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Even if I never saw their faces, I will never forget them. I will never know who they are, but they are still ghosts who keep following me every day. They were 5 and I was 1. The moment they started to touch me felt like dying. I’ve read here and there that rape isn’t just about being assaulted by strangers in a dark street, which is true. More often than not, it happens in familiar circles. But still, the dark and creepy street is a reality, and it is still the story of my own death.

More than a decade later, it feels like all that I was was stolen that day. My body, my virginity, my humanity, my soul. Being raped by someone isn’t just about unwanted sexual intercourse. It is about someone trying to hold power over you and destroy all that your heart is made of. It is about seeing your will declining, and losing your last glimmers of hope and faith in humanity. Trying to restore that faith is how I try to heal, a little bit every day. I felt grateful sometimes for still being alive after that night. Yet through the years, I’ve only realized that I’ve turned into a ghost myself. People around me thought they were seeing the same person, the same friend, the same daughter while I was really just an empty shell.

These men knew what they were doing despite being seemingly drunk. Two of them would hold me while one of them would use me. At first, they wanted to perform oral sex. I couldn’t stand on my feet and would just sit on the ground. It’s the only time I ever saw myself collapsing like this. I never realized before this that fear could be crippling to the point of just giving up on your body… or seeing your body giving up on you. One of them had the idea to choke me so I would have no choice but to open my mouth, and they used it, one after another. They became voices to me and laughed at me. I guess seeing someone humiliated like this was funny. They would talk to each other, taunt each other as to who would use me harder, but that’s the only thing I can remember clearly. Everything else is just gibberish. Though I still feel the hate that came through their words.

Then they used me again, one after another. They forced themselves into me. I was hurt by the wall on which I was pushed. I remember the texture of it, the smell and the pain everywhere. It felt like being stabbed, again and again, and again. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t try to resist, I lost my voice. They had all the power they wanted. My body already seemed to give up anyway. Until one of them used a bottle on me. I can still feel so much of the pain. I remember clearly that I thought I would die there in a pool of blood. Time was suspended and I have no idea how long it all lasted. When they were done with me, they just left me on the ground. Some of them urinated on me before leaving. They laughed again. I was reduced to nothing in an instant.

I have no idea what I did afterwards. I don’t know how I managed to shower and clean myself in order to get back to my university as if nothing happened. I didn’t even have a home at the time. Though I can see myself clearly wondering if I was just crazy for sitting there while I was raped the night before. I’ve never felt so alone than the days afterwards, even if I was behaving like a robot.

I wish people knew that the most difficult thing for me is the lack of justice. All the tears, the time lost, the opportunities gone because of how it has affected me through the years. It has put me in dangerous and unsafe situations as I believed, and still believe, that I am only made to be used and degraded. It is a lie that I am still struggling with, and I have no clue of how I’m supposed to deal with the absence of restoration. There is no closure. Only perpetual grief. I’m saying goodbye to my past over and over again, stuck in a pointless loop.

I wish people knew that I often think about them. I wonder who they are, if they think about me as well, if they regret what they did. What would they say if I was in front of them today? I’ve wanted for them to be dead so many times. But now I can only see them through their eyes of their own humanity. I don’t believe in monsters. Evil is human-made, and if we never face that reality, if we keep pushing rapists in the side of bestiality, then we’ll never understand, and well never do what’s necessary to break down these cycles of abuse and assaults. Somehow, I hope their consciousness is marked by guilt. Because on my end, it feels like my core was tainted, and there’s no way to ever clean that.

To you who read this, whether you are a survivor, an ally or someone who wants to educate themselves, know that your voice is your very first power. Use it for a good purpose. Share your story in safe spaces. Raise awareness. Promote tolerance and restoration instead of war and hatred. Don’t fall into the same patterns as the ones who decided to make pain their own weapon. There is more to do, more to see, more to experience than all this ugliness. Dare to be a voice, even an anonymous one. Your heart the most beautiful weapon you’ll ever hold. And your vulnerability is a strength.

I’m just a ghost today but I am still part of this world, and I wanted to use my voice now to finally start to push these demons of mine away, even just a little bit, and even just for a minute.

If you have shared your story in the past but were dismissed or invalidated by those you talked to, I’m sorry these people didn’t realize how brave and courageous you were at the moment and still are for being here today despite this cruel world. I believe you, I believe you, I believe you.

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