TRIGGER WARNING: for those who are survivors of sexual assault, abuse or rape, please take caution in choosing to read the following story.
I glance at the scars on my left arm as I write this. The most prominent one came after watching “13 Reasons Why” which my favorite grumpy teammate insisted I watch; and she doesn’t get excited often. I do not blame the show for the horrible memories it brought to the surface.
I lost my virginity at 19 after being raped by a friend. He only stopped once he reazlied I was bleeding. “Are you a virgin?” “Yes” I replied shamefully. I would love to say that was the only instance, and that I wasn’t driven into silence by fear...but I was. I confronted him and he got angry. I was unable to cope, or even comprehend what had just happened, so my brain blocked it. At 21, I dated my best friend. While we were having sex, I had (what I later learned were ‘flashbacks’) and asked him to stop. He stopped once he was finished. I brought his attention to how his encounter scarily matched my previous one. He bought he flowers and coloring books for a week afterwards, as an apology for raping me.
Again, I stayed silent...until he did it again. Idiotically, I stayed with him, yet this time when I said no, he held me down and whispered “I’ll make the bad memories go away.” This time, I was not silent. I told his dad. His dad, a well known lawyer, threatened me. Those closest to me didn’t believe me. Who goes back to their rapsit and allows it to happen again? I do. To protect myself, I blacked it from my memory. As the bruises faded, so did the memories.
I wasn’t magically healed; I was riddled with depression, anxiety, constant panic attacks, and irrational fears brought on ptsd. I was on track to graduate early, yet with 63 credits I still haven’t completed my associates. I was 23 before I ever drove a car. Certain milestones I never accomplished because of a fear I was never able to name. Another rape would occur, yet again, a few years later, that I would add to my heavy suitcase full of unclean clothes and unhealthy baggage. Again, it was a friend.
June 2013, I saw a commercial on YouTube of a local mma school. It looked terrifying, and I instantly knew I needed it in my life. 1 month later, I had a job there as a receptionist. My goal was to was my way into trying classes, and ultimately competing. October 2013 I put on my first gi, an oversized A4 for my 5’1 frame.
Jiu jitsu gave me a safe place to come close to death, whilst knowing I’m not going to actually die. I can simply tap my partner and not they will cease any and all activity. My experiences with men have not been that fortunate, but on the mats I am treated with care and respect. I’ve been choked unconscious, chipped a tooth, and gotten 2 concussion, but I would rather go through those experiences repeatedly than reexperience my own.
My past experiences left me with sever depression and sever PTSD. I have had therapist tell me they can’t help me because I have too much trauma. I even had a man I was dating attempt to rape me after not starting therapy when I was “supposed” to. While I have been turned away from people more than I’d like to admit, jiu jitsu was always there. While other girls in class would tear up from frustration or the amount of conditioning, I never would. As a self harmer, I would rather have light bruises on my skin from teammates, than cuts I self inflict that prevent me from training.
One year ago, I tried to end my life. The last person I called told me to go ahead and end it. Every time he got mad at me, that was his ending argument. He was also the same man who threw me across the room and kept tabs on me for a week out of fear of me calling the cops.
Throughout it all, jiu jitsu has been there for me. I have made lasting friendships, some dire for my survival, and others who share a similar journey like my own. Though I’m only a 5’1 blue belt, I run at night now. I’m not longer afraid on a daily basis. I have bad moments. My ptsd is triggered often; sometimes it’s so bad I can’t even leave my room. What happened to me is absurd but it wasn’t my fault.