Monica was a junior at the University of Virginia majoring in political science. She was athletic, ambitious and diligent. A straight A student, she was active in school activities, and worked out daily. People liked her. She was cheerful and greeted people like they were her best friend who she hadn’t seen in weeks. 

One day she was walking on the quad and a very cute guy winked at her as he passed her. The next day, she saw the guy at the same place with the same wink, only this time he added a cheerful smile. That night she took a break from her studies and went to the student hall for a snack. As she paid at the cash register, there was the guy again, this time behind her. 

He introduced himself as Alejandro, but to call him Alex. He was a 1st year law student with a specialty in immigration law. Many of his relatives from Cuba had experienced entanglements over immigration, which gave him an interest in this field. He spoke with such a passion for his desire to help that Monica hadn’t heard from most other guys her age. She found it refreshing and his desire to contribute to the world was very attractive to her.

Alex asked her out that weekend. On their first date, they laughed and spoke about local and international political issues. She found him sexy. He was tall, dark and, well, handsome. At the end of the date, he gave her a respectful kiss on the cheek and asked her to study with him the next day. That was the start of their relationship.

A few weeks into the relationship, she told her mother about Alex. Her mother was a very perceptive person. The mother said, “you’re not going to like what I have to say, but I’m sensing something is a bit off with him.” Infuriated, Monica slammed down the phone, but could her mother be right?

Thanksgiving break came and they both returned to their respective homes: Alex to Miami and Monica to Connecticut. When they returned from break, Alex seemed distant. Gradually, though, he returned to his fun-loving, although intense self. Then winter break came, and again they went their respective ways. Once again when they returned, Alex was distant and gradually warmed to Monica.

Monica thought this behavior was odd, and questioned Alex about it. He laughed it off and said she must be imagining it, but the same pattern ensued after spring break. That summer, Alex had an internship with the Department of Immigration in Miami while Monica worked for an investment bank in New York. They spoke almost every day. Alex was set to do an internship with the Catholic Relief Service in the Philippines during the fall semester and was leaving from UVA. Monica wanted to see him before he left, so she made up an excuse to her parents why she had to return to school earlier than expected.  

When she saw Alex, he was very distant. They went out at night to a local bar and he started to drink. She had never seen him drink before. At first she thought it was normal for a guy to drink, but became nervous when he started to chug beers. Monica said, “Alex, let’s leave,” as she took out her wallet to pay. He slurred, “Get your dirty money out of here. “Alex may have been distant in the past, but he had never acted disrespectfully. 

Monica told him through tears that she was going home and that he had to go to his own apartment. Instead, he kept following her. She went into her apartment and he forced himself in. She ran to her room and locked the door, but he kicked it open. He proceeded to force himself on her. She screamed, but the campus was still empty and no one heard.

Alex passed out cold while Monica lay in a puddle of tears. Early the next morning, Alex fled her apartment, but accidentally left his wallet behind. Monica found a card in the wallet with the name of Alex’s priest. Monica called the priest and said, “please tell me about Alex.” The priest responded, “stay away from him. He shouldn’t be with a woman right now.” Monica pleaded, “I need to know. He just raped me. I deserve to know.”

The priest told her that Alex was an alcoholic. When he came home to Miami, he binge drank, and when he drank, ugly things happened. Monica wasn’t a drinker and Alex had felt safe with her.

When Alex came back to the apartment for his wallet later that morning, he said to Monica in a remorseful tone, “I don’t know what I’ve done. I know it was bad. I believe I’m an alcoholic. Will you go to AA with me?”

Monica hadn’t known alcoholism until that time and wanted to learn so she agreed. While Alex attended an AA session, she went to Al-Anon, which is for people associated with alcoholics. She learned how easy it was to become an alcoholic and how prevalent it was.

Alex soon left for the Philippines and Monica was in a miserable state of mind. She didn’t want to tell anyone about the experience; yet, she knew she should. She grew distant from her room mates and that once bubbly smile disappeared from her lips. 

Monica made every attempt to tuck the experience away, but it wouldn’t leave her. She dated the wrong men and berated herself for perpetuating a pattern she knew wasn’t healthy. Finally, in her mid-20s, she sought help from a therapist, who helped her talk though and lean into the experience. Gradually, she learned about the importance of forgiveness; that it wasn’t about condoning Alex, but about alleviating the burden she was carrying in her heart. 

She started to meditate each day and allowed all the pain from the rape to arise. At first it was excruciating, and slowly the pain extracated itself from her heart. 

Then one day well into her late 20s, she received a call from Alex. He said to her, “Monica, I know I did something terrible to you. I still don’t know exactly what it was, but it has plagued me all these years. I needed to call you to tell you how sorry I am. I have been sober since the night I violated you. I know I hurt someone very dear to me and I can’t move on with my life fully until I apologize. 

Monica had done so much self-care that she was able to accept this apology. She wanted to relinquish the remnants of that horrid night and the only way would be to forgive Alex fully. They spoke for about an hour. Monica spilled out everything to him and he empathically listened. She hung up feeling purged.

Alex went on to become a highly successful immigration attorney. Monica married a wonderful man who perhaps she wouldn’t have married if she hadn’t suffered so much. The rape made her realize what type of man she wanted to marry and to appreciate nice men. She learned that the thrill in the relationship comes from the shared experiences, not from the drama. For that, she was grateful to Alex.