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One night, eight years ago, I was raped by four guys. Or, that’s my safer and softer way of saying it, at least. Using the other accurate terminology of “gang-rape” feels too shameful, humiliating, and isolating. The reality of using that term often feels too unbearable.

My truth is that I feel alienated and alone in experiencing gang-rape and in trying to understand the extent of its devastation on my life. I’ve spent countless nights searching the internet for resources, articles, or information about the trauma and impact of gang-rape, specifically... ANYthing to help me feel seen, understood, and less alone. Time and time again, I come up feeling empty-handed.

I have also experienced being raped by one perpetrator, in a different time and place. That was the night I lost my virginity. I’ve found that there are mainly common themes and experiences in surviving rape, whether it’s rape by one perpetrator or by four. Much of the trauma feels the same, but there are many aspects of my trauma from the gang-rape that I struggle with in isolation. My real truth is that I feel too ashamed and humiliated to tell my story, when sharing the facts of what happened that night sounds like ‘dirty porn’ or a made-up horror story. I’m deeply afraid that my truth is too dirty and too repulsive to share. To be heard or held by others. I’ve found a little bit of writing on the ‘audience factor’ in gang-rapes. How many of them can include torture or ridicule, meant to humiliate the victim. That was true in my case. To know that there are not only several people engaging in your assault, but also just standing around and watching it happen... laughing and high-fiving each other over your pain...I guess I still don’t know how to put words to the damage that did to me.

I also still don’t know how to deal with the wounds from my interaction with law enforcement and the “special victims” detective over my case, when I tried to report. I don’t know how to explain that the wounds left by that detective feel just as deep and damaging as the wounds left by the four guys who raped me. That detective who, after not separating them for questioning (not even questioning them on the same day), told me that my story didn’t match theirs and stated how obviously one of us was lying. That he would eventually find out and there would be consequences. He told me I could recant my statement if I wanted to and suggested that “maybe you just did something you regretted and didn’t want to face it.” That detective who told me that my rape kit exam showed evidence of rough sex, but made sure to point out that it still couldn’t prove whether or not it was consensual. Whether or not I wanted it.

My truth is that I sometimes obsess over researching articles and stories of other survivors’ interactions with law enforcement and not being believed. It’s as if my subconscious is desperately searching for something, anything, to give me a sense of justice, healing, validation, answers, or closure.

It was a long road back, in the years following that night. The road was dark and terrifying and there were many nights I almost didn’t survive my own self-destructive spiral and the PTSD symptoms that overtook my existence. Most nights, I didn’t want to survive it.

But, I did. I did survive it and I eventually went on to help other survivors of sexual assault through various volunteer capacities and support group facilitation. While I’ve been able to help other survivors and become an advocate for them... my other real truth is that I don’t know if I will ever truly be able to help myself. The me from that night, eight years ago. I don’t know if I will ever be able to overcome the persistent, underlying, mild dissociation that now permeates my life and keeps me from being able to feel joy and a sense of thriving. I don’t know if I will ever find a therapist who can actually help me move forward. My truth is that, sometimes, I’m scared this is as good as it will get.

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