Guest post by Ali Guttilla. "Hi I'm Ali. I'm 23 years old and I'm writing about my story and bringing awareness to rape, bullying, "slut" shaming, victim blaming, addiction, and mental illness. Hoping to make a difference!
So many things have happened from the age of twelve years old to twenty-one years old that have shaped who I am, and my thoughts, and gave me the life experience, at twenty-three, not even a woman of eighty-eight could quite comprehend.
These were not fun years—they may have seemed fun and wild to the naked eye—but they weren’t; they were years of darkness and despair, loneliness and anxiety, as my life spiraled out of control and my childhood came to a screeching dead end way too early.
At age twelve, I was put into the “smart class” in junior high school, where I knew no one. Quiet, shy and to myself, everyone had their cliques—no other girls looked like me; I was acne-ridden, skinny, flat-chested, short and had a big nose in the middle of my tiny face to top it off—I was a middle school bully’s dream.
It wasn’t long into seventh grade, the boys in my school began harassing me—calling me ugly, telling me no one would ever go out with a girl as ugly as me—real mean things to bruise the ego.
The next year, one of the biggest bullies—the ringleader—punched me in the back and whispered, “You’re so ugly, I hope you die in a plane crash.”
“Kids can be cruel” is definitely not just a saying, it was my reality for two years.
Then came high school, where I felt much more comfortable at an all-girls high school after my crappy experience with those nasty boys.
I had actually attained a good group of girlfriends; not the outgoing, popular ones, the “goody-goody” ones, but I was glad I had some good friends.
Sophomore year—right after my grandfather died—I began having terrible anxiety attacks in school, and I’d have to leave in the middle of class. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong or what was making me so anxious. My guidance counselor requested a therapist, as the attacks persisted.
Therapist One: Jaime. Jaime was nice, and young, and she helped somewhat with my anxiety throughout the rest of sophomore year.
Junior year was the year of lots of parties, sweet sixteens, boys, SATs and tons of drama. I was actually convinced junior year was going to be the best year of my life—my anxiety had definitely diminished. I had a group of friends I was very close to and I had actually gained some confidence in myself.
I gained so much confidence that I actually messaged the much lusted after boy who rode the bus with me and my friends, all sophomore year. My friend Ryan and the bus boy were in the same band, and he told me that he thought I was cute—cute! Me! A gorgeous boy thought I was cute?
So, on good ‘ol Myspace, I messaged Vinnie, and little did I know that one message would alter every single relationship in my life thereafter.
Vinnie and I actually started dating for a month; he bought me ice cream, took me to the movies, texted me from the morning until he fell asleep—he was my first real kiss, first real make-out, and I even let him finger me in the movie theatre. I definitely wanted to lose my virginity to him—Vinnie, the gorgeous boy on the bus I lusted after for an entire year, who was a drummer in a rock band and read me poetry—seriously, what girl wouldn’t melt? Especially a girl who was used to guys treating her like shit, instead of a real life, beautiful girl.
For the first time ever, I felt wanted. Vinnie made me feel wanted.
I was completely inexperienced. So were all my friends, so they were no help at all. I was basically going off of my womanly instincts, and by that I mean winging it.
I talked the talk with Vinnie, but walking the walk was way different. He’d already done things, done it. And me, well, I barely had boobs at the age of fifteen.
We finally schemed a day after our midterms to rendezvous at his house, while his parents were both working. I thought I was so slick and badass, lying to my parents, going off with some hot, brooding rock ‘n roll drummer. It felt like it was all too good to be true. And it was.
For the special occasion, I bought lingerie, on which the saleslady commented, “I hope that’s for your mother.”
Fast-forward to Vinnie’s bedroom—typical guy room; band posters, dirty laundry, and a bed. I scampered into the bathroom and walked out in my little extra-small black and red lingerie.
Before I could even say anything, I saw a completely new side of Vinnie. He lifted me up and thrashed me onto his bed. He crawled on top of me, and I could feel all of his weight.
I remember being intimidated and trying to just kiss him, but he pinned me down and went at my neck like a vampire thirsty for human blood. He kept on until both sides of my neck were bruised and bloody and sore.
Things were fuzzy and happening so quickly. I remember him pulling down his pants—and bam! This giant, huge THING was right in my face. He nudged me, as in, “Go on, it’s not going to suck itself.”
I froze, but Vinnie didn’t. With force, he pushed my head down—HARD—I could barely breathe and there were tears in my eyes.
I knew I wasn’t doing it right, I didn’t know what I was doing, or being told to do, he kept pushing my head and flopping me around.
He held down my head and while I was still tearing, he took out his phone. “I’m taking a picture to remember, ok?”
How could he?
I wanted to go home and erase this whole day, erase the person he became, but it didn’t stop there. He flipped me around and started fingering—first one, then two. I cried out in pain, it felt sharp and rough. He said, going faster, “If you can’t handle two fingers, you’ll never be able to handle a dick.”
That’s all I remember about that day. My bruised neck that lasted almost two weeks was a reminder of what was done to me, what I thought I wanted.
My “friends” didn’t have much to say to me, especially when a few pictures got out.
Well, you guys were dating. (So it wasn’t rape.)
You said you wanted to do stuff with him. (So it wasn’t rape.)
There’s a picture to prove it. (You’re lying, it wasn’t rape.)
You talked to him first. (So it could never be rape.)
You went to his house on your own, with lingerie, what did you think was going to happen? (So it wasn’t rape.)
I didn’t try to tell anyone else after that, or explain myself.
That wasn’t the first time I came across a guy like Vinnie—I just knew how to handle myself the next time, and the time after that—because I didn’t stop.
Guys heard I was easy, and willing. So they wanted me. And I wanted to feel wanted. Again. More. Only this time, I wanted to know what to do and how to do it. I became more experienced, of course, but I was still being treated like meat.
None of my friends wanted to be associated with me.
A year after everything, I started dating a guy three years older than me. I was seventeen, he was twenty. He drove, he was in college and training to become a cop. I thought I loved him at one point. He showed me love and affection. He introduced me to his parents. We even went away on vacation together.
But the summer before college, I got my graduation gift—yes. I got a much wanted nose job. Being even more comfortable with myself, and growing into my body, I took to college well. I was active and popular and made a lot of friends. I had a lot of guys around, all the time, always flirting. Flirting was what I was best at—being cute and charming and teasing, but not giving. It was just fun.
The summer after freshman year, my best friend at the time, Gabby, had a “friends with benefits” relationship with this hot guy—and when she introduced us, I guess we just clicked.
I knew he wanted me, he showed it, he worshipped the ground I walked on—he thought I was the sun and the moon.
So, I broke up with my first real boyfriend, who in time was always busy, never around and I fell out of love with—if it ever was love—and started going out with this new guy, Nick, who wanted to make me his girlfriend the minute I broke it off with my ex.
Being with Nick ruined my friendship with Gabby, and our group of friends, but I didn’t care that much. I knew Nick cared about me way more than I cared about him. I liked it that way. I was attracted to Nick though, we had sex constantly and he was always telling me how pretty I was.
After a while, Nick got jealous and controlling over anyone in my life—guys, girls, even family. He was so protective and controlling, I felt my anxiety come back—with something else, OCD.
I had obsessive thoughts about brutal violence and rape and sex 24/7, I could not even hear myself think or read without these images slamming into my brain. My only escape was sleep. I began to feel suicidal and depressed—I slept and cried all of the time.
My parents took me to a psychologist who put me on medication for depression, OCD, and anxiety. I was numb and my OCD stuck. I broke up with Nick the summer before I turned twenty. He was crushed, and I felt like a load was lifted off of my shoulders. He caused me a mental breakdown and I didn’t care less about him being upset—I cared about sex, and guys, and lots of sex with lots of guys.
I was at a point in my life where I felt sexy, and I knew guys wanted me—it was time to take back my power.
So, I did.
The day after Nick and I broke up, I started an on-again-off-again relationship with the town "bad boy" and druggie, Tony. I started getting together with an older frat guy, and all of his friends. When school started, I was in the elevators, the stairwell, even the library with someone new each day.
I couldn’t even focus on school anymore. My depression, anxiety, and obsessive thoughts were always lurking inside of me—unless I was having sex. So that’s what I did—all the time. It was the best drug out there, and it wasn’t addicting, right?
Sex was an instant painkiller, it numbed everything—I felt completely drunk while I was having sex, and then after, I could barely remember. All I knew was that the pain was numbed for a while.
I began smoking a lot of weed, mixing it with my medication and sedatives and alcohol, to numb things even more. I didn’t want to feel pain anymore and I didn’t want my mind to be flooded with bad memories, so I numbed myself until I couldn’t remember anything.
I did everything a “bad girl” would do. Or, as I was referred to more commonly, a “slut,” “whore,” or “skank”. I didn’t care what other people were saying. I didn’t care how worried my family was. I just wanted to party, smoke, drink, have sex and sleep until 3 pm.
I met guys in school. I met guys in my neighborhood. On the bus. On websites. I even began doing some risqué tattoo modeling, which got me even more attention. I was very open with my body, not in a body positivity way, in a way in which I allowed myself to be used, with the mindset that I was using THEM.
How wrong I was.
I even had an affair with my professor in school, shortly before I dropped out. To me, everyone was so attainable. And I loved it. I loved the hold that I could have on men. I loved that I was aware of my sex appeal—I loved that I was the exact opposite of the bullied middle schooler that everyone called ugly, the exact opposite of Vinnie’s chew toy. This time, I felt in charge. I called the shots.
I sent naked photos to anyone, and everyone, with no thought of consequence. It seemed like I was a stupid girl. A “slutty”, “trashy” girl. A party girl. Casual. Uncaring.
I was labeled many things. And I was none of them. I was hurt, misunderstood, mixed up, poisoned, full of broken dreams and stolen innocence. In many ways, I was still that twelve-year-old being called ugly every day.
I still saw myself in Vinnie’s bed. Helpless.
My friends not caring.
I got arrested for shoplifting. I was out of control, lost, someone no one recognized or wanted to be around, unless they were getting something from it.
My parents took me to a new therapist and a new psychiatrist while I was in between court dates (and boyfriends). I didn’t think I had problems. I was a “free spirit” I tried to explain to everyone. The denial was strong in me. So was the anger underneath everything. And underneath that, sadness and loneliness.
I began dating a drug dealer and heroin addict that I met at a CVS while buying cigarettes. I immediately jumped into a relationship with him for a few reasons:
a) He had his own house.
b) Free weed.
c) I thought maybe having a boyfriend would be good for me and stop everyone from worrying.
I was wrong. Again.
The first three months, things were awesome. He bought me gifts and showed me affection. I was completely happy and smitten.
Then, while he was away on vacation something happened. I was hanging out with my friend Josh at the time, and his brother I’d never met. Josh left for an interview and would be back in an hour so I stayed.
His brother, who was really cute, began talking to me and we started watching a movie. We tickled and flirted and play wrestled. Then he started kissing me. Taken aback, I pushed him away. He got on top of me and started fingering me. I tried to pull his hand away. I was high out of my mind, feeling dizzy and weak.
He hushed me.
You know you want this.
As I felt him inside of me, he said, "I haven’t had sex in six months. I’m sorry. Don’t tell anyone."
I ran to the bathroom, cried, washed up, and then left. I tried to brush it off, like it was a typical occurrence. I thought to myself I pretty much was asking for it. I flirted. I thought he was cute. I enticed him. I got high. I wanted it.
I am, after all, a slut.
After the “incident” with Josh’s brother, I broke my faithful streak and began cheating. I had no fear of being caught. My boyfriend was always high with his friends, or out selling. The only time he wanted me was for sex. What else was new?
Word got around about me even more. Pictures were posted on anonymous websites with titles like “The Sluttiest Girls in Town.”And under the title I saw multiple pictures of myself and other girls. Naked and posing.
My caption read: "This Girl is Such a Whore! I bet there are millions of photos of her floating around. Please post more."
I hated myself. I hated my ugly face and stupid, used up body. I started thinking about suicide again. It sounded as nice as being sedated. During my “relationship” with my druggie boyfriend, an old almost-flame came back into my life.
We had dated a few years back, when I was single but not too wild. We began hanging out regularly, then every day. He became my best friend, and my safe haven.
There was something about him I always liked—he never saw me as a slut. He never treated me like a piece of meat. To me, this was insane, finding a guy like him, but in reality, it’s how I—and every woman—should be treated; with respect.
Rich knew all my secrets and fears; opening up to him scared me, but in a good way. He was always gentle, and sweet, and funny and sarcastic and thoughtful. I knew when I fell in love with him—everything was perfect with him—and not just sexually and physically. He listened. He understood. He saw me—actually saw me for the person I was, not the person that the pain created.
Sometimes, all someone needs is to be truly seen and understood.
I broke it off with my druggie boyfriend and moved back in with my parents. I also began therapy and taking my medications seriously. I had a therapist I loved, Victoria.
She diagnosed me with something called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), also called Emotional Dysregulation Disorder. For those of you who don’t know (because I didn’t), Borderline Personality Disorder is described as “a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, relationships, and behavior.”
People with BPD have:
People with BPD also have already had things such as high anxiety, depression, or problems with substance abuse. Adults with BPD are often the victims of rape. This also causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was often misdiagnosed (as BPD can easily be misdiagnosed) and given the wrong medications.
I was also considered to be, as you could have guessed, a sex addict due to PTSD. Some people still don’t believe it’s an addiction, or think it’s a silly addiction, but it’s as real as alcoholism and heroin addiction.
Something you need constantly to take away the pain, no matter if you are hurting yourself and others.
I was not a slut. Or a whore.
Fuck those words. Those words shouldn’t exist.
I was a victim of bullying, rape, and "slut" shaming, made to believe I wanted and deserved these things. I had (and still cope with) a serious mental illness. Mental illnesses are as real as cancer.
It took me a long time to tell this story—lots of group therapy, one-on-one therapy, re-building a relationship with my family and entering a new, healthy relationship with my now year-long relationship with Rich to realize I was never a bad person, never those nasty things people called me.
I never deserved to be exploited—no woman deserves to be blamed for what was done to her.
No woman deserves to be called a “slut” for having sex—whether it’s three guys, thirty, or three hundred, as long as it’s consensual.
No means no. Pushing a guy away means no. Crying means no.
It doesn’t matter if you flirted with him, made him angry, said you wanted to have sex and then changed your mind.
No means no. Period.
Posting nudes as a source of revenge and punishment for having sex is "slut" shaming and cyber-bullying and sexual harassment. It’s not funny, or cool, or sexy. It’s a real issue that has hurt many women.
I learned how horrible people can be—people you trust and your own friends, but I also know there are people out there who have similar stories and people who want to help you.
I wanted to help and I wanted to be able to share my story. I wanted to be able to say after everything, I am doing well. I worked full-time as a nanny for a year. I am back in school, doing very well. I have been in a healthy relationship with Rich for a year so far. I am close again with my parents. I am sober. I still go to therapy once a month (and it’s mostly good stuff).
Things DO get better. Even if it means having to rebuild what some people broke down. Never be afraid to reach out, or tell your story; there’s going to be someone who needs as much help as you did and just needs someone to turn to who will listen and understand.
Never be ashamed to go to therapy. Never be ashamed to do anything that is helping you. Never be ashamed to speak up when you have been wronged or violated.
You’re beautiful. You’re strong. You’re worthy. You’re powerful.