Different Yet Similar — Another Story of Rape and Silence
Bridget Phetasy did a hard thing in her article about her reaction to Bill Cosby’s accusers. She told her truth. I can relate to pretty much every facet of what she said. I can relate to my own knee jerk reaction in spite of being a fellow survivor, to her not reporting the incident, and to her long silence. Our situations may not be the same, but they have one terrible thing in common: rape.
Telling this truth and the details around it is a difficult thing and I applaud Bridget for doing so. I relate to her silence because I too have been silent about the details of my own situation for years. I am one of the sad statistics of unreported. I feel especially burdened by my silence since so many others have written articles like Bridget’s that have been a part of my healing process. I would say after each article or blog post I read “I will tell my story”, but never actually did it. I have for so long been kept selfish by my fear, but not anymore. Today I am going to be a part of the chorus of the few and speak up. It will help my own healing and hopefully that of others.
I have a story too
Memorial Day 2003. That is the day that I experienced what no person should experience. The day that broke me into small pieces and left me shattered for longer than I would like to admit. It’s usually a day of fun and barbeque, but for me every year was another somber anniversary… 1… 2… 5… 10… and counting. It was not a stranger out of the bushes in the dark of night, but it was just as horrible for me.
He was such a nice guy
I was a regular at a weekly poetry event in the city I lived in at the time and one night this good-looking guy came in and sat next to my friend (we were sitting at the bar). He was articulate and seemed intellegent as I listened to their introductions and conversation. He came to the restaurant for his meal break from his job on the night shift at a nearby mental facility. I couldn’t help but go over a checklist in my head: handsome, intellegent, has a job. I was inspired by this brief interaction so much that I wrote a poem on the spot that I still remember to this day:
That’s what I melted like when I saw this brother
Smooth and tasty, Oh he makes me
Want to kiss those lips perfectly framed by his goatee
Mixed with caramel and cinnamon
Crazy thoughts of him as my man
Just thinking about
He ended up coming every week and although he originally had started conversation with my friend, he ended up walking me to my car after the shows ended. He was a perfect gentleman about it. He didn’t go for so much as a handshake when we parted ways. This went on for a few weeks and honestly I was beginning to question my womanhood that he hadn’t at least asked for my phone number. Finally one night it happened and we exchanged information and had our first hug goodbye.
So after a few weeks of walking me to my car we then added talking on the phone in between times we saw each other at the poetry event. The “getting to know you” phase is the best adventure for me. We would talk for about an hour each time about our lives, families, aspirations, etc. I told him that at that time I was in a period of sexual abstinence for personal reasons and surprisingly he didn’t break off our conversations. What? This guy was amazing! I wasn’t in love or anything, but I was really enjoying this man.
More than just talk
After a few weeks of walking me to my car and another few weeks of talking on the phone, he finally suggested that we see each other in a different venue than the poetry event and plans were made. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. What started off as dinner and a movie devolved into him cooking for me at his place and watching a DVD. I took that change in stride and was OK with it. Then it deteriorated when I got to his place to his stove being broken and his TV in the living room being broken as well but we could watch the DVD on the TV in his room. I wasn’t sure about that but he said he wouldn’t try anything. Surprisingly, we just cuddled and watched the movie, hung out and talked a bit after the movie was over, and then I went home.
I agreed to repeat the DVD watching since he seemed to be genuinely a good guy based on the two months up to that point. The next time ended up being a bit more than cuddling. Then in the midst of making out fully clothed, he reaches past me to his nightstand to pull a condom out of the drawer. WHOA! Did you forget about our conversation about me being sexually abstinent? At this point I suggested that if making out had to lead to sex, then perhaps we should just be friends and I wouldn’t come over anymore. He apologized and said it was OK and that we could kiss without sex. I reiterated that he should not let things get further than he would be OK with not having sex. He seemed to understand and agree and we just cuddled for a bit before I went home.
Things were good for awhile
So we hung out for another few weeks with this arrangement based on my abstinence at the time and things seemed good. Until Memorial Day.
I had the holiday off from work and we decided to hang out in the daytime for a change before he had to go to work in the evening. Up until then because I worked days and he worked nights I only saw him on his nights off. I was thinking a short informal lunch date would be a nice change of pace from DVDs at his place (we didn’t go out because he couldn’t afford it with school and other bills). When I got there he hadn’t already showered like he usually did (I lived 20–30 minutes away and we spoke on the phone before I headed over). So he went to take a shower and I was going to wait for him.
Somehow I was convinced that showering with him would be a good idea. This was after reiterating my abstinence and pointing out it would be a bit much for me to believe that he would be OK with not having sex after that. Here we have the fatal mistake that started the spiral. As one would expect, things went from the shower to the bedroom (his bathroom opened to his room). This is the point where my alarms started going off. This was too much. I didn’t want to do this. We needed to stop. I went so far as to say as much, but it was not taken to heart.
From bad to worse
Time has graciously faded the memory of that day, but not completely. I remember him pinning me me down when I tried to get away. I was in a state of shock, in deep denial. This isn’t what is happening. He is just joking and is going to let me up any second. He isn’t going to keep holding me down. He did keep holding me down. I was speechless which in retrospect bothers me to no end. I was just so shocked, so disbelieving that it was what it was until he forced himself in me. Thankfully the physical violation was over quickly, but my mental break was only just beginning.
I curled up into a ball at the furthest corner of the bed away from him and cried until I nearly vommited. These were not tears of joy or satisfaction. I remember the feeling of my mind snapping and was seriously afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come back and function but would have to be removed as a naked weeping ball of once-human. I remember him out of the corner of my eye just laying with his hands clasped behind his head. The sight made me cry harder. I still had the same raging denial that what just happened was really what it was: rape. I was deeply broken by being so fundamentally betrayed by someone who made himself seem so trustworthy for several months.
Looking back on it now I understand what happened next. I understand how the abused person defends themselves mentally with an iron-clad state of denial, but even with this current understanding I am still so baffled by the fact that I STAYED, and not only that but WENT BACK… MANY TIMES. I get now that I was trying to fix it. I was trying to take the horrible thing and make it OK. It was not logical; it was just how my mind chose to deal with things.
I remember how he did the thing that abusers do. He was super nice to me for a few weeks after that. Brought me flowers at my job and took me out to lunch. He even finally took me out to a movie theater like our first date was supposed to be. It’s all so clear now that it was just a ploy. It didn’t take long for him to start messing with my mind which really added another violation to it all. We would talk on the phone and he would hang up and swear it was his cell phone messing up and then later go so far as to say when I called him back that we had never even been talking. I was so messed up that I really began to question reality and if he was telling the truth and I was really losing it even more than I thought (Just being with him was evidence enough that I was somewhat messed up. I knew that even at the time).
Obviously I eventually finally broke free of the relationship, but it took a few months. We didn’t speak again except a few months afterwards when he had the audacity to show up at the poetry event again and I told him to his face that I hated him for what he did to me. I really think he thought I was joking but I don’t own his reaction, I only own the satisfying of my need to speak my truth. Not everyone gets to face their abuser/attacker and I am glad I had my chance and I took it.
Poetry is how I cope
Speaking of my truth and the journey I had to take to be whole again, I wrote more poems to get through it than I care to count. That’s only taking into consideration the ones I bothered to write down or type up. I am so glad that I have this outlet to express onto paper what I can’t say out loud to anyone, not even a therapist. The frequency of the poems is much fewer and further between every year for which I am so thankful. I don’t want this to own me. It is a part of me but it doesn’t control me.
I am not done writing poems though. I wrote one a few days ago. It is far from the first and I doubt it will be the last. I am a work in progress to say the least.
is meant to make you feel uncomfortable
I feel uncomfortable
telling the harshest of my reality
I do it anyway
because someone else’s horror story
healed my heart and soul
I have been trying to say this for years
this sisterhood I belong to is mostly silent
there is a word that punches our stomachs
it is violent
even when with someone once thought of as friend
perhaps especially then
there was a man
sweet and kind and intelligent
a month of conversations
then some interactions
I thought I was clear
only go as far as
is comfortable without anger
we are adults
we respect each other
but sometimes being grown
does not always give a chance
Even now I can barely say I was there
Attracted and nearly willing
I can barely admit
that I did let it get further than I wanted
but I did the thing that not all do
I used my voice to say stop
Women should not hhave to be angry
should not hhave to shout
we should be able to be respected
mutual and with kindness
mine isn’t that story
my story is of insanity
being held down
too much in shock to vocalize
only fight to be free
but I was too weak
all I could do is squirm
and try to get away
I cried until I nearly threw up
curled up in a ball at the end of the bed
they were not tears of joy
I remember the feeling of my mind snapping
of the dissonance wrapping itself around me
the most stereotypical of abused syndrom
denial of the highest order
I am not the only one
so many sisters in this order
most of us trapped
in an involuntary vow of silence
because of fear of judgement
fear of being charged and accused
fear of everything
I still feel that way sometimes
the way I felt when it went all wrong
sometimes I still feel weak
made frail by my own self perception
this word SHOULD make you uncomfortable
it is not always a stranger
not always in the dark of night
sometimes it does hide behind bushes
but not always
sometimes it is a late spring afternoon
in a bedroom filled with sunshine
freshly showered and enamoured
but not entirely sure
it is a change of heart and mind
not allowed to be fullfilled
can exist even in the midst of day
can hold you down
force you into pain
that you did not want
we make choices
that lead to consequenses
I accept that I made choices
I was there
did those things
and that is what happened
but I let go of blame
it is not ALL my fault
I accept myself and my circumstance
and I hope that someday
that we all can learn to truly love each other
Light at the end of the tunnel
The paragraphs above were the hardest I have ever typed in my life. My heart was beating out of my chest the entire time I spent reliving things so that I could finally break my silence. The very idea of breaking my silence and actually sharing my story gripped me with an almost immeasurable fear.
It has taken me so long to finally stop blaming myself. I accept my part but I now know that it wasn’t ALL my fault. I have come to terms with what happened and can finally accept it as yet another facet in the queen-cut diamond of my life. Bottom line is: I survived. I am still here. I am alive, and I have so much more adventure to have! It may sound trite, but it really does get better.
If you are reading this and you are a member in this unfortunate sorority, I wrote this for you. I hope that even if only for a day, that it can give you some peace, but I hope more that it is the first crack in the continuing fall of the prison walls of your silence and pain. I know it’s not easy. I chose to write poetry instead of get therapy since that was my financial situation over the years. I hope you have help and people who love you and understand, but if by some twist of fate you didn’t, you do now. You are NOT alone. There are sadly thousands upon thousands of us but we are strong. YOU are strong. I believe this for you even if you don’t currently believe it for yourself. I hope it helps you succeed.