I arrived in this new city alone, excited to start a new life and meet people from all over the world in my international school program. I arrived in the city without being able of speaking a word of English. I jumped into the situation, believing I'd learn it quickly.

Among other students, I met a guy who'd also arrived a few days before who started attending my class. This is an art school so each student has his or her own studio in a building in town. He was ten years older and very friendly. I felt safe in his company, so we started hanging out. I considered him a friend and even told him about my boyfriend.

I trusted him, so when it happened, I didn't react.

We had sex in his studio.

I remember something inside me changed. Some part of me died that night. I remember the very first moment he kissed me I was disgusted but unable to react. I was immobilized. I was terrified of being alone with him. I heard my own voice saying "NO" suffocated inside me. I didn't believe this was happening; I couldn't believe I was unable to do anything about it.

We had unprotected sex for three nights. As soon as I was able to understand what was happening, I stopped it.

I spent the following months taking tests, living with the fear of being sick. Fearing of dying from HIV. Fear of transmitting it to my boyfriend, my love. Fear that if my boyfriend discovered I did such a thing he'd break up with me. I took complete responsibility for the act because I felt was my fault as I was not able to protect myself or escape. I did not want to lose my boyfriend.

Telling him about being violated would have been a shame. I have always been a strong woman. I failed at being a strong woman, I've seen myself totally helpless, I brought shame to myself, I let a strange man touch me out of fear. I have never experienced such a feeling before.

Actually I have - my reaction was the same when my father beat me. He beat me from the time I was a small child until I was fifteen. My reaction was to feel immobilized by terror while letting things happen. Then, I told myself as a child, the pain goes away - it is nothing, I don't have to cry. This is what I was telling to myself, to keep calm and not lose control of the situation.

I was afraid of dying of some sexual illness and transmitting this disease to my loved ones. I couldn't talk with anyone about this so I started lying and lying and lying and hiding. The shame of calling this a rape was - and is - too strong to even talk about it with anyone I know. Being violated is something my personality can't accept. I kept this event hidden to all. And I had fear, of death, of being left alone, of people seeing me as a weak, easy, incapable, thoughtless woman.

I've seen this guy doing the same to other women and I felt totally humiliated. I was nothing. Living abroad, I could not speak the language, I had no friends as I was new and alone in this place. This guy was the first person I trusted.

How could I ever trust anyone else? How could I ever trust myself?

With time, desperation became anger. I was pushed to re-enact the situation - I wanted to provoke the situation. I was overcome by a deep hatred toward men. I wanted revenge. I was blind with anger; I couldn't even admit it to myself.

That's what my heart felt (and still feels!). A new friend betrayed me (the rapist), my boyfriend betrayed me (he was not enough to protect me), my father betrayed me (his words were not enough to protect me, with his abuses he taught me not to reach), I betrayed myself because I was not able to protect myself.

I had to find control. I had to hurt someone. So I took a guy with the intention of manipulating him. We had sex. I called it betrayal. I talked to my boyfriend about it. Betrayal is something I couldn't accept either, but I needed to tell to my boyfriend so I felt in control again.

I ended up hurt again - he was an abuser. Ironically, he was also the best friend of my abuser. I betrayed myself again: I fell in love with him. He began abusing me sexually and emotionally. I could not escape this time because I was emotionally chained to him. He confessed that he wanted a relationship with the girl my abuser went to after me. This idea was killing me and distorted my thoughts. So that it became more important to please my abuser to avoid feeling the pain of being dumped.

I could stop myself - I had to please my abuser in order to feel all right, to calm my anxiety. My self-esteem was destroyed day-by-day. I was nothing, nothing for myself. I was living only for this - nothing else mattered. I felt I'd completely lost contact with reality, with future and past, memories, and other relations. I was in total denial, I believed one day it could work, I was living to be the perfect mate of my abuser. One day he explicitly told me he was abusive in our relationship. I didn't want to believe it. I could do nothing about it.

With time the emotional pain and guilt was driving me mad. I tried to stop the abusive relationship. I wanted to have a healthy relation with my boyfriend, who never wanted to know more about what was happening - he was living in another city very far away. I moved there.

My abuser sent emails every day telling me what he was doing, asking for details about how I was doing. He was controlling me. I believed that by letting him doing so, by giving him what he wanted, he would let me live in peace.

How paradoxical is this? I let him abuse me, and I do what he wants, so he leaves me alone?

I was afraid he'd tell to my boyfriend that the relationship was continuing, so I'd keep giving my abuser what he wanted to reduce his anxieties or anger. I was in total terror.

It's been three years and the situation is still going on. I'm totally confused and don't know how to get over it. I changed countries and hope life will separate us. I don't know how much or if I ever loved him. He tells me he loves me, that I should live with him, he apologizes for his behavior. I am so happy he loves me, but how could I spend my life with an abuser? I feel it will come back; I want to run away.

I want to find the courage to rebuild my self-esteem and live a healthy life. I deserve love. I want to be the strong woman I am inside. Now I fight everyday with social anxieties - for work and to be successful, I need good social skills.

I have to take back what was taken away from me.

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