Speaking out about surviving a sexual assault

Giulia De Paoli, Channels Staff

The roar of a distant waterfall crosses my dream like a wave, thus breaking the spell. depaoli_giulia

“Come on Giulia!” Yes, yes, I am awake.

It was a morning like many others. I got ready and swooped down the stairs, smiling with blithe unawareness to the morning which I would too soon discover not to be like many others.

I walked to the deserted bus stop and I waited for the ever-late bus. I suddenly heard a distant voice totally off tune with Iggy Pop’s.

I found the unexpected source parked in a van in the open space right behind me.

An about 30-year-old man called me and, since he was going downtown, he offered me a ride to City College.

After short hesitation, I accepted.

That short ride didn’t have a happy ending.

After a long journey at the Police Department, I got home and I realized I am panicking because I didn’t want to be left alone. I didn’t want to be alone after having experienced such unjustified violence by a stranger, which I thought at that time had irremediably broken something inside me forever.

Even though I escaped from him, the impact that followed the attempted attack was very powerful.

I slowly slid into a catatonic state after the incident, rejecting every human interaction. I had a vague sense of something abysmal was displaced inside me. My unnatural physical and emotional hyper-vigilant status was tearing me asunder, day after day.

I constantly wondered why this happened to me. What have I done to deserve such abrupt assault from another person?

But slowly, I stopped that torture and I gave myself a sincere break.

It was right then that the tsunami hit mercilessly with all its power. Every thought or emotion I strived to hold back until that moment broke my mind, leaving my person as naked as it has ever been in front of the truths of what happened to me the day of the incident.

The moment I decided to let everything go and start breathing again, I realized I was able to speak about what happened in that van. I even started recollecting unthinkable details, which I was asked for in vane many times at the police station.

The destructive peace brought to me by the tsunami of emotion saved me.

Truly accepting the consequences of what my soul was capable to feel, I could start rebuilding myself from the ground up.

It doesn’t really matter what that storm destroyed. Maybe hopes, beliefs, and conceptions I previously had. It is when I took the responsibility to accept what happened was now part of me, thus creating a new woman with new fears and weaknesses—I walked away from the oblivion to rise again with more strength than ever.

I have never been the kind of person who tries to suppress sorrowful memories. I have never pushed myself to forget what happened that day either. Instead, I wander through those memories to die within them again at times.

No, it is not masochism. It is how I heal myself. It is how I spot a light and return to shine, empowered by the light of those ghosts.

As a matter of fact, those ghosts made me find a humbleness I had lost with the course of time. The humbleness of being just a human, like everyone else.

I had been living my life recklessly, day after day, thriving into my illusion of immunity towards certain experiences. Well, guess what sista’, tragedies don’t just happen to the person who lives next door. Tragedies can happen to everybody, in every single moment.

Rapes do not have to necessarily happen in the middle of the night on a dark, dead end road.

Rapes can happen at every moment of the day, even at 9 a.m., while you are taking the bus to go to class on a glorious Thursday morning.

Rapists don’t have to necessarily look like psychopathic maniacs as they appear in cheesy movies, when you are able to say that is the evil character of the story.  You can’t always spot the evil character in real life, and rapists can even be well-respected members of the community.

Lesson learned.

It was definitely an eye-opening experience about the world I live in.  In an unforgivable world, evil is sometimes even more dangerous, because it is veiled by good. But even in an evil world, we’ll always find the way to stand up again and not be victimized by it.

We are not victims, we are survivors.