Surviving sexual assault: Adam’s story

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Feeling broken is an emotion Adam* has battled since he was raped eight years ago by a high school acquaintance he reconnected with on Facebook. The woman lived four hours away, and she and Adam started an online dating relationship around the time he underwent spinal surgery.

“I was on Percocet for awhile, and that doesn’t always lead to the best decisions,” Adam said.

As Adam began healing and stopped taking pain medication, his mind became clearer. He realized he’d made a big mistake by starting a relationship with this woman, and he decided he needed to break up with her in person, so he ignored doctor’s orders and made the long drive to visit her.

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Because of his surgery, Adam had to stop every 30 or 45 miles to walk around, and when he arrived at the woman’s workplace, he was already tired and in considerable pain. A group of the woman’s friends had gathered to meet him, and they decided they wanted to take Adam for a hike, which turned out to be a four-hour trek on a hot summer day.

“By the time we were done, I was shaking and in so much pain,” Adam said. “We got in my car, and she drove me to her place.”

When they arrived at her home, Adam collapsed and asked for water, and he remembers her asking him, “Are you going to die?” Then Adam passed out from the pain.

When he woke up, the woman was on top of him. He was naked, and they were having sex. There was also blood everywhere because the woman was on her period, Adam said.

“It was scary,” Adam said. “At first, I thought it was my blood.”

The woman then told Adam, “I marked you. I f&*@#ed you, and you can’t leave me.”

Adam said he drug himself to the bathroom, showered and decided his best plan of action was not to antagonize the woman, so he got back into bed and pretended to fall asleep. The next morning, he got pancakes with the woman to appease her and then left.

“I flew into the first manic cycle I’d ever been in and drove like a madman straight to my ex’s house,” said Adam, who was eventually diagnosed as being bi-polar. “She knew something was wrong, but I didn’t tell her. I stayed with her, and she held my hand all night.”

The rape triggered memories of childhood abuse that Adam had buried. As he was driving back home, he began having flashbacks of brown shag carpet, the smell of that carpet and thoughts of unpleasant things.

“It was like a string you pull, and everything comes unraveled,” Adam said.

Although Adam’s memories are still somewhat scattered, he now believes he was abused between the ages of 4 and 6 by an older man who he thinks was a babysitter. He remembers the man putting a pillow over his head, telling him to hold tightly to the pillow and then swinging Adam into doorjambs. He also remembers the man telling him to hold still while he cut Adam’s wrists.

Once Adam began remembering the childhood trauma, he said he started experiencing a burning sensation whenever anyone touched his skin.

“That is something I deal with still,” Adam said. “I’ve always been shy and shied away from affection, and probably because of all that, it’s progressed.”

Adam has never told his parents about the abuse he suffered as a child because he believes his abuser is probably dead now. He wants to protect his mom and dad from the pain of knowing they left him with someone who hurt him.

Adam said he has forgiven his abusers, but he still struggles with the trauma he experienced as a child and as an adult.

“I don’t think it’s a forever thing,” Adam said. “Being vulnerable is an important part of being human, and it’s hard to do that after someone has taken advantage of your vulnerability. But I don’t feel broken like I used to. I hope more than I used to, and that’s not something broken things do, I think.”

Adam also believes healing is possible.

“I think humans are fascinating creatures because we have the ability, to an extent, to heal ourselves with stories that bring us hope and comfort,” Adam said. “I started telling myself that maybe I’m not broken, and I began believing better stories — ones where I’m more capable of doing things than I tend to give myself credit for.”

*Adam is not this survivor’s real name. He has chosen to remain anonymous to protect himself and members of his family.

To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.

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