I finished the series 13 Reasons Why the other day and then shortly after, I heard about a brutal, horrific shooting in Cleveland, commited by a cowardly, disgusting, soulless human being against an elderly man who didn’t deserve for such a thing to be done to him.
I don’t understand the world we live in. All I can think is that some people want other people to feel the pain they feel and what they’ve been through, and for that reason, they lash out. Pain is, however, something you can manage. We all have choices. You can choose who you want to be.
I have always wanted to share what I’ve been through in order to help other people. Pain does have its uses. It makes us stronger. There comes a point when you can choose to be the victim, or the victor. Don’t get me wrong—you’ll probably have to dig through a lot of shit before you get there, but once you get to that point, and you choose to control your pain instead of letting it control you, you can start to breathe again.
My pain originated back in 2009. It’s been almost 8 years ago now, and something that was once impossible to talk about is now something I can voice to other people. First, it was just a thought in my head. Then, it grew to a whispered confession. Soon after that, I could write about it and tell other people about it.
It was April of 2009. And I met a guy. It was during a time where I had just started college and had no friends. Everyone I knew had gone to schools out of state and the others that were still around took school waaay more seriously than I did (*See college dropout.). It was a time when I was lonely and vulnerable. I went on a few dates with this guy and it got serious.
By “serious”, I mean I saw him more than a few times. We talked on the phone. He actually picked me up when we went on dates. He listened and seemed to care about my opinions. Up until that point, “dating” to me had been a guy coming over to my house to watch a movie or seeing each other between each class in the hallways.
When I look back on this relationship, I wish I could say it was all bad, but nothing is ever black and white. He brought out some good in me. He convinced me to sing karaoke and be extraverted, something I never would have done on my own. But he was also bad for me.
Not long into our relationship, he took me to a secluded area. I didn’t know what to think, but I was scared. There in his car, he raped me. When he dropped me off back at home, my mom had asked me, “How was your date?” He had told me and my parents we were going to get ice cream.
“Fine,” I had said, skirting past.
“What kind of ice cream did you get?” she had asked.
“Chocolate chip cookie dough,” I had told her. Because that is what I would have gotten if we had actually gone and did what he had said we would.
This went on for months. Some people say it’s ridiculous that someone can be raped by someone they are in a relationship with or someone they know, but I’m here to tell you it’s not that unusual. Actually, it’s more common than you might think. Most of the time, I was made to feel like I was childish and “scared” if I didn’t want to participate. And when I said no, it was as if I hadn’t even spoken.
I remember one time when I had had enough. Several months into this relationship, I was over it, but scared and meek. I actually got the nerve one time to get out of the car. It was after he had driven us to a park and started with the usual cajoling and petting, that I got out. He followed me.
“I want you to take me home, right now!”
After a few minutes of this, he had convinced me to get back in the car. He said he would take me home, but it wasn’t before he tortured me first. When you’re close to someone, they know everything about you, your favorite foods and movies, what scares you. He knew I had a fear of drowning.
So, he drove me towards the river, down to a slip where the boats go in, where the pavement turns from asphalt to gravel and mud. I had screamed at him, “What are you doing?!”
“Quit being such a baby! Are you scared?” he’d teased me meanly. I had threatened to get out of the car. It was at that point, that he had started saying, “Fine, fine! Quit overreacting.” and he had tried to throw the car in reverse. Instead of going backwards, it had started to go in the water and I had screamed. I look back on that day and I am convinced that he did that, just to show me he was still in control. To throw a little temper tantrum over not getting his way.
Months after that, I was still with him, but steadily wishing I wasn’t. There had been rumors of him cheating on me with an ex, he lied more than he had breathed, and he still tried to take advantage of me whenever he could.
It was in December that he was going to be deployed into the Air Force. He had asked me if I wanted to get engaged before he left and I had said no. I wasn’t so sure I wanted things to continue when he got back home. On December 21st, just a few days before Christmas Eve and before he was to be deployed, we were going to see a movie. He was going to come and eat dinner at the restaurant where I worked and then we would leave once I got off.
I was upstairs washing the dishes. I had been annoyed, my arms were caked in crusty ketchup and he still hadn’t shown up.
So, I guess you’re not coming then.
I had sent that text and then turned back to cleaning when my mom appeared in the doorway. I had no idea what to think; my parents never just showed up like that to my work.
“Avery, someone’s been shot. We need to go right now.”
We left and everything was a blur. All I knew was that someone had been shot at his house. I didn’t know what condition they were in or anything else. When we got to your house, your car was still in the driveway and a half eaten cake from your going away party was on top of the fridge. Ambulances and news vans were there. I ran up into the garage and before I got two steps into it, your mom had me by the arms and was saying, “He’s dead, Avery. He’s dead.”
And I had collapsed.
Later on, details emerged. It was all a terrible accident. You had been accidentally shot in the head and killed by your younger brother. You had been teaching him to hold the gun; you hadn’t known that when you took the clip out, there had still been a round in the chamber.
My story comprises of many things.
It is about rape.
It is about guns.
It is about death and loss.
It is about knowing your self worth.
It is about grief and how we cope with it.
Honestly, this post doesn’t do my whole story justice. I have written a book, but I have been too preoccupied and anxious to do anything about it. I am no longer hiding what happened to me, though. If I have to lie in order to protect someone else’s testimony, than what kind of testimony was it in the first place?
I am more than what happened to me. I am a victor, not a victim.
I share this story in the hopes that maybe, somewhere out there, it helps someone else to know that they are not alone. Pain is not something we ever wish upon ourselves, but sometimes, it makes us better people. We come out of it stronger than we ever were before. ✌🏻❤️