Content Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
"True Confessions," Brittany Bledsoe
September 19, 2014, was the day that my life was traumatically changed. Before this day my life seemed to be going fairly downhill. At the time I was dealing with a very harsh relationship issue. Relationships have never been very easy for me anyway and throughout the many relationships I’ve had, I discovered that I have serious anxiety when it comes to breakups. The issue in my relationship was leading towards a break up and I could sense it.
By not being able to deal with break ups easily I would quickly turn to others to get my mind off of the pain and panic that I would experience. A former high school boyfriend of mine was just the promise of that. He started to text me and I was so worried about the break up that I was content with him texting me again. This guy had always been a very smooth talker and he seemed very genuine about my break up; saying he would be there for me. He was the type of person who bragged about how popular he was with everything and tried to make a girl feel special by saying “out of all the girls, I’m talking to YOU”. He would lead girls on very well. In the past I had only been on a couple of dates with him so I did not completely get to know him and he went to a different high school than I so it was difficult for us to see each other. As I texted my former high school boyfriend, my current relationship issue became worse until one day I could not take it anymore and broke it off; this day was Thursday, September 18.
On September 18, I told many close friends about the break up being official. Many of my friends supported my decision and were sympathetic. My former high school boyfriend was included in the people I told about my break up and he was very sympathetic about it as well. He encouraged me to come over and hangout with him and that he would be there for me. Throughout the week he had been encouraging me to hangout and catch up, but it wasn’t until September 19, hat I decided to actually hangout with him. This was a big mistake.
On Friday, September 19, I felt very uneasy. That morning I put on pants, a long sleeve shirt, I straightened my hair, put on peppermint chap-stick, and left the house. I was headed to his house. He had asked me to come over before he went to his afternoon classes so we could catch up. As I drove to his house I had a very uneasy feeling in my stomach, but I ignored it.
On Friday, September 19, I was Sexually Assaulted.
Once I got to his house things got very strange. He came out of his house to greet me, but did not seem very inviting. He opened the front door for me and told me that I could go inside, so I did. By walking into the house I was able to meet his grandmother, then he immediately said that we could go up to his room to talk and pointed towards to staircase, to be polite, I nervously went.
Once we got up the stairs he pointed to where his room was and walked behind me. We got into his room and I stood nervously by the door. As he walked in he shut the door behind him, then walked past me, and he slam down onto his bed. He moaned about how tired and “cold” he was, but I still stood by the door. After a while of him complaining he invited me to come over to the bed with him. I walked over and sat on the opposite edge of the bed and continued to talk with him.
At first he seemed to be pretty sincere and was asking me questions about my life and we were carrying on a good conversation. But then all of a sudden he started to complain about being cold again and asked me to feel his hand to see how cold he was. Once I touched his hand I said, “Oh, yeah, your hand is cold” he replied, “yeah, and you’re really warm” then immediately pulled me over to him. I was surprised and really uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to be mean or ‘weird’ and freak out about it, so I stiffly laid there as he tightly tried to hold me. After a couple minutes of lying there he looked down at me and kissed my forehead, confused I looked up at him and then he kissed me. I kissed back for a second and then started to feel really uncomfortable and so I backed away and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m just really uncomfortable” and I got up and moved to the opposite edge of the bed again. He was surprised and sighed, but tried to start up a new conversation.
We talked for a while and then he started to brag about all of the girls he has been with. He told me about how popular he was and how he goes to a lot of parties. After a while of him bragging about himself he started to ask me questions about what I want in a relationship and tried to make it sound like he was interested in planning a future relationship with me. He was being a very smooth talker at this moment and kept flirting. After a while of flirting he suddenly complained that he was really cold again and immediately reached over to me and pulled me over to him again, saying that he “wanted to cuddle because I was nice and warm”. I nervously laughed as he tried to hold onto me tightly again. We laid there for a while and then he started to kiss me. We kissed for a little bit, but all I could think about was my ex-boyfriend. He became touchier and grabbed my body, he rolled over while placing me on top of him.
Usually, whenever a person is being inappropriate towards me, I do not know how to act, so I will typically laugh it off when I feel uncomfortable so I do not come across as ‘impolite’ and that is exactly what I did. Once he pulled me on top of him I began to nervously talk and laugh. But he began to kiss me intensely and in that short moment started to move his hands inappropriately. I became very uncomfortable so I backed away again and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m just really uncomfortable and I just got out of a relationship”. I got up and moved to the opposite edge of the bed again. I could tell this time he was really irritated this time and he sighed angrily. But he rubbed his face and then looked up at me. At this time his body language was making me concerned and he could see my worried facial expression. He said, “what’s wrong, you look like you’ve been abused or something?” in which I replied, “no, you’re just making me a little nervous”. He then tried to calm me down by reinsuring me that I was safe with him and that I shouldn’t be worried.
This time when he started to make conversation I could tell his tone was different. He started to talk faster and his voice sounded aggravated. He started asking me questions about the relationship with my ex and he was trying to point out the issues that I had told him about. Once he was done shaming my ex he started to point out his own ‘good qualities’ and promised that he would treat me better than how my ex did. He began saying that we could be a good couple and have a good future together. At this point he seemed like a different person.
After a while of him bragging about how ‘good of a boyfriend’ he would make he ended up grabbing me very firmly again, but this time he threw me over his lap. He began to yell very loud and touch me inappropriately. He was yelling, “I can treat you better than your ex ever did. I’ll show you how a real man treats his girl Brittany. I’ll show you. That’s right, I know you like it”. At first when he threw me over his lap he started to whip me hard, then he moved one of his hands to an inappropriate place and started to rub. He forcefully held me down with his other arm.
This time I was so shocked that my body became paralyzed in fear for a long while. In that moment I realized that with his strength he could possibly do whatever he wanted with me. No one knew I was there and his grandmother probably wouldn’t hear a thing. After feeling paralyzed, I started to nervously giggle out of fear, but then I started to yell “stop”. I yelled the word “stop” three times and he wouldn’t stop. By him not stopping it caused me to panic even more. I started to cry and panic so much that I yelled “I want to go home” it wasn’t until then that he finally loosened up his grip and I was able to push up and jump up out of the bed.
Nothing like this had ever happened to me before and I was absolutely terrified. The realization that he wouldn’t stop when I was screaming “stop” made me absolutely disgusted and traumatized. It happened so fast that it was very hard for me to process it as well. I never really knew the force of a male until then. I was ready to run away as fast as I could too, but I was confused.
This time he sighed really big and sat on the edge of the bed angrily rubbing his face. He kept looking up at me as if he was concerned. I was standing towards the door crossing my arms and trying not to cry. He looked upset and said, “come here”, but I shook my head no, I was ready to leave. It seemed like he tried to encourage me to stay because he kept trying to make conversation with me, but I mainly used one word answers. That frustrated him and so he looked at me and said, “you know, you’re lucky I’m nice because my friends wouldn’t have been okay with that. They would have called you weird”. Finally after a while of trying to talk to me he said he would walk me out. I grabbed my stuff and walked out. He walked over to my car and was still trying to make conversation, but I still gave him one worded answers. So, he said, “okay, well just text me, okay?” and opened my car door for me. I got into the car and locked it and he walked away. I was distraught, traumatized, disgusted, and panicked. I drove away from his house as fast as I could while hysterically crying.
I was still so confused about the situation and I felt as if the few friends I told did not really believe me. And so, after working up the courage, I texted him that night. I asked him why he seemed so aggressive, but he denied it. He ended up saying that the way we had texted and flirted made it “seem like I wanted to”. I told him that I was not even comfortable with kissing, but yet he still tried to pursue more. His response, “yea, I tried to turn you on but that didn’t work lmao, my bad”.
Being sexually assaulted drastically changed my life. The aftereffects of the sexual assault: I started to have flashbacks, which would terrify me. I became nervous of any men, even my own dad. I had lost all trust. I started to have really bad suicidal thoughts and actions. I would try to numb the pain and regain control of myself by cutting. I made an attempt to kill myself because I couldn't get it out of my head. It haunted me. I would constantly feel unsafe and alone. I severely degraded and blamed myself (some of the negative ‘victim blaming’ feedback I would receive from sharing my story with a couple of close friends did not help). At first I did not want people to see how hurt and scared I truly was, so I would laugh it off, but I really wasn’t okay, I really needed help and I would not accept that.. I became aggressive and violent, both verbally and physically.
When I told my story to a couple close friends the word ended up getting around a little and I received some negative feedback and victim blaming, which did not help with my trauma and anger. I would sometimes have mini anxiety attacks when I woke up in the morning. I still occasionally have nocturnal panic attacks. For the longest time I could not wear the peppermint chap-stick because the smell of it would make me have flashbacks. Five months later when things were still bad, I decided to search for help.
I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression by my doctor. I decided to go to a therapist six months after the sexual assault because I knew I needed help. I was afraid to tell my parents, so I kept it a secret from them and my whole family. At first I tried my best to hide my pain and story from friends and family. My parents knew that something was wrong, but thought I was just upset and suicidal about the break up, but in reality, I was still dealing with PTSD. It took me about seven months to tell my mom and a year and four months to tell my dad. I am thankful to say that both of my parents were very comforting and understanding after I told them.
Throughout all of the trauma and pain, I’ve tried to look at being sexually assaulted sort of as a ‘blessing in disguise’ for me. By overcoming the trauma it has made me so much stronger as a person and I have learned dramatically from it. Which is the reason I have chosen to tell my story.
I am in no way looking for sympathy. I simply want to raise awareness of sexual assault because it can happen to anyone. It has been a very hard and emotional process for me to get up the courage to tell my story. There are occasionally times where the trauma will re-present itself. It can sometimes occur when I hear the name of the town that my sexual assaulter lives in, as weird as it may sound sometimes when I see a very tall male, or sometimes just by a male grabbing onto me. Sometimes simply smells or words could spark a tiny flashback. However, with time, some support along the way, and counseling I have managed to recover tremendously. My counselor, Jill, has helped me greatly with my recovery process.
Yes, it “could have been worse”, but it is my story, my trauma, and I am thankful it was not worse. Do not minimize my story or anyone else’s just because there have been worse cases. Everyone has the right to tell their story and raise awareness.
If you are a victim of or know anyone who has gone through a very traumatic experience please know that it is not your fault and no one has the right to touch your body if you do not want them to. It does not matter what you were wearing or what you may have said. I believe you, you are Not alone, and you are Not to blame. Do not tell victims: “the situation could have been avoided”, “it could have been worse”, “get over it”, or “you could have just left”. STOP Victim Blaming! Because No Means No and consent is required. Survivors already blame themselves enough. The perpetrator is to blame.
I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor!
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story.
About the art:
Blessing in Disguise
Acrylic on Canvas
Brittany asked that I paint something based on her story that had personally inspired me. As someone who is quite new to this style of artistic expression, I must admit I was a bit intimidated by the open ended nature of her request. After spending time with her story however, her focus on dates as important milestones resonated with me quite strongly. I tend to process my struggles in a very similar manner, so I wanted to connect with Brittany with the piece through this shared experience.
The dates on the piece approximately correspond with several of the different events described in Brittany's story. For the stamps and background I moved from muddled and turbulent colors towards lighter and softer tones, corresponding to chronology. She also describes her experience as a "Blessing in disguise," so within the date stamps, I incorporated "Blessing" in bright and shiny gold.
I'd like to thank Brittany for her courage in sharing her story with us, for her resiliency, for her emphasis on representing and supporting all instances of trauma, and I especially want to thank her for helping me understand myself a little better.
Thank you Brittany, it was an honor to create this piece with you!