My sophomore

year of college I was the girl who didn’t date. It wasn’t for any weird reason and I didn’t bring attention to it. I just didn’t date. I flirted and got to know a few guys, but that was it. I think I kissed a boy my first week at school, we hung out for like a month, and then both said “nah, not interested.”

It wasn’t my thing. I had bigger things to achieve and I wanted to get my masters before I ever thought about love.

That was until him. He was my pal: he was kind, funny, and didn’t make me feel like my extroverted nature was anything to be ashamed of because he was just like me. But he wasn’t just like me; he was not any of those previously mentioned things.

By the end of our first year of friendship the loneliness of my life started creeping in. In retrospect I was being a little melodramatic, but when my roommate talked on the phone with her out-of-state boyfriend for hours every night and my best friends spent their Fridays on double dates, I felt like the odd one out.

So I ran to him, and we started spending a lot of time together. One thing led to another; I got attached. But I didn’t want to be that girl.

I dropped a hint – a simple hint – one night when I was a little tipsy and a little brave: a hint that I would be interested in him if he felt the same way. When we returned to school he called me.

He asked me, “Did you really mean those things you said?”

“Yeah, but that was stupid I should’ve told you in a different way,” I said.

“Why don’t you come over tonight. We should test this thing out before we tell anyone; we don’t want to ruin our group. Make sure no one sees you or knows you’re coming here. Oh, and I’m probably going to kiss you tonight.”

I met him that night— he was like I thought. Charming, polite, and my best friend. For an hour.

Then I let him kiss me. I had butterflies; I was in. I let him kiss me for a while and things got different. He roamed my body and I didn’t know how to say no. When I asked him to slow down he said, “Why? my roommates will be gone all night.”

I didn’t know what to do, I wanted him to want me, but not like this.

Luckily his mom called. There was a break. I put my shirt back on and made up an excuse to go home. I cried that night. I cried so hard in my dorm bathroom while my roommate slept. No man had ever touched me like that and I blamed myself. I reminded myself: you went there, you let him kiss you, you didn’t tell him no, you didn’t tell him to stop. And I convinced myself that I had enjoyed the night and I was dirty and wrong in the eyes of my Christian peers and college. So I cried harder.

The next day in class I told him never again; I didn’t get angry, I just said no. He agreed.

He lied.

In the weeks to come he lured me to his house by telling me our friend group was going to hang out. Instead, he cornered me in his living room. He picked me up for dinner plans that didn’t exist and parked somewhere random to force his hands and his lips on me. I tried to trust him and continued to give him chances because I thought one night he would want me for my heart and mind rather my body. But it never changed.

Every time it happened I cried. I told myself it was my fault. That’s what my world taught me: I’m a woman and it is my fault if I tempt a man. To overcome the guilt, I convinced myself I liked it and didn’t care. Then I started drinking, more than I ever had before. It continued until one night when he was there; we both got drunk and he tried to force me down on him.

That was my breaking point, and that is when I stopped being defined but what my society said about my body. Because it was mine and he wasn’t going to force me into letting him have his way with me. I kicked him out. So no, this is not a story of rape. This is a story of abuse. And for some reason people seem to think that the kind of thing that happened to me doesn’t matter. It does.

It was over, but I still saw him everyday. He still acted like it was nothing. I should have known. He forced me to keep his secret or he’d tell mine, controlling the narrative. I had to sit by and watch as he dated one of my best friends, turning her against me and letting her make it my fault.

It’s been almost 3 years. I am married, I am happy, and I am helplessly in love.

But I still find myself crying in secret some nights for the things he did to me, the things he broke that can’t be fixed, the girl who married him and didn’t believe me when I told her he was an abuser, and the fact I can’t talk about my abuse without people invalidating it. They say I shouldn’t care anymore now that I have a husband. My husband is my partner, not my savior.

Abuse is abuse and you can’t just put a bandaid on it.