Adventure in Self-Righteous Unhelpfulnes

April was sexual assault awareness month. With that came a lot of personal boldness. I’m always pretty talky about things, but I decided it was time to be just a little louder. I did something brave, even for me. I tweeted just the first names (that I knew) of those who have assaulted me. It came with little response. I didn’t do it for anyone else. I did it for me. I did it to bravely say aloud. For me.

A couple of weeks later I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard of in a couple of years. The same person who upon hearing of my first rape laughed at the situational irony and said, “He got what he always wanted.” A couple of years ago when we met up, we talked about that night. We talked about that conversation. I extended forgiveness. I extended grace. We had a conversation in which I believed we’d reached an understanding.

Remember last month when I said “if you don’t know what to say, it’s really okay to just shut up?” (I probably said it nicer than that). She should have just shut up.

This same person came across this tweet and decided that she knew people with those first names, and before checking with me, contacted those she knew with those first names and told them “Hayley is telling people you raped her.” I received threats. I received insults. From people it shouldn’t have impacted at all.

I received what felt like an unending email thread from this person. Even though I repeatedly asked that she never contact me again. Someone who stakes her reputation on being a voice for women made sure to shut mine down, because in her mind it affected someone she once knew, regardless of concern for how it affected the woman she knew. She didn’t stop emailing me until she heard from my boyfriend.

Why am I telling you this?

It takes an awful lot for me to get to a point where I cut someone out of my life. In fact, I should be better at it, based on how many toxic people I’ve let run my life.

Throughout all of the emails she cites her god, the Enemy. Let me tell you something. I believe in God. I believe we’re all in this together. I believe that this world is awful. I believe that the only way it’s going to get better is if we take care of each other. I believe that people who think more about even the potential accused over the victim are the Enemy. I believe that Christians who spout their self-righteousness as faith are a greater detriment than anyone else to faith in general.

If you cannot hear a victim and let them tell their story the way they need to, then you need to take your seat.

It shook me. It knocked me out for a while. It made me terrified again. It made me shake with anger. It rekindled nightmares. It rekindled distrust. It elevated her superiority.

What we share that isn’t ours is affecting. How we share it matters. It’s so, so easy to see some information and draw our own conclusions.

All of that to say this. Bad things are going to happen. Bad people are going to show themselves. Everyone you know and care about isn’t going to support your survival. They won’t like that you’re getting better. Maybe they don’t wish you ill, but they don’t understand how you can get out from under something when they can’t. You aren’t doing it for them. You are doing it for you. It’s your survival, and it’s beautiful.

A year ago I met up with someone from tinder. A year ago guns were brought out in my presence, and I instantly felt trapped. A year ago I was beaten. A year ago I was raped. A year ago I felt so isolated. A year ago one of my best friends met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. A year ago she sat in that lobby for hours, while I did all of the things you’re “supposed” to do. A year ago I made phone calls. A year ago I hid at the Let’s office. A year ago I felt like it was all over, again. A year ago I wanted to be dead. A year ago people I love rallied around me and wouldn’t let me go.

A year later I am stronger. A year later I am different. A year later I have healed and grown. A year later I’ve walked away from a lot of things and a lot of people. A year later I am medicated. A year later I am in consistent therapy. A year later I am still here.

Ya know what? I’m glad I’m here. Thank you to everyone who has helped make that possible.

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Adventure in Just Shut Up

In the name of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I’ve compiled this list. 

Remember, this is one survivor’s opinion. On both sides of this I’ve heard almost all of these at least once. This isn’t a complete list and maybe even some of the suggestions of what to say aren’t the right things for each individual. The key is to listen.

Suggestions on what to say:
I believe you.
Thank you for trusting me.
I’m so sorry.
(if you can ensure it) Right now you are safe.
I’m here as long as you need.
Take your time.
(if you’d like to hug or hold someone) Is it okay if I hug you?
You can say or do whatever you need to. Please know that you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.

Silence is okay.
Offer suggestions, rather than making them come up with things to do/say. “Would you like some tea?” rather than “What do you want to drink?” “Do you want to watch parks and rec?” not “watch whatever you want.” Take out too much need for decision, but if no answer comes, try not to do something (i.e. turn on the tv) because you’re uncomfortable. So are they. This is about their timing, not yours.

What not to say:
Are you sure?
That doesn’t sound like him
Yeah, that sounds like him
I can’t imagine him doing that.
What were you doing?
Where were you?
What were you wearing?
Who were you with?
Had you been drinking?
How much had you had to drink?
Had you given any indication?
Well, of course he did.
You shouldn’t have been there alone.
God is trying to teach you something.
I’ll kill him.
Who was it?
Did you report it?/You should have reported it.
It will be okay.
Did you clearly say no?
He got what he always wanted.
What do you need? (we often don’t know, and this adds a lot of pressure)
Why were you (anything at all)? (get your why questions out of here)

Things not to talk about or do:
Anything attention related
Laugh or joke
Anything about what will happen to him.
Calling it “non-consensual sex”
Story compare
Don’t share the story, no matter how helpful you think you’re being.
Don’t ask for specifics.
As you listen do not change the language. If they say “attacked” you don’t say “raped.” If they say “hurt” you don’t say “assaulted.” This is their story. Not yours.

Adventure in Existing in the World

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(This is available for purchase at TheEscapistArtist Go buy it.)

 

March 8, 2018

I walked out of my office and down half a block. As I reached the half block point a man in his mid-50s came out of the Salvation Army. I was on the phone, so I didn’t hear what he was saying, but he started shouting at me. He ran across the street to where I was walking and continued to yell. He continued to follow me. I went into the nearest building which was a Starbucks. I stood there a few minutes until it felt like the coast was clear. I walked out and changed routes, changed plans, looking over my shoulder the whole time. I walked two more blocks and the man came from around a different corner shouting again. I changed routes again. I changed plans. I turned a corner and two men in their late-20s or early-30s walked out of an office building. They started to turn a corner, then turned around. They started walking back toward me, yelling. Still with my headphones in I turned again and changed course. I walked another block only to have a man sitting in his truck rolled down his window and started shouting at me. Looking over my shoulder the whole way back to the office. Outside less than 15 minutes. Never made it to a place to get lunch.

It shook me. It changed my whole day. It changed how I felt about myself. Every insecurity poured into my heart and mind. Every cruel way someone complimented me as a joke. Every piece of safety stripped from me. All control taken again.

March 10, 2018

While pumping gas a man in his late-30s working in the parking lot was picking up trash. Every time he walked by me he smiled an unsettling smile, every time he looked at me. As I finished pumping my gas I looked up. He was across the parking lot staring. Once again I was on the phone. I went inside to buy something, when I came back he was standing next to my car, less than ten feet away. Just standing there. Staring at me. As I got in the car he stared and gave his unsettling smile. I started my car, and he walked backwards away from my car staring the whole time.

I left, and as I drove by again I checked to see if I could see him so I could take his picture and send it to his employer to inform them of what had happened. I did not see him.

March 12, 2018

Leaving a grocery store I was in my car about to start it when I looked up. A man in his early-20s walked by the front of my car. As he did he made direct eye contact with me the whole time and did the old tongue-between-the-fingers. He then sauntered off casually into the grocery as if nothing had happened.

My instinct, my greatest desire is to yell at them. I want to approach them, face-to-face, and ask, “what do you want to happen here? What’s your end game? Where do you think that’s going to lead?” The truth is though it shakes my sense of safety so unbelievably, I can’t imagine putting that in further risk by engaging. Without engaging though it will continue to happen. The cycle will continue. If I engage, I’m at risk, but if I don’t engage, we all remain at risk. I’ll be honest though, I’ve just spend 8 years rebuilding my sense of safety, I’m not going to risk throwing it away again until I’m certain it’s stable.

Maybe that’s selfish, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. If you think it is, sorry, but also tough shit. It’s something that doesn’t just leave my mind. It’s something that lingers with so many questions about what I’m doing wrong. Which coat, which top, which hairstyle, makeup or no makeup? What are the factors? How is this my fault? What am I doing?

I know the answers are all that I’m not doing anything. That this isn’t my fault, but still as they pile up, it becomes almost impossible not to wonder what I’ve done, what I’m doing to make this keep happening.

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

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.