Monica's Story

“This event is not my identity. I am the person who defines who I am.”

Monica Calzada was intoxicated when she left a college party with her ex-boyfriend’s best friend. She was familiar with the man and had spent time with him often since starting college. At the time she was happy to accept the ride. “It turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life.”

Monica discusses challenges of surviving sexual assault in collegeOn the way home Monica fell in and out of consciousness, her memory hazy. She remembers waking up against a car with her underwear around her ankles. She remembers being in pain, crying, and asking him to stop. She remembers her roommate coming into the bathroom later that night asking if she was okay. There was blood on her clothes; she was virgin.

“I saw him the next day,” remembers Monica, “and I asked him what happened. He denied even driving me home.”

Monica tried to move past the cloudy memories of that night and dive into her studies in environmental issues—she had dreams of becoming an environmental lawyer—but it was more challenging than she hoped. Her grades started to slip, she had trouble concentrating, and she began drinking to numb the pain. “He was my ex’s best friend, so he hung out with our group. I was constantly around him. It was so uncomfortable knowing something bad happened to me but that he wasn’t taking accountability,” she said. Eventually, Monica decided to withdraw from school and move back home.

 

It was difficult for Monica to come to terms with what happened to her. “The only reference I had to rape [20 years ago] was movies that showed violent attacks with an unknown perp who had a gun or a knife,” said Monica. “Rape wasn’t talked about at college. It was a foreign thing that happened to someone else in a bad city or different country.”

The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and during the college years, students often live, study, and work in tight-knit environments. These close quarters, both physical and social, can present unique challenges for survivors coming to terms with what happened. It can be even more challenging when the perpetrator is a friend or part of a defined social circle. “Your mind can’t wrap itself around the fact that someone you trust violated you so deeply,” said Monica.

In the years that followed, Monica struggled with alcohol use and intimacy. “For two years, if a man would hug me, my skin would crawl,” she said. “To be intimate with partners I had to have alcohol. I would sometimes just sleep with them out of my own fear that if I didn't...they might rape me too.”

She spent time in therapy to manage some of these effects of sexual assault, but it wasn’t until she started telling her story more openly that she began to process and acknowledge what happened. “When I joined the RAINN Speakers Bureau...that was the first time I really talked about what happened to me. I was around people who I knew would support me, honor me, and give me a voice.” Monica has worked with RAINN as part of awareness campaigns and partnered with Profiles of Hope to share her story of survival and recovery. “Every time I tell my story, I get a little more healing out of it,” she says.


If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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