Me Too! Our Stories of Survival and Overcoming Sexual Assault
I met a young man who read my story and we immediately connected and wanted to share our stories of survival, shame and forgiveness. In addition, we wanted to share and let readers know how it truly felt to be a victim and a survivor. Plus, share our views on how we moved forward and how to identify and stop sexual abuse from our perspectives. Christopher interview me and I interview him, the experience was extremely liberating and powerful. Hopefully, others will be inspired too and encouraged to heal and move forward too and help stop sexual assault.
1. Has your experience changed your path? How has it directed your walk in life? Definitely, when I was younger I truly suffered from low self-esteem and was extremely shy. I was afraid of people and it was extremely difficult for me to talk or make new friends. My shyness and poor social skills was a predators dream. The experience of date rape gave me the courage to be a survivor and a strong desire to prevent this type of abuse from happening to others. Eventually, I realized my shyness and poor social skills would limit my ability to prevent abuse and that I would have to learn how to be comfortable in social settings if I wanted to share my story. Afterwards, I changed my major from accounting and majored in psychology and eventually became a social worker. I absolutely love being a social worker and helping people. Hence, having the ability to affirm, educate, encourage, empower and support people is something I’m very passionate about it.
2. When you experienced this, did you confide in someone to get their thoughts? How did it feel to admit the date rape occurred? Yes, I did tell my best friend John Williams and a few other people that I trusted. Personally, I was very ashamed that I was so naïve and that I failed to see what type of person my so called new boyfriend really was. Admitting and telling was the first step in the healing process for me. However, that has definitely been a long road.
3. In the moment, what was rushing in your head? How did you feel? What were your actions? After my attacker locked the door, I had an instant moment of clarity and knew I was in trouble. I never imagined that something like this could happen. In my mind, this is something a stranger does when he pops out in a dark alley or a poorly lit parking garage. I was afraid and tried to fight him off. Eventually, I gave in because I wasn’t sure what he would do to me if I kept on fighting. Thankfully, he did use a condom and easy my mind of worrying if I could get pregnant also or catch a disease.
4. Would you see your predator daily, weekly, or monthly? What did you think of them when you saw them? My initial rape happened in December of 1989, in my freshman year of college. The sad truth is that he raped me twice afterwards. As a result, I told my best friend John and we both transferred and went to Western Illinois University because I wanted a new start. My raped occurred at the beginning of December and we still had two weeks to go until Christmas break. Therefore, I would see my rapist every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner until I went back home for Christmas break. The second time I got raped was over Christmas break. My roommate came home with me and I failed to disclose that I had been raped and she invited my rapist/ boyfriend to my birthday party. She gave him my Chicago telephone number and home address. So during the Christmas break he came to visit me at my house and brought me a gift and ask me to go out with him again. Although I was torn, I really felt that I had to somehow fix my messed up circumstances. I thought since I was no longer a virgin, maybe I should give him a chance and he promised not to force himself on me again. The story was pretty much the same as the first. We went on a date and he cooked dinner. Everything was nice and pleasant. I remember coming out of the bathroom from washing my hands after dinner and he was completely undressed. The rest was history. As a result, I was very ashamed because I allowed this craziness to happen again. I recalled my ex/the rapist saying why you acting all gay. I’m helping you and you have a lot to learn. Plus, since I was your first, you need to get with the program and stop acting like that. The final rape happened on a Saturday morning in my dorm room. My roommate decided to go home for the weekend and I made a terrible mistake by not locking my door. I lived in an all-girls dorm and there was never an issue regarding security or safety. Unfortunately, for me I learned a lesson that locks on doors were made for a reason. I simply got way to comfortable and arrogant in my thinking there was no need for me to lock my dorm door. It’s about 8 o’clock on Saturday morning and guess who walks through my door. I immediately knew what was about to happen and I realize that this has to stop! I beg my attacker to stop and questioned him why, when so many other sexual active girls were interested in him. As a result, I would have panic attacks every time I saw him. My heart would race and beat fast, my hands would shake and I knew my environment had to change and soon. Thankfully, my best friend John was an angel and he understood me and transferred and went to Western Illinois University. Once I moved several hundred miles away, I was able to finish college and really start my healing process.
5. Did he use any tools to weaken your fight? If your struggle to get out failed, what methods did he take to overpower you? My rapist used his strength. My rapist was 6 ft and at least 200 pounds and I was just 5’7 and maybe 120 pounds and a size 2. Initially, I tried to fight and stop him but he was convinced that this was what I needed to take us to the next level. The feelings of being helpless and powerless over my situation consumed me and changed me forever. Unfortunately, when something so traumatic happens, it gets permanently locked in your head. Consequently, many of us suffer and struggle with the memory in the same way post-traumatic stress disorder victims do. Our triggers can be as simple as touch, a song, a place or a smell just to name a few.
6. Being that this was your first sexual experience, has this pushed or changed your idea of a man? Did you think less of men and lose faith in true love and a real relationship? Fortunately, my view of a good man wasn’t destroyed. My daddy was an excellent father and I was surrounded by positive men all my life. I just knew some men were not worthy of my trust. My experience caused me to be extremely guarded and very cold. But, I always had hopes of entering a relationship where my mate would understand me and my issues.
7. What was your immediate view on GOD, as you went through this? Did you trust in him? Did you at any point get angry at GOD for letting this happen to you? Surprisingly, I never questioned God. Instead of blaming, I realized that unfortunate events occur to good people too. Early on, I always daydreamed about changing my personality and using my voice to educate and empower other survivors of date rape, molestation or sexual abuse. I knew in my heart and soul that God would protect me and turn this negative event into something positive and bigger than me. Through God’s amazing grace, I have the opportunity to let the world know you do not have to suffer in silence and it is never too late to move forward with your life. In addition, I learned in college by sharing and talking with so many other women, that abuse is very common. Most women that I know have been raped, molested, or were in a domestic violent relationship at some point in their life or sexual assaulted.
8. During this entire event once it was done, what happened? Did you leave immediately? Did you cry in his arms? Or did he walk away? I just cried and went back to my room. I felt weird like I was in some twisted movie and the event just keep replaying in my mind how did this happen to me and why.
9. What clothing were you wearing, were you in a skirt or jeans? As he stripped you or was it what most young individuals do such as foreplay and you stripped down? I was fully clothed. I had on jeans and a simple top, nothing out of the ordinary. I was completely blindsided each and every time.
10. Did he threaten you? Before or after? My rapist told me that I could make this easy or hard. I tried to fight but he was so concerned with removing my title of being a virgin and owning that. He tried to convince me that he was doing me a favor by showing me the ropes. My attacker use mental tactics on me. My rapists told me I was acting gay and that as time progressed I would learn to love it and that I would one day thank him.
11. Do you regret your silence? If yes what would you had preferred do? What would be your choice of action? Yes, I had regrets. I would have told much earlier. To be honest, I’m not comfortable with the idea of jail because I’m compassionate person and that seems so cruel. However, I would love if all predators would have to do community service and be mandated to apologize and speak at group functions and tell audiences what to look out for and to avoid to keep their loved ones safe.
12. Being a parent how do you plan to explain to your children this experience? Would you express this to them? Would you tell them the story or would you just make them aware? Absolutely, being a parent made it mandatory for me to speak out and hopefully encourage mother and fathers to have a critical conversation with their child or children regarding sexual assault, molestation and date rape. Ultimately, my deepest desire is that no child or person has to suffer silence and know in their heart it’s never too late to move forward and end sexual abuse for good.
13. Seeing that there are many victims in the world who are sexually abused what goals have you set that would help drop the rate. Sharing my personal story of rape and survival is just another way for me to encourage other victims to know if I overcame it, so can they. It is truly my hope to let my fellow survivors know they are not alone, to offer an opportunity to educate and inform others of the potential dangers and to give another face/ profile of a predator. As a mother of a daughter, I hope my story encourage a mother to have a conversation with their daughter and let them know of the potential dangers when dating and explain the rules and why it is so important to date in group and spend the necessary extra time to get to know someone before welcoming them into their personal space. Educate and inform their daughter that they are special and dating someone that respect them and understands fully that no actually means no and will accept it without questions. In college, I never had a clue that you have to protect yourself from people you know as well as strangers. Predators lurk in all sorts of places and the wise can only be proactive and share their wisdom to prevent others from becoming new victims. I love to share my challenges in an effort to let people know it is ok to be human, a survivor and seek help when you need it. I wish I knew to date in groups until you really get to know the person you are dating. Time is one true measurement test of integrity, character, respect, love and support.
14. Was it easy to forgive him? Did you feel at ease when you did? Does it still cross your mind? No it definitely wasn’t easy but very necessary in order for me to heal and move forward. Thanks Chris for sharing and asking great questions! I truly appreciate your honesty and openness to share and help stop sexual assault. The older I become, the more I feel compelled to be transparent and share my journey through life. As a result, I firmly believe that sharing my challenges and pain will free and maybe even encourage others to forgive and possibly move forward with their lives. From my own experiences, I have learned our pain sometimes can become our own prison. Therefore, forgiveness is a defense and offers everyone an opportunity to heal and move forward with their lives. It has nothing to do with the perpetrators of our wrong doing but everyone to do with the healing of our own mind, body and spirit. Sharing my personal story of rape and survival is just another way for me to encourage other victims to know if I overcame it, so can they. It is truly my hope to let my fellow survivors know they are not alone, to offer an opportunity to educate and inform others of the potential dangers and to give another face and profile of a predator.
Before we begin this deep conversation, I would love to ask you some background questions to help my audience and myself learn more about you!
1. Tell me the mark you want to leave on the world. I want to leave a legacy that will change the way the world views things. Openness has been one of my recent discoveries.
2. Give me three words that describe you? Loving, sentimental, peaceful
3. What CD is in your car that is an absolute must? Korn: Follow The Leader
4. What are you passionate about? Passing down my bloodline
5. People who know you best would say Chris is? A clown, a loving person who always has to come to the party.
6. What day changed your life? January 10th 2004, I lost the woman I love
7. What is unique about you and would surprise people? I am more intelligent than I sound, look, and express.
8. What convinced you to open up and agree to do the interview with me? It was your very post about rape and how woman silence themselves on the rape and how others victims too often choose to be silent due to shame and embarrassment.
Christopher Michael Rivera Interview on Abuse 1. When did the abuse start with you? It was on Mother’s day between ages 4-5 years old I was doing the dishes for my mother before she got home, he asked me “why don’t you clean the pipes”, I wound up going under the sink with the sponge and found out that was not what he meant.
2. Why did you select not to tell? I attempted at one point when my friend was preyed upon, his father tried to help me but my abuser threatened the life of my brothers and mother then me.
3. Was your abuser male or female? My abuser was a male and he used his dog too! I never got the point of that!
4. Was your abuser a stranger or someone you knew? He was my brother’s father.
5. Did your abuse affect you as an adult? Often, I was angry and internalized my pain. I became a loner and kept it to myself. Being at that age I was treated like an adult sexually. When the adults talked about rape I got bitter because I was embarrassed to say something.
6. Did your abuse affect your ability to have a healthy relationship? All the ladies I have interacted with heard of my story once they told me of their own abuse. In which turned into many conversations.
7. Did your abuse cause you to be cold, distant anger or bitter? I looked at my brother as my reminder of his father; I hated him inside though it was not his fault at all. My punishments were penetration or oral abuse by his father and the dog when I did something wrong like steal milk so my brothers could have milk.
8. Have you forgiven your abuser? I spoke to my abuser years later at 18 years old and even consider killing him. However, I realized that I could use my experience to let other victims know no matter how terrible the situation was they too could make it and survive. Plus, encourage other victims to become survivors and tell. Plus, encourage mothers and fathers to pay closer attention to the people they introduce and leave to supervise and watch over their children. Predators just like you said are often people you know, like and respect.
9. Are you still in contact with your abuser? No
10. Did your abuse effect your ability to be intimate in relationships and trust your spouse or mate? I have not allowed this situation to interfere with my sexual desires with the ladies, I would always be happy to be with a female, my experience has not altered my sexual preference.
11. How did you cope with your abuse as a child and as an adult? As a child it was hard to talk about it, I thought it was going to end someday if I can just stay alive for the moment. My brothers knew about it as I found out after telling my mother, it saddened me as they just let it happen. As an adult my youngest brother reminds me of him with his character and I do not blame him I still love him. I can see the selfishness his father possessed so we are distant. Coping with it now is that I have a story that will save other children who are going through this. I fear for my children as they live in PA, however as I told my family members I would keep this story and experience as a gift rather than a tragedy.
Thanks a million Chris for the inspiration, the great questions and for sharing your truth! God Bless and hopefully our combined stories will help others and encourage other survivors to talk and start their own healing process. Plus save our children and future generations from unnecessary sexual abuse.Love Shouldn’t Hurt! Your Not Alone and Help is Available.