by Rami/Manar Balh
Trigger Warnings: This content includes topics such as suicidal ideations, rape, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and eating disorders. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please call:
You are not alone.
Art by Sarah Ahmed
My name is Rami/Manar Balh and this is my story.
“Mom and Dad are under investigation from the police, and dad wants to kick me out.”
The day of the horrific event, that would continue to define me for months, began with news from my younger brother. Upon hearing my brother’s cry for help, I did what any overwhelmed young college student does in moments of crisis. Or at least what I think. I repressed my worries and began drinking at 1 in the afternoon.
I had been looking forward to that day for a while since it was the night of Junior Ring. A night of entirely too intoxicated young adults dressed in formal attire dancing way past midnight. I wanted to enjoy the night without the burden of my family three hours away. So I drank until I was barely conscious, until I was wholly able to forget the woes of my family and just, for once, allow myself to have a good time. And perhaps that was selfish. Perhaps I should have stayed in that night and left the bottles of wine unopened. That day was filled with mistake after mistake, and the very last event of the night was the tipping point of a spiral into depression.
I was raped.
We danced together clumsily, he lifted my skirt at the party and made a show of my panties and frankly, I was too drunk to care. He took me back to the dorms; by then I had realized I did not want this, I was too intoxicated and I did not want him. I told him as such and he seemed to understand, so he walked me back to my dorm. And then proceed to zip down his pants and force me to the ground in the hallway.
“Just kiss the tip, I won’t leave until you kiss the tip.”
So I did, because I didn’t think I had a choice. He grabbed my hair and forced my mouth all the way down, and I do not think I will ever forget just how violated and worthless I felt at that exact moment.
He left me as soon as he finished. I was tired and unable to process what had just happened, so I slept as if nothing happened. And awoke in a hungover haze, with the full weight of what went down that night crashing upon me.
I was raped.
That night ruined me, the shame I felt ruined me at my core. I was broken and hopeless. It was a violation of my body and mind that threw away all notions of control I thought I had.
“It was a violation of my body and mind that threw away all notions of control I thought I had.”
Suddenly, memories of sexual trauma in my childhood that I had endured, compartmentalized and nearly forgotten resurfaced. Two years of sexual abuse I had deeply repressed in my mind came back all at once. It is nearly impossible to fully process and unpack trauma while it’s facing another trauma itself. If I had let myself fully feel all the emotions that overcame me when a family member had molested me for two years, I would have killed myself at the age of 15. For years, I never once thought about what that man had forced me to do in my adolescence. But all it takes is one painful night for the memories to come crashing down on you; to have such clear cut visions, aggressively recurring flashbacks, ruin me.
In my core, I began to internalize the notion that all I’m good for is sex. I’m beginning to realize I have very warped views on sex and my own self worth. Two years of sexual abuse as a child had evidently shaped me in ways I did not realize until another man put me through the same pain. I’m beginning to realize I have a lot to unpack to a therapist.
Months past and I still couldn’t function the way I did prior to the night of my assault. I had spent my whole life up until this point being the strong black woman who carries herself with the confidence to take on the world, and all of that was falling apart. I was spirling further and further into a depression, I didn’t know how to cope or ask for help. It was getting worse by the minute, and it felt as though I was suffering in silence.
“I had spent my whole life up until this point being the strong black woman who carries herself with the confidence to take on the world, and all of that was falling apart.”
I craved control. I had a desperate need to take back what had been stolen: control over my body. So I developed an eating disorder and took joy in watching my body disappear. It was never about vanity, it was entirely about control. In my absolute worst lows, I enjoyed the feeling of over-eating the most disgusting and delicious food, and the sudden relief of emptiness upon purging the contents of my stomach. There was an exhilaration I felt by actively harming myself in this way, I told myself I deserved it. I deserved the pain, just as I deserved the rape. My own little secret, that I had kept from my loved ones for months.
The reality of eating disorders and depression is that they have a dangerous way of spiraling. What starts off as something that can be controlled begins to control you.
Three months after the assault, all I could think about was suicide.
One day, I found myself at the penthouse of my dorm watching the sun rise in the common lounge. A janitor came and asked me if I was ok, and left as soon as I said yes. Maybe he thought I was trying to kill myself. The truth is, maybe I was. Suicidal ideation became a normality for me as I thought about killing myself everyday. I had it planned out; overdose on Xanax, jump off the roof of my dorm, slit my wrists in the same hallway I was raped. If I am being honest I did not want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. I didn’t see my future any more, and life didn’t feel worth living.
In the span of four months, I had lost twenty pounds and my will to live. Rape ruins you, it does.
All the adults around me were telling me to get hospitalized, so I did because at that point I thought there was no choice.
I don’t know what recovery looks like. I took a leave of absence to get treatment at a mental hospital and I take eight pills a day to numb the anxiety and depression. I am proud of myself for seeking out help instead of giving in to the voice in my head telling me that I am an ‘ugly whore’ whose better off dead. The people I surround myself with love me and support me and I don’t want to lose sight of that.
At this point in my life, I want to recover. I don’t want to be defined by the violence forced upon me, I am a rape victim but I am so much more than that.
“At this point in my life, I want to recover. I don’t want to be defined by the violence forced upon me, I am a rape victim but I am so much more than that.”
Am I proud of the life I’m living at the moment? Not particularly. I’ve been in and out of the mental hospital, the last time being in a psych ward was only a week ago. My boyfriend checks my breath after a meal to make sure I haven’t purged. I have two separate therapists, one specifically at a center for victims of sexual violence. This isn’t the life I imagined for myself, not at all. But if this is what recovery looks like, then I will do whatever it takes for happiness to feel tangible again.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Rami Balh, also goes by Manar, is an Egyptian born 18-year-old writer, poet and artist. Now currently resides in Astoria, Queens where she entertains herself by watching the gentrification in action that is overtaking her neighborhood. She is a sophomore in college and attends Skidmore College. The writings Rami creates for Sorjo are largely personal, often riddled with critiques of society at large. She has an interest with gender and what entails manhood heavily influences her work as well.
Follow her on instagram: @ma.narcissm