As I write this, it’s been popping up on my iPhone that Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault.

I remember when this was all initially coming out. I thought to myself and maybe even said something along the lines of ‘these women have to be lying and just want money/attention otherwise why would they be coming forward so much later…’

Then on New Year’s Eve of 2017, I experienced sexual assault. I was raped by a “friend” of 6 years in our hostel in Amsterdam. The assault sent me into a complete tailspin; I had a psychotic break (also known as Brief Psychotic Disorder or Brief Reactive Psychosis) and wound up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital for three days. Being that this happened overseas and I was completely alone in a foreign psych ward, plus being that it happened at all, my mental state was completely sacrificed.

My memory was significantly impaired, I couldn’t perform basic functions like operating a phone, I was confused and disoriented and experiencing delusions, and I couldn’t make basic decisions. I was a barely functioning human who barely knew her name… Extreme trauma can do that.

As soon as it happened, my mind immediately began to compartmentalize what happened.

This is because the act is so incomprehensible and shocking that you literally start finding it impossible to believe. Your mind tries to protect you from the un-fathomability of it as a stress response. You start questioning yourself, you can’t trust yourself, you go in circles. Nothing makes sense in your mind. You have mental and emotional chaos, plus the physical chaos of what actually happened; coupled with the fact that other people and authorities are involved trying to make sense of what happened when you barely even know. It’s a clusterf*ck.

Then, when it’s someone you actually KNOW personally; whether a friend or a partner, that makes it 10000x more challenging to believe it happened.

The mere thought of a friend or significant other raping you is obviously unfathomable…. So how about when it actually happens?

Why frick would it be so easy to recognize the situation and immediately be so sure of yourself? You want to know 100% while also wanting to believe that this person could never do such a thing to you; you are experiencing a complete paradox around one of the most sensitive and confusing situations a human could ever be in. But your mind plays tricks to protect you and keep you safe which leads you to question yourself, become confused, and develop shame and doubt among many other effects. On top of it, other people are in your head; it’s a clusterf*ck.

For me, I compartmentalized it almost immediately. I went to being raped to being abducted in my mind due to the reactive psychosis (I was in a hostel in a foreign country, alone, surrounded by cops…)

Somewhere amongst all of the chaos, I buried it. This brings to light how people stay in relationships with their abuser or some type of similar situation. Much of it has to do with how your mind playing tricks to keep you safe coupled with the fact that you just can’t or choose not to (at least not yet) believe it. PLUS if you love someone, you can’t just up and leave no matter how bad it is..until you are ready. Case and point: My abuser made his way to the hospital I was in where we had sex. Yes…after it happened. It was confusing and weird and I don’t know if I wanted to do it or not, but it happened. (The fact that this secure facility let him in is beyond me. When I tell you this whole situation is movie-worthy, I’m not fucking around.)

Then, when I was released and made my way to the hotel one of my clients got for me (I’ll tell the whole story in another post) I remember communicating with him. I was very alone so I wanted company and he was the only person I knew in that country so I was going to have him come to the hotel, but something in my gut was telling me I shouldn’t or wasn’t supposed to do that. Then, when I was buying gifts in the hotel for everyone I knew because I was so happy and grateful to be alive, I bought him a gift. On the plane ride home, I was writing him love poems. *mInD fUcK*

After all of this happening to me, I remember recalling how I said that about the Bill Cosby assault victims and realizing just how ignorant I was.

It took this situation happening to me to understand how completely untrue it is, and how the dynamic of a circumstance like this affects your mind in ways incomprehensible unless you have actually experienced it.

I’m a pretty open-minded person in many ways….but if I could think that about those victims, it’s easy to see how much of our society has this fixed mindset. Even when I arrived back home, some of the people I considered really good friends, even my ex-boyfriend, questioned me, ‘Are you sure that happened’? All the more reason to understand how people who go through this experience take so long to come forward.

First, there’s your own MIND to overcome and face. You have to reach a point where you are sure of yourself. Sometimes, this isn’t even in the form of a memory, but may just be a gut instinct. This experience could get so suppressed inside of your psyche or your body that you can’t even recall the situation at the forefront of your mind, you just know and feel deep down that it has happened, or you start to develop PTSD symptoms such as no longer being able to be intimate.

For some, it takes them years to discover the truth in a way where they feel confident in themselves and what happened.

This is what happened to me. I suppressed it to keep myself safe and to have the ability to make it home from a foreign country in a completely sacrificed (I thought I was going to die there or remain stuck in that psych ward forever.)

When I was back in Philadelphia with my mother and sister in a hotel; in a safer and familiar space, flashbacks started happening and my gut was communicating to me that what I maybe thought happened, did indeed happen; even though I was so confused and couldn’t actually give a concrete answer when people asked. I remember Googling something along the lines of ‘Why can’t I remember if I was raped?’ and I read about someone’s experience and how she questioned and suppressed it, etc. Then it made sense.

Or, in the Bill Cosby example: It takes seeing others come forward years down the line to validate your experience.

You can spend years questioning yourself; wondering and confused, knowing the truth deep down inside but being too scared and alone to do anything about it. Then, other people come forward and it validates your experience and gives you the confidence to come forward.

Then, there’s the influence by your friends, family, and society. Because it is so widely misunderstood, people will question you and treat you horribly. Which makes you question yourself even more. Then you figure ‘why come forward and deal with those ramifications on top of what I’m already dealing with’?

Then there’s healing. You decide your healing comes before justice.

Some people feel that justice is apart of their healing while others think it will pull them backward and stir up old feelings that they feel they have gotten over and would rather not re-live.  One of the ex-girlfriends of the guy I was raped by was in this space. I reached out to her and she was not interested in justice. She had ‘moved on’. But, sometimes some people decide to come forward much later down the line because they see justice gaining traction, so now is their chance for them to be apart of that justice. It’s safer to come forward now with others providing the social proof; they are not alone anymore.

For me, my healing experience was ‘fast’ because I have experience with trauma, wear my heart on my sleeve and have a pretty aggressive way about me. On top of the reality that I had just recently emerged from a one-year bout with clinical depression and I was in a space where absolutely nothing was going to knock me the fuck back down, especially not this. I made my way through the stages of healing which are pretty identical to the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression/sadness, acceptance) pretty quickly. I immediately began talking about it. I told friends and those close to me, I told people at work, I pretty much told everyone because I decided it had to be talked about to start bringing light to a very real phenomenon, plus it would help me heal.

I hope this post about my experience and insight into this ‘coming out late’ phenomenon educates those who need some help understanding what goes on, although you will never fully comprehend it unless it has happened to you.

The brain is an extremely magnificent, dynamic, and complex organ that goes to great lengths to protect itself and the body it houses.

Although we can educate; no blog post, courtroom or piece of science will ever be able to do the justice necessary to convince the public about the complexities, terror, and confusion that is experienced during an occurrence like this. But if education equals more understanding and compassion, then that’s all we can hope for.