Over the summer, I survived an experience of sexual violence.
That night, I remember washing my face, catching my reflection in the mirror and knowing that I was a fundamentally different person than I had been just two hours before.
It took hours to fall asleep, and once I did, there were nightmares. When I looked out my apartment window, I expected to see his face. Walking down the street, I’d see passing cars that looked like his and feel my heart jump into overdrive.
In ninth grade, my English teacher drew a big circle on the board and labeled it with the parts of a storytelling device known as the “hero’s journey.” It went from the “call to adventure” to the “return,” where the enemy is defeated and the hero has grown from his or her challenges.
What happened to me didn’t build character. There’s a popular narrative in media of an inspiring survivor: someone who survives some trauma and becomes stronger and more resilient as a result. The character has some hard times but overcomes it all in time and go on to do something inspiring.