TW: r*pe, retaliation, eating disorders
We understand that some of Willow’s story may be difficult to read and encourage readers to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or chat with them online (here), if needed. We also encourage readers to call the National Eating Disorders Hotline at 1-800-931-2237 or chat with them online here. We also encourage readers to develop a self-care plan.
Dear the 2nd,
I was 15. I had to change schools the previous year because of anxiety and how people treated me at 14. I was just getting a fresh start. I thought I don’t need to heal. I just need to be smarter. And so I shut people out. At my new school, I was being very shy. I joined a few clubs, and hung out with a few people. I kept things low-key for the first month. I thought I was in control but I wasn’t. I thought I was that strong person who had overcome everything. Who no one could hurt. But I wasn’t. I was a scared 15 year old. I was worried about not having friends though. I had always had loads of friends. I thought I’d found a group of people who were chill and would protect me. I did love partying at the time and they seemed to always have good time and be focused on school so I thought wow I’ve found my people. I truly thought I had life figured out. I thought I was this strong, smart and a little wild 15 old who played soccer, volunteered, and was in the top 10 of her class while going to chill “parties”. I was beginning to regrow my confidence. I thought everyone had grown up. I even began to allow myself to have my first crush. I was beginning to forget that people couldn’t be trusted because everyone was being so nice to me maybe a little flirty around me, but I hate to admit that I liked attention.
But that changed in November 2015. I thought my friends and I were the coolest people ever. We had gotten wristbands to go to frat row as 15 year olds from you the 2nd. You were my friend’s older brother and you had a girlfriend so I thought I had nothing to worry about. You had always been nice to me and you said it’d be super fun and I could see if I liked the school. I didn’t even think twice. I let my guard down. I went out Thursday night thinking life was turning up for me. I was meeting all these cool people who’d be seniors when I was a college freshman. I woke up Friday morning in the hospital with cops around me and only one memory. You and your girlfriend saying you can trust us this is just a fun little game we play as you fucking r*ped me and filmed it. I was mortified but the crazy thing is the next morning you were getting all sorts of praise for having a threesome. People thought you were the coolest guy ever and I let them. I told the cops I didn’t remember and even with both of your DNA found on me and some drugs in my system, the case was let go. I said I must have consented at the time. I let you take my truth. But along with my truth you took so much more – you took my innocence and my safety. You had people “checking up on me” pretending they cared while also feeding me a different narrative. You had people threatening to expose my wild side. You had people telling me that I was the coolest girl ever and so fun and every girl should be like me.
I believed you. I let you change me. I let your words become my reality. I didn’t think anything of that night. I didn’t seek any help. I just thought I needed to maintain that image of being wild, not eating (because you and other people told me it was good for me to not eat) and smart. What you praised me for is what I began to idealize. The sad part is other people praised me for being like that. They siad they liked that I was “perfectly unperfect” just how you described me that night. I would begin to feel like people were defining me and it scared me. But I wouldn’t seek help instead I would try to regain control in any way I could. I developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism. I began to try to be perfect in every way. I wanted to look perfect, be perfect in school and be perfectly wild. But most importantly I needed to be in control. After all I thought the reason bad things happened to me was because I wasn’t in control. It was my fault for being too wild, not strong enough, not worthy of real attention.
I do not condone these behaviors in fact they made me very sad. I felt so lonely even though I was never alone and my life seemed perfect to everyone else. I even stated dating my now ex-partner and wouldn’t let him in. He even told me I was the perfect girlfriend. I did everything to maintain that status. I just wanted to be liked.
I once again thought I had fixed my life. I told myself those were just growing pains. I had learned and now was learning to be in control. But whenever I lost control things got messy. I would have anxiety attacks about you or things that reminded me about you. I would binge drink and then punish myself. Anything to regain control. I thought this is my new life. I thought I wasn’t worthy of feeling better after all everything was my fault. You were a friend you would never hurt me. I just hadn’t been in control of myself enough.
Dear the second, you took away my spirit of joy and replaced it with fear and told me my fear wasn’t valid. I was constantly scared at the time but I have learned 5 years later that my fear was valid. THAT ALL MY EMOTIONS ARE VALID AND WORTH FEELING. I have learned that my truth matters. That no one can rewrite my story. So often we are told trauma, alcohol, drugs messes with the brain by people of authority. So our truths are invalidated. You even told me this but even if that’s true, that doesn’t change my truth and that certainly doesn’t change the scars. That doesn’t change the fact how I was treated and followed for 6 months so you must have known you did something wrong. And you did. You hurt me and it sucks that it took me 4.5 years to realize that.