This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever made myself do. I was going to wait until the day of, but I just couldn’t sit on it any longer. That being said, please, don’t try to analyze the situations. Don’t try to decide who the parties are. Don’t seek out your own justice. This is my life. This is my story. This is survival. It’s finally time I shared it, as best as I can.
Six years ago I was raped. There’s no sense mincing words. That’s where it started, not yet 23. Because of the nature of the situation, because of my own shame of the situation. I know now, more than ever, I should have told everyone. Instead I was met with laughter. Two friends met me with tacos. Over the next year I became a completely different person. Whether you knew my situation or not, and most people did not. Largely, no one did. I was different. I was quiet. I was isolated. Deliberately. I didn’t want to be around people anymore. I didn’t trust them. Someone I knew had betrayed me, and people I loved wouldn’t hear me. People I thought loved me.
About a year later, I moved and was living in another town. And my body was rejecting me all over again. Because when your body has a dermoid teratoma (the genetic equivalent of my unborn twin) some times it takes a traumatic hormonal event for it to start growing, even though she’s been living inside of you since you were an embryo. So even though the hospital had streeted me a month before for “lady problems. take some midol and go home.” That night I was vomiting again and in excruciating pain. Despite watching The Last Chance Detectives, a Christian children’s video series, in the basement of Christian college dorm with two of my closest friends. That Saturday night I learned that Little Caesar’s tastes the same coming up as it does going down. They said that it was about 9 centimeters inside my 3 centimeter ovary. They wanted to try to save it since I hadn’t had children yet, and I was so young, just 24. I was sent home early Sunday morning, around 1, and I was to call Monday to schedule an ultrasound and surgery.
I sent my roommate, who stalwart, stayed by my bed, to her own bed. My friend stayed up as late as he could with me as I writhed on the couch. My roommate got up at 8 for church to find me sweating in pain still. We went right back to the hospital. My parents came down. The surgeon was called. The anesthesiologist was called. She bitched in the lobby about how much she didn’t want to be there and hit my bone as she did the epidural. As they finally finished up the surgery to remove the now 10 centimeter mass the epidural was wearing off, and I could feel so much stretching and pulling. I just wanted it all to be over. All because of something that had happened a year before.
I healed on our couch mostly, sitting on the news from my doctor that while he did save my ovary that it would never fully function like it was supposed to. He was going to put me on birth control to regulate my periods to see if he could make things work right, but if I wasn’t trying to get pregnant that was probably just going to waste the eggs I did have. When I could I went back to work. Making my sales calls that I hated. I hated everything. Parts of me still do.
One day a boy asked me out. A boy from my church at the time. We went out twice in one day. And while six years ago, I was raped, this is by far the worst thing that’s happened. He didn’t want to spend time upstairs with everyone else, which I found suspicious. He scarcely let me get a word in, which I took as insecurity. I’m not quick to speak anymore anyway. I certainly wasn’t then, especially if I wasn’t being asked a question, which in retrospect makes me feel remarkably disgusting. Relinquishing so much control like that when I’d already lost all of it. But the second part of the day was worse. Less unsettling and still in a place where I can’t bring myself to say the words out loud. All in all, I’ve said them written out to maybe three very close friends, who I trust more than anyone and who I know understand beyond the telling. It was violent. It was terrifying. I spent many subsequent days lying to the people who had just months before taken such beautiful care of me and hiding. I started spending more time at the house of the guys’ who lived down the street or close to campus. I started pushing at my high school friend and his boss that it was time to hire me and bring me down to Indy.
A couple of weeks later that time did come. With only the explanation of needing out of the job I hated and trying to convince the people that I loved to come with me, I moved to a new city. A new city where I only knew my friend from high school/now coworker and my ex-boyfriend. I loved my job. I loved it. I loved my coworkers. The content was sad, but the work was good. The people were lovely. Some of my friends moved down. It was getting better. I was forcing myself to venture out. I found spaces in the Indianapolis Museum of Art that I knew if I sat quietly would make me feel safe. I found spaces downtown that I knew if I wondered alone it didn’t matter. I found spaces that if I went alone to write or work I could be okay. I saw Jimmy Fallon. I saw the Roots. I was running several miles a day. The birth control I was on was destroying me inside. I found a bar that had live comedy, played hockey games, and while I never found a church that really suited me I was developing my own sort of way. My painting was actually starting to get better. Even though everything in Indy felt transitional I believe I could have adjusted. I could talk to people who lived there 30 years who would say, “Well, we’re just here until the next thing comes along.” And I wanted to shake them and say, “Commit. You’ve been here most of your life. This is your thing.” I could have lived with that. I could have committed. I can commit to a city. I’ve done it before, and I’d do it again.
But one evening, around 7, not terribly dark yet. I was by myself and on my way to meet some friends. I was pulled from the sidewalk and back toward an alley. It couldn’t have felt more typical. I didn’t scream. I didn’t shout. I didn’t even push that hard. I just started crying and curled up in a ball on the ground. He tried. Don’t think he didn’t. Honestly, I think that he was so confused he just gave up. After a while your will to live just sort of leaves. I sat there and cried a while longer. I wiped my eyes and smudged my mascara under my eyes, believably vampy eyeliner. Met my friends for dinner. More lies.
It all started to catch up with me. One day at work I found myself at my desk with images of me dead a dozen different ways at my own hand flashing through my mind. No plans to do it, just not wanting to be alive anymore. Tears streaming down my face I called every therapist in the area I could find with a picture who had a nice face. Tears still on my face I came around my cube wall and asked my boss if it was okay I went to a therapist. I just wasn’t doing well. He said, “of course.” To let him know what he could do. She was nice. She called me codependent. I had started driving home every few days to see people. Staying home on weekends to be surrounded by more people I knew. Sleeping on floors I knew. I still couldn’t tell her what had happened. Christian evangelicals have made sex so damn taboo to talk about, even if you didn’t play a part, hell, even if you’re married, that I didn’t feel safe talking about it with my therapist.
On the side, I was doing it again. Trying to relocate. Finding a new job. I was moving home. I was determined. I needed to be around more people I knew. Even if I didn’t like all of them, I at least knew what I was getting back home.
It was the right move. Mostly. Except for the time I went to a local music venue and was attacked again. Woke up on the sidewalk, not knowing what had happened. Bloody and scared. Doing everything you aren’t supposed to after something like this happens. I know at this point you’re all wondering why, I’ve never reported any of this. But when the people in your life, the people you loved the first time around didn’t believe you no matter how you told them, when it’s met with laughter, you don’t expect anyone to believe you again. When you have no details about your assailant. When you know the statistics about having any alcohol at all in the state of Indiana. When you know the statistics at all in the state of Indiana.
Yes, I’ve still found myself threatened and in threatening situations. Terrified at night. Unable to sleep. With a therapy-mandated cat. Hidden away on a dark day every year. Giving up on therapy because she cancelled without warning on my rapiversary. But moving home, I’ve been surrounded. I’ve been lucky. It’s been hard. Life’s been damn near impossible some days. Most days. But I’ve stopped lying. Hell, I’m honest with strangers now. Because it’s not my shame. I didn’t do anything wrong. This is not my lie to carry. It’s my trauma. It’s my hurt, but it’s not my lie. Not anymore.
Here’s the thing about being assaulted. When it rains, it pours. Many of the people I’ve spoken with who have been assaulted have been assaulted more than once, through no fault of their own. Because there is no fault of the survivor here. It’s not “wrong place, wrong time.” It’s not the way he or she was dressed. It’s not how drunk anyone was. The only person who can take any blame is the monster. You are strong. You are bold. You are powerful. You are worth being heard. Those that don’t believe you are not worthy of being in your life. You are valued. You are loved. You are not the atrocities of others. You are not the disgusting lies that other people present so they can go on living lies with other people. You are truth. You are your truth. A truth that deserves to be heard and is worthy to be believed. Something disgusting, a monstrosity acted on you does not define you nor is it your shame to carry. Do not let it plague your life.