The following post contains themes of sexual assault. Please take caution when reading.
Forgiving him was almost effortless.
Society gave him the perfect alibi. Society told him he wasn’t culpable for his crime. No, the crime scene was my burden to bear from the start: my dress, my demeanour, my callousness.
So I forgave him.
But when I forgave him, I still needed to shift the blame, to point the finger, to curse someone else’s name.
So I committed a worse crime: I blamed myself.
It came in waves.
The first wave was silent. I shut them out, the voices inside and the voices outside. I shunned the calls of love. I used my outlet to mute the sting of blame – society’s betrayal.
The second wave was more apparent. The louder the silence, the worse I hurt myself. The scars on my wrist bore testimony. They still do.
The third wave was pretension. I needed to convince an audience that I was OK. I hoped that I could also convince myself.
This wave involved a form of self-harm that fools the naked eye: a toxic mix of nicotine, marijuana, sleeping pills, and starvation – all wrapped in loud laughter and endless distractions.
This is how I punished myself.
Nicotine, because every time I inhaled, I knew I was dying a little more. Killing the body that brought me pain. His words echoing with every puff I took, “I’ve always noticed your body.”
Marijuana, because the helplessness of panic attacks were too much to fathom.
Sleeping pills because his voice was stuck in my head, stealing the oblivion of sleep from me.
I had convicted myself for the crime of being a woman, for being vulnerable, for letting someone break me, and now I was serving my time. Through all of this, I convinced myself that it was my fault.
I carried the blame, and I became jealous of those who could forgive themselves so easily.
But, in time, I found love.
I learned that love comes in different forms and that it heals in each one.
Love comes as people, as places, as animals, as songs. All of which heal.
I now have the courage to utter a phrase I thought I’d never say, “I believe in love.”
I now whisper a promise to the universe that’s shining over me: “I promise to love myself.”
I am no longer blaming my body for his sins. He bruised my body, but my soul is intact. I am not what happened to my body. I adorn myself with new marks – black ink to remind myself of the struggle, to remind myself that I made it.
A trophy of sorts.
Two years later, I forgive myself.
Black ink, my victory lap.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you need help, please visit our FIND HELP page or call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. You can also find RAINN’s online hotline here.