I had started hanging out with people that probably weren’t healthy or safe for me.
It took place in a two-family house in the basement.
And everyone was sitting around and smoking and hanging and doing whatever they were doing.
And they slowly started leaving one by one.
I was 13.
And a 21-year-old male that I had been hanging out with raped me.
I was wearing a pair of my sister’s pants, and he ripped them off of me.
I remember what it looked like.
I don’t remember what it felt like, which I’m very happy for.
But I just remember feeling totally numb.
I just remember feeling this is really wrong and this is going to end bad.
He left me on a dirty mattress in this space after I had fallen asleep.
And when I woke up the next morning with no pants on –
I was like, “Oh shit, how am I going to actually show my sister these ripped pants?”
I didn’t understand what had happened, what had actually occurred.
I had received a phone call the following day from a friend of mine.
They were like, “Hey, I heard that you had sex with so and so. I just want to let you know that they’re HIV positive.”
The panic set in.
The day after I got that phone call, I was with a friend.
And he called her, asked her if she had weed or whatever it was –
And I was like, “Oh, can I talk to him?”
And he said to me basically he wanted nothing to do with me, and he can get an easy slut like me any day.
That was when I was like, “Ok, maybe I actually need to talk to an adult.”
I was already seeing a therapist at that time, so I went to her and told her what had happened.
All of these thing started to unfold from doctor visits to therapy to whatever it was: getting tracked, blood work.
I got very interested at a young age in, “What is HIV? Ok, it’s an infectious disease, it’s sexually transmitted disease, what does that mean?”
That kind of also influenced the work I do now.
I continued to be in abusive relationships from that point.
That was the only time I was raped, but I had been sexually assaulted at work by a manager, one time when I was out with friends, and then by another partner.
There was a lot of me crossing way over my comfort zones and my own boundaries to appease a partner.
I was dating alcoholics, people who had done terrible things in their past, people who were living with substance-use disorders…
I don’t say that in a negative light, people living with those disorders.
But what I’m saying is at that time I was doing it because I was thinking, “I can fix them, I can help them.”
Because I wanted to fill that void.
And what was I actually going to do to manage my own healing?
I didn’t ever admit I’d been raped until I was 18 – that was the first time I had said it out loud.
Holy crap, this happened to me.
And I actually need to deal with it.
So that was a huge step for me.
Didn’t really get a lot of support from my family.
I don’t think they really knew how to handle it.
I go through phases when I can be really comfortable sexually, and I can be open –
And then there’s times when I just totally shut down, I can’t deal with it at all.
I’ve always had physical pain.
That pain has never gone away.
I don’t have it 24/7, but I have it certain times – and that’s always a reminder.
It’s obviously triggered by any attempts to be intimate.
I’m married, I have a wonderful partner and I’m not always available intimately.
And that has recently come up in conversation.
I’m trying to get there, but I also can’t rush this process.
I’ve talked with this about other women.
Penetration doesn’t have to be part of being intimate – that’s a huge piece of conversation.
I recently saw my doctor.
They had recommended pelvic floor therapy.
I’m not ready to do that.
Because every time I go to the doctor I’m going to be re-triggered.
“Oh I have to do this because of this person.
Oh I have to pay all these stupid co-pays because of this person.”
The person I’m married to now, Tara, she was actually my older sister’s roommate in Boston.
We got each other through college.
We got married in 2013, and we had this little guy almost a year ago.
She’s been super patient.
Probably more patient than she should have been.
It’s not always about understanding.
I don’t think she’ll never understand what I went through but she was able to park herself aside to just be patient for another person.
I think everybody needs that.
I’m not thankful I went through it, but the experience has completely molded who I am as a person and what I’m able to understand and give back out to the community.
That kind of opened up the world of advocacy and learning and education.
I don’t know would I even be in behavioral health if I hadn’t experienced that.
I’ve done so much self-care, and I’ve grown so much from that self-care.
I started reading Pema Chödrön.
She’s a Buddhist-based writer, public speaker, advocate.
If I hadn’t read her books, I don’t know where I’d be right now.
Some of the bigger things I took from her is to slow down, know that you’re not broken, open your heart to healing.
That made me literally slow down and put some of that anxiety down and deal with the moment, and the next moment, and then the next moment.
And I kind of grew from there.
I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD which was a huge part for me.
We lived in primarily Portuguese and Hispanic neighborhood.
I don’t consider myself racist, but the guy who raped me was Hispanic.
I was like, “This guy is gonna rape me, this guy is gonna rape me, this guy is gonna rape me. You look like just like him, you’re definitely gonna rape me.”
That was a big thing I had to work on in therapy.
I remember the time—
It was 11:30 at night.
I was in between that awake and sleep stage.
And I could have sworn I heard a heard a female yelling on the sidewalk that she was getting raped.
I jumped out of bed – and this was the crazy point of my mental health – and I was like,
“Did you hear that? Did you hear that? Someone is getting raped! We have to call the police.”
That was a lower point.
It’s crazy-making to go through that.
I was never put on a medication.
I was trying to solve it in other ways.
And the therapist I had worked with said she would work with me to see how far I could get in my healing process.
But that was a very personal choice.
It was not easy.
Part of me was like, Lauren, you should have taken those pills.
Because the loss of sleep.
And I had actually developed fibromyalgia just being so sick all the time, emotionally and mentally.
My fibromyalgia is a combination of what they call fibro-fog.
I feel like I’ve taken Nyquil, even though I try to drink like five cups of coffee.
You feel foggy-headed, you have poor memory, you can’t quite develop your thoughts or response – like my response time became slower.
I feel again so thankful that mine hasn’t progress beyond what it has the past few years.
I have worse days than others, but it’s not debilitating to the point where I’m calling out from work or anything like that.
My cheeks ache on the tops, my hands ache, my knees ache, side of my thighs ache.
But the ache is literally on the surface.
Like sometimes it hurts for me to even rub the tops of my hands.
I was triggered by being pregnant.
And that was directly related to the rape.
I had start thinking, “Oh my God. If I have pain just trying to be intimate and I have to give a vaginal birth, what is the pain going to be like? What is my mental health going to be after this?”
But that was a very quick moment of my pregnancy—this nervousness that I had.
You know you’ve been triggered, you’ve done self-care, you know what to do.
And I kind of just took care of that.
And I didn’t ignore it.
Just like any new mom, the first few weeks were horrendous.
I was in love with my baby, and I’m going to go absolutely insane.
And now he is just this cool little human being.
He is just soaking everything up.
And he’s an eating machine.
I think for me it’s more like future-thinking of, “What can I do to have positive, healthy impact on him?”
Not only with being male in this society but being white male in this society.
Not only what that means to him, but what it means to other people, what it means to women, to other men.
Him developing a positive self-sense of his own body, his own boundaries and boundaries to other people.
And what does personal space mean to everybody and all of those things.
That’s what I think about right now, is even at this young of an age, telling him, “Do you want to get a hug?”
If he shakes his head, that’s okay too.
And I hope when I say that in front of other adults they are picking up on that conversation and respecting those boundaries.
Because that’s important that that travels straight into their puberty, being a teenager, being an adult – understanding when someone says, “No,” that friggin’ means no.
You have to cope with this some point.
I’m 32 now.
It happened to me when I was 13.
I’m successful, and I’m happy, and I’m living, and I have a great life.
But that’s always going to be a part of it – and that’s just how it is.