That One Time A Naked Guy In A Mask Tried To Rape Me

(Warning: This blog contains profanity and content that may be difficult or triggering to some.)

Like I'm talking about the weather. Or last nights baseball score. Or what's for dinner. There will never be a good way to broach this painful part of my life. And so that it won't destroy me, I choose honesty. Attempt to make it normal.

Even if it wasn't.

I should be dead. 19 years old and not a cloud in site as I laid out, eyes closed, music flowing from my headphones. An easy target. A sunny day on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, as the first of two tiny pebbles fell on my stomach. Alert now, my eyes followed the line of bushes at my back. I checked my watch. “I’ll only stay five more minutes.”

It suddenly felt as if a dark cloud had covered the whole earth. As my eyes adjusted, I began to make out the shadow of a man over the top of me. It was not a prank. The devil, adorned in just a nylon mask, had come. It amazed me, the amount of absurd thoughts that can go through a person’s mind at the most inopportune moment.

“Where are his clothes?” “He has a tiny penis." “His body is shaped like a pear.” “I wonder if the people across the river can see this?”

In between these misfires of thought I tried to get up, but his hands were already on me. His nasty, naked, pear man hands were places they did not belong. And I finally knew what the term, “out-of-body experience,” meant. It was the stuff of badly made for TV movies. And when my screams were heard by hikers below, he ran. So like any good American, or misguided female in a horror film, I chased him. The scenes that we all roll our eyes at.

With the full force of my 100 lb. frame, I knocked him down. I saw his neatly folded clothes on the ground nearby. The only sound he uttered besides grunting and twisted, malignant laughter were the words, “Wanna f#@k?” As if it were a suggestion. As if what he had already done to me and my response was not evidence enough of his crime. My brain was firing away but my legs stopped working as I tripped my way up to the road.

Police, fire personnel, search dogs. My idea ofwhat those cute K9 dogs actually do changed that afternoon. Being sniffed between your legs to catch a would be rapist scent leaves an indelible mark. And I had already begun to embrace a different kind of demise. "This isn't actually happening," I reassured myself. Months later at a police lineup, all I could say was, “Why am I alive? Why did I chase him? Why didn’t I push him over the cliff?” I had done everything wrong.

The detective responded simply yet forcefully, “Sarah, you did everything right. You survived.”

Maybe I had too much sun. Maybe I had been hit one too many times as a child. That in trying to destroy me in my younger years, the devil had inadvertently created a seasoned fighter. What was certain, was that this man had stalked the wrong girl. I was not silent. I was not compliant. Most who are do not survive. Yet I did not feel worthy of living. And the irony was not lost on me.

Later, when I was at the bottom of a bottle, or laid out on the bathroom floor full of pills, or waking up in a different guy’s bed. When bitterness turned into an inability to maintain friendships or even leave my apartment. When trying to kill myself a year later was just one more thing I failed at...

God whispered truth; That I mattered. That I had purpose. That I had survived.

It would be nearly 15 years before I hit rock bottom and finally began to surrender. A life for which I refuse to let stigma or shame keep me from sharing my story of survival. Of forgiveness. For myself. For him. Yes, him. And for others who have endured similar tragedy.

I have an appreciation for those who are broken. Quieted. All those living with their “secrets” in the dark. Beckoning them into the light. Because where most would have folded to the weight of life, we have prevailed.

So I should be dead. But instead I am a survivor. A fighter. An advocate. A beautiful story.

*The photo above is a picture of the exact location of my assault.