I was a hopeless romantic growing up. Like most little girls, I dreamed of my wedding day, wondering who my husband would be. I loved “The Notebook” and wanted a love like that. I couldn’t wait to have my happily ever after. But my life changed fast one day when I became a victim of rape.
I never thought I’d love again. I didn’t think I was worthy of love. My rapist told me over and over again that no one would love me, no one would want me, I’d never have the things I once dreamt of. I believed him. I truly thought he took everything from me.
When I met Ryan, I was 18 years old. It was four months after I came forward about my sexual assault. I got hired at the restaurant he worked at. We worked every day together. He was the only person who never looked at me differently or questioned me.
Ryan made me feel normal. He made me smile and laugh again. He was finally the friend I longed for.
We’d flirt on and off and would joke around for months, but we never hung out outside of work until about five months after meeting. I’ll never forget him inviting me over. But I was sure this would never be more than friends. Once he found out what happened to me, he would never want to pursue anything more.
But something told me to go through with it. I went to his house after work one day. I remember walking in and could smell Windex. The fact he took time to clean and impress me made me chuckle.
We watched a movie and went into the hot tub. We talked, laughed, and looked at the stars. I remember feeling like I was going to throw up. A million thoughts ran through my mind. Should I tell him? Should I play it cool?
He was the first person who never once saw me as a victim. I could laugh and feel a sense of normalcy in my life. There was a moment of silence and I didn’t know what to do, so I splashed him with water and laughed. He was sitting across from me and leaned over and kissed me. I kissed him back. Once we got out of the hot tub we sat on the couch talking for hours. We ended up losing track of time and I slept over that night. Nothing more happened besides kissing and he has never once pressured me or made me feel guilty for not doing something.
As weeks went on, we were just friends and coworkers who kissed sometimes. I think I loved our friendship so much, the safety I felt, and finally feeling like a normal young adult again to become anything more than friends.
I didn’t want to lose the one person who finally made me feel alive again.
We decided to dress up for Halloween together for our work party. It was an 80s workout theme. We had so much fun, and he asked me out on an official date that night. I agreed to go. We didn’t see each other for the next couple days leading up to the date. I remember wanting to cancel, but something told me to go.
On November 3, I woke up, went to the mall, got a new outfit, did my hair, did my makeup, and listened to “Gonna” by Blake Shelton on repeat until he picked me up. Ryan showed up at my door with flowers and chocolate, then we went to dinner and a movie. We had a great time. When we got back to his house, he parked his car, looked at me, and said “Will you be my girlfriend?” I quickly said yes! I forgot in that moment that I’d have to eventually tell him about my past.
That night, I slept over and that was the first night we had sex. I remember feeling so different. Like it was normal. He was gentle, kept asking if I was okay, and didn’t physically or verbally abuse me in the process. But I was so scared. I felt guilty for enjoying it. From this day on, Ryan has never forced me. If I say “stop” or “no,” he listens, and if I push him away he understands.
Sex after being a survivor of rape is different each time. Sometimes you crave it, other times the thought of being touched feels like a punch in the gut.
A few weeks after Ryan asked me to his girlfriend, we were in his basement. He had some friends over and we were all drinking and playing games. His friends went home after a few hours. I was sitting on the floor after a fun night and looked at Ryan sitting on the couch and I started crying.
He was this perfect person with a great life, and here I am a wreck of a person with a messy past. A girl who was broken and hiding so much from him. He came and sat next to me and wiped my tears and said “Hey, it’s okay. What’s going on?”
I began to shake and looked at him and said “I was raped. I never expected to like you like this, but I have to tell you before we go any further.” He said “I know, but I wasn’t going to force you to talk about it. When you wanted to and if you wanted to, you would.” Of course he knew. It was a small town and everyone knew.
I froze, I didn’t know what to say. We sat there for a while. I was scared he’d tell me to get lost. I wouldn’t blame him if he did. ”Do you still want to be with me?” I asked.
He hugged me, kissed my forehead, and said nothing would ever change how he sees me and no one would ever hurt me again.
He’s been with me through my worst days, court dates, my rapist’s release from jail, and has supported me in sharing my story. He’s also been with me and a part of many of my best days.
He listens, wipes tears, makes me smile and laugh every day, and takes time to try to understand. He loves me for me. We’ve been married for three years now and together almost eight! I got my happily ever after. Even when I didn’t feel worthy of it, I got my love story.
I was never looking for love or friendship, but he entered my life when I needed him the most and he didn’t run away when things got bad. In many ways, I feel he saved me. I was at my lowest when I met him.
Ryan has never seen me as a victim, but as a survivor and warrior. He reminds me daily how strong and brave I am. He loves me for the survivor I am. On the days I feel weak, hurt, and angry, he doesn’t tell me it’s over like others have. He knows this is something I’ll live with forever. Instead, he allows me to feel them and doesn’t make me feel guilty for doing so.
We all have wounds, but you’re worthy of love and friendship. And you’re allowed to heal, grow, smile, and laugh again without feeling guilty. Don’t ever change yourself for anyone. The right people will come and stay even in the chaos.
Feature Image by Dominic Sansotta on Unsplash
Thanks for sharing your story. This is important for those who still cannot open their experiences to the world. Sometimes we don’t get the experience we want. But sometimes it gives unexpected results. I went through therapy with a psychologist for a long time and realized that I like a tougher type of relationship, click the link now. It was an unexpected discovery and I had a period of denial .. But everything came to the fact that I accepted myself and my desires.