Adventure in Roadside

Massive trigger warning. Rape related details coming. Seriously, mom, turn back now.

 

It wasn’t really St. Patrick’s Day, but we had a party anyway. My roommate and I came with cupcakes in hand. I will always like the opportunity to wear a costume, so I wore brown pinstripe cropped pants, black combat boots, and an inexplicably soft, lime green tuxedo shirt. I may have worn green and white striped socks. I had spent a portion of the night, as I always did at these parties, talking to a close friend of mine. We tried to catch up on life over the ear-ringing music. He went about his business, and as the night went on I sat in the balcony of the building overlooking the stage, when someone came up to me. Someone I’d not really seen before. He told me he liked what I was wearing, then disappeared. My roommate and I made faces that said “the hell just happened?” I don’t think I really even looked at him.

The next Sunday at service I looked around for him, because I assumed he’d be there, but I never saw him. Clearly, we had imagined him. We were that close. It was possible.

Near the middle of April he appeared again, this time after service. I was talking to several people, and he pulled me aside. A pattern at this particular church is that no one took me aside gingerly. No one took me by the hand or guided me by the small of my back. No one put an arm around me or even took my elbow like an elderly woman would do if you helped her across the street. No, every time someone took me aside at this church they grabbed me just above the wrist. They didn’t nudge. They didn’t coax. They gripped their hand around my forearm and pulled me aside, no matter how engrossed in conversation I was.

This stranger yanked me aside and jumped right to it. “What do you usually do on Sundays?” At the time I reasoned this was because he realized he had just been incredibly rude, so he was going to be brief to allow me to get back to my conversation. (This willy-nilly giving of the benefit of the doubt is still a problem of mine). “Well,” I said, “I come here, and the girls and I will sometimes watch a movie or go to the park or sit on the roof.”

“What are you doing today?”
“I don’t know. I guess I don’t really have plans.”

For me this conversation didn’t happen a whole lot. My heart was pounding. I had no idea what he was getting at. If I said yes, he could turn out to be a monster. If I said no, I’d be excommunicated. He asked if I ever came to the coffee shop at the church.

“Sometimes, I guess.”
“Well, why don’t you meet me here at 4?”
“Sure,” I agreed, not knowing what I was actually agreeing to.

I went home and cleaned my room and lived my life, because if I didn’t then I knew my brain would panic, and I’d never show up.

I wish I’d panicked.

The coffee shop was in the balcony of the church. When I walked in the door to go upstairs, he directed me downstairs to the basement. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this scenario, because 1) I never saw people go downstairs except for specific events and I hate breaking rules and 2) No one else would be down there. We sat on a couch, me with my bad arm against the back of the couch so I could face him. My head was resting on my hand which was propped up on the couch. (I will later regret this decision and blame him for it. I will be justified).

He again dove right into the scary end of the pool. Not the deep end. The shark infested end. He didn’t really ask questions. He just talked. He told me all about his family, and how they lived well, which is rich kid code for “they’re rich.” “I don’t want to be someone who needs nice stuff to be happy,” he told me. It wasn’t long after this that he proceeded to tell me about his new phone. His mom who got skin cancer from tanning and how reckless women were about their looks. “You’re pretty though. I guess, I even like your nose ring.” After about an hour of this sort of monologue he started to speak to me again, rather than at me.

“I’ve…I’m…hmmm.”
“What?”

I’m awful at talking to people, and while I didn’t really understand why he was pouring out his family history to me, I didn’t have to speak. Somewhere toward the last hour he paused.

“No. It’s not really appropriate for this first date situation.”

(Was this a date? Did I miss the part where I agreed to a date? How do I always miss that part?)

“Okay,” if he thinks it’s inappropriate it likely is. I’m not going to push.

“Well,” he starts anyway, “I’m a virgin.”
“Okay.”

I didn’t really care. It’s not that I didn’t care, but this wasn’t a topic I was ready to get into. Because I knew what his next question was going to be, and I knew that my answer was not first date appropriate. (I’m not sure on what numbered date it becomes appropriate, but I’m pretty sure it’s never).

“Good job,” I add hoping we can laugh and talk about scars or ghosts or something. “What about you?” I paused. I paused for a long time. I paused for what I believed to be seven to eight minutes, but was probably closer to three or four seconds.

“What about you?” he asked, inappropriately, unnecessarily.
“Well, that’s hard to answer.”
“Seems like it shouldn’t be.”

I breathed. I waited. “It’s hard to answer, because the answer is no.”

He’s making the face I am still afraid everyone will make. The one that says “whore.” The one that says “you’re no one.”

I started again.

“But I didn’t really get a say in that.”
“What does that mean?” (Disgusted? Angry? What is that tone?)
“Well,” I took a breath and tried again, “I was raped a little over a year ago.”

He became one of the first people I ever told. His face changed. It’s a face I will come to understand all too well later in life. At that moment though, when it was the very first time I’d ever seen it, I thought it was compassion. It was not compassion. It was lecherous. It was a wolf spotting a deer.

He put his hand clumsily on my arm. The arm that had been propped up on the back of the couch above my head the entire four hours.

“A friend from high school,” I said. “That’s how I woke up.”
“Awful,” he said, in a tone I will come to know means “opportunity.”

He asked a lot of questions, that a lot of awful people ask. Ones I didn’t know were wrong at the time. I was just relieved to be talking about it. I hadn’t mentioned it since I told the first two people, and they laughed at me for the situational irony of it all. “He finally got what he always wanted,” they had said.

The conversation slowed. There was a party at his house that night, so we hugged and went our separate ways. I went home. My neighbor came over to rub my throbbing shoulder, but it wasn’t long into the shoulder rub that I got a text. He wanted to see me again. That night, ideally.

I’d never felt so wanted. I’d never felt wanted. He wanted to meet up at the park beyond his house instead of at his house, since there was a party going on.

“I don’t want people asking a lot of questions,” he had explained, which in retrospect should have destroyed me inside. It did a little. It took away that feeling of being wanted a little.

He suggested I drive, even though it was less than a half-mile from my house. But we lived on the same street. I’d pass the party. People would see me. People would ask questions.

We met at the park. He had driven too, which seemed strange. That we both had to drive, when he could have easily told a group of people he was going for a walk. It started to rain.

“Why don’t you get in my car?” He shouted across the gap through open windows. “uh…okay.”

I got into his small truck.

We pulled away from the park and started to drive. I don’t know how far. He was talking again, and I was listening. It was after 10, and the rain was making it darker. After some time he pulled over. Right there on the side of the road. By a field. Nothing around. Dark. Darkness that felt like it mattered. Self-important darkness.

He took off his seatbelt and leaned over, his arm around my shoulder, his other hand on my leg. He kissed me. I didn’t stop him. He kissed me, and my mind flashed to Ethan*, to Marcus*, to Smitty*, to moments of care. This was cold. This was other. He moved closer. His weight went into his hand on my thigh. I wasn’t sure he knew what he was doing. He bit my lip, hard.

He took my right hand and put it on his crotch. “You know what to do,” his voice was different. Not impassioned. It was angry. More to the point, I did not know what to do. That became obvious to him within seconds. “The fuck?” he said, as his arm moved from around my shoulder. I said nothing. His hand on my shoulder, he shook me, as his voice grew louder, “do it!” The back of my head hit the window. Not hard, but my teeth still clattered.

Still unsure, I undid his pants. “That’s my dirty girl.” Was I? I stopped. “Say it.” I stared at him in the darkness. His hand left my thigh and came hard across my face. “Say it!” I didn’t know what I was supposed to say.

My head pounding from the window, from my shoulder, from his hand. My head was full of questions I couldn’t ask.

He shoved me away from him. His pants undone he slipped them further down, the most delicate action he’d taken.

“What are you waiting for?”
“I don’t. What?”
“Put my cock in your mouth.”
“I’m not really comfortable with–”

He grabbed the back of my neck. I felt his fingernails in my skin. He said it again as he pushed my head down. I tried to pull back, the seatbelt still across my chest.
“If you don’t do it, I’ll leave you here. In the middle of nowhere.”

One hand holding himself, he used his other to open my mouth. First with his hand under my jaw, then his hand inside my mouth. Finger tips on teeth, pulling down. Led by my jaw he pulled my head down again. Tears rolling down my cheeks. He pulled his finger out of my mouth as he pushed himself into my mouth. His hand now on the back of my head.

I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. He moved. My head hit the bottom of the steering wheel more than once.

He stopped, his hand ensnared in my hair, and wrenched my head off of him. “Say it.” I still didn’t know what I was supposed to say, and now I couldn’t say anything. I had no voice anymore. His hand still in my hair he pulled my head all of the way back and slammed it on the dash.

“Say you’re a dirty girl.”

Still unable to speak, he repeated the sentence and the action. My head slamming into the dashboard four times. Sobbing, barely audible, and fully convinced I said, “I’m dirty.” “Mmhmm, yes, you are. Keep crying, slut. It’s sexy.” I felt dirty.

He did it all again. The second time he had more to say. More things he needed to call me. I stopped crying. I became numb. Life and will left me.

He finished. As he pulled my head away he closed my mouth. He held it shut. He held it shut for a few minutes. I swallowed. Crying. His hand came hard across my face again.

“Clean up your make up.”

He pulled his pants up.

He put his seatbelt.

We drove back to the park.

I got out of his truck and into my car. He left. I left. My roommates were asleep.

I brushed my teeth. I washed my face. I brushed my teeth. I threw away my clothes. I put on pajamas. I went to bed. I woke up the next day. I covered some bruising. I went to work.

I didn’t report it. I didn’t tell anyone. He was more involved in church. Previous experience told me that people would think it was funny. I didn’t think I’d be heard. His family was wealthy, and therefore more powerful.

For his actions after please, visit here.

Until recently, that was the worst of it.181426_523176729019_5353008_n

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Adventure in Control

Abuse comes in a lot of different forms. **trigger warning** This post will mention, though not explicitly describe the concept of rape.

 

A few years ago I started regularly seeing someone. He went to a church that I used to attend. He came to a show I did with some friends. He started liking all of the things I posted on social media, I guess to get my attention?

We started seeing each other a couple of times a week. I’m a very punctual person. I believe that being habitually late tells people my time is more valuable than mine, and I hardly believe my time matters at all, so I try to be early. He, on the other hand, would be half an hour to two hours late without explanation every time I saw him.

One night I had purchased tickets for an event that he had interest in. It was the least I could after dinners and things. He also didn’t have a car at the time, so I had to drive out of town to pick him up. I drove around his town for two hours waiting for him to come home. Ten minutes before he arrived at home he said “I’m on my way back from *wherever the hell he’d gone.* I just need to shower and change.” He was insistent we drive up to the show that was now almost over to see if we could still get in. I said, “No. That’s not how theatre works. We missed the beginning; we missed it all.” We ended up driving all the way back to his town to watch a movie. We didn’t have to make that trip at all.

He had given me a pair of pants to mend for him, which was fine with me. But one day, the information about my assaults and the way I’d spun out after that was not okay with him. Over a text he broke up with me. He didn’t want to see me. He still won’t acknowledge I exist if we’re standing next to each other in line to see something.

The problem was that I still had those pants. For weeks. About once a week he would text me that he wanted to come pick them up. I would wait, for hours because I just wanted rid of them. Hours later he would say “oh I just went home because of y.” I’d have someone in my apartment, so he wouldn’t feel like he could stay. I’d sit outside in the rain. I’d wait.

This was his way of maintaining control over me. To still be able to dictate what my life was.

Eventually, I got fed up and drove to his town with several other unwanted pairs of pants and threw them all over his yard in the middle of the night. (I highly recommend pantsing someone’s yard. The thud pants make when they hit the ground is very satisfying.)

I’ve lately been trying to walk away from an emotionally abusive situation. He once checked on my cat so he was given a key. He still has that key and has put a lot of work into making sure he just can’t quite get it back to me, which leads to sleeplessness.

He said I could have two whole bars in town. Granted, they’re the only places I really go, but on a recent occasion where I went to one of those two bars, one of his friends said “you’re not welcome here.” I stared. “You know why.” I didn’t, but I’m pretty decent at social math. Nonetheless, it remained that was one of my spaces. He had the entire town at his disposal. Still as a courtesy I let him know I’d be there for a show. I’d stay at the show. I wouldn’t be seen. So naturally he had already had plans to be there and made sure I felt guilty for even thinking about going. He’d change his plans, he pouted. He didn’t. He didn’t change his plans, and I uncomfortably cried during a show I was trying to enjoy.

The key has been attempted to be retrieved on several occasions, but there’s always a reason it doesn’t make it to me. This is control. This is a power play.

Abuse has so much to do with control. Assault has so much to do with control. Rape is about control and power.

In dealing with my most recent rape, I made a joke about all of the weight I’ve been gaining and how often I’ve been raped. “How fat do I have to get to stop being raped?” This was called out as fat shaming. If it was, it was shaming me. It was also called out that I was saying fat people aren’t desirable. I’ve never been more disgusted that someone would think rape had one fragment to do with desire. It doesn’t. It has nothing to do with desire. That’s why it doesn’t matter how fat I get, how much or little I’m covered, how drunk or sober I am, how old or young I am. It has nothing to do with those things. Nothing. It is about control.

I haven’t been sleeping. He has my key and the power still to keep me from sleep. Control and abuse comes in a lot of forms. Right now it’s little cuts and bruises in my mind that don’t get to heal.

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Adventure in Pretending Like It Didn’t Happen

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I used to work for a law firm, with attorneys of the law, ya know? One day at work there was some very clear sexual harassment. Cornered in an elevator then made to feel badly for not being okay with it or getting the joke. I did what you’re supposed to do. I talked to my supervisor, holding back tears. She came with me to the woman in HR. The woman in HR was very concerned.

The next week a series of meetings happened, all with me in them. “What do you want to happen?” one attorney asked me. “We can’t let the person know it was you that reported it, legally,” an attorney said. But he knew. I know he knew. “Do you want us to fire him” an attorney asked me. “You can’t do that,” I explained to the attorney of the law. “My job isn’t to decide the repercussions of a crime in your office, which is what has happened here.”

I was given a weekend to decide what I wanted them to do. The attorney who was my age and I had a conversation about it after these meetings started. He was outraged, but they knew I’d talk to him. They knew he’d be outraged, so while we were at court they made a decision without him. I was told they asked other attorneys from other law firms what they should do. The HR woman now on their side. “We’re all going to pretend this didn’t happen and just go do our jobs.”

One attorney stopped talking to me altogether and deliberately made my life harder. I worked there about another year and half, because I needed the job and the money was good. I was constantly on edge. I was always afraid, despite being excellent at my job, that I was going to be fired for a bullshit reason.

Toward the end of my time there that was what they were working toward, creating a bullshit situation to get rid of the “troublemaker.”My last day in the cubicle next to me the attorney who stopped talking to me said to my coworkers who liked me and cared about me, “Good. I’m glad she’s leaving. She’s a crazy person, and no one will hire her again.”

I never pretended like it didn’t happen. I worked at my desk every day on edge. People in the office liked to startle each other for reactions. I don’t react to those things anymore because I’m always on edge. There I was even more on edge. I never pretended like it didn’t happen, because it did happen. I’ve forgiven the person who did it. He knows he was wrong and has admitted that and learned from it. They, however, those attorneys think they were right, because they are men and that’s what offices are like.

They were wrong. They are wrong. It did happen, and my situation is not unique.

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Adventure in Breaking/Mending

Eight weeks ago something happened. Six weeks ago something worse happened. One week ago more brush was shoved on the fire.

It’s not a new topic for me, especially in the last couple of years, but try as I might, try as others might, I won’t stop talking about it.

Eight weeks ago, between eating lunch and picking up a comic to take to his next city, I stopped at the home of a person I know. Someone I had spoken with regularly. Someone I considered a friend. In the course of less than half an hour, everything changed.

I was able to take myself out of the situation before it became desperate. But “no” wasn’t a viable answer. “This isn’t why I came over,” was also unaccepted. “I don’t want to redo my makeup” was a good reason. “I’m on my period” granted me enough space to get up and leave, but not enough space to have control to stop things.

I picked up the comic and went about my weekend.

Six weeks ago, I was feeling good. I met up with someone and lost complete control of the situation. I’ll continue to spare you details. I got home in the middle of the night, uncontrollably sobbing. I knew the right things to do. I knew to call the police. I knew not to shower. I knew those are the things you’re supposed to do. Another thing you should do, if you’re able, is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. So I did. I showered. I took my clothes off. In that order.

I did something I haven’t done before though. I reached out to people immediately. Everyone was asleep, but in the morning so many people were affirming. So many people kept my mind safe. My dear friend, who is far away, encouraged me to go to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. My dear friend, who is down the street, hugged me while I sobbed on him.

I called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, because I didn’t know how it worked. She said to come in immediately. I asked, “Can I wait an hour? I have a job interview in 15 minutes.” She called me a toughie.

Throughout an hour-long job interview, I held it together. I needed this job. She asked how I handle stressful situations. I refrained from saying, “I haven’t cried once or given pause that something is wrong in this interview, have I?”

My dear friend, who hurried back from out of town, met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. I met with a forensic nurse, a police detective, and a woman from victims assistance. I had a full exam done. I only cried once. She was kind. She was patient. She took my time, not hers. Some times when we interact with people who need kindness and patience, we offer them patience on our own time. She did not do this. She gave me time to breathe. She waited until I said okay. I know it’s her job to act this kindly with victims. We could all stand to work this kindly with everyone.

My dear friend waited in the lobby for two hours. Her phone died. She read every pamphlet. She waited on my time. She was kind. She is kind.

Another friend far away shared my assailants picture. He told the story. He checked with me and then told anyone who would listen. Profiles were removed. People were talking, in the best ways. He shared the truth, not the easy parts.

The next day I had a gynecological exam to get checked for my tumorous cysts. The nurse was kind. She talked to me about her own trial. The RN was not kind. She was cold and shaming. I scheduled another appointment for an ultrasound, because the RN didn’t believe me. It was five weeks later.

I stayed open. I kept talking. I asked for help, for company. I was granted this more times than I can explain. Food was brought to my home. Kindness after kindness.

Two weeks later I had a second interview for the same job. I hadn’t slept in four days. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. It was a terrible interview. I was exhausted. I was beaten. I was destroyed.

The next day I received a call from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t just my fears. Other unwanted news came. Nothing uncommon, just unpleasant.

Three weeks went by, and it became a problem for some people. This made me stronger. My survival and my means of survival were problematic for some people. I vowed to become immortal out of spite.

At four weeks, I wanted nothing, but hugs. I also wanted to never be touched. I was watching as people I knew were having pretty serious allegations brought up against them. I was watching and being pulled in. People were contacting me, as if I’m an authority on consequences. The only consequences I understand are my own, the ones I face every day. I watched possible (albeit likely) assailants keep friends, which is a type of affirmation of those actions. While I was losing people for being dramatic, for causing problems.

Do you know why someone talking about rape seems dramatic? I do. Because trauma is dramatic. Because tragedy is drama. Because truth is dramatic.

This only made me louder.
“I wish I could talk my way out of being raped the way rapists talk their way out of trouble.”
“So we’re clear. A rapist hears the word ‘no’ and expects that to mean ‘yes.’ But when accused the rapist is like ‘I didn’t rape her.’ Apparently only his ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

I started to feel more isolated. It was silly. Weeks prior I was surrounded, literally and figuratively. Friends from all over were reaching out to me. Nonetheless, I began to fear I had worn out my welcome on asking for favors. I’m not quick to ask for help, but this time as a means of survival I knew I needed to. Coming up the stairs at home and collapsing to my knees sobbing, I knew I needed help. I had reached out to someone I was told was a therapist. They proved to be a crazy person that would only escalate my issues.

I felt alone. I was not alone. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone.

Loud noises began to affect me. My parents’ dogs barking made me terrified and panicked. Thunder made me panicked. A dear friend brought me earplugs and other kindnesses.

At a show, I wore my “please-don’t-rape-me” jeans that I bought eight weeks ago. I told my friends not to touch me and to make sure no one else did. I did not keep it together. I left in the middle of the show. Broken. I had stayed because I couldn’t be alone, but the music was loud, the voices were loud.

Week five I was fine again. The dogs and I were fine. I could cuddle my dog again.

Creative 30 for 30 started again, and I could force myself to put some of the things in my head to good use. I started baking again. I didn’t start passively baking. I have no one to give baked things to. I started baking to heal. I started baking more than just that one cupcake Kristen Wiig made for herself in Bridesmaids. I started making full pies. I made pies for healing. I recorded recipes. I made the same pie twice. I improved on pie. I improved on pie to improve myself. I taught myself new skills to show myself I can do more. I watched Moana eight times.

I went to my ultrasound. The tech was kind. The tech took my time. She made six marks on the image of my single ovary. She paused. She asked if I wanted children. I turned my face as tears grew in my eyes. I’ve been in pain again for a couple of months. When I finally saw my doctor she explained I had several cysts in my ovary. They ranged in size from 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm. She explained that they would likely dissipate. She explained that in my case they needed to be monitored closely because of my history. She said it was Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It explained so much about my last year. It explained so much. It still scared me so much. It still does. Of course, it does.

I also made it one whole year writing affirmations. It’s not been a full year since I moved them to this platform, but I’d brought myself a full year on the strength of my own mind. I’ve continued. I will continue.

At five weeks I also found out I got that new job. I found out I’d be working in an incredibly life-giving, safe, and affirming space. I could walk to work again. I could pay my bills again. I could be motivated to fight PCOS simply by doing my daily work.

Six weeks/eight weeks later I started my new job. I love my new job. I’ve been doing research on diet options to make PCOS more manageable. I’ve continued to reach out to people. I’ve broken my own heart this week. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve cried on the phone with someone I haven’t heard from since I told them what happened because I felt abandoned. This crying went unnoticed.

In eight weeks my nightmares have come back. In eight weeks several people have taken themselves out of my life because I’ve been too much. In eight weeks I’ve cycled through peace and pain. In eight weeks I’ve screamed and cried. I’ve gone silent. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve been pushed. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. I am still moving. I am healing. I am mending. Pieces of me are coming back together. (please, ignore that Ashley Simpson reference. I can’t take it out now, but I don’t want it there either).

Some times for no provoked reason, I still fill with all manner of sadness and pain. It doesn’t take new provocation. There’s a lasting provocation lodged inside of me. A provocation I can only hope to learn to cope with. It will live beside me. I will be bigger than it. Some days, I’ll get to a place where I will feed it too much. It must be fed. If it’s starved it will get loud and angry. It must be fed and acknowledged. It is my constant companion. It is my monster. It is not me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped carry me over the last two months and over the last 30 years.

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Adventure in Fractured Fort Wayne

It’s extremely difficult to find someone in Fort Wayne who is more than two degrees separated from anyone else. In a city of over 250,000 people that’s pretty remarkable. I’m sure it’s not entirely true, but like I said, “difficult,” not impossible. It makes the city feel more small town than it is. The lack of public transportation adds to that.

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Here’s the thing about Fort Wayne, it’s incredibly isolating. I’ve lived here most of my life. I moved away and came back, because I realized how passionate I am about Fort Wayne, about making it better.

Being in the midwest, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways. Being at one time governed largely by members of the KKK, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways. Having once passed on an arts campus that could have reshaped the entire city, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways. Having once opted to build its interstate around the city rather than through it, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways.

Let me preface this by saying, I love the people I have. I love the people who this does not apply to. I love the people I’ve never met who dig in and love this town the best they can. Know that I’m aware of my own fault in the problem and am trying to change.

Fort Wayne has a inclusion problem. I’m sure every city does. Fort Wayne’s feels more prominent, because, as I said, it feels smaller than it is. Fort Wayne is broken, and it does it to itself. People are digging their heels deep into their corners and punching down to people in other corners.

There are people trying. There are people offering art, entertainment, kindness, hope in an attempt to be as inclusive as possible. It’s beautiful. It’s hard.

There are people feigning interest. There are people who call themselves supportive of a movement, when all they do is patronize people they already know and enjoy. That’s not support of a movement. That’s drinking with your pals.

Watching people feign inclusion while they create exclusivity hurts the community at-large. There are people fighting to create spaces designed to be as inclusive as possible, those people continue to be excluded.

I’ve watched people move away because they’ve worked hard to break in, to feel welcome, only to be shut out. It’s gross. We’re doing it. Those of us in the heart of the city excluding people trying to be a part of new things.

Everyone has this idea in their head that there’s only so much attention and money to go around. That’s true. It’s limited. But that limit does not mean you punch others down to get what you want. Work together. We set things up on opposite sides of the street that are exactly alike. Find ways to put it in the middle of the street.

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I came back here to try to improve this city I love so much. I don’t have a lot to offer, but I’m trying to impact and better the culture. Many people I know are. The people in control, the taste makers are not concerned about improving the city. They are concerned about making sure it looks like they are concerned about improving the city, which is gross. I’m not asking for credit. I chose a thankless job. I know there are no accolades in that. It makes me sad for the people I see trying. Know that I’m aware of my own fault in the problem and am trying to change. It makes me sad for Fort Wayne.

I get it. Some things are comfortable. Some things are scary. Reaching beyond our current scope, groups is hard. Try. Reach out. Please. Meet someone new. Invite them to things.

I’m not ready to give up. I’m close, but not yet. It feels like a wash. I know it’s not. It feels like it.

If we can, we need to be working together.

I know we can, because I’ve seen it once before.

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Adventure in Reminders

Brock Turner is being released today. Brock Turner is being released today on “good behavior.”

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Brock Turner was caught in the act of raping a woman. He was caught by two other white men. This act of violence has been regarded by Brock Turner’s remorseless father as “20 minutes of action.” I hope you’ve never been raped. I hope you’ve never been assaulted. “Twenty minutes of action” is a long time for anything terrible. As someone who no longer runs, 20 minutes of action in the form of running causes my sides to hurt, my legs to hurt, my lungs to sharpen, my throat to tighten, my mouth to dry. “Twenty minutes of action” of me running is unpleasant, but a choice I made. “Twenty minutes of action” in the form of someone chasing me, pinning me to the ground, and raping me is 20 minutes I never want to suffer through again. Do something unpleasant today for 20 minutes, just unpleasant not even something so terrible you’ll want to be dead for the rest of your life. Just something you dislike. Sniff shit for 20 solid minutes. Run for 20 solid minutes. Hold your breath underwater for 20 solid minutes, because that’s what it feels like. But even when you start to drown and your lungs fill up with water, your body isn’t being violated. No one is rapidly, immediately shattering your psyche. Do you know how quickly a gun can fire into someone’s brain and kill them? Seconds. It can take seconds. Do you know how long trauma stays in a person’s brain? How long it stays in their muscle memory? It’s a hell of a lot longer than the three months Brock Turner spent in jail in police protection, because his precious blonde hairs needed protected.

I am not a violent person. I’ve gotten in one fight. I hit a kid a few times in middle school for being a real dick about my brother. The idea of violence can make my whole body tense up. The idea of hitting someone else makes me feel so sick.

In middle school and high school I was a weird kid, but I was a mean girl. I was. I won’t pretend I wasn’t. I had no right to think the things I thought, to say the things I said. My adult life is action after action of me trying to better myself from that. I say some aggressive things. I think some aggressive things that I am not proud of. I can’t call myself a pacifist because I know my heart. I may not ever be capable of violence, but I am capable of some pretty aggressive thoughts and words.

I say all of that because the idea that Brock Turner was protected in jail makes me sick. There are people who are in prison for marijuana possession. They are in there for their whole lives for something that is becoming legal across the nation. They are not protected in prison. There are people in prison who have been wrongfully convicted. They are not protected. They are in prison for their whole lives for something they didn’t do, and they are not protected. But Brock Turner was caught in the act of a raping a woman and was sentenced to six fucking months. SIX MONTHS for a class B felony. (which don’t even get me started on the class of that felony) He is being released today on good behavior. Well, sure. There weren’t any women for him to attack in that three months.

You know what isn’t good behavior? Sorry, this is a tough one. It’s raping a woman. Remorselessly. When Brock Turner testified he laughed. LAUGHED at how “ridiculous all this” was. It’s ridiculous to Brock Turner because he’s used to getting everything he wants. Well, good news for him. He still will. He’s a rich, white man. He’ll be fine. He could have spent years in prison, and his parents, who also saw nothing wrong with his actions, would continue to fund his life. He may never be able to get a job, that’s a possibility. It’s not likely though. Because a rich, white man won’t have a lot of background checks run on him. He can lie on any application and say “nah, no felonies.” No one will check.

Meanwhile, the woman he attacked, the woman he raped will walk down streets knowing he’s out there walking the same streets. It’s hard enough after being raped to walk down a street, even if you were inside when it happened. Everyone is a threat. Every sound is terrifying. Every slamming door could be your own trapping you in. Every footstep could be anyone coming up behind you. She will live knowing the courts believe raping a woman is something so irrelevant and common place that the punishment should not be severe. She will live knowing raping a woman is something that can be glanced at as good behavior. Because here’s the thing about serving three months in jail, not prison, jail, for raping a woman. Three months (even his full six month sentence) and early release for good behavior. Three months to someone that remorseless is just a bother. It’s an inconvenience. To let someone that remorseless walk away free on “good behavior” after violently raping a woman doesn’t say to any survivor that he had good behavior in jail. It tells all of us that raping that woman was good behavior. It’s a pat on the head, and a “good boy.” It tells all of us we have no value, and we will continue to have no value. Our bodies are an inconvenience. We’re here for men, and our causing a fuss about only wanting to have sex when we want to have sex is an inconvenience. So when we “cry rape,” it needs to be “punished” to show we were “heard,” but the courts are really saying “nah, man. We get it. She’s being a real bitch about it. It’s why she’s here. We have to lock you up for a few months to get her to shut up. But we’ll let you out real quick. Promise.” Never in the history of time has “Bros before Hoes” meant more. because that’s what the courts are saying we are.

Women, you are not here for men. You are not here for men. You are not here for men. You are not here to appease anyone. Your body does not belong to anyone else. Your value extends so far beyond your vagina. Your worth is in so much more than the strength of your vagina. You are so much more. You are so powerful. You are so strong. You are so brave. I’m so sorry this is what we’ve been handed. I’m so sorry that things have not changed one ounce since Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure. I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry. You are not here for men.

 

Adventure in Changing Attire

I don’t like pants. They cut my body weird. They make it hard for me to pull my knees up by my chest. They make me feel uncomfortable with myself. They restrict my leg movement. Though I started wearing them as such anyway, I don’t consider leggings pants. That’s not what they were made for. Leggings make me feel lazy.

I wear skirts and dresses, every day with one exception. The two pairs of shorts I own. The rest of the time it’s skirts and dresses. I have too many skirts and dresses, but I wear them all. There aren’t secret articles no one has ever seen. I wear all 30+ skirts. I wear all 20+ dresses. (Like I said, too many).

Lately, I’ve been feeling better about my weirdly shaped body. Better enough to unabashedly wear crop tops. Better enough to wear a low-cut top. Better enough that I confidently wear skirts and dresses every day, instead of hiding myself behind my old uniform of baggy t-shirts and men’s jeans. There’s nothing wrong with that uniform. It just wasn’t the uniform for me. That uniform was me hiding. It was me so ashamed of all that’s happened to me. Things beyond my control. As my brain started to heal, I found myself in clothing that better suited my mind. I’m not saying mini-skirts and skater dresses should be every woman’s uniform. Please, don’t misunderstand me. It’s what has worked for me to make me feel comfortable with my own body.

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Unfortunately, I had a bit of a breaking point this weekend. Every day of my life I am on high alert. I have no idea which people are safe anymore, and any man that makes me even a little uncomfortable is a clear threat. Which means there’s a pretty short list of men I feel truly safe around. It means I spent Saturday alternating between sleeping and crying on my living room floor. It means I spent Sunday forcing myself to get out of bed and work at a coffee shop. But I can’t bring myself to don my regular uniform anymore. I don’t want to go back to men’s jeans and baggy t-shirts. Those are the clothes I use to hide scars and pain. They aren’t the clothes of the woman I know myself to be. They are the clothes of a woman who hates herself, not a woman who loves herself.

Yesterday, I couldn’t do it. I was so uncomfortable with the world that I didn’t feel safe in anything. I put on leggings. I put on a t-shirt that was incredibly too big for me. Anywhere I went I was curled up in a tiny ball. I tried to make myself as tiny as I could. I didn’t want to be spoken to. I certainly didn’t want the regular barrage of unwanted and unearned hugs I always receive places. So few people can hug me and make me feel safe. A couple did yesterday, but mostly I felt tense. I felt like at any moment things would turn.

I’m wearing leggings and a shirt that makes me feel like someone’s mom today. I don’t like it. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. But I feel less like anyone could talk to me.

It’s not what we wear. Our clothes are not the problem. What is the problem is the way assclowns respond to what we wear. Let us feel safe. We put effort and care into the clothes we put on. Even if it’s just our uniform. Those clothes are intentional because they are what make us feel good. They are what make us feel safe. Your comments are not helping. They’re ruining the minor comforts we finally made for ourselves again.

That to say, for now, back to leggings and hiding.

 

Adventure in Daunting Resilience

The summer of 2000 my family went camping at a now-closed campground called Oak Hill in Fremont. It was a Christian campground that on occasion my youth group also stayed. This particular weekend jaunt I brought my pal Emily with me. Emily and I have been pals so long that I’m the one who taught her oldest daughter to dance. The day Ellie realizes it was my fault, she’ll never forgive me. I don’t recall it being a particularly warm weekend. I remember grey skies, but maybe I remember grey skies because the weekend is now a little sullied.

It was warm enough that we walked down to the grimy, grey beach. We built sandcastles. We built sand-witches. We were in seventh grade and admittedly little weirdos. One-piece bathing suits. No grace or class at all. Just strange creatures, who worked so hard to be different than everyone else that we ended up almost exactly alike (at the time).

When we left the beach, I remember it being because the clouds were starting to roll in, but maybe it was too cold. Or maybe we got bored with being weird there and wanted to take the show on the road.We walked back through the woods and winding paved roads to the campsite. As we approached we heard my parents talking to other people. The people from the site next to us had come over. Another married couple and their son. Maybe they had a daughter about my brother’s age. I don’t remember. That’s not the part that stuck with me.

My parents introduced us to the new-comers. The parents told us their respective names, and this was their son Stephan. Not Stephen, guys. Not Stefan Urquelle. Stephan. Steph-an. In fact, it was pronounced like how you’d read Stephen if you’d never heard it aloud before. We all chatted for a while. They were staying for the week; we were leaving the next day. Stephan and I exchanged emails. He seemed nice enough, and I was about to be in eighth grade. I didn’t know. I didn’t know then what I know now, but can’t seem to avoid.

A couple of weeks later I got an email from Stephan. Harmless email. “Hey how’s it going?” email. Emails like this went on for a while, until about a month or so later when he said, “I have to tell you something.” And I didn’t know any better. I should have walked away weeks ago.

“When you and your friend…” Emily. Her name is Emily. You know her name. I talk about her all of the time.
“went down to the beach by yourselves…” because we did. We were in a safe place. Camping was safe. Christian camping was safer. It wasn’t that far, and we weren’t small children. We could go to the beach alone.
“the day I met you…” Not we. I.
“I followed you.” YOU WHAT?!
“I just stayed back in the trees and watched you.”

My reply was simple. It felt simple. “What? Why would you do that? If you wanted to talk to us, you should have. That’s so scary. Why would you do that?”

“You were just so pretty.”

I repeated my first email. “If you want to talk to us, you should have. That’s so scary.”

Also, I was not. I was remarkably gawkish in middle school, as most are. I didn’t know how to do my hair, but I wanted it cut like Mary-Kate’s in Our Lips Are Sealed. It was supposed to be thinned and straight and flipped out. Even when I got it cut it didn’t do that. She didn’t do that to my hair. It just piled up in a bundle of poof that neither curled nor laid flat. My neck was longer than I could understand. My boobs were bigger than they should have been already. And I spent most of my freetime rollerblading, because I watched the movie Brink a lot. I wasn’t pretty. I was weird. I was intentionally weird, which made me even weirder.

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That’s me in the blue. (Emily not pictured)

I got a lot of emails from Stephan over the years that I mostly ignored. When my junior year rolled around, he was still emailing me. He wanted to know if he could come to prom with me. Not me go to prom with him at his school. He wanted to come to my prom. Blackhawk didn’t have prom. I’ve still never been to a dance. We had Jr./Sr. banquet, which was getting dressed up and inevitably spilling chicken on your expensive dress at an uncomfortable table. “You don’t have a date, do you?” I didn’t at the time, but I also didn’t want to take someone who followed me to a beach and assumed I wasn’t good enough to get a date from people I knew. “You don’t have a date, do you?” In the end I still went with a, at the time, near stranger. A new friend from church, but it seemed better than going alone or with Stephan. We went with Emily and her boyfriend (they’re married now and have four kids).

“You were just so pretty.”
“You don’t have a date, do you?”

The boy in college who raped one of my friends told me I was a “fucking slut” and a “piece of shit,” because I wouldn’t come to my window and stand there naked while he smoked in the parking lot.

Another boy in college tried to “jokingly” drag me to the woods. He pulled out a chunk of my hair to commit to that joke. The tag on that is “it’ll be funny to you later when you think about it.” I can’t wait for that slow burn to finally sink in for me. It’s gonna be so rich.

When I told my friends about the first time I was raped, I framed it terribly. I didn’t know what had happened to me, so I certainly didn’t know how to tell them. How to tell them I didn’t know what happened. That I was with our friends. That I thought I was safe. The situational irony was rich the way I framed it. It still is even when framed properly. It doesn’t make it any less terrible. “That’s perfect. He finally got what he always wanted,” one of them said.

Since that day, six years later, we all sat down. They asked for my story, and I gave it to them. The whole thing. We all realized a lot in that moment. I framed it incorrectly. We were all distracted by ourselves. I’ve never doubted they love me, but for a time I didn’t trust them.

When I was attacked in Huntington on a date, I was on a date, with someone from church. It should have been safe. It was supposed to be safe. Moreover, it was the first date I’d ever really been on. Certainly since anything had happened. Truth to tell though, he’d be Stephaning me for a while. Just watching me from the balcony on Sunday mornings. Lurking behind me at parties. Never speaking to me until St. Patrick’s Day. And then not for a few weeks later.

When I was attacked in Indy, I was wearing a skirt and wool tights. I was wearing flats. I was wearing a sweater. I didn’t wear heels then. I couldn’t walk in them. I barely wore skirts, if I did they usually came to my knee or lower, because part of me still felt like I was in seventh grade. Part of me was still trying to be a little weird. I was walking. From the car I’d just parked to a restaurant a few blocks away.

When I was attacked at the Brass Rail, my drink never left my hand. It was the only one I’d had all night. It was warm. I was wearing tattered jeans. I was wearing a tank top. I was wearing moccasins. I was standing. I was surrounded by people.

When I was cornered in my own home. Threatened about my own home. At work. I keep repeating in my own brain all of the time that I didn’t do anything. It’s not my fault, but it is constantly fighting a battle with the part of my brain that reminds me how many times terrible things have happened. How many times I’ve let terrible thoughts overcome me and given into them. How many times I’ve played along to manipulation because if I’m not polite worse things happen. That somewhere in the inner war that wages in my brain, I’m the one firing canons from both sides. That somehow it still feels like my fault.

It still feels like my fault when someone in a car catcalls me when I’m walking down the street. It feels like my fault when a comic grabs my ass. It feels like my fault when teenage boys harass me. It always feels like my fault. It always feels like my fault.

It always feels like my fault.

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Adventure in Spelunking

I’ve never been cave diving. But I love the idea of caves, and I’m pretty decent at regular diving. Or I used to be. I can’t actually remember the last time I was in a pool, which feels weird. Not the point.

The thing about speaking up about all of the things that have happened to me is it’s not always great for me. It’s not always empowering. It’s not always helpful. Many people in my life think things are worse than ever, because they’re finally hearing about things as they happen. As I deal with them, instead of never having to hear about them.

Another side to it is a lot of people think that that’s all that I am. I am just a victim. I am just PTSD. I’m not, if you’re wondering. I’m pretty grossly complicated. Pretty grossly broken, I admit. But there’s a lot more going on in my life than living with a disorder. There’s a lot more going on in my life than being a survivor. Not a victim. Maybe I’m more than that. Maybe I’ve read a book or two that isn’t about rape or rape culture. Maybe I have hobbies.

Another side to it is many people co-opt my pain for their own. To tell and retell my story like a folktale that makes them seem like they, in such a distorted way, know someone interesting.

Truth is, while I know there are people in my life that my speaking up does help, I do it for myself. I do it to maintain my sanity. It’s a beautiful side effect that encourages other people to soldier on like the warriors they are.

Right now though, what I’m watching is the gross sides of it, the things above. It’s my story to tell as publicly or privately as I wish, not anyone else’s. So for the time, for right now, it’s going to private again. I don’t know how private. I want to hold it tight to me and bury it again and never let anyone else in. I know that’s not the right choice, but know that it’s what I want. That I feel like shutting everyone out again. It will probably look more like letting a few people in until they feel too burdened, or more likely, until I think they feel too burdened.

It’s time to take a deep look at what protecting myself looks like again, because too many dark creatures have found their way into my mind and my life, and I do mean people. It’s time to shut up the house for a while and only let those who were invited in. Everyone is a vampire until I feel otherwise. I don’t feel safe, but I wear my armor. I wear those that are safe. I keep them with me. IMG_2751

Adventure in Here Comes the Sun

And so come the blues.

Something we don’t talk about a lot, because it makes all of us uncomfortable is death. It makes us think about each other dying. It makes us think about us dying. We don’t like it. More than that we sure as shit don’t like to talk about suicide. Sorry, dudes. I’m gonna. Buckle up.

It’s summer, and what that means is my brain gets tired quickly and often. I don’t like to feel left out of activities, and the summer is a flurry of activities. It’s night after night of me yes-and-ing everyone I know.
“We’re going to the park.” “Yes! And I’m bringing a kite!”
“We’re making brunch.” “Yes! And let’s go on a six-mile walk!”
“We’re going to dinner.” “Yes! And we’re all dressing as the food we’re ordering!”
“Hayley, stop it!”
But my brain needs breaks. I give off all of the appearances of an extrovert, because I’m adaptive. And by “adaptive” I mean “quick to accommodate and a people-pleaser.” Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy the occasional outing. The occasional diversion from my sweatpants. The variation from my porch and beer. But I feel gross if my breaks leave me out. And I feel gross if being out leaves me without a break. It feels childish. It’s a little paranoid. I don’t like being around people, but I don’t want to be left alone.

Let me tell you why.

In the summer I know that left to my own devices for too long my thoughts will wander, and they will wander dark. They’ve done it before, and they’ll do it again. Not because I want them to. Not because I let them. Not because I entertain them. But because I get tired, and I can’t fight them anymore. Because some times it’s two in the afternoon, and all I can think about is the quiet. It’s important to know I don’t want to kill myself. I just think it’d be nice to be dead some times. I think there’s a line in there somewhere. I think a lot of people dance it. I don’t think I’m alone. I just think we’re not talking about it. I’m not telling you this because I want to shock you or I want you to call me concerned in 20 minutes, mom. I’m fine. I really am. I just think it’s important to realize that these thoughts aren’t uncommon, and maybe hiding them is worse for us.

Usually, in the first session with any new therapist they’ll ask you if you’ve ever had any thoughts of suicide. My tendency here has always been to lie. Who the hell is that helping? Not me. Because while I think about, I always have no thoughts of action. No plans. Anymore. But every day is a decision to keep living. I think it is for most people in some way. Some days for me it’s as a simple as choosing to get out of bed and do my job. Maybe you can identify with that one. Some days it’s choosing to eat food to sustain life. Some weekends it is making myself leave the house and be around people to keep myself away from my own thoughts.

There are people in my life that I tell when I think things are getting too dark. There are places that I go to brighten up my life. There are physical places that I go. There are mental places that I go. There are emotional places that I go. O, the places that I go. There are people I text late at night. I let Kristen know that my brain is getting so sad, and I don’t know how to handle the crushing feeling. Kristen knows that I want to feel as strong as people say I am. Kristen understands what it is to have people put that added burden on you. It’s an extra weight we willingly carry, but it gets so heavy. I tell Hannah. She says something smart followed by a string of jokes to distract me. Alex will read the novella of texts I send off to her and reciprocate. Dustin will remind me how far we’ve come from where we were ten years ago. Brett and Erica will do the same. Jeff will call me if he thinks it’s getting too dark and remind me he can come over or I can come there. That there’s an extra bed at his house. That it’s safe there. Casey would be here sitting up with me if he could. Piper now holds my hand and puts her head on my shoulder during poetry readings. Minelli sends me links to adorable animals. Derek reminds me what my passions are and why I love them. Jason and DJ let me be a little baby brat about my stupid feelings and then tell me I’m not even when I know I am. That’s just the beginning of the list.

I am safe. I know I am. The truth is I’m safer than I’ve ever been. But that doesn’t stop these ideas, these thoughts from creeping in. But keeping them locked up in my head won’t help. So I’m letting you know, that I understand that you have them. I’m dealing with mine too. We all are. I’ve been writing daily affirmations for myself that I’ve taken to sharing on Facebook. It’s just one more way I can stop myself and pull myself out of dark spots. Every day I’m trying to remind myself that I’m here today and maybe that’s enough. We’ve got today, and all we can do is use it to the best of our ability. Loving other people. Supporting other people. You’re not alone. Together we’re a hell of a lot stronger and more powerful than we are apart. Please, speak up and speak out about all of your things. You are who you are. There’s no shame in that. We can do this.

***EDIT***

And this is important! If you are having suicidal thoughts and considering acting on them please contact either someone you know personally and that you trust or reach out to one of two key crisis helplines. Please, either call 1-800-273-TALK (2855) or text “GO” to 741-741. You are not alone!

***End edit***

This is me just doing my best. At life. At summer. Check in come winter when you’re gloomy. I’ll be on the up and probably more useful, though likely less tan.

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