I was a senior in high school. There was a guy I really liked who was a few years older than me, and he hung out regularly with another local guy named Martin. I never really liked Martin, I thought he was kind of weird and creepy because he was perhaps 23, but still hanging out with 17- and 18-year olds. He supplied a lot of local kids with alcohol and drugs like mushrooms. But I was young, naïve, and I really liked this other guy (I will call him Tom) so I would go hang out anyway.

One weekend night, I really just wanted to hang out with Tom, who was at Martin’s house. I drove over there to find both of them playing online poker and drinking – I remember Tom also telling me that Martin had taken some pills, but he said it with an eye roll, kind of like, “He’s messed up again.”

I couldn’t tell you how many drinks I’d had, but I still felt in control. The last thing I remember of the night is sitting on Martin’s futon with Tom in a chair across from me and Martin trying to lean on me in a super annoying way. I remember pushing him off me, and all of us kind of laughing, like he was just being an annoying brother or someone who was trying to mess with me. I didn’t remember feeling unsafe.

Then everything was black. I remember coming to, being able to hear before I could really move or open my eyes. I heard a soft grunting, not of pleasure but of physical anguish, and slowly my body began to wake up. I realized that grunting was coming from me, and I worked really hard to pry my eyes open. The moment I realized Martin was on top of me, raping me, I snapped awake and started to shove him off of me. I remember screaming “What the F*** are you doing?!”  Martin looked like he didn’t want to stop. He didn’t stop easily - he didn’t pull back and say sorry. He just seemed surprised I woke up.

I was furious. I pulled my pants up only to find my belt had been ripped in two at the buckle. My shirt was up and I was missing my belly button ring. I grabbed as much of my stuff as I could and ran out the door to my car. By this point, the sun was starting to come up so it was probably around 7 am. Tom was nowhere in sight. I remember going to my car, and Martin running after me screaming and throwing a trash can.

That day I had many missed calls from Martin trying to ask me what happened. I finally answered and he sounded like he was still messed up. I told him to never contact me again; he acted confused, saying he didn’t remember anything except for me throwing a trash can outside (that was him). I knew he was trying to convince himself that he didn’t do anything wrong, but I was also struggling with the self-guilt that this was somehow my fault for getting drunk and I must have somehow asked for it.

When I finally got a hold of Tom after this incident, he was cold. He called me a slut and told me I was a B****.  Tom was telling me I was asking for it and that I was a slut. I just believed him.

It took me years to come to terms with what happened. I had told people, and even though I used the word rape, it’s like I didn’t fully acknowledge it. Forgiveness came slowly. First it started with forgetting – I tried to own and accept that I was a rape survivor, even though deep down I still blamed myself.

When I reflect back to that time, I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided to forgive, but I believe it came about because I was praying for help. You know how you find yourself just asking for some area in your life to change even if it doesn’t feel like overt praying? Talking about it wasn’t helping. Forgetting it wasn’t helping. Once I recognized I was forgiving, it was strange and peaceful all at the same time. It’s like I was able to put down a weight I didn’t realize I had been carrying around for almost a decade. For a while, I had to actively choose forgiveness in moments when I would have previously been triggered to remember the trauma. I actively continued to choose to forgive. It was, and is, the only way that I can move forward with my life. Even if Martin was behind bars, it wouldn’t bring as much peace as forgiveness has.

For me, a big portion of that forgiveness was through a newfound faith and relationship with Jesus. It’s like I began to understand on the deepest level what forgiveness actually means – the grace to be human (imperfect, possibly even wicked) and still be loved. It also helped me to know that God loves my rapist and my ex-boyfriend the same way He loves me. While that made me angry at first, I began to recognize that the love is more powerful than the anger – and that it really wasn’t up to me to carry it anymore.

Danitza Borges