I don’t know how to begin this story. I feel like I’ve been telling it for so long, and yet I know I’ve not told the entire story yet. I suspect this is mostly because I’ve blacked out most of my memories of my rapes and abuses. But I’ve also shared a few memories in person and online, and have gotten blowback after blowback. Some people I’ve shared with question me, interrogate me, unable to believe that my stories are true. Maybe this stems from the old bullshit belief that little girls tend to lie and make up stories. Maybe this stems from the person’s inability to believe that the abuser in question is anything but the good guy they’ve always known them to be. Online, it’s always worse. I’m regularly called a bitch and a cunt and an attention whore. I’m told I’ve asked for it, or that no one wants to have sex with me because I’m so ugly. Usually there are follow-up rape threats. Occasionally there are death threats. I know these people just want me to shut up; luckily for them, I’m usually so emotionally exhausted from sharing my stories of harassment and abuse that I stop talking or writing for the day. Because reliving trauma is a bitch.
My high school boyfriend and I had one of those volatile puppy love relationships- textbook teen abuse. The classic “I can’t live without you, you’re my everything, let’s get married” bit that repeats itself over and over despite the multiple fights and screaming matches. I was headstrong and angry, fighting with my parents and myself at every turn, battling the darkness that loomed in the back of my mind. I was just learning about what depression was. My boyfriend was self-centered and unable to control his emotions if things didn’t go his way. Temper tantrums followed every bad grade and test he got, every bad audition and every fight we had. The bad temper got worse when something went well for me- usually good grades. I don’t know why we fought about grades. But I remember him being mad that I was doing well in my advanced English class, and that I was good at writing. And I remember him continuing to be mad at me all day, and all week, even when we went back to hang out at his parents’ place Friday after school.
We’d had sex early on in our relationship, and used to be very sweet to each other while together. But as time went on and his temper got worse, the sweetness went away. The look on his face changed, like he was angry to be with me. It was more painful and more forceful, and I brushed it off because I thought that he just needed to blow off steam. His grades were bothering him, that was all.
The next time he started, I said “No,” and he kept going.
I kept saying, “Stop,” and he covered my mouth to silence me. I bit him to try and get him to stop, and he slapped me. He ended up taking a pillow and shoving it over my face. He raped me and smothered me and pinned me down whenever I tried to get up. Everything hurt.
This continued every time I did well in a class that he struggled in. Except that it was always more than rape. He beat me when I talked back after he told me my grades weren’t as important as his. He berated me when I tried out for solos and parts in plays and musicals because he wanted the spotlight to be on him. He wanted to be more important than me. He wanted me to know that he was more important than me. It didn’t matter that he was the MOST important thing to me. He wanted to make it clear that he was better than me.
I was raped for more than half of my three year relationship with my high school boyfriend. I stayed with him because I thought abuse was a form of love, and because I thought I was nothing without him, and because I thought I could be nothing without him.
When we met, I had dreams of going into musical theater, of singing and dancing, of joining Second City and iO and Upright Citizens Brigade, of writing for SNL and becoming the next female head writer. I had so many things I wanted to try and do, to try and be successful at. Throughout the rape and repeated verbal, emotional, and mental abuse from my boyfriend, I was convinced that I wasn’t good enough to do any of those things. Success only belonged to him. Success would only be allowed if it came from him.
I gave up my dreams because a weak little boy with no self confidence or self worth was threatened by a teenage girl who knew that she was good enough to make it in whatever world she wanted to be in. And that was just high school.
I am not a famous actress, coming into contact with people like Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen. I am not a survivor of assault or harassment by rich and powerful men, like so many of our politicians. I am lucky that my abusive ex is not in my current line of work, and not in the industries I still distantly dream of working in. There are so many more survivors who regularly have to face their abusers every day with a smile and politeness and grace. There are so many comfortable lies told to keep things comfortable, to keep things the way they are, to keep these terrible men in power. Of course, there are terrible women in power as well, but the number of men with power and money who regularly sexually abuse coworkers and colleagues greatly overshadows the number of women who do the same. Because they only want success to belong to them. Because they only want beautiful things to belong to them. Because they only want power to belong to them.
What does it have to take to get rid of this normalization of abuse? Don’t you dare tell me it’s just a matter of reporting the abuse; that game has been rigged since day one. I never reported what happened to me because my ex’s family had ties to the local government, and regularly donated to our high school’s extracurriculars. To go after his family in a small Indiana town would have meant a potential witch trial not just on me, but on my family. Even when I started to speak up in college, he was right there, lingering behind me in the dorms, berating me and bringing me back down again. This is such a small town and small case, and yet no one would have believed me or sided with me if I had spoken up. And when I do speak up, my past always comes back to gaslight me- convincing me that I was the abusive one in the relationship, that I was the one asking for it, that I was the one who liked it rough. If that’s the case, then why have so many of my sexual partners had to stop when they see the flash in my eyes? Why do I keep crying and screaming when I’m grabbed a certain way in bed? I can’t count the number of times the PTSD from my rape and abuse has come barreling back to me from the darkest corners of my mind, rendering me speechless and shaking and numb. I am lucky that my partners have been patient with me.
I wish I could say I’m heartbroken over how many women are coming forward about their abuse, whether it’s sharing their stories about Harvey or Trump, or simply saying #MeToo. But I’m too tired to feel anything anymore. I’ve been tired since last year, when this election nonsense started. Seeing someone who openly sexually harassed and abused women gain even more power is the most exhausting thing to witness as a survivor. And I’m tired of seeing our so-called allies do nothing but sit back and lightly criticize without taking any real action. What are they afraid of, losing their jobs? Losing respect? Welcome to the club, friends.
But I’m especially tired of doing nothing. I’m tired of letting this one waste of my time take up the space in my brain and convince me that my writing is no good and doesn’t matter, and telling me I’m a butterface and lucky to have anyone, and tricking me into believing that there is no way I can be good enough to perform in whatever I want. I’m tired of being afraid.
If you are a survivor and want to share your story, please, please keep doing so. Share your story loudly, so that all will hear. Fight back, and fight on. If you can’t share your story, that is okay. We see you and will keep fighting for you. Make room for POC and LGBTQIA to share their pain and stories too, every time. Give everyone a chance to have the floor. We have no chance unless we fight this together. (I’m looking at you, cis white feminists.)
The bullshit I’ve been battling internally for years seems to finally be coming to a head, so fuck it. I’m going to write whatever the fuck I want. If I want to sing and dance and act, you better believe you’re gonna see this tall, charming Midwestern brunette on some stage or screen somewhere, winning hearts and slaying misogyny. I’m going to get my ass on SNL one way or another and write some weird alien friendship sketches with Kyle Mooney. I’m going to learn to tapdance and tango, and I’m going to make people laugh. Most importantly, I’m going to do whatever I want to do, no matter who is angry to see me happy and successful.
So, yes, #MeToo. I’ve been sexually harassed and assaulted multiple times, by multiple men, seeking multiple instances of approval, gratification, and power. But I am more than my rape and abuse, and I am bigger than the confines of bullshit I’ve been trapped under for years. And you better believe that with every inch of success I gain, I will do everything I can to help out my fellow survivors and give them more of a voice and finally stomp out the acceptance of abuse that has run rampant for centuries.
My success and glory is for me, and me alone. You don’t own any part of me.