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He was my brother's best friend growing up. I remember being 7 or 8, always looking out my window to see him playing basketball with my brother. I hated him as a kid. I celebrated when he moved away. But when he moved back, he started giving me the attention I was craving. I was 17 and had never had a boyfriend. All my friends went on dates every weekend, while I sat home alone. I was lonely. Finally I felt that would change.

It was our second date. He took me on a hike in the afternoon and that night we went stargazing. We were lying on the grass when, without warning, he got on top of me, fondling me through my clothes, his hands all over my body. I pushed him off. I told him no. I told him I wanted to go home. He said he was sorry, he couldn't control it, can we kiss and make up? I was already halfway back to his car.

He had an old beat up car and the passenger door didn't open. I had to climb through the back to reach the passenger seat. But this time he didn't reach for my hand to help me over. He grabbed my shoulders and pinned me back, climbing out of the driver seat into the back, taking my shirt and bra off before I had time to react. I fought him. I reached for my clothes, but he threw them in the driver seat. He began undressing. I reached for the door, he locked the car. I was bruised and beaten from trying to get away from him. I couldn't fight him off anymore, he was much bigger than me. So I lied there, motionless, screaming, whimpering, crying, pleading. 

When he finally decided he was ready to take me home, he climbed back in the front and I curled up in a ball on the floor of his car, trying to pull myself together. It was a short drive from where we were and I couldn't let my mom see me crying. I begged a friend to let me come to her house, but she was busy. Thankfully, everyone was in bed when I got home. I limped up the stairs, collapsing at the top, bursting into tears. I crawled on all fours to my bedroom. I turned the TV on loud so no one would hear my sobs. I turned on PBS Kids. Everything else had sexual connotations I couldn't handle. 

For days after I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, and at times I felt like I couldn't breathe. He texted me a million times, saying he was sorry, that he thought I was overreacting, that it wasn't a big deal. I cried with my friends, telling them everything but the truth. I couldn't tell them what had happened to me. I felt so stupid, so ashamed, I blamed the entire ordeal on myself not seeing the signs. 

Two weeks later I realized I was late. Fear and dread washed over me as I stood in line at CVS, a pregnancy test in my shaking hand. I used a public bathroom, so my family had no chance of finding the packaging. Two little lines confirmed my worst fears. It made me so physically sick that when I went to an off-the-books obstetrician the next day, I had to be put on an IV. I only saw one option. There was no way. I couldn't get the pill in my state without my parents' permission, so I took a 12-hour round-trip drive to Las Vegas and got the pill there. I hated myself for doing it. I hated the thought of being a killer. I had always been pro-life before. Now I know the importance of choice. 

I found myself severely depressed. I had to drop classes so I could stay caught up in school. All I wanted to do was sleep, but every time I closed my eyes, I relived that experience. I thought of all the ways I could end it, and came very close to attempting. 

That was almost a year ago. But I'm still here, almost a year after he destroyed everything I thought I knew. I am not a victim of rape, I am a survivor of sexual assault. I have fought through hell to be here. I still experience the nightmares, and there are moments I can still feel his hands on me. While the improvements are slow and take a lot of work, it has gotten better. I am proud of where I am. I hope one day I have the confidence to share my experience with those I love, so they can be proud of me, too.

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