chibimonnie: (Default)
chibimonnie ([personal profile] chibimonnie) wrote2012-03-24 05:19 am

Speaking Out: Sharing My Story

Old anxieties are bubbling up, along with pain, humiliation, anger, and bewilderment. This time seven years ago I was raped by a friend. This year, though, I refuse to let that attack break me again. This year I'm taking all of that pain and turning it into something useful. This year I'm speaking out for my rights and the rights of every woman in this country. It's only March and we've already seen so many attacks on women's health and reproductive rights. Republican lawmakers want to force us to live with the consequences of that attack. They want to take away our choices. They want to turn doctors into rapists. These men who are taking away our choices are oblivious to the prevalence of rape. I wonder if they're even acquainted with the statistics? But, then again, how powerful are statistics really? They're just numbers. What these lawmakers need to see are faces. They need to hear our stories. They need to see that the numbers are true stories. Here's my story. What's yours?

Like an Ice-slick Canadian Road

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. (2)

The trip was perfect. The ride up was a snow blind hell, but totally worth it. We visited the Parliament building and even watched a session for a few minutes. I met his friends and we roamed their favorite haunts. We sat around in our bathrobes and knitted. We drank beer and talked politics. It was exactly what I hoped it would be. Mostly.

My last night in Ottawa. It was a night of good music and better company. All of Jake's friends I had met over the weekend showed up. Two ska bands performed. I danced through almost every set. I jumped up and down so much that I had to take off my boots or risk breaking an ankle. I left them with him. He doesn't dance, not even the simple leaping in place that this tiny club has just enough room for. Eventually, though, the music came to an end and the club closed. There were hugs all around and promises to email, to visit.

"Let us know when you're moving the fuck up here!" One of my new acquaintances shouts as he and the rest of the group pile into a cab.

Approximately 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.(2)

We left the club hand in hand. I might have still been dancing. Ska does that to me. So does tequila. He stopped and looked over his shoulder at me, "Let's sit in the park." I couldn't see his face. We stood in a space between the lights. I imagined he was smiling. Sitting together in the dark. It's something we did often when we were teenagers in the backyard of the farmhouse where I grew up. We used to talk or maybe make out. One summer we fucked. Often.

He found a bench under a tree and tugged me down beside him, wrapped his hockey player's arm around my shoulders. I was going to tell him. It had been my secret all these years, but I would tell him. The trip was just what he said it would be. I did fit in here. Maybe we could be in the same city again.


His fingers tangled in the long hair at the nape of my neck. He gripped it so tight I couldn't move my head. "Suck me," he whispered against my ear. I almost laughed. This could be one of the bad porn flicks we'd sneak from my parents' room and heckle as we watched.

"What? No, we're in public," I protested. I tried to turn, to face him. He must be kidding. I needed to see that smile, the one that always gave away his jokes. But it wasn't there. This wasn't like those other times, in the seclusion of an overgrown field- the tall grasses our walls, the stars our ceiling, our faces just a heart beat apart. His mouth was flat, his eyes not laughing.

I couldn't move my head. He's strong enough to lift me, why did I think I would be able to get out of his grip? He put pressure on the back of my head, tilted it forward and guided it toward his lap. I wanted to say something, to call out, but I couldn't. My throat closed. This isn't him. It can't be him. I pushed back, but just ended up hurting myself. This was just the beginning. I wanted to fight. I should've fought. Should've yelled. But I couldn't. That wasn't him. It couldn't have been. I did what he wanted, that's all.

60% of all rapes go unreported.

It's 5:30 in the morning and you're pulling away from his apartment building. Dirty snow is frozen into banks along both sides of this Ottawa road. The sun is nowhere near coming up and you can see your breath in the air as the car warms up. Your whole body hurts. You shift in the seat, unable to get comfortable, sitting on the greatest source of the physical pain. You light a cigarette, take a long, deep drag and exhale slowly. It tastes as awful as you feel, but as the nicotine works its way into your system you calm down enough that your hands are no longer shaking and you're only a little bit queasy. You chew a piece of mint gum to wash down the sour bile that hovers at the back of your throat.

You don't see the scenery, just the signs for the King's Highway, which will take you back across the border and into New York. Nothing happened. You just drank too much last night. That's all. That's the only reason you don't feel well. You partied, you drank, you slept. That's all. Because he wouldn't do that to you. He's your friend. There's no way it happened. You love him. So, nothing could've happened. You went to Ottawa, met his friends, ate poutain, and saw a couple of bands. That's all. You didn't tell him because you wussed out. That's all.

At the border crossing you show your passport and the lady wants to inspect the car. You can't seem to get the locks to work and she asks you to pull over. You've been hitting the window lock button, not the one for the door. After staring at the buttons for what seems like an hour, you push the right one and the locks spring open with a click. You open the door and step aside. She tells you to wait inside, asks "Is there anything you'd like to report?"

Victims of sexual assault are 6 times more likely to suffer from PTSD.(3)

The day after you return, you get your hair cut short. You return to work and life resumes. You're shelving books when there's a tap on your shoulder. You suck in a startled breath with a hiss. Every muscle locks into place. You want to run but the cart is to your right and the bookshelf is in front you. There's nowhere to go.

"Hey! Welcome back! How are you?" The overly sweet voice eases your muscles enough for you to turn around. It's just one of your co-workers. You stretch your lips into a smile and say hello.

She wants to know about the trip. You tell her you're fine. Ottawa was cold, it's good to be back. The trip was fine. She's curious about him, about poutain, but not so much about Parliament. Did he show you all around the city? Were his friends nice? Was he as cute as you remembered? When are you going back? There are too many questions and they slip through your mind, slick with Canadian ice. You're exhausted from the trip. That's all.

38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance, 28% are an intimate.(2)

You don't sleep at night. Instead, you rationalize what he did, what you didn't do. You sent the wrong signals. You didn't protest enough or say it loud enough. He didn't hear you. When you read the Sleeping Beauty novels by A.N. Roquelaure, you discussed them with him. Maybe he thought that was what you wanted- loss of control and humiliation. It was a misunderstanding. That's all.

He emails you. Come up this summer, we'll take the bike out. Are you going to see Serenity? I'll be in the area at Christmas to visit my parents, let's get together. Work must be keeping you busy, haven't heard from you in awhile.

The messages pile up. You read them, but you can't reply. How can you? Who is this person? Is it him or is it the other him? It's only three months later but you can't remember much any more. Just flashes. The press of his zipper cutting into your cheek. The brick wall of the alley rough against your bare stomach. The click of the bedroom lock. The pain. Did you say yes, when you meant no? It must've been your fault, that's why you couldn't say anything at the border. That's why you can't say anything to anyone, not even now. It's your fault. That's all.

Victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.(3)

You don't go anywhere these days except work and the grocery store. The holidays are almost here, which means business in the store is going to increase significantly. You've developed a tic just beneath your right eye in anticipation of the crowds.

You give the book store one final holiday season, then turn in your two week notice. Your parents have offered you the apartment over the garage at the farmhouse rent free until you can get yourself back on your feet. You haven't told them what happened, but they're not blind. It's just what you need- away from crowds and highways. Away from worried roommates. It's your Fortress of Solitude. There's room for you and you alone.

You pack up your life and cross the Delaware border, back to your Pennsylvania hometown. You lose yourself in distractions- books, anime, fan fiction. Anything that will let you not think, not remember, not feel. You try to drink yourself numb or take pills to help you sleep. You daydream about walking into the ocean and never walking back out. Sometimes during your second or third shower of the day, you open your mouth and let the water fill it. You know it's not the same, but it's the closest you can get without a bath tub. It's just a daydream. That's all.

You stand in the doorway of your bedroom and stare at the bed. No sleep will come there; it hasn't in nearly a year. You fling yourself onto the tiny loveseat and stare at the television screen. Nothing's on. You slump in your desk chair, checking instant messenger to see if anyone else is awake. No one's there. You stare out the window. Nothing but the moon and stars and space.

You've been cooped up in this apartment for months, only venturing out to your part-time tutoring job. You visit the grocery early on Sunday morning when no one else will be around to bump into you or to stand too close. You grab your bottle of wine. Maybe space is what you need.

You stand in the yard and look out on the field behind the house where you grew up. The house stands dark and empty, its For Sale sign swaying in the breeze. The only light is the dim glow from your apartment over the garage. The half empty bottle of white wine is clutched in one hand, a pinot grigio maybe. A sweet Italian with just enough acidity to give the wine a slightly tart finish. The grass beneath your bare feet is soft and cool and the breeze whispers across the back of your neck.

It's mid-May, so late at night there aren't any cars passing by. The moon is full and bright, shining like freshly polished silver. She's so close, you feel that if you could just find the right moonbeam, you could walk to her surface. Out in the field you can see the silhouette of grazing deer. It's quiet enough that you can hear stalks of grass being torn from their roots.

You take a deep breath and sigh it out. Something trickles from your head, runs down your spine, and out through your feet, absorbed by the earth under your soles. The wine follows as you drop both bottle to the ground. You stretch your arms as wide as you can to either side of your body and spread your fingers. Blood rushes into muscles you never realized were cramped. You drop your arms and are overcome by a yawn so deep it fills your lungs to their maximum capacity.

And when I breathe out, I decide.

1. U.S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Study. 2005.
2. National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
3. Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: