Once, nearly nine years ago, I lost everything. I lost my boyfriend, my friends, my ability to trust and, most importantly, my sense of good in the world. You see, nearly nine years ago, I was raped by my ex-boyfriend. The rape itself is documented in my short story, Unreported. That story was difficult to write, even harder to edit, and left me with a longing I never expected to have… a need to communicate with one person from my past.
The story itself contains minor changes, like names and location descriptions. I did this purposely to avoid any chance of my rapist and ex-boyfriend recognizing my real identity. The small chance they would read the story meant I needed some sort of protection. I will continue using those names here.
The basic story of what happened to me is similar to many college girls. I was in my early twenties and dating older men. Jason was my ex-boyfriend, one I did not trust and refused to be around. He had done some sketchy things in the past while we were trying to “remain friends” that I just couldn’t handle. I started dating Tristan about a year later and was really falling for him. Our relationship was not perfect, but at my young age, it was mysterious and fun.
One night, a group of friends invited me to a house party. Tristan was busy working and I was alone that night, so I agreed to go if Jason wouldn’t be there. Upon arrival, Jason was one of the first people I saw. Things progressed through the night — I drank to become more comfortable and chatted with Jason to be polite. The evening progressed further and eventually I found myself alone with Jason, drunk and unable to defend myself. He took advantage of that.
I called Tristan the next day and told him what happened. His initial reaction was to question if I would report Jason — in a way which meant he did not want me to. He and I remained together for about six months before he ran into Jason somewhere. I don’t know what was said, but after that meeting, coupled with my sudden clinginess (a side-effect of being raped) and a need to never be alone, Tristan ghosted. Literally vanished in the middle of the night, even though he had asked me to come over the next day to talk about our relationship. It was awful, it burned, and it later became known he had chosen his childhood friend, Jason, over me. Before anyone gets judgmental about these men knowing each other, let me clarify. I knew they were acquaintances, and Tristan was fully aware I had previously dated Jason and no longer spoke to him when we began dating. I did not know they had once considered each other best friends. Also, I had met Tristan long after breaking up with Jason, through other mutual friends.
After the rape, our mutual friends all chose Jason and Tristan over me. I was labelled a whore (nope!), told it was my fault because I should have known Jason had not gotten over me (nope!), and told if I took it to court he would be the one they supported. Jason tried to tell me it was just a miscommunication between us. I told him he was a rapist, and he had his girlfriend (who I had never met) send me death threats.
I became a shell of myself. I suffered depression, my eating disorders worsened, I could not trust people, and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. Because it was getting to the point where I had trouble going to work, I sought out a therapist. I was able to work on myself and understand the situation. I stopped blaming myself and no longer felt broken. I made new friends, connected with old friends from college who did not know any of the people involved in this situation, and married my husband. This all took multiple years.
Now, nearly nine years later, I left a career in law enforcement (inspired by a need to help others) and became an author. I decided to share my story, hoping it would help even one person understand how it feels to be raped. Through the process of writing my story, I realized there was one additional step I needed to take to heal completely. I needed to contact Tristan. See, for me, the rape itself was easier to get over than the fact that somebody I loved betrayed me.
Tristan had never cared that I was raped. After the initial day he learned about it, I became an annoyance to him. Clingy, desperate, and someone who just wanted to take up his time. I felt strange and uncomfortable for even wanting to reach out to this man. I had no idea what to say to him, and I felt he would not be open to hearing from me. I researched my feelings online and found it is quite common for a victim to want to contact their abuser. In this case I had two. While I do not think I would ever need to contact Jason, I had to tell Tristan how his actions had affected me. Online forums helped me understand that I was normal. I was needing an outlet for my emotions, even if it was never read. I needed to reclaim my power.
The process of allowing a victim to confront an abuser is called restorative justice. It is used occasionally by courts to help a victim through what occurred to them. Although it had been years, and his actions weren’t a crime, I needed to go through with this. I wrote a short letter I had no intention of sending and shared it with my husband. I was scared, believing my husband would be upset at the thought of contacting Tristan, but he understood. He sat next to me that evening while I wrote a longer letter, using a format I found online. The fact that he was supportive meant the world to me. It also helped that he understood me. He knew sending a letter was a way to let go of the situation, not a way to bring this man back into my life. His only fear was the response I could receive.
Once the letter was perfected, we discussed how I would send it. I couldn’t mail it — it had been year since I spoke to Tristan, and I had no idea where he lived. I didn’t want to send it on Facebook for a couple reasons. First, I wasn’t Facebook friends with Tristan and did not want to know what he was up to now. Second, I did not want to be tempted to open Messenger later and check if the letter had been read. Third, I was worried he would copy my letter and post it on-line. I know he could do this with e-mail, but that would mean an extra step for him, and I was hoping he would not be willing to do that. I ended up sending a letter to his old work e-mail address.
It’s been two weeks and I haven’t received a response. The first two days I checked my e-mail constantly. After that, I didn’t care anymore. Whether he received my e-mail or not doesn’t matter. Whether he read it or not is not on my mind anymore. After sending the e-mail, I finally felt free. I no longer had this Tristan cloud hanging over me. It was as if I finally had gotten the last word and could now fully forget him. My relationship with my husband has never been better. After having him support me through something like that, and learn the exact story of what happened to me, I realize there are people in my life I can trust. There are people who love me and want the best for me. I don’t think I will ever get a response. That’s okay. I don’t need it. After nearly nine years, I have become a full person again.
*While I sent a letter, this may not be the best move for everyone. It took almost nine years for me to be emotionally able to confront this man. I am not recommending victims do this unless they have a support system and are emotionally ready. Some people, like myself, get no response, while others do. Some responses are apologetic and some are victim-blaming. Please do not do this unless you feel capable to handle whatever may come your way.