What you are about to read is the most powerful piece of writing I have ever written. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I need to finally release it in order to be free. I have been suffering for the past year and a half in silence. Hiding from my friends, peers and family because I simply felt damaged. But today, I refuse to be a victim. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress and I am fighting everyday to overcome this obstacle, because it is just that. I will no longer let it hold me back.
I've contemplated writing this and sharing it for so long because I've been living in fear. Fear of being known as another sexual assault victim. Fear of being seen differently. Fear of pity. Fear of being the "sensitive" friend we have to be around. I saw myself as this damaged being. A crushed rose. A monster. Spoiled milk.
What happened to me could happen to anyone and it was definitely not the lesson I thought I would learn after traveling to a country I had always dreamed of visiting. There's so much I wish to say but hopefully after releasing this I can make a video speaking more about it because sometimes it's so hard to express everything I am feeling through my writing. I wish to just let go of this pain by sharing it and hoping to find peace within myself. This is the memoir I wrote after suffering from the most traumatic experience I've ever encountered in my 23 years of life, well 21 at the time. Thanks for reading.
(Forgive me if the story is very jumpy, I just want to get to the point)
On March 10, 2017 I embarked on the most exciting journey I had been wanting for soo long. I was traveling to Barcelona, Spain. Not only was I traveling to my dream city, but I was mainly going to visit my best friend, Angela, who was studying abroad for her first time. ( The only reason I am mentioning her name is because this is my story and I believe in order to forgive you must say that persons name and not avoid it).
Angela was living with four other girls and I was aware she made it clear that her living space was not open to visitors because it was her study abroad's programs' rules. Fast forward to me arriving to Barcelona and meeting with her, I was so excited to share this new experience with my best friend of over six years ( We met in high school).The first few hours were great as we were just settling down and planning out our next few days traveling together ( we had booked a trip to Rome and Positano after 3 days in Barcelona). That night was my first night in Barcelona and we had planned to hit some hot spots before ending up at the primary club (She had a friend she had met in Barcelona, so she came with us too-cant remember her name). I remember having soo much fun! I loved Barcelona. It was everything I had dreamed of, and being with my best friend made it even better. As the night continued and we went out for drinks, I didn't realize how much we were actually drinking so the worst was yet to come. I remember Angela wanted to go watch the sunrise after we had left the club around 2 or 3 am and I was so excited but life had a different plan. After partying our hearts away it was time to leave the club around 2 or 3 am. I remember walking out the club, just Angela and I, her friend had left a couple hours earlier. As we were walking along the streets of Barcelona my brain completely shut off. I say this because I can't remember a single thing from that specific moment of just walking under the night sky. A year later, I am able to have some small memories linger back and that is what you are about to read. My life completely changed from that moment and I haven't been the same ever since.
P.S: This memoir was my senior writing project. I was encouraged and guided by my Professor/Advisor Cheryl Forbes and also assisted by my good friend Jade Ashley, which we had just happened to sit next to each other that year. She was honestly the only reason I was able to get through writing this memoir because I wanted to just keep my story to myself, but she said "NO. You will never heal if you don't write". Thank you so much Jade.
The day ‘it’ happened…was the day I lost control. Light, crisp air sifted off my face as I walked around Barcelona intoxicated and no idea who I was. “I can’t find my friends,” I said. Can you help me? The tall strange face did not seem harmful so I took the bait. I remember asking for a phone charger as I was starting to gain a little bit more consciousness. “I need to charge my phone,” I need to contact my friend,” I said. The stranger agreed to help me and I soon walked into a new world. A world filled with sorrow, shame, and pain. I was raped.
The day after it happened was the worst day of all. I had lost myself. My body went into a state of emergency trying to cope with the trauma. My mind attempted to solace me through the constant reminder that 'it' was simply a figment of my imagination. Yet, when I looked down at my hands, they rattled. I became anxious, afraid of standing by strangers who would take advantage of my vulnerability in this alien surrounding. The human in me told me to move on, but regaining control of my body was the difficult part. As I placed one foot in front of the other, each step seemed heavier to me. The voice in my head grew louder and the images more vivid. 'It' really did happen. As I slipped into my inner consciousness, the external world became muffled, and I could only hear the frantic beat of my heart. It seemed that denial was my only option. It was a coping mechanism that my body did to comfort me through the shock I had just experienced.
My body became a robot and I was learning to function again. It had occurred to me that as I spent the time thinking, I forgot I needed to move on. I needed to regardless. I was forced to compose myself in the middle of the crowded streets of Las Ramblas in the beautiful city of Barcelona, where happy tourists flocked the area. With time, the heaviness of my steps became lighter and I had applied self-control without even knowing it.
I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is walking down a dark alley wondering where I was. My arms shivered as my light gray sweater draped my shoulders. My feet felt as if they were carrying twice my body weight. I felt trapped. I looked around me in search of my friends, but the dark and eerie streets were void of people. My short block-heeled shoes stumbled upon the rigid cobblestone streets, and I felt my body sink each time I took another step. The air was dry and lifeless. It was as if the streets were stripped as well. I was so disoriented I don’t remember what things looked like but I do remember the numbness I felt. The thoughts in my mind were racing to the finish line to find the next solution to heal my sorrow, but there was no one and nothing to come to my rescue. I had to save myself, and I had no idea how. How did I get here? As I reached into my purse in search of my phone, I realized I was missing my identification card. Could this have been a sign of what was to come next? I remember standing in the middle of an intersection at about four in the morning, helpless. “Who am I? What am I doing here? Why am I alone?” The Thoughts congested my head. Hours later it seemed as if I had died and suddenly came back to life, but I did not return myself. However, what I had woken up to was no longer my life, but a nightmare.
A big dark shadow hovered over me. My eyes squinted to see my surroundings. As I went in and out of consciousness, I realized that I was too weak to focus. I could not see the face of the tall black man thrusting into me. I could not feel anything. I thought to myself this had to be a dream. The only movement was the irregular beat of my heart while my body froze into a state of paralysis. I was no longer in control.
“What are you doing?” I said still trying to regain my consciousness.
“Get off of me!” I yelled.
“Can I finish?” he asked.
As I laid there on the unfamiliar surface of his bed, I had realized I was no longer a person. I was an object. My heart shattered as I heard those words leave his mouth. I placed my head back and looked up at the ceiling. My eyes were open but there was nothing to be seen. My lips stayed shut as I was stripped from my integrity. He soon stopped and continued to ask me if I needed anything. I asked for the phone charger he promised to give me and I was able to turn my phone back on just to see that things weren’t any better.
As a child, I never had siblings and my obsession for travelling developed as a means of self-exploration. I have always taken travel and adventure into my own hands and making every experience life changing. I pride myself in traveling because I believe it’s the only thing that helps you grow and truly explore who you are. I never see it as “finding” who I am because I will never be a specific image, just a collection of memories I create. That is why I was so broken. Because once I was raped, I was no longer exploring, I was escaping.
I controlled every aspect of my life after that moment. In the unfamiliar environment I was placed in, I was forced to be in a façade. I held in my emotions and kept going. I knew I wanted to continue traveling around Europe as I planned, but something was holding me back. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but as I continued to lose control over everything, I just collapsed. The world had fallen upon me like a thousand knives hitting my chest.
The thought of going home made me even more uncomfortable because it was an inevitable return to reality. Having to tell my mom was the hardest moment yet. From the moment I set foot on my doorway, I suddenly went blank. My thoughts had vanished, and I became small as if I was shriveled into a box. I was ashamed and how could I explain everything to my sweet innocent mother whom may not even understand most of what I have to say. My mother is fluent in Spanish with some English experience, therefore, the language barrier made it more difficult to tell the story.
Ding Dong *the doorbell rings*, no answer.
“Is she home, I thought. *rings doorbell again*
As I tried to compose myself for a few more seconds the door finally opens. As I looked up at her I immediately began to cry. My eyes felt heavy as I rested my head on her shoulders.
“Something terrible has happened ma,” I said.
“What’s wrong? “Why are you home so early?” She said.
It took me about three minutes to let go of her tight gasp. I knew once I let go, I had to tell the story. I knew that once I began to tell it, I would remind myself of that loss of control, and I didn’t want that again. So I told her “Por favor no digas nada hasta que termine.” (Please don’t speak until I’m done telling you everything), She agreed to stay quiet.
“Friday night I was intoxicated and drugged. All I remember was leaving the club and walking to find a cab when all of a sudden I felt nothing.” My life had turned off, and I became non-existent. “I woke up in a stranger’s bed to him having sex with me, and it was so scary. I didn’t know how I got there but the only thing I had remembered was asking for a phone charger and the stranger agreeing to help me. I went to the doctor the same day to get tested and check if I had any unfamiliar drugs in my body but it was too late. I had already surpassed the six hours drugs usually last in your body. There was nothing they could do. I was afraid to even tell them I was raped, so I got up off the emergency room bed and went back to my hotel. I convinced myself I could be strong and just continue the rest of my trip but I had no idea what else was coming. I decided to take a bus tour for the day to relieve my stress and discomfort and try to resurface that curious, optimistic traveler I used to be. From buying gelato, visiting the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral and sitting down at the beautiful Park Güel nothing seemed to make me feel better. I was all alone and afraid. I had nothing. As the day ended and I returned to my hotel, I thought about the next few days. “What do I do now?” I had no money because my card and id were missing, and I had no cash. I put my difficult circumstances aside and just kept going because that was the only way I had control. If I stayed in the hotel doing nothing, I would remind myself of that loss of control again and I didn’t want that anymore. My foot steps felt heavier and my pain only grew stronger. I felt as if the universe was telling me to go home, and that my journey had just ended. I didn’t want to accept it. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I lost control. I didn’t want to accept that I was raped.
The next day March 11, 2017, I arrived at Angela's apartment mortified to tell her what had just happened to me, but what I didn't know was that she had something else to add to this traumatic occasion. When I was in the elevator heading up, the only thought I had was "OMG, how do I tell my best friend I had just been raped". I wondered how the hell did I even end up alone when I was with her the whole time. But instead of me focusing on what had just happened to me, I arrived to more chaos my heart could not take. As she opened the door, I saw her face was covered in scratches and dried up blood. I couldn't believe what she said next. I said " What happened to your face?" and she said "You did this to me." I immediately thought "You're joking right". I had NEVER hit or scratched anyone in my entire life, why the hell would I hit her. She then began to describe her part of the story saying I had suddenly become a different person "It was as if you were possessed", she said. I will never forget those words. I told her there was no way I could have done something like that. I loved her. But she went ahead and pulled out her phone to which she showed me a video of me while I was intoxicated and being violent. I began to cry. I knew the person I was watching in that video was not me. Keirys... She was gone.
I couldn't believe it. I had just gone through the most traumatic experience of my life and here I was balling my eyes out because I had scratched up my best friend's face. I felt like a monster. And at that moment I forgot about myself. I denied my rights to even defend myself. I believed I was the monster she recorded that night. I believed that her fear of me was stronger than how I felt about myself. A kind, selfless, and strong woman. I begged for her forgiveness because I knew I was not that person. I knew I would never hurt anyone. And the fact that I was intoxicated didn't make it better, but it also made it REAL. I couldn't believe the effect alcohol had on me that night. Something I had always feared and avoided to abuse. But that night Alcohol had won. It had taken over my body and Keirys, was no longer existing.
After offering Angela every penny I had left to get her all the medication she needed, she insisted in me leaving. I begged her to not let all of this chaos ruin our friendship and spring break but her fear of me was much bigger than her love, so I packed my things and was left stranded in the Barcelona streets. She didn't even care to help me get my taxi. I lugged my suitcase around the unfamiliar streets hoping to catch a taxi to drift me away from the pain I had just experienced. But it didn't come right away. I remember feeling like a dog in the street. Here I was 24 hours later after arriving in Barcelona to spend the next week with my best friend, to being homeless in a foreign country, exiled from the one person I had. I had made every excuse for Angela and believed I was a monster. Now, I choose to believe that this was a lesson and although it wasn't the best lesson to learn, I am thankful to be alive today and thankful that I have a good support system to help me move forward, not only to love myself completely, but to forgive others. The rest is history.
For this now I can finally say: "I forgive you Angela. But I don't forgive you leaving me when I needed you the most".
I will have a follow up post on how I have dealt with all of this in the past year and what I am doing to move forward to finally heal my heart. Don't hesitate to leave a comment or message me if you'd like so that I can also address it in the next post. The only reason I am sharing this story is to bring awareness to so many other sexual assault stories being hidden because of fear. Thank you.
A message to myself:
"You are free Keirys and I love you."