The time is now

17 June 2016

The time is now. After many years of carrying this sadness, shame and embarrassment of being a rape survivor, the time is now.

With all of the hatred, fear and violence in this world, it is time for each of us to share our stories. To not remain silent. Or yet, silenced.

I have been debating telling my story for some time. How will it impact my family? What will people think of me? Will it affect my career? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know that remaining silent continues to give power to my rapist, and all of the other rapists out there.

So here is my story. Loud and proud.

It was summer. I love summer. This was back when we had seasons, and summer was really summer. I was working my first job, and so proud of what I was accomplishing. I wasn’t the strongest student in college. I was a bit immature in ways, and had a hard time managing my emotions. This had a significant impact on my schoolwork, and my ability to focus. However, post college, I seemed to have “found” myself in the professional work environment. I was good at my job, and I was proud of that. I had been living in San Francisco for a year, and was building new friendships, exploring the city, and dating. I had a terrible crush on one of my colleagues, Dan. Tall, handsome, smart as a whip, funny, engaging. He checked a lot of boxes off of the list. Finally, one day, he asked me out.

The day we were going out was like any other day in July. Bright and sunny, with the fog rolling in at night. He was to pick me up at 7pm. I put on my favorite jeans and a red sweater. Everyone always tells me that I look good in red. I think it is the dark hair and fair skin. The Snow White thing. Dan picked me up late, at 8pm, promptly telling me that we didn’t have time for dinner, we needed to get out on the town. It was a Wednesday. What was the rush?

Like any date in your 20’s, we went to a few bars. Some I knew well, and some I didn’t. Yet at each bar, he didn’t have money for drinks. I paid. Ok, so I am a modern woman working, but HE asked ME out. I let it slide. Mistake #1.

We ended up at a bar in The Haight. We arrived, he ordered me a drink, and then told me he needed to run out to meet a friend. Now let’s be honest…I grew up in a fairly sheltered community. I hardly drank. I had never done drugs. I was naïve. I sat there, in a bar unfamiliar to me, for nearly an hour. Waiting. Where had he gone? And what was I to do? I had spent all of my money paying for our evening out. So, the bartender allowed me to use the bar phone to call one of my closest friends. I told her and her boyfriend that I was stranded and, at 2am, they didn’t hesitate to drive across town to come get me.

I was getting more and more frustrated and angry that Dan had seemingly disappeared. He arrived just as my friends did. And, while I was upset, I had them drive us both back to my flat. In the back seat of the car he whispered such lovely things to me. He stroked my hand. He showed care and concern. Yet he wouldn’t tell me where he had been, or what he had been doing. He breath was rancid. I should have known. Mistake #2.

We arrived at my flat, and I convinced my friend and her boyfriend that we were ok. I had been angry, but didn’t want to be a bitch to my date. They drove off and we went inside. Mistake #3.

And here’s what I didn’t know: He was carrying a handgun and had just shot up heroin in The Haight.

I didn’t stand a chance.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I was able to tell those close to me, including my husband, what REALLY happened that night.

Here is my account of what happened.

//

The following day I thought, I need to get a new mattress. I need to bleach the blood off of the wall behind the bed. I think my fingers are broken. I got up and got ready for work. Even though I had sat in the shower for such a long time that the water ran cold and rinsed away all evidence. I bandaged my fingers. I bandaged my face. It was clear that something had happened to me. But, like most battered women, I made up some stupid story about falling down the stairs.

I was so young, yet never felt so old, and only at 22. So suddenly just a shell of my former self. A skeleton. All my layers torn from me little by little until there was only dry bone. Now, everything simply passed through—wind, rain, sunshine, happiness, pain, laughter.

The night it happened I was still in emotional recovery from the end of a long relationship. I think that is why I did not pay attention to the signs throughout the evening. His lubricating me with tequila. His long absence from the bar. His significant change in behavior when he returned. But along the way, I just wanted the attention, the care he provided, even though so falsely and deceitfully delivered. Kisses stolen in a cab. Hands held under a table. Little things to make a young womans’ heart flutter with excitement and anticipation. Little things I liked feeling, enough to pass over the big things of which I did not like feeling. His tighter grip on my hand as we walked the stairs to my flat. His newly rancid breath as he kissed me in the doorway. His teeth digging into my neck as he gently pushed his way into my apartment. I tried to say goodbye. No go.

C’mon, Babe, we haven’t even gotten started yet.

I only remember opening the bottle of wine [I think] because I saw the cork and opener the next day on the kitchen counter. But somehow my next memories come as feelings—a severe kick to the back of my knee. Dropping to the floor of my bedroom. Then, without warning, I am flying across the room hurling towards the bed. A loud crash. My stereo still plays. Natalie Merchant’s voice fills the room…

Hey Jack Kerouac
I think of you mother
And all the tears she cried
She would cry for none other…

Fog rolling. Typical July fog. I am running so cold. I remember being thrown on my back. With a skill that I don’t even possess, he was able to peel my jeans right off, simultaneously ripping my panties off. Suddenly, I have an opening, I have enough room to kick him, then knee him in the belly. I jumped up and tried to run but he grabbed my ankle and pulled my feet out from under me. I smacked my head on the desk and fell into a dazed and shocked state. Heat running down the side of my face. He picks me up like I weigh nothing and throws me on my back, cracking the back of my head against the wall behind the bed. Heat running down the back of my head and neck.

The fog is rolling out the window. Fog horns playing like the symphony of my assault in the background. Running so cold while my face is in flames. His fists are like hammers, my cries lost to the foghorns. At some point he has ripped my red sweater, a favorite, and is now half strangling me, half gagging me with it. I try the hammer effect with my fists, but it is not the same. My fists seems small, dainty, child-like—their impact slow, unending, dreamy, floating. I have enraged him, though, and his fist hammers come harder and faster. I fade into more Natalie Merchant…

The Painted Desert can wait till summer.
We’ve played this game of just imagine long enough.
Wait till summer?
When I am sure the rain has ended, the blooms have gone,
everyone killed by the morning frost.

I must have lost consciousness. I wake to the taste of myself as his fingers are gagging me.

Wake THE FUCK UP, Bitch.

Blood. A tooth.

No, Dan. Please, no.

Smack. Crack. Pop.

Fuck you, bitch. I mean, FUCK YOU. Who made you such a whore? Tell me why you deserve this? I’ll tell you. For being such a mother fucking slut bitch tease. Cunt.

Sobbing. Mind racing. Face is hot and wet. Now what? Panic. Fight back. Kick. Slap. Scratch. Bite. FIGHT.

Running cold. Running scared. Just RUN.

Sudden stillness.

Shhhh. Shhh. My girl. Stop now. Stop and be good to me. It is going to be good.

 Openly weeping. I have a second to look him in the eye. He is vacant. His pupils are the size of dimes. Trouble.

Trouble, oh yes we got Trouble. Right here in River City. {right here in River City} Capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Pool, stands for Pool!

Fog rolling fast now. I can see the lemon tree. Not many lemons but lots of leaves. Our yard was not well maintained. There was a wheelbarrow with dirt, stacks of cinder blocks, an open toolbox, a rusted old beach chair, a cracked picnic table, dead grass…

Hammer hammer hammer Crack Crack Snap Motherfucker Ow

He is up now and pacing. I am thinking maybe he will leave and I start to sit up as he drops his pants. I hear an odd  thud while he reaches over and holds my ankles together with one hand.

Please don’t. Please. I won’t say a word. I won’t tell a soul. I am hurt. Please just leave.

Openly sobbing. Barely breathing. And there is it. With a sharpness I couldn’t have predicted he is in me—with what feels like no warning. And I am running cold, so cold. He feels cold, square even, and not like anyone I have been with. And suddenly he stops. Is he too high?

With a weight and force I would not have expected or predicted, something thunks onto my chest, smelling of me. NO FUCKING WAY. He has a gun. So confused. Did he? Was that? It couldn’t have…he wouldn’t have…I think he must have…

Sobbing harder than I knew a person could. Speaking in ways that were unintelligible to anyone. He is fucking livid.

SHUT THE FUCK UP, WHORE BITCH. THAT IS ENOUGH NOW. SHUT IT.

I think time stops. The fog rolls. Not many lemons on the tree. I can’t understand why that rusted out chair has been there for so long. I fade back into Natalie Merchant…

The man in 119 takes his tea all alone.
Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I’m hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all.
Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call.
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.

As quickly as I fade out, he snaps me back in. Violently and aggressively he shoves his gun inside me a second time. However this time I hear a distinct click-clack, which with the motion he makes and the movement I feel inside me, leads me to believe he has cocked the gun. Knowing very little about guns I do know that this means one bad move and I am all over the wall behind me. That is all I can see in my head…my mom coming over to find me blown to bits all over the bright white sheets and wall in my flat—my legs still in tact on the bed, strewn out before her like a slutty whore. Her daughter dead, a total disgrace, and a mess to boot.

I AM GOING TO FUCK YOU MY WAY OR I WILL SPLIT YOU LIKE THE FAT UGLY  WHORE THAT YOU ARE. SO SHUT UP AND DO IT.

Just shut up and do it,  okay?

From there my memory is not much. He climbed me like a tree. Swiftly and with force…both my hands bound overhead and tied tight with my red sweater. Gun nestled in my left ear.

Not a sound, bitch.

Crying as softly as ever possible, though I heard blood curdling screams in my head—he was biting my shoulder as he pulled a handful of my long, thick, curly hair—forcing my head to one side and into the wall behind at the same time. Both my head and knuckles were running raw as I felt the heat of my own blood trickle down my fingers, neck and back. I could hear my fingers cracking while my head split open a little more each time he thrust himself forward.

Natalie Merchant stopped singing, but the foghorns kept rolling. The lemon tree still stood. The beach chair remained. The 14 cinder blocks didn’t move. The wheelbarrow was still as a statue. All the while my world shook, never to be the same.

//

Oh yes, something bad had happened. And it was my fault. I was drinking. And on an empty stomach. I had made mistake after mistake after mistake that night. Even after he left, by showering and scrubbing myself so vigorously. A few days after this happened, I phoned my best friend (she still is to this day, god I love her). I told her snippets of what happened. Not the whole story. But enough for her to say, Hey, this is rape. This is not ok. I am coming over now. And she did. That night, and the next, and the next and the next. She convinced me to call the ethics hotline at work to report it. She convinced me to go to the police and tell them. I am sure it will come as no surprise that neither were willing to do anything. The female police officer told me to be more careful with the guys I decide to date. Also, she said that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to not drink to much. Wow.

So, it was on me to go to work every day. To see him. To hear that he was bragging to his friends that he “banged” me. I cried. A lot. I ate a lot. And I isolated myself. I told my brother on a train in France a few weeks after. He cried. And got angry with Dan. And he cried some more. And I cried more. I apologized. He loved me and hugged me so hard I couldn’t breathe, and told me that never, ever, under any circumstances would this have been my fault. He was right. But I didn’t believe him.

For the years to follow I struggled with relationships. I didn’t date very much. I found myself to be a serial monogamist. I told some of my boyfriends. Some I didn’t. I just never wanted them to look at me as the damaged woman I was. And I was damaged. And I continued to damage myself. I ate. And ate. And got really fat.

However, over time, the memories faded. Or at least I had a phenomenal ability to not allow them to surface. I became social again. I made many new friends. I had boyfriends that I really enjoyed. I had jobs I loved. I got married. Yet, there was always a darkness surrounding me, causing troubles along the way. And one day, I broke.

In 2013, I decided to tell some people about what really happened. I became suicidal. I was admitted to the psych ward on lock down for a week. A WEEK! Do you know what the bathrooms and showers are like in the psych ward? I assure you, you don’t want to know! All I can say is that I took a lot of sponge baths and had really dirty hair. During that time, my sweet, loving and frightened husband, along my dearest friends in Boston LITERALLY saved my life. It was a surreal time. I remember being in the hospital and trying to piece together bits of memories that I had not fully realized until that time. I was numb. I was outside of myself. I felt like I was living this very scary life, this important truth, as though it was someone else’s. I simply hadn’t given complete thought to the slow burn that fueled such a dark depression. Nor had I realized such significant detachment from myself that created holes in what was to be a patchwork of my memories, at best. Yet, getting help, talking to people, getting back my personal power, I believe I came to a more complete understanding of who I was, and how this had impacted the past 20 years of my life.

This clarity met me like a thunderbolt, and with so much pain. To see how low and dark some of my days were, unable to reach out to those around me. I think I was just sitting amidst all that darkness, hoping someone would find me, when I couldn’t even find myself. I couldn’t put into words how I was feeling-and I let my feelings come over me in a tidal wave, sweeping me away with no care for myself, almost hoping I would drown.

All that being said, the pain I felt last week, last month, last year, won’t just be gone now. This is my life, and I have a duty to myself to find better ways to live within what I have been dealt. There will be dark moments, as there will be amazing ones. The difference is that I can see the amazing ones out there now as well. I can see some of that light that shone on me that summer. I know with certainty that I can make a good life for myself. However, I know that deep in me there is the strength and courage to do what is necessary to come out the other side less damaged and more skilled.

Hope is on the rise.

I am a person who holds true to my word and my commitments. In retrospect, I know that I had a choice, and a commitment to make—even at a point of such desperation. Both choices were from a point of control: Take control and kill myself, or take control and live, even though it will be a struggle and a fight. I chose the struggle. I choose the fight. I am committed to the struggle and the fight.

I cannot change the past. But I can use it to make me a better human being.

I have been following the Stanford rape case, as I suppose we all are. Of course, it has surfaced many emotions for me. And, after all of these years and therapy and speaking with other survivors, I don’t always know what to make of what happened. This man didn’t just take sex from me. He took my dignity, my sense of trust, my ability to sleep soundly. He took my life for many years, even though I was still walking around like a functioning human being.

//
I can look back now and realize some important things I have learned…

We cannot let society silence people of any crime. SPEAK THE FUCK UP.

This was not my fault, even though people along the way have asked me if I had been drinking or doing drugs. They asked what I had been wearing. They asked if I led him on. THAT DOESN’T MATTER. In many cases, as in mine, assailants are stronger than their victims. Or, they threaten you with death. Violence is violence. Intimidation is intimidation.

Men (or women) who commit rape are bullies and cowards. They take what is not theirs because they were not taught decency and BASIC human kindness from those who raised them.

Speaking up will free you. Silence gives your rapist power. And to live a full and meaningful life, you must wield your own power. And, you will find an entire sisterhood or brotherhood who has faced the same things you have. Let those who have gone before you help you navigate what has happened.
//

I still don’t have a complete understanding of how this experience has impacted me. Or, how to maneuver my life to walk through this experience. I suspect it will take more time. And more time. Every time I hear someone’s story, I uncover a new memory. And from that, I gain more and more strength.

I can say this: We are all stronger than we realize. When faced with the most horrific experiences, we can rise. We can hope. We can overcome.

Take this opportunity to speak with the people in your life about rape, racism, hatred, all of it. Teach your children that none of these things are ok. Lead by example. Show your kids that you are not just tolerant of others and their beliefs, but that you cheer them on. You don’t have to believe in the same things to love.

So speak up. Loud and Proud. And rise. And most of all, love.

Advertisements

One thought on “The time is now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s