A Terrifying Experience With a Cab Driver Redefined Sexual Assault for Me

A Terrifying Experience With a Cab Driver Redefined Sexual Assault for Me

Author’s note: This article discusses sexual assault.

Ever since I became an activist who often speaks up for survivors of sexual assault, I thought I completely understood what sexual assault meant, how it looked, and how it often affected survivors. No matter what, though, I knew I would never completely understand. I knew that only those who experienced their situation could understand what they felt and how to process.

What happened to me a few days ago completely changed my view and perspective on sexual assault. Now more than ever, I see each experience as an individual experience. I realize that each person has a different situation, and each person deals with it in a different way. Most of all, though, I realized the whirlwind of emotions survivors feel.

I’ll never forget any of the details: I walked downstairs and called a cab. As I waited in front of my dorm, I could not help but smile with excitement! I was in a new city for the summer, and this was the first weekend I had to myself. I was ready to explore the city, try new things, and meet amazing new people. The optimism and excitement inside of me had never been more present.
As I entered the cab, I immediately greeted the driver with a smile. I asked him how his day was going, and he asked casual questions about my day. We continued to small-talk, until the tone shifted.
It was no longer small talk. He started asking me questions that made me uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, that I wanted to ask him to stop the cab in the middle of the route. I nervously proceeded, however, giving the shortest answers possible. I felt scared to move, as if I couldn’t escape.
My hands continued to shake as I tracked the route on my phone. We were still heading in the right direction, so I convinced myself that I was overreacting.
When we were close to the destination, my cab driver stopped the car a couple blocks away. He put his hand out to shake my hand with a smile.  Completely terrified and ready for this trip to end, I extended my hand out as well. After this quick handshake, I was ready to get out of the car as fast as I could.
When he grabbed my hand, he started pulling me closer and attempting to kiss me. I immediately escaped, and walked to my destination in tears. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
At first, I didn’t know how to classify these actions, who to tell, or how to react. I continued on with my day. I took part in all of the events as planned, working hard to keep a smile on my face.
At my own pace, I decided to open up. I first told my roommates, who even though I had just met them, were completely supportive. They helped me navigate through the situation in the way I felt most comfortable. When I found the courage to report these actions to the cab company and the campus police, the were by my side through the whole process.
Through it all, however, I still didn’t quite understand what happened to me. The day after my police report, I got a call from the campus sexual assault support group. When I heard those words, I froze- did my experiences really qualify as this? Was my situation really that serious? What if I was just overreacting?

For some reason, I started feeling extreme amounts of guilt. I felt like it was something I said, or something I did. I felt like I was overreacting. I hated myself so much that I didn’t want to be who I was. I didn’t want to radiate optimism, friendliness, or positive energy, because in my eyes, those were the exact traits that put me in this situation.

One night, I woke up having a panic attack. I walked into the living room, trying not to wake up my roommates. I collapsed on the ground in tears. I was sad. I was scared. I was confused. Worst of all, though, I didn’t know when or how I would stop feeling that way.

The next day, I decided that I needed to slowly but surely learn to process my experience. It’s okay that I didn’t know how to classify it at the time, because I didn’t need to label it. I just needed to know that each experience of assault and sexual assault is unique. And each experience requires time to heal, get help, and move forward.

Day by day, it started getting easier. I started getting full nights of sleep. I found the courage to be myself. I realized that it was okay to process this situation in my own way, and that it was okay to get help and reach out to those around me.

While writing this article, the memories came back to me. I’m still a little shaken up from the whole experience, but I now realize, that it is completely okay to feel that way. I’m sharing this because I think that if I had read an article like this before my experience, it would have really helped me. It’s important to know sexual assault looks different for everyone, and that each person copes in different ways. And no matter how you cope, it is okay. There is no right answer, and it is important to realize that.

Healing doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that takes time, and it’s important that you go at your own pace.

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