rape” was not a word I used often; I don’t think I even knew what it meant at the time. Early the next morning, I drove to the nearest Panera Bread, bought a cup of coffee, and sat in the booth looking out the window and cried. “What in the world just happened?” I thought to myself. I felt so disgusting that I expected everyone could read it on my forehead. All I wanted to do was take a hot bath. I came home and soaked myself in a tub for hours.
The horror continued throughout my last semester of high school. My abuser told everyone that it was something he wanted to do with me because he “loved” me. That was what I told everyone else too. I thought it was consensual. I finished my high school education completely oblivious to the fact that a felony had been committed against me. At 17, I just thought that it was unwanted sex. Secretly, I blamed my autism and myself: I figured it was “my fault” because I “wasn’t good socially.” To me, at the time, it wasn’t rape; it was just “bad sex.”
Something similar happened again a few months later when I had started college classes at K-State. He said, “Let’s have sex.” I wasn’t interested at the time. “I really like you, but maybe later,” I said. It happened anyway. Several weeks later, in January 2006, I found out I was pregnant, and my dad and I decided I’d have an abortion. This abusive man had sex with me repeatedly for two years before we finally broke up without asking my permission; and because of the intensity of the domestic violence present in our relationship, even psychologically, I could never freely say no. I am pretty sure a piece of me died then. I have spent the last four years trying to rebuild a life for myself.
Shortly after I turned 21 in 2008, a friend referred me to the rape center on my college center. Through the help of the Advocate at the center, I went from saying, “I had sex with him,” and finally learned how to say, “He raped me.” At the time, it was one of the worst things that had ever happened to me.
After therapy for about a year, I volunteered at the center and decided to raise awareness with a college group dedicated to the issue, until I resigned in late March 2010 due to graduation stresses.
Throughout my volunteer time, I realized that I wanted to help women who have experienced date rape (or any other kind of sexual crime, for that matter). In college, I became passionate about spreading awareness about the issues of date rape and domestic violence. Ultimately, music, my major at the time, I pursued as a field of study solely because I was near finishing.
After I graduated college in May 2010, I spent a year in seminary in my hometown after graduating college. I thought that a degree from seminary school would help me the most with helping other survivors. I left school and started working as a Volunteer Advocate at a local nonprofit rape crisis center. Through that organization, I now speak publicly about my experience.
When I was in college, this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Almost two years after my last therapy session for the rape, I have turned the bad into something good. Through the sexual assault, I lost my youth, but have gained the ability to live more spiritually, live life to the fullest, and have a deeper compassion for others. I’ve grown into a woman that I am proud to call my friend, autistic disorder or not.
Presently, I am hoping to become a social worker. I have decided to make my research interest about the violence against women. I am also interested in the issue of violence against women with disabilities.
My career goal today is to work in the area of policy advocacy for an organization that works to prevent sexual and domestic violence. Ultimately, I would like to professionally spread awareness in various communities and legislative bodies about rape and sexual assault. I want to educate others and reduce the stigma that surrounds talking about crimes against women and spread awareness about the alarmingly scary statistics about women with disabilities who experience sexual and domestic violence.
My experience with date rape and the role that my crisis center and therapists played in my healing made a profound impact on who I am today, and I really like that person. I only hope that one day I can provide as much hope and compassion to other survivors as they provided me.