They call you a survivor because you should have died from the hurt of it: from the four-hour shower after, the vomiting, the loneliness. After is the worst part, because it doesn’t make sense that you can continue to live when you hurt this bad. It doesn’t make sense that a few hours of one night can change every second of the rest of your life. It doesn’t make sense that one instance can rob you of your sanity for a while, steal your ability to love yourself.

They call you a survivor because you are option-less for the rest of your days, because you don’t get to be un-raped, because every day for the rest of your forever, you will have to live differently, have to make decisions with a rape in your back pocket. Being a survivor isn’t about surviving the assault; it’s about making it through every day afterwards. Being a survivor is about finding a way to be whole again.

They call you a survivor because “learning how to be a human again” is too long. They call you a survivor because though you may have lost friends, sanity, love, and lifestyle, you are still breathing, still living, still existing in one way or another. And sometimes that means you feel stale, holed up in your room, like an uncarefully kept box of cereal. Sometimes it means that you feel lonely, only to discover that you want to feel that way for a while. Surviving is hard, because so much of it seems like masochism, seems like dragging out a single life event.

They call you a survivor because most of the time you don’t want to be surviving anymore, because you are your own worst enemy after rape: isolating yourself, blaming yourself, rethinking the event day after day after day. You feel like you never get to make eye contact again, like you can’t say no to sex because for christ sakes your first time was your worst time. You feel possessed, like something is inside of you that shouldn’t be, because something was inside of you that shouldn’t have been; and you want to die and relive all at once. You want to be unborn, to be unbroken; but you don’t get to be.  Rape isn’t about one moment of not having a choice; it’s about all the little moments that follow after it, like ripples in your blood.

 They call you a survivor because it hurts like hell for what seems like forever and you feel like you will never make it out of the darkness, but you do. You get stronger, stronger everyday and it’s ok if it takes time to be you again. It’s okay to lay low, to eat too many pieces of Dove chocolate with wrappers that tell you you’re beautiful. It’s okay to buy yourself flowers – sunflowers and daisies, because they’re you’re favorites and because why the hell not? It’s okay to wear sweatpants, to stare at the ground, to ignore people. And it’s all right if everyone thinks you’re a bitch for a little while. You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t owe anyone a blow by blow. It’s okay to be intimidated by guys, to hide in your room. It’s okay to have trust issues. It’s okay if the only one you told was your Dog, and you felt like you had to lie to everyone else. It’s just fine to sleep with a couple of stuffed animals, to have Winnie the Pooh on your curtains, to play with Play-Doh on a Saturday night. It’s okay to burn for a while; you won’t burn out. That hurt will fill you, make you whole again, cauterize your invisible wounds.

They call you a survivor because one day you will wake up and think, “Holy shit! I’m pretty close to being me again.” You go to Val with your friends for breakfast. You have maple muffins and laugh. Because sure, he touched your insides, the vulnerable places, but he didn’t get to see you laugh, get to see you when you were at your best, when your hair was tied up and you were in love. He never got to look into your eyes and touch the middle of your back when he kissed you in the darkness, when you let your guard down for the first time and got the best kiss of your life. He never got to know how hard you love, how much you care about your friends, what it’s like not to see you for a month, and to be unable to talk because he’s kissing you so hard. Someone else got that and maybe he didn’t deserve it either, but it’s his. Someone else got to be your real first time, and they get to keep it, because you gave it to them and you want them to have it. And maybe that was a mistake too, and maybe it hurt you a little bit to love like that, but it was a choice, and you’re so glad you got to survive to make it.