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I Was Raped: One Muslim Girl’s Journey to Recovery

I Was Raped: One Muslim Girl’s Journey to Recovery

Trigger warning:  This content contains sensitive subject matter that you may find triggering.

Note to our readers: Rape is not discriminatory. It does not turn away from religion, race, national origin, gender, age, or color. Muslim Girl hopes that submissions like the following will help those who have been victimized – and to know you are not alone. It was not your fault.
___
The ceiling looks so nice from here
Shadows and light, shadows and light—
Bumps and bruises like the ones I’ll find
planted on my skin tomorrow morning.
 
Everything is quiet but somewhere,
in the back of my mind,
I hear your grunts and whispers—
they’ll play like a broken record
in my nightmares tonight.
And I wish my father was here to save me
because you’ll become the monster in the closet
that I’ll hide from underneath my sheets;
and I wish my mother was here to whisper
that it’ll be alright, baby, it’ll be alright.
 
“Why aren’t you letting me in?”
He pushes deeper while he asks this.
And somewhere between the clenching of my fists
and screams rising from my throat
I let you in, praying,
finish, finish, finish.
___
On May 8th, 2016, I became “just another rape story.”
I get it. We’re all tired. I know because I used to be one of those people. But if you’ve made it this far (thank you)—hear me out.

I am not “just another rape story” or one more girl who made a string of poor choices that ended in regret. None of us are.

Right now, I am the ugly story that happens between rape and resolution—the story of falling down because of my rapist, and staying down because of society. The story that so many don’t hear because it is lost among those that have lived with the hurt for months or years and wish to tell their story as comfort for those who continue to suffer.
To those survivors: I admire you.
But this is the story of what it feels like to be raped and not yet have the courage to live it down.
It’s been a little over a month as I write this, so I do it hoping that my fresh wound will allow others to understand what it means to be a victim of rape before becoming its survivor.

I write this for everyone.

___
Your face—
your face is everywhere—
in the mailman that morning
whose hand I couldn’t shake;
the woman staring at me from way over there;
in the mirror I see a girl staring at me,
her eyes look a lot like yours.
I’ve showered over three times
but I still smell you on my skin,
feel your breath biting into my brain.
Tomorrow even my father’s cologne
will remind me of your sticky scent.
I think if someone opens up my chest
they’ll find your handprints inside the walls of my stomach
and your fingerprints embalmed on every inch of my ribs.
___
It happened during the early hours of the morning and by 8 AM my eyes had run out of tears and my body of energy. I hadn’t stopped shaking yet. At 9 AM I slumped against a wet pillow. By a little after 10 I had showered three times, heaved kneeling over the toilet at least once every hour, and now I was drifting in and out of sleep.

I keep repeating “It wasn’t my fault…I’m sorry… it wasn’t my fault…” like a whispered mantra. Who am I trying to convince? I’m not sure.  

I stay like this for hours; curled in fetal position under a sheet of covers because that was the only way I knew how to protect myself from you. My vagina carefully tucked in between my legs and my upper body—stomach, chest, throat, and head—shielded by a thin white sheet that felt soft against my sore limbs.
The doctor will later tell me that it hurts to walk because my ligaments are torn and my muscles are tight. She doesn’t have to explain why or how—I will already know, because I saw you do it.
Early the next morning I catch a 3:00 AM bus to my brother’s place. For six hours I sit pancaked between a window and a man on the seat to my right, and it takes everything to keep myself from screaming when a pothole in the road makes his body inch closer to mine.
The next few hours are a blur—they run into each other like those watercolor paints I had when I was a kid, except this time I can’t wash them off of my hands, no matter how hard I try. The doctor seems nice, but she keeps looking at me like I’m a snow globe sitting at the edge of a table, one push away from breaking into a million little shards of glass.  Maybe I am, because when I feel her pat my knee I jump without knowing why.
She sets a few forms and info packets on my lap, something about rape, HIV, and PTSD, and then asks me to pee in a cup.

“Take this, and pat it lightly,” she motions, showing me how to swab down my vagina. “Should be easy enough.”

I do as she says, but my fingers freeze when I feel skin. I take a deep breath.
To that nice doctor…
Easy? Nothing about this is easy. I cannot touch myself because I feel like a foreigner in my own body, like I am no longer mine.
“Easy” is rolling out of bed in the morning and brushing your teeth. “Easy” is choosing between a large and an extra-large.
“Easy” isn’t having to count the tiles while you walk because everyone around you is silently wondering what you were wearing, how much you drank, how many times you said no, how you “got yourself into that situation.”
“Easy” isn’t trying to convince someone that you “promise you were raped” because they think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s not reliving him entering you over and over again in your head until others have convinced you that it didn’t happen. That it was a misunderstanding. Only a figment of your imagination that makes you strategically avoid male interaction while counting the number of possible exits in a room just in case.
“Easy” wasn’t when you told me you were “trying to understand how exactly this happened” because I couldn’t recall every detail for you. “Easy” wasn’t when you asked me “but how did that happen?” in a tone of voice that sounded a lot like “but are you sure?” It is not that easy.
I know this is clockwork for you, but I’ve never been through this before, so bear with me.
___
I leave the bathroom with a cup in my hand and do my best to smile at the nurse. By the time my brother and I reach home, I’m having my first panic attack. It will be the first of many. Someone sits me down after my knees buckle and strokes my back. I begin to hyperventilate. She whispers, “I know. I know. It’s bad, I know.” Someone believes me. Someone finally believes me.
“Someone tried to kiss me once at work, too. I had to quit because of how uncomfortable I felt.”
Kiss? Did she just say kiss? I want to laugh.
To the well wishers…
You do not know. Please, do not tell me you know unless you know. Telling me you understand how it feels because there was a time someone tried to kiss you against your will does not make me feel better. It trivializes what I feel.
I was invaded. I was tossed and turned, physically and mentally, until I saw my rapist whenever I looked into the mirror.
You do not know what it is like to feel nauseated at the thought of hugging your own father or be frightened by the shadow of your brother.

You do not know what it is like to be a prisoner in your own body—to want to take that razor in the shower and shave off your skin until you no longer feel him touching it.

You do not know how it feels to see the pity in your eyes.
I know you mean well, I do, but you do not know.
___
The word feels weird in my mouth, like I’m stretching my lips in a way not meant for them, because things like this don’t happen to girls like me. That’s what people say, anyway.
If you dress right, they won’t hurt you. If you don’t drink, they won’t hurt you. If you stay inside after dark, they won’t hurt you. Keep pepper spray in your backpack. Always walk with someone else. Ignore them.

Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, and they won’t hurt you.

So when I see the doubt in my friend’s eyes after I tell him what happened, I begin to question myself. My friend suggests that what I considered rape, he called sex. He was a religious, kind, and smart man—everything we are told a rapist is not. Maybe it was all a misunderstanding because I had dotted my I’s and crossed my t’s, did everything I was told to do and stayed away from everything I wasn’t.
After my friend leaves, I lock myself in the bathroom, look myself in the mirror, and repeat: “I was raped. My name is                          and I was raped.”
To the friends and/or significant other…
Believe her, because there is nothing worse than having to repeat those words.
If there was ever a time she needed you, this is it.
If she is rambling for the tenth time, act interested, and just listen.
If she begins to cry, ask her if you can hug her.
If she begins to hyperventilate, remind her to breathe deeply. Sit her down, head between her knees.
If she doesn’t react at all, remember that not everyone responds in the same way. Some mourn while others become distant. Don’t push her to open up if she doesn’t want to.
If she blames herself, tell her that, no matter what the circumstances were, she did not ask for this. No one ever asks for this.
If she doubts herself, you will have to tell her the truth. She was raped.
If she becomes self-destructive, stop her. She doesn’t need another drink, another man, or another anything. She might hate you now, but she’ll thank you for it later.

Remember all the times you would joke, “That midterm raped me man” or “I feel like I was raped”? Stop. Don’t do it. You may be in the presence of someone who was actually raped and not even realize it. Nothing can come close to what she is feeling, so don’t toss the word around lightly.

If she doesn’t come near you or cannot touch you, don’t take offense. Say you understand, because chances are that she doesn’t know how to explain herself. Her fear will most likely subside given time.
And through it all, remind her that you will always love her.
___
I can’t sleep at night. When I drag myself to the bathroom at 1:00 AM, I’m too afraid to shut the door because you might be standing there when I open it, your eyes raking over my body and asking me how I liked it. That’s right, after you raped me, you asked me if I liked it.
I did not like the feeling of your fingers touching me down there and asking me why I wasn’t wet. I did not like you pushing your body over mine and feeling your weight after I said I was too tired. I did not like having to dig my fingernails into your arms because of how much it hurt, burned, and tore.
To men…
There is something wrong if she is distant, silent, or visibly in pain. Do not let it go that far.

Know what it means to consent. Let me say that again: Know what it means to consent.

You may have heard it countless times, but internalize it, because in the heat of the moment, you need to react on instinct and not your clouded rationale. Even if anything borders on unsure, take a moment, rewind, and ask.
It doesn’t matter if it “ruins the mood” because, in the long run, it will save at least one life from being ruined.
Many men have also been raped and, being men, unfortunately overlooked. I apologize that I cannot address this letter to you because I have no idea how it feels.
There are also many of you who are respectful, loving, and mindful. You do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

But in addition to avoiding evil, I ask you to fight it. One in 6 women are raped. It does not stop there: 94% of women experience PTSD and 33% contemplate suicide.

See Also

Help. Speak out. Do not feel ashamed or apologetic on behalf of your gender’s actions. Instead, counteract them.
___
Later, I read the news.
Rapist Brock Turner’s expected fourteen-year sentence turns into six months, and then three. As an explanation, Judge Persky says that the rapist “will not be a danger to others” and any other sentence would be “too severe.”
To Judge Persky and other judges…
Tell me, how do you sleep at night?
Doesn’t your conscious scream knowing that you are a part of the problem, that you are responsible for thousands of future rapes? Your leniency suggests to others that what was considered one of the most heinous crimes is now akin to none.

Whether the man is smart, religious, prestigious, or kind, the crime he has committed is the same as any other lowlife’s. These men have not stolen a soda from 7/11 – they have raped a human being. Do you understand the difference?

You are not serving justice; you are an insult to its name.
___
When I finally return home it’s like nothing has changed. My books are still scattered on my desk, my research paper half-finished, the trash has to be taken out, and the fridge needs re-stocking. I have lived a lifetime in two days.
I wash the clothes I had worn that night, spray them with my perfume, and then put them away until I can look at them again. I had been wearing my favorite t-shirt that night.
My parents live a few states away; how do I tell them that their daughter was raped? They will be shredded into pieces. So I don’t.
They will find out one month later.
To the parents…
If she did not tell you immediately, she had her reasons. I know you want to protect her, maybe you think you failed to, but that is not true. Maybe she was still processing it herself, or wanted to save you the trouble.
If she needs space, give it to her. Do not pressure her to press charges, but encourage her to seek help.
Maybe you want to keep her near you, but when she asks to go on a drive to clear her head or spend time with friends, give her the freedom to do so. She doesn’t need fetters reminding her of all the reasons she thinks she should not have gone out that time.
Let her cope, whether that means taking self-defense classes or listening to music.
Give her time to mourn – but remind her of everything that is important: A healthy diet, sleep, social interaction, etc.
Trust your daughter. She has been violated and traumatized, but she is still there.
___
It has been a month and a half. Sometimes I still find it hard to remember who I was before it all, like there are pieces of me that have been completely shattered and reshaped, and I am hopelessly trying to fit them back together in a way that makes sense.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the microwave or window and it hits me all over again. One step forward, three steps back.

But I have accepted that life goes on. I continue to make coffee in the morning, skim the day’s news, and catch the morning bus.
Every now and then I read another headline about rape.
To others like me…
I am so sorry.
No matter what they say, none of us asked for this. It is not our fault. Society warns us trust no one instead of teaching others to be trustworthy. It finds it difficult to accept that it has cultivated a culture that excuses rape in the name of a woman’s actions and at the expense of her well being, so the fingers are conveniently pointed at us.

But repeat it if you need to: This is not my fault. It never is.You did not fail yourself. Society failed you.

Take time to recuperate.
Do not be ashamed to cry but remember that you are worth fighting for. Take two fingers and feel your pulse—you have lived through a war yet your heart is still beating. There are cells in your body that fight for you everyday—learn from them.
A few days after my rape, I asked a friend if others will think I am weaker, uglier, less desirable.

And he said something that has saved my life so many times since: “If anything, you will become stronger for it.”

We all will.
___
Bile rises in my throat
whenever I hear that four-letter word
and now I can count the number of tiles
on my bathroom floor from the nights I’ve spent
flooding them with saltwater.
There are no less than five ways to die
in this 10×10 ft. space.
 
I decide that if there were ever an answer
to how to make a murderer,
it would look a lot like you.
 
**This piece was published anonymously because of the stigma still placed upon women who are raped – both in and out of the Muslim community.

View Comments (8)
  • I wish I could give you a hug right now, and I’m so sorry for what happened to you. My rape happened about a decade ago now, and it definitely becomes less awful. I know that doesn’t help you right now, but I promise you won’t always feel like this.

  • I usually do not comment on articles, but this time, I felt so compelled to tell you that you are not alone and that you are so strong!
    Six years before converting, I met a “religious” Muslim man when I was a junior in college (president of the MSA!). I trusted him as a close friend, since I was going through a rough time. Although I was not Muslim at the time, I was a virgin, and this was something I really valued about myself. A few months after becoming friends, he ended up raping me.
    When it happened, I froze. I just laid there, terrified out of my mind, until it was over. I am not sure I even took a breath. After he was done, he got up and said, “Well, we’re not virgins anymore!” as if this was something to be celebrated. I will never forget the shower that I took afterward. I slumped to the bottom of the tub as the hot water rushed over me, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I tried to scrub it off of me. I was absolutely shattered. I felt disgusting.
    I lost a part of myself that I considered part of my core identity. I did not know who I was afterward. For months, I was an imposter in my own body. I tried to throw myself into my schoolwork and campus job. But I felt like a zombie on autopilot. I did not want to admit what had happened (and there was a slew of emotional/mental abuse that happened from him afterward that kept me hating myself). I wanted to find some way to make it alright. My mother never taught me about consent, because my household was abstinence-only growing up. I naively thought rapes were something that only happen by unknown perpetrators in dark alleys. I had no idea that an acquaintance, a friend, even a spouse, could rape someone. In fact, I was afraid to tell my parents, because I thought they would think differently of me because I was no longer a virgin! Back then, I hid what had happened deep down and spiraled into a darker depression than I had ever been in. I doubted and blamed myself. I kept so much inside, and it truly ate at my soul. I tried to push it in to the back of my mind, into a deep dark corner that I would never have to think about again. And I could never call it what it was — rape until years later.
    I never drank (alcohol) that much before that point despite being of age, but afterward, I could never have just 1 drink again. Even if my roommates were just having a glass of wine, for me, it was always about getting blackout drunk so that I did not have to think. I wanted, no I needed, to quiet the racing thoughts that crept in any time there was silence. I could not be alone anymore – it was terrifying – I did not know the person I was alone with, and I hated her.
    After graduation, it was easier to become more reclusive. I went to work everyday and ended up staying there for 14-15 hours, coming home only to sleep and shower. I filled any free time I did have with distractions like Netflix and random TV shows that I didn’t even like – things that could keep my mind occupied enough to never think about it. I stopped believing in love. I developed a warped perception of men, thinking that all men were bad, and that all men were only compelled by sex/sexual desire and nothing else.
    It took me two years of denial before I got help. He got married shortly after graduation. My denial and refusal to admit that it was what it was (rape) affected my actions. I never went for a rape kit. I never went to the police. I went to a 24 hour pharmacy at 2AM and bought “Plan B.” I waited until 2AM so that no one would see me there. I wouldn’t say that I regret my decision, because I think I did all that I was capable based on the person I was at the time, but I do sincerely pray that he NEVER treats his wife the way he treated me.
    It was a long road and a long rebuilding process, but here I am, writing to you today. 🙂 I know myself now, I trust myself, and I am (still!) learning to love myself. And Alhamdullilah, Allah (swt) had so much more in store for me than I ever could have imagined! But the things I want to say to you – they are things that I wish someone had said to me back then: you are strong, you are going to get through this, and you are NOT alone. it is NOT your fault – PERIOD!
    I am SO proud of you for going to the doctor and telling someone! I am in awe of your bravery, and I cried reading this piece, because it is so heartbreaking yet such an important message to other women. I hope you know that just in writing this article, you will reach people, and you will empower other survivors to come forward. Please lean on your brother and your friends, and don’t keep everything inside! You WILL get through this. Somedays will be harder than others…you have made it through an extreme emotional and physical pain. To be honest, it has been a little over six and a half years, and once in a great while, something seemingly harmless will still trigger me, and I will find myself crying, experiencing a pain somewhere in the back of my mind that I cannot put into words. But I have learned that this does not make me weak. Although there is pain, there is also strength – in remembering the pain, I also remember how far I have come since then. It does get better. You will get better. He cannot hurt you anymore. He cannot take ANYTHING from you. Your family, your friends, your achievements, your personality, your faith – everything that makes you “you” is yours and yours alone.
    You are not ruined. You are certainly no less desirable, even though it might feel that way to you at first. It is normal – as hard as it is, try to accept the feeling and let it pass, rather than push it away. It will help to rid your mind of such thoughts. Before this happened, I felt that I wasn’t complete as a woman until I met a husband. As I rebuilt myself, I realized I am whole on my own, I am worthy of love, I am worthy of being treated with respect, I am no less in Allah(swt)’s eyes.
    Alhamdullilah, I am married now to an absolutely wonderful Muslim man who knew from the beginning what happened to me in the past and thinks I am SO unbelievably strong for getting through it. I am no less in his eyes. He adores me. He is patient, gentle, and kind when old feelings surface. We mutually respect each other, lift each other up, and love each other more than I ever thought was possible.
    I will end this super longwinded post (sorry!) by simply quoting the Qur’an (English translation), because this single verse, Alhamdullilah, has gotten me through the worst of the worst of those times. It still brings me to tears every time I read it, so short yet so simple and beautiful:
    “Verily, with every hardship comes ease.”
    You are in my du’as, sister. <3

    • Once again, heart-broken beyond words to hear this sis (that sentiment doesn’t do justice to your suffering by any means) – I’m glad you’ve found an amazing man to share your life with. Praying that you continue to move forward with increasing strength as the years pass. Ameen.

  • I was not raped, but was sexually abused several years ago by my boyfriend at the time. Some people can appear so pious, but inside, they harbor something awful.
    I cannot pretend to know what it’s like to be raped. I am sure, absolutely sure, that God still loves you. I cannot quote the Qur’an, as I am not Muslim, but I am sure that God’s heart cries every time that you do.
    I wish you much healing and love, dear sister. <3

  • Heart-breaking to say the least, but insha’allah, this gives strength to other victims who come across this piece. May Allah continue to give you strength and power as you move forward with life. You have my admiration beyond words Sis.

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