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Healing from sexual violence starts with a story

By Lara Loewenstein

May 23, 2007 9:49 p.m.

Nina is a fourth-year art history and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student, pre-med, Indian and a survivor of sexual violence.

Nina (not her real name) said she was date-raped during the summer after her freshman year by an ex-boyfriend. In the years since, she’s been on an emotional roller coaster trying to understand what happened to her in order to heal.

Nina’s story begins during her senior year of high school when she started dating a guy.

“He was perfect ““ good looking, smart, a full ride to college, everything,” she said.

However, after they began to attend separate colleges across the country, he started to become verbally and then physically abusive, especially when he was drunk.

“He would abuse me and then ask, “˜Why do you make me do this to you?’ … I don’t know why, but in my heart I believed him,” Nina said. Eventually Nina realized it wasn’t her fault and broke off the relationship.

A few months later, he called her and apologized for his actions and asked if they could drive together to a party at a friend’s house. Nina agreed on the condition that he wouldn’t drink while he was around her. He agreed.

They arrived at the party and went their separate ways. However, an hour and a half later he found her again ““ and he was drunk. He asked Nina to take care of him, so she went and sat with him in a room in case he got sick. It was there that he raped her.

“I tried to push him off and said no. And his only response was to somewhat choke me and become more aggressive,” Nina said. “I told him “˜You have to get off,’ and then he was the one to say “˜No.'”

“He was really intoxicated ““ he couldn’t finish ““ and he urinated inside of me and passed out on top of me,” Nina said.

After he was passed out Nina described how she just froze, not knowing how to deal with what had just happened.

“Ten minutes later I pushed him off and curled up in a ball and stayed there until morning,” Nina said.

The next morning she cleaned up the mess.

“At this point I didn’t even think it was rape. I was just worried about the mess in my friend’s house,” she said.

Then she drove him home. When she dropped him off she asked him, “Do you remember what happened last night?” He said he didn’t.

It took her about nine months even to talk about what had happened. She eventually told her parents and filed a police report. The responses weren’t always supportive.

During the initial hearing, she said that they asked completely irrelevant questions, such as how many people she had slept with and how he had managed to take off her pants.

However, she said that the case eventually didn’t move forward because there wasn’t enough physical evidence.

Beyond how people treated her, being raped changed how Nina treated other people.

“I don’t trust people, and I don’t do anything alone,” she said.

Nina also said it has especially affected her romantic relationships.

“I can have physical relationships and emotional relationships with guys, but until recently I couldn’t have both,” she said. “I still don’t know if I really can.”

After her rape, Nina went through a period of more promiscuous sexual activity than in her past.

“I wanted to sleep with every decent guy, and I did,” she said.

While she explained that other survivors she’d met had avoided sexual contact after their experience, she had wanted more in an attempt to lessen the influence of the rape.

But time has been a healing agent.

“I still think about it every day, but it’s not in the forefront of my mind anymore,” she said. “In telling my own story, I’ve met so many other people that are also survivors. It blew my mind how many there were.”

The UCLA Clothesline Project, a student group that informs students about sexual violence, is one of the places where Nina knows that she is welcome to simply be herself.

“It gave me a place where I didn’t have to out myself, but I was treated like a person and not a victim,” she said.

Beyond influencing her personal life, Nina’s experience has affected her life goals. Now she wants to go into women’s health and continue working for activism groups to help other women heal.

But at this moment, as the year ends, Nina is worried about midterms, graduating, and getting into medical school.

E-mail Loewenstein at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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