Sexual assault contributes to depression

Editor’s note: This series portrays one woman’s personal experience of depression, with a bit of advice thrown in.

Illustration by Isabel Cardenas
Story by Liza Porter

I’m going to talk about a difficult subject.

Rape.

Better to just say it out loud than tip-toe around it. Which is what I’ve been doing for too many years.

I’m pretty sure I can say that being raped contributed to the depression of my teenaged years and beyond. I know that not dealing with it did.

I interviewed a staff member at the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (see story below) and learned that many sexual assault victims aren’t ready to get emotional help for six or seven years after they have been raped.

They go on with their lives as best they can. They survive it.

Survivor. That’s a better word than victim.

And I am one. I am a survivor.

But it’s been a lot longer than seven years since it happened. More like 30.

I didn’t even realize it was rape. There was no such term as acquaintance or date rape back then. Out of ignorance, I thought it wasn’t rape because I knew the guy.

I thought because I was drunk, it was my fault. In my habitual self-destructive way, I chalked it up to me getting what I deserved.

And because I blamed myself, I didn’t tell anyone about it.

No one.

I hadn’t even told my husband of 23 years about the rape until the topic came up for the investigative reporting I’m doing for the Aztec Press and for this column.

It’s about time he knew. But more than that, it’s about time I dealt with it.

I was 17. Joe was a high school acquaintance who came to a party my sister and I put on one Friday night. A big pot of spaghetti and a gallon of Gallo wine. And probably several bottles of cheap whiskey.

I got drunk, as usual. Joe and I flirted all evening.

After everyone left, my sister and her boyfriend went to bed. Joe and I made out on the living room floor, and he raped me. He got up, pulled up his pants, tucked in his shirt and walked out the door.

For decades, I didn’t remember struggling under him on the floor. I didn’t remember the helplessness and pain. I didn’t remember the blood stain on the carpet.

The SACASA Web site says 73 percent of female victims are raped or sexually assaulted by people they know.

An American Association of University Women research study on sexual assault found that 20 to 25 percent of women will be raped or experience attempted rape during their college career.

If you have been raped, don’t wait as long as I did before dealing with it.

You don’t have to keep it a secret. There is help.

Tell someone, but only someone safe. Watch the video on the SACASA Web site: http://www.sacasa.org/aboutus.htm. Call them when you’re ready.

I’m dealing with my rape now. It’s worth the pain.

Center helps sexual assault survivors

Next: Talking back to the “fat” voice.
Depression: Don’t Listen to the Big ‘D’
Talking back to the big ‘D’

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