When I was 17, a friend from high school invited me to a small gathering at her cousin’s house consisting of alcohol, food, four girls and one guy.
As soon as we got there, I was handed a drink. We watched TV, played drinking games and were having a pretty good time.
I remember eventually starting to feel really weird as the evening progressed. The last thing I remember saying was, “I’m tired and ready for bed.” My female friend escorted me to a room to lay down; the next thing I recall was waking up naked next to her male cousin.
As soon as I woke up, I was confused and terrified. I looked over and saw this guy next to me. In my state of shock, the first thing I thought to mumble was, "Did you wear a condom?" He kind of laughed and said, "Yeah, it’s right there,” pointing to it on the floor.
This was literally the second time I’d had sex in my life. I was a good girl. I didn’t sleep around. I had a hard enough time losing my virginity, let alone just giving myself away one night to a guy I just met.
But despite trying to rationalize this, I shut up any of the mental chatter and blamed myself. I thought I should have been in control. I convinced myself that I got too drunk and the situation was entirely my fault.
The next day, I received a friend request on Facebook from the guy. I took this as another sign that it was all my fault. I thought, “If he raped me, why would he add me as a friend on Facebook?”
I confirmed him and continued to live in shame.
For years, I would see his Facebook posts, his status updates and what he was doing with his life. Every time I saw it pop up, I would feel this very uncomfortable sensation in my body. In a sick way, it was kind of like private punishment for doing something bad and for being at fault.
Then, one evening about four years later, I was at a college party. I was talking to six girls who I had just met that night. They were all drinking and many started to get emotional. I was dead sober and remember looking directly at each one of them as they went around one by one and confessed stories of being raped. Some were similar to what happened to me, some were completely different, but immediately I realized the severity of what had happened to me that night four years ago.
With this realization, I started replaying that painful evening in my head. I was forced to think about it step-by-step. I remembered saying I was tired and ready for bed. I remember finding out that this guy was in his mid-20s (and I was only 17). So many clues came flooding back that confirmed I did not consent to having sex with him that evening. The final indication came when I asked my best friend (who was not there that evening) if she happened to talk to the female friend I went to the party with. She told me she talked to her on the phone that night and she said I was sleeping in the guy’s room. She never mentioned that I was having sex or doing anything other than sleeping.
Much like those other girls I met at the college party, I realized, I too, had been a victim of sexual assault.
I cried for a bit, trying to cleanse the shame that had been deeply ingrained in my DNA for the past four years.
And then, I took my first step towards my new healing journey: I deleted my rapist from Facebook.
The moment I pressed delete, I felt an empowering sensation in my body. I had banished that painful and uncomfortable feeling I had felt every time I scrolled through my newsfeed and saw a post from him. I felt like I finally owned up to the fact that I was raped and it was not okay. I felt in control of my thoughts, my emotions and my body. Pressing delete gave me back my self-worth.
I never went to anyone about the incident. I never sought retribution, legal action, or even a compassionate ear. Instead, I sat back in silence accepting the event for what it was, but even worse, what it wasn't -- OK.
Pressing delete certainly didn’t rid the real issues that I have been working through year after year, like the inconvenient flashbacks from that night or how I have to sleep fully clothed regardless of weather. What pressing delete did do was give me back my power from a man who depleted it years ago.
While that night no longer defines me, it has changed me. I hope by shedding light on my own story, I can help other women reclaim their voice and take a stand against sexual assault.