161: I Still Have Nightmares


“I Still Have Nightmares,” Amanda

I wished I had died. But I survived. Living had become a foreign concept. How did I do it, again? Had I even known what it meant? I held no joy, no peace. The path I had set up for myself in the before was pulling me along. My parents had so many concerns about my life in the after, but I didn’t move home, didn’t drop out. I stayed. I kept moving. Like a train stuck on the tracks that laid before it, unable to change direction.

I existed. That’s probably a better word for what I was doing. I watched too many shows that I used to care about to try and distract me from the monster of my nightmares, whose hands were just moments away from latching on to my throat once again. It was in this stupor that I found a light, a clarity. Julia, on the other side of the screen, had a goal. She had vengeance fueling her will to live while I sat on the couch with no purpose, no life. As I watched her struggle towards her objective, I felt something move inside me. Week to week, I would sit down and watch her story religiously. It was as if my only purpose was to witness her fight, her setbacks. I had started to look forward to something. Soon enough, I was doing that in other parts of my life. I felt something when I saw people, when I talked, interacted with them. The fear I had felt around others for so long had started to give way to something else, something lighter. I wouldn’t call it happiness, but it was like that. It took me two months to touch another human being of my own accord. But I had started to wake up from my daze of crushing emotion before then.

Julia inspired me to seek my own vengeance. I would chase after my own goal with the ferocity that she did hers. A piece of me had been taken that night – I couldn’t give up the rest. So, I looked over my plan from before and adjusted it to fit into my After. I turned my pain, my anger, my shame into fuel and funneled it into my goal. I started living in the ways I knew how. I focused on building relationships, albeit very superficial ones. I focused on school. Now that I could envision a future for myself, I had to make sure not to mess up the opportunities I had in front of me. I focused on my health. It was hard to eat, but I made sure I kept up with it. I am moving forward with a life, achieving goals I set up for myself with a singular purpose: whatever form it takes, however I have to, I will live as much as I can.

I still have nightmares.

They feel so real that even when I open my eyes, I have to turn on the lights just to be sure. I check my locks obsessively. My only line of defense to protect my home from the darkness outside. I can’t have anything touch my throat or be in large crowds for too long. I can’t have too much physical contact with people without having a full-on meltdown. But I learned what I can do as well. I can say when I’ve had enough. Who cares if it hurts someone else’s feelings? I’m protecting myself. No one has the right to tell me what to do with my time and energy. I’m taking back the control that was stolen from me.

What happened to me will always haunt me – I’ll never be free from it. My vengeance is to live. What’s important to my goal isn’t how much I can take before breaking. It’s what I come back from – how I come back from it. I am always one moment, one step away from drowning in the current of my own emotions. But I keep getting up through every setback, every trial. I keep living. And this is my greatest revenge.

0157: An Open Letter to the Boy who Assaulted Me...

Content warning: The following story contains graphic details about someone being raped, which may be triggering for some readers.


"An Open Letter to the Boy who Assaulted Me, the Lady Who Failed Me, and the Community that Held Me," Kellsei Tate

October 28th will always be a day that I have a hard time reliving. I write it out for the first time, as a way to continue to heal and as a release. It has been 2 years since my body was invaded in one of the most painful and degrading ways possible. I will always have to fight to remember that I am worthy of healing. I am worthy of love in the full capacity of which I deserve. To have my body forcefully dehumanized comes with a lot of aftermath and broken pieces that I will continue to glue back together no matter how many times they crumble.

To my attacker: you were stronger than me and must not have understood simple English. I guess that makes sense because you did not make it to your next year in university.  A two letter word that means so much meant absolutely nothing to you, no matter how many times I repeated it. I think about how I lived in a world of “what ifs” for the longest time.

What if I would have noticed you locking my door when you walked in my room?

What if I would have screamed loudly so that my residents could have heard me?

What if I had not shown kindness to you in the first place?

I have slowly learned that “what ifs” are bullshit and not necessary. What you did was wrong and I will have to continue to survive with the aftermath for the rest of my life. I remember the anger and frustration you showed at my unwillingness to comply. I remember my moments of freezing up. I remember crossing my legs to close off access to my body. I remember you finishing what you came in my room for and leaving like nothing happened.

I remember so much more, but choose to forget. I remember that there was no way to avoid seeing you because that is one downfall of being on a small campus, let alone being an RA in the building in which you lived.

You made my home foreign to me. You took away my safe space. You invaded my body. I remember seeing you the next day. Our eyes made contact and you quickly looked away. I remember the level of panic I felt. I remember feeling extremely dirty no matter how long I showered. No amount of soap and water could cleanse my body to feel pure again.

No amount of alcohol could numb the pain I felt physically many days after. I remember the bruises on my legs and flashbacks that constantly reminded me of how you selfishly destroyed my inner peace and self-worth. I remember having to throw away my sheets as a figurative way of removing the pain you brought me. It did not work. I remember skipping rounds on your floor just because I did not want to have to see you. I remember almost telling my hall director, but having fear you’d win.

My voice was silenced and I was not sure how to collectively put words into a sentence to portray what happened. I battled a hell that I never thought was possible to survive, while you most likely walk around to this day without an ounce of regret in your mind.  I suffered in silence until my last semester in undergrad in 2015. I learned quickly how sick secrets can make you and the internal battle that causes the dark to dim even more. I also learned how much love a small community can pour into you when you need it most.

To the boy who sexually assaulted me, I forgive you. You do not deserve to occupy another second of anger in my heart.

To the one school official that failed me, I forgive you, too. I became angrier at your lack of support and professionalism than at the boy who I thought destroyed me. I just hope you get it right next time because in this world, unfortunately there will be many next times until we get our shit together as a society and quit ostracizing survivors and their experiences. Being a female yourself, I am highly disappointed in the way you “handled” things and feel extremely ashamed to have trusted you. Your system failed me.

To my fellow undergraduate community and residence life staff, both professional and student: Thank you for showing me unconditional love when I was undeserving and stubborn. Thank you to my undergraduate family that sat with me through the silence and pain on days that I could not even get out of bed. Thank you for crawling into my darkness when I did not have any desire to see light.

To my current Student Affairs Family: Thank you for continuing the love and support as I continue to conquer. Thank you for those few that have helped me continue to heal and who have walked with me when I have hit some lows.

To the survivor in me: I know this will always be a part of my past, but I will continue to reach new heights of healing. I will continue to tell myself I am worthy and believe that I am going to be okay, until it is no longer rehearsed and simply who I am. I will not be silent to keep others comfortable.

I know that I will always live with triggers and that I may be a hard one to love. I also know that I am both a masterpiece and work of art all at once. I know that it is okay to have bad days, but not to let them consume the light that I hold within me. The walls that were created will crumble. I am okay holding the microphone as I am tired of society silencing people because of their discomfort. Try stepping into the level of discomfort you may feel having experienced it.

To my fellow survivors: I hear you, I see you, and we’ve got this. Here’s to healing and overcoming and the power of love.


About the art:

Kellsei submitted this story nearly TWO YEARS ago and amid getting lost in the email shuffle and the back up of art we had been creating at the time, the story got set aside for TOO LONG. But here we have it - an empowering and powerful story from someone who has persevered and reclaimed her story. This piece was inspired her tenacity and reassured tone at the end of the story. I wanted to use this quote because it was so comforting and a fitting way to culminate such a piece filled with disappointment and frustration. You’ve got this, Kellsei.

- Craig.