“To me, it all made sense. Now that I’m looking back at it, there were a lot of red flags. I fell into a whirlwind romance this past summer. It was full of wine and late nights. We were together every second of every day. The world was pink and rosy. He dropped everything and moved to a different province to be with me. It sounds like a fairytale. Then it all changed.
“One day, I woke up and it wasn’t summer anymore. It was fall. The leaves changed colour. They weren’t pink and rosy. The person I used to wake up beside and smile at became a person I was scared to be alone with. I grew terrified to break up with him because of the potential aftermath. My summer romance turned into my autumn horror.
“My life changed. I tried to continue my act, tried to keep smiling. I felt like a vulnerable shell of who I used to be — and that required me to engage in acts that I wasn’t comfortable with, because I had wanted to before. I lived my life trying to fill the hours in between sleeps.
“One morning, in the middle of sex, I firmly told him to stop. I didn’t want to continue. He continued without saying a word. ‘Stop’ I said, more forcefully this time. Nothing. When he was done with me I ran to the bathroom and fell to the floor. My arms hurt from his grip. He apologized from the other side of the door. I believed him. I had never felt like a victim until then. I had been raped. He raped me.
“I felt violated, scared, and disgusted by my own body. He did this to me. But it had always been consensual before, and it even was when it started that morning. But I told him to stop, and he didn’t.
“It took me a month to come to terms with it before I told anyone. I lost weight. I lost motivation. I didn’t care anymore. That’s when my best friend noticed something was wrong. I told her, and she encouraged me to report it to the sexual assault centre on campus. I knew I had to confront him, and I did. He apologized again. I realized no matter what he said or did, I needed to take care of myself first. I ended the relationship and asked him to move out.
“After he left, I decided to report it to the police. This burden was beginning to destroy me. Anxiety and paranoia began to consume me. I kept the messages from him that admitted to the assault. The police and detective assigned to me were very comforting. I provided them with the evidence they needed to go ahead with my file.
“He fled. Within 24 hours of me reporting the sexual assault to the police, he packed the car, withdrew from the university, and literally drove over a province to go back home. The file is still open, but I am at ease knowing that there’s no chance of running into him at school.
“The uncontrollable emotions continued. I didn’t realize that I kept making up reasons, excuses for why his behavior was acceptable.
“I used to text him ‘I love you’ whenever I knew he was feeling low. He would tell me I was the only thing that mattered. It was a lie. Then again, I think he believed it too. We both needed help.
“I’ve come a long way, but I am still guarded. I constantly catch myself building up a wall in fear that I might put full trust into someone again, just for the leaves to start changing colour.
“It’s hard to tell someone that you have been raped. Out of nowhere, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, anxiety, and worthlessness creep up on you. I have accepted that the only way to move on is to move forward. I have a hard time trusting people to confide in. I felt betrayal, the worst form of violation, from the person who was supposed to be my rock.
“I worry that every time I tell this story, someone will think it’s a lie. In Canada, you are innocent until proven guilty. As a sexual assault victim, I feel like I’m a liar until I can prove my honesty.
“I want people to know that rape is not always an attack from an old drunk person in a dark alley. Rape occurs in the safest of places, like in a relationship. It was extremely difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I had been raped numerous times by someone I felt obliged to. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t love him. I didn’t want him to force himself on me anyway.
“Yes, reporting rape will ruin your relationship with that person. But they ruined that relationship the second they chose their own wants over your consent.”
— 20, Female, Canada (Alberta).