What kind of trauma would lead a woman to ask her rapist to spend the night with her after getting raped? Aspen Matis, now 25, did just that when she was raped on the second night of her college. “Afterward I asked him if he wanted to stay. To sleep over. Because I desperately wanted to think I had wanted this, to feel that everything was fine,” she wrote in 2012 The New York Times article.

A few weeks later, she filed a complaint with college’s sexual assault committee but they wanted the matter to be “buried”. Matis packed her bags and left to walk 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, essentially to be away from what had just happened. Be alone. To “heal”.

“On my second night of college, I was raped. Shattered and alone, I fled to the Mexican border and headed north through 2,650 miles of desert and mountains to Canada, walking the height of America in search of home,” reads the cover of Aspen Matis’s memoir “Girl in the Woods” which came out in September and has received widespread acclaim.

The memoir mentions the incident that lead to her expedition and after reading the article and her memoir, she found that asking the rapist to stay or keeping in touch is a very common reaction.

“Turns out that it’s actually an incredibly common reaction to want the boy who raped you to treat you well after, as if you could retroactively correct it, because to call a rape a rape—to name it what it is—is to acknowledge that something terrible has happened, that your life is forever changed, and that’s a really terrifying thing to do. It makes the most sense in the aftermath of a trauma to try to carry on as if it never happened, as if you could—and then you realize that you can’t,” she told Broadly.

What lead Matis to take the hiking trip was also her close ones’ reaction to the incident. They all wanted her to forget about it, not speak up and “move on”. Hailing from a protective background, Matis was disappointed with her family’s reaction.

 “It’s really hard for my mom to acknowledge that she might’ve done something that hurt me because she loves me so much,” she told the reporter.

The reason she penned down the memoir, apart from a cathartic experience, was to raise money for Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a nonprofit organization committed to help rape victims. She has even set up a page on her website for fundraising. Broadly reports that five per cent of Matis’ earnings from Girl in the Woods will go to RAINN.


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