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“SAAM Says” is a collection of narratives by sexual assault survivors and victim advocates being published during MIT Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is the first of four pieces in the series.

He hurt me so badly that I couldn’t bear the feeling of my own hands. My own hands touching my face, my skin. He had tarnished them. Soiled them because all I imagined were his prickly, aggressive, unloving hands.

He was not a stranger. He was not a monster. He was my friend. Someone I thought highly of, trusted and adored. My exasperation and fury ebbed and flowed. I agonized over whether to report him to the MIT Committee on Discipline or the police. As if I needed more agony.

He texted me “Happy birthday!” He didn’t realize that we weren’t on speaking terms. He, in fact, wanted to grab dinner. What did I want? To grab his neck for throwing me into a spiral of anxiety, fear, and unrelenting pain. I met with him in person. While our eyes were locked, his face bore the most pathetic expression. He seemed remorseful.

I reasoned that friends forgive. My friends were my world. I couldn’t just blast Antarctica off the face of the Earth. I could forgive him. I could fix him. And I could forgive and fix myself.

I wrote him letters. He needed to know how I was feeling — my pain, confusion, and most importantly, my willingness to fix our friendship. I would brave the stairs to the fifth floor of his dorm and tiptoe down the hallway. Like a ninja, I slid my letters under his door. Then it was time to run. Fast. Real fast. Turbo, super-charged, all cylinders, “woosh.” I couldn’t see him. Not yet.

When I fixed us, I would be able to shut my eyes and not scream silently in fear. And I would be able to smile. I had to fix us.

I wrote him this letter ten days after he assaulted me. I never gave it to him. It’s pretty pathetic.

I felt a lot better today. I barely thought about it and you all day. When I did think about you, I really wanted to see you. I wanted to text you to see if you were in your room, then come up and talk for an hour like we usually do. But I’m not ready for that yet. And we still haven’t figured out what to do next. What’s the best way to help you. I don’t know how you’re feeling. I have a lot of people to talk to about how I’m feeling. Too many sometimes. It’s helping me feel more removed so I can move on. If you need someone to talk to, VPR is a good place. Or mental health. They’re both confidential. Maybe you don’t need them. I’m sorry to assume. One person I talked to asked me, “why are you protecting him?” She thought I cared too much about how this would affect you. Maybe because I just really hope it has affected you. Not because I want you to feel as horrible as I have sometimes; it’s not from a place of revenge. But remorse is a step towards doing better next time. I just want to know that you do care. That we are friends. I’ve lost some friends over this. I just saw how flimsy our friendship was and that they really didn’t care. I liked our friendship. I really liked you. I tried to let you know that. But not in a romantic way. I’m not sure why that was so hard for you, not to understand, but not to act on. Any guy I’m “romantic’ with, I stop talking to eventually. I didn’t want that to happen. But maybe now it has anyways. I’m still not sure. It matters what you want and how you’re feeling, too. And if me writing letters bothers you just text me that. I just want to tell you what I’m thinking. I hate when I don’t know how my friends are feeling. I miss you. I don’t know if that means something is wrong with me. Possibly.

I nearly imploded trying to fix our friendship. My heart was littered with landmines loaded with ugly memories. If I continued my charge, I would have suffocated on the ashes of our remains. So I abandoned him and preserved what remained of my spirit. I never fixed us but I can smile. I’m so happy to smile.

Note: This account has been kept anonymous to protect the identity of the author.