A Letter To My Rapists
When you observe me enjoying my evening run, like I now know you must have done, how long does it take you to decide among yourselves your course of action? Is it a conversation? What do you say? Where is your honour?
As I steadily traverse my chosen course, at what point do you put down your beer bottles, pick up the mallet, and calmly stroll in my direction? Where is your honour?
And when I — still blissfully unaware of your approach — sit down in the middle of a lush green field to admire the fiery-pink dusk sky; do you snigger amongst yourselves at how easy I am making this for you? Where is your honour?
When you are close enough for me to see the weapon hanging from your hand and your eyes glassy from intoxicants, does your heart skip a beat like mine does? Are you finding pleasure in being predators? Where is your honour?
So I jump up and run. Run across the field and onto the farm road, glimpsing over my shoulder to see you in hot pursuit. And when I am screaming for my life to the hills, the trees, to anyone who might hear me, do you take satisfaction in the fear you evoke? Where is your honour?
When in my haste and hype I trip and fall, do you watch from your few paces behind me and rejoice? Are you relieved at my misstep? Where is your honour?
And before I can get up you’re on me. Pouncing. I’m on my back and its three of you against one. Well done… Do you feel you’ve won? Where, where is your honour?
And when you with the scarred cheeks strangle every breath and scream out of me, while you with the checked shirt clamp down my flailing legs which are desperately lashing out to find their freedom, and you with the mallet strike my face repeatedly… the world is going dark and I am seeing stars. WHERE IS YOUR FUCKING HONOUR?
And when I surrender because I know the alternative is impending unconsciousness, does this forced submission feel like victory? Where is your honour?
When you realise that no amount of demanding my phone and money will make either appear, you strip me of my running shoes and windbreaker. Do you wonder what this bounty will fetch? Will it put food on your table? Buy another weekends worth of drugs and alcohol? Or are you just pillaging because you have some power? Where is your honour?
And when I look you in your eyes, appealing to you with mine; appealing to your potential and to your purity, looking for the soft seat of humanity that lies behind the words and actions that are spilling forth, do you feel it? Do you ignore it? Do you see me? Where is your honour?
And when you pull me up from the ground, off the road, and into the bushes I know what is coming. More violent strikes of the mallet to my face if I resist, and more still if I seem too calm. How am I to win here? Where is your honour???
So into the bushes we go. Gripped at the wrists I accept my fate. How do you decide on the perfect spot — safe for your sordid impulses to go unseen? Where is your honour?
And before I know it my pants are pulled down from behind me and I am pinned down on the ground again. How do you decide who goes first? Is there a pecking order? Where is your honour???
And when one after the other you lower your heartless bodies on top of me. My eyes burn with the question… Where is your honour?
When you chat among yourselves in your language like this is the most normal scene in the world, while my every atom is frozen and running at the same time. What are you saying? What is relevant under the circumstances? Where is your honour?
And you with your scars — last to claim this shared prize of my body- when you force your tongue inside my mouth then whisper in my ear “I love you, I love you baby, take me home with you.” I don’t know how its possible to recoil further into myself than I already have, but I do. Because where is your honour? And why are you destroying mine?
And with your uttered words I realise you’ve learned what to be and how to be from the television screen, from your brothers, your fathers, uncles, friends, neighbours. In front of me now, you are shadows of men at best. So evidently numb, desperate, angry, and hungry for any token of accomplishment. If this moment is where we find ourselves, and these are the lengths to which you will go, how can you be anything other than bereft? Bereft of anything of real value. Where is your honour?
And when you pull me up from my bed of thorns and lead me deeper into the bushes, do you smell my terror? I resist and start to scream again and now you release your grips and run away to the sound of my wild screams. I watch you go until I can’t see you anymore. I see you. I see you. You are cowards. You don’t know what honour looks like.
And as I run home red-faced and barefoot, where do you go? Back to your unfinished beers?
And while I face the evening shell-shocked and hysterical, what story are you telling your friends? Are you proud? How long does it take before you’ve forgotten this even happened? A day? Or until the next girl in the wrong place at the wrong time?
I cannot forget. I would love to say that although you have pierced my flesh you cannot touch me, but this is simply not true. It’s not even remotely possible. I am deeply affected by your unwelcome intrusion. Like being grabbed violently by the shirt collar, you have brought me up close and personal with the brokenness of humanity, and the depravity of men. I have looked into its eyes and felt it breath into my neck.
I have been tumbling through the abyss of that darkness and brokenness ever since. It has sapped my optimism, my hope, my energy, my everything. I am lost and confused and I have absolutely nothing to give. Nothing to give. I am a hot mess, unrecognizable to myself, looking with closed eyes for a way out of the misery. Everything seems so hopeless. What the fuck is the point of living if this is the world we are to live in?
The bruised, swollen face heals, the body recovers; but nothing is the same, nothing feels right. The things I used to enjoy hold no appeal. My beloved friends and family with nothing but love and support and patience to offer make my blood run cold. I want to sprint a million miles in the direction of further. Even the softest breeze feels like torture over an open wound, and I am a life-sized wound, trying so hard to keep it together.
Where is the space for the pain? Where is the place for it? Where does it belong? I want to keep it in but I know its poisoning me. I want to put it down but I’m scared.
At some point it becomes clear that the fight to keep it together is more painful and exhausting than letting myself fall apart. I am broken and I can give myself permission to be a million pieces. I can let myself be the shape that I’m in, fill the space with fragments. I can welcome in this new girl who is wearing her insecurities and weakness on her sleeve, and stop rejecting her undeniable presence.
Ah yes, the wound is the way out. I see it now. The helpless pile of me that I give myself permission to be, becomes the mound upon which I can place my foot, to take the first step out of the hole.
So when I think I have nothing to give, I have this: an offering of my pain and vulnerability. And that is something. And so, there is hope. And the instant I soften to the reality of my sorry self, everything starts to shift.
From this place of gradual acceptance I can look with fresh eyes at you three with your stone-cold hearts. You were also grabbed by the collar. You were brought up close and personal to a force of nature. A woman. Deryn. A wellspring of love. A light that refuses to be snuffed out. And when you pierce my flesh is it possible for you not to have been touched by me too? I would like to think not, but perhaps this is just a story I tell myself to make the reality more palatable.
You are revolting.
You are the product of so many broken systems, but then I guess so am I.
You have been the cause of my undoing. What can I do but thank you for giving me the opportunity to be the cause of my own ascent? I don’t need to find honour in you, I will find it in myself. The mess, the magic, the brokenness, the beauty, the fear, the fire. I will face it all within myself and honour it all.
You are forgiven.