counselor

Survivors Project: R.C. Riley's Story

R.C. Riley was raped by a friend while in college. No charges were filed.

As part of her therapy she began to journal. Those entries became the basis for a one-woman play about her sexual assault experience and healing called "Wrong Way Journey." 

The following is RC’s account in her own words, edited for clarity.

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My sophomore year of college, someone that I knew from high school who I considered to be a friend actually came to my dorm room and ended up sexually assaulting me. 

Literally it just came out of the blue, he just kind of just pushed me onto the bed and held my arms together and ... like pulled down my pants and just pulled down his pants and just like, literally, just did that.

And it wasn’t even a, I don’t know, there wasn’t any thought. There wasn’t time for me to think about what was happening because it all was so strange. It was just really, really strange. And I just, just left. My body, my spirit just left my body. 

I couldn’t do anything to get him off of me and anything that I would have tried to do, in the moment, I felt like it would have caused more harm, like he would have hurt me more or done something else, because you don’t know. If somebody you trust can rape you, what else would they do? I have no idea if he has a weapon or anything. 

And at the time I was thinking, maybe he didn’t know that I didn’t want it because I didn’t say "no." I didn’t say "stop!" - I didn’t say anything. And I didn’t move. 

I didn’t push him off of me – I didn’t give him any indication that I didn’t want it – so then of course it made sense that he assumed that I did want it. 

At least that is what I thought at the time. 

After, you know, some time in therapy and looking back on it, I realized, no, he knew every step of the way, and I believed that he planned it. 

I had gone through a period of time where I was experiencing a lot of dissociations, so I didn’t really feel connected to my body and I would often fantasize about committing suicide, and in my mind, there's no way it could have hurt because I couldn’t feel anything. 

And all I kept thinking is, if I stab myself to death or if I drown myself or something like that, it wouldn’t hurt. I was so detached from my emotions. 

I mean I literally took a bottle of pills, turned up the eyes on the stove and drank a bottle and a half of wine and got into the tub, thinking to myself that something, one of these things is going to get me. So I don’t know either the gas or the pills or the combination or I'ma drown cause I’m going to fall asleep and then drown in the tub. 

And it did not scare me. It did not scare me at all. 

The only thing that I thought about was, "My mother is going to find my naked body and be embarrassed." 

Like that’s how detached I was, that my concern is about my mother being embarrassed because she sees me naked after I have killed myself. 

I think for me, I think I would have committed suicide if I didn’t have therapy. Being in that space with a counselor and her giving me these soothing words and often times really just sitting there and listening to me and not showing me any expression of judgment. 

I never felt like she thought that it was my fault. And I always thought that somebody would say that it was my fault. That I should have known, I should have seen it coming, that I was too naïve that, um, maybe that I deserved it. And, and I never felt that. 

Hearing that you won’t always feel this way from people who I really trusted is the only reason I am here today. 

She also suggested that I journal. 

I ended up having all of these journal entries. So I ended up just drafting these little segments to perform and it ended up becoming a one woman show that I am very proud of. 

["Wrong Way Journey"] is a clear beginning, middle and end. It starts off with my childhood. ... Life before the rape. I was in high school. I loved high school. I was very social. 

And then you slowly get into other relationships. 

And then there is the scene where I actually recreate the scene of the assault. 

And then after that I go through the healing process, some of the struggles. Whenever I would see a guy, if they would wink at me or smile, I just assumed that they were like sizing me up to set me up to rape me. 

I don’t want to share too much about the show, because I want people to come out and see it. But I will say that I end the show with my best relationship. 

I met someone who I loved so much. We loved each other hard. And although the relationship didn’t work out, I don’t regret any moment of that relationship. We loved each other so much. And I was safe 100 percent of the time, and so I end on that note. 

The real heart of the piece is not just survival, but I believe that in the moment people are victims and then we say we become survivors when we get up and walk away from it. 

But I believe that people who walk away from assaults like that are warriors. 

You have to fight. It is a battle every single day, just to wake up, to deal with those memories. 

I want survivors to feel like they are warriors, that they can live healthy lives, that they can have phenomenal relationships, that this does not define who they are. 

It’s not your fault. You did nothing wrong. There’s nothing you could have done differently in that situation. And that no one can tell you what you should have done. 

However you need to heal and however long it takes to heal, that is perfectly fine. There’s no — there’s no right or wrong way to heal. There’s no number on how many months or years it should take. 

If it’s a lifelong process, that’s OK, but you can live and still go through this process. 

I guess I just want people to know that, you are a warrior. And every day that you have to put on that armor, because you are ready for that battle, it’s OK. Because every day that you wake up, you won another battle.

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