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 Pressing On

Eight years ago today I was sexually assaulted for the first time. Eight years ago today I was betrayed to the highest degree by two of my friends. Eight years ago today my whole life changed, my whole being changed.

Until eight years ago I was an extrovert. I was carefree (some times careless). I was trusting. I loved doing things on my own in the wild. I went to movies and dinner and parties alone.

Here I am eight years later, and honestly, it’s okay if the sentence stops there. Because despite numerous assaults since then, so much fear, so much anxiety, barely holding it together through loudly spoken staff meetings, I am still here. Some days that’s a hard, hard thing to want to be, but I am still here.

That’s not something I say, because I demand to be appreciated. I’m telling you, because I think it’s remarkable. I shouldn’t be. I’ve so often not wanted to be, but here I am.

Yes, I am guarded. I am, I admit, paranoid. I am often terrified to be in the world. Some days I’m terrified to be in my home. Nonetheless, I have been loved and supported and carried. I know many do not feel that. I know that I am so fortunate to have such amazing people in my life, and I know I couldn’t have gotten this far without them. I also know that I’ve done the work. That when it comes to it, in the middle of the night when I feel myself falling apart, it’s me and my mind alone in the dark, and I continue to conquer the lies. I continue to outlast the things that live in the dark spaces in my head.

It’s okay to be struggling with these things, because ya know what? It’s fucking hard. Survival is so hard. In a month I’m going on the first vacation of my adult working life, and that’s incredible, because four years ago I’d have never been able to make a plan two months in advance. When you’re trying to survive, when every day your only focus is just to get through the damn day, you don’t have the luxury of planning ahead. The furthest a plan goes is the next breath.

Eight years ago my life changed, and eight years later I’m still here.25508082_794112721119_1272130281498617811_n

Adventure in the People You Know

Again, trigger warning. There will be discussion and details of rape in the following. Sincerely, mom, stop reading.

 

Two weeks before my twenty-third birthday it was my high school homecoming and a friend’s birthday (we’ll call this friend Caliban). It had been five years since we were out of school, so we figured this was the year to go. I had also convinced a friend (we’ll call him Polonius) to come up for both the birthday and the game.

We met at a pub to surprise Caliban, then gathered up our existence and beer and went to Polonius’ hotel room to consume said beer.

This went on for some time, we had all agreed we’d just stay at the hotel. Big bed. Pull out couch. So we drank. A lot. But I’d drank a lot before and never felt like that. Caliban went to sleep, leaving me and Polonius awake to catch up. Caliban took the whole big bed, so eventually Polonius and I went to bed on the pull out couch.

I was incredibly dizzy. When I laid down I hit my head on a bar on the couch. I passed out immediately. Without any idea of the passage of time I woke up. Abruptly.

Now, it’s important to note that at nearly 23 and raised in a Christian evangelical environment I was a virgin. More to the point, I did not receive “the talk.” And sex ed at my evangelical school was…lacking. Let’s just say I’m really good at painting my nails. (That’s what we were taught). So I have no gauge for what this is supposed to be like. I have no concept of how this is supposed to work.

I do know that I’d kissed a few boys. I do know that that’s all I wanted to do. I know that my plan was always to wait until marriage, and based on what I’d learned from married friends who still had guilt about sex, maybe wait until I died.

So when I was abruptly waked with my dress pulled up and a person I trusted on top of me, I believed I put myself in this position. I believed I had at some point or another agreed to this exchange. I also know that I hit my head again. That tears were on my face. That I didn’t know for sure how I got to this position.

I never went back to sleep. He did. Touchlessly. He laid on the other side of the bed without any contact.

The next morning I stumbled downstairs with him to breakfast. “You’re still drunk,” he told me. I couldn’t eat. My head was throbbing. I’d been hungover before. This wasn’t that.

Eventually, I made it home. I laid around my parents’ house completely sick. I was set to have dinner with a friend before the game. Finally, right before I was meant to meet her, I threw up in the kitchen sink and felt like I could stand up again.

We went to the game, and I could tell he’d told people. He’d asked me out over a dozen times since middle school, and I’d always said, “no.” He was a buddy. I never had a boyfriend in high school. It didn’t seem necessary.

The next day I drove to my friend Brett’s house and told her I’d had sex, but couldn’t stop crying. Couldn’t shake how badly I felt. She took me to Taco Bell. When I drive by that Taco Bell, I still feel so loved.

A few weeks later I went out with some friends from high school, the one I’d went to dinner with and another. I told them what had happened. “Finally got what he always wanted,” they laughed their virginal laughs. I guess he had. And I guess that was the lesson.

For years, that was the lesson. He got what he always wanted, and I put myself there. I did this.

Now it’s important to note those two women and I have talked about it since then. Years later we discussed it. They apologized. It made us closer.

It’s also important to note that since then I’ve been drugged a couple of times. I now know what happened. I know that if I’m asleep, I can’t consent. I know that if I’m drugged something was planned. I know that no matter what, I didn’t want that.

A few weeks later Polonius invited me and Caliban to come visit him and his girlfriend. That’s right, he had a girlfriend at the time. I said, “No, that doesn’t seem like a good idea.” He laughed and laughed.

That same week with my friend Natasha in the basement bathroom of Macy’s I took a pregnancy test, terrified and shaking. Not pregnant. I texted Polonius. “Not pregnant. Not that you were worried.”
“I didn’t know that was a thing,” he replied with his same evangelical sex ed.

I can’t say anything with any certainty here, but here are some things I’ve thought over the years after I stopped blaming myself.

  1. There’s a distinct possibility if this event had not happened, I’d be in a healthy relationship with someone.
  2. There’s also a very real possibility, if I’d remained single, I’d still be a virgin.
  3. I know that most of the people I went to high school with do not understand this situation. It is not my job to make them understand.
  4. After this event, it felt like (and rather obviously) that I had a scent on me that let other monsters know “this is an easy prey.”
  5. I know that a hard thing to have to do is invite your rapist to a reunion you have to plan.
  6. I am the strongest person I know, and I think it’s important for me to feel that way.

For my own sake, I have forgiven him. Some times we have to forgive people without ever receiving an apology. Forgiveness is not excusing.

Recently, he told me I was an inspiration. I spent 12 hours sobbing in bed.

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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 Staying Home

Recently, I stepped all of the way back and set my boundaries to their default settings. As an inside cat my boundaries are “Stay home. Talk to limited people. Trust few.”

I tried once in the last few weeks to go out. I went to my favorite bar. I was there not 10 minutes when someone asked me to leave, that I was not welcome there. No one argued. I didn’t. So I left.

With the exception of a Harry Potter Garden Party a friend and I threw I’ve been home every night for weeks.

The part of me that understands how socializing works thinks this all sounds very unhealthy, but I’ve decided it’s not worth the risk. Not right now. I need to reset. Going out with even the safest people could still mean someone awful approaches our table, even someone that they trust. The pulse of Fox Mulder beats inside me, and I hear “trust no one” inside my heart.

If people feel so inclined to engage, that’s great. I will always counter “let’s go to x” with “how do you feel about a walk?” or “with this weather doesn’t a porch hang sound nice?” If that isn’t what they’re interested in from me, that’s fine. Maybe in a few months I’ll come around.

For now I know my safe places and people. They are limited. They are my parents and their home. They are my home. They are friends far away and a limited few nearby.

In a week or so I’m going to a wedding with people I love. It still scares me. When situations like this come up, I do what I can to ensure there will be someone there with me who is as safe as they come who will be there to be with me.

Summer is hard for me for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it comes from feeling unwanted because I don’t get invited to all of the hangs or I hear all of the hangs outside my house and I feel weird for being depressed and in bed already. That this decision is something I am owning makes that easier right now. I still hurt, but the twinge of pain from “missing out” is worth the constant fear.

I’ve learned, particularly in the last two months, when it comes to fight or flight I do neither. In my head I fight and shut people down. In my heart I run as far away as I can. The reality is I freeze, like a fainting goat. My voice goes away. My body stops. When everything ends, I collapse.

So for now, I’m staying in. People won’t understand. That’s fine. I don’t need them t22195634_782310657549_6515116817879609921_n

 

Adventure in Muscle Memory

Muscle memory, if you don’t know, is when your body locks away an action you’ve done over and over. The way Alzheimer’s patients can play instruments because it still lives in their fingers. It’s helpful. That rhythm is often kind. You don’t think about tying your shoes anymore. Your body understands how to keep a bike moving. A waltz becomes simple. 

Muscle memory isn’t all bike rides and music though. 

Some times your body remember things your brain has locked away. It holds onto memories you didn’t know you had. 

While it was just five months ago that I was raped, my body remembers something else. 

This week my brain has been exhausted. My eyes have struggled to focus. On more than one occasion I’ve found tears on my face without knowing I was crying. My body ached from movements I wasn’t making. My belly hurt. A particular sadness set over me. Try as I might I can not shake it. 

The internet is useful. This particular sadness goes back six years. While I couldn’t pin down the date for you, it must have been around this time. Six years ago in Indianapolis I was assaulted. And while my brain knows it happened, my body remembers better. 

My memory is good. Not as good as it used to be, but often better than the average person’s. I appreciate that right now it is trying to protect me, while my body is trying to remind me.

It would be nice if body’s also remembered the same way, without real provocation, good things. The comfort and calm you feel in the presence of certain people. The comfort of specific actions. That every time you showered it came with the same bliss as that first dive of summer into the pool. That every shiver came with the beauty of those first snowflakes falling on your skin. That every hug with safe people offered the same warmth as hugs with the safest people. 

Maybe other bodies do. Mine doesn’t. 

My best sent me the above. Source unknown. 

Misadventure

Late October surrounded by people I trusted in a bar I feel safe I was drugged.

On April 7 in the middle of the day at a “friend’s” house I was assaulted.

On April 25 in the middle of the night in a stranger’s house I was raped.

On August 5 in the evening outside of a bar with friends just inside I was assaulted.

I could go back years. I won’t because I know my mom reads this, and I’ve already said enough to break her heart. Enough to break my own.

I say none of this because I want any sort of pity. I don’t need it. I’m stronger than pity. I’m braver than pity.

Right now though, my mind feels like an itchy scab. Life scratches at the itch because it’s unbearable, but all of that healing gets ripped off in the process. The would starts to bleed again. Never as much as the initial cut, but still beads of dark red build. Huge gashes in my mind, all of them at different stages of healing. All itchy.

I started seeing a therapist again. She’s new in my life as my therapist, but not new in my life. She explained to me that my trauma is living in my limbic system right now. That part of my brain thinks it all just happened, thinks it happened moments ago all of the time. This makes my brain live in a constant state of fear, ever-ready for the next attack.

She suggested I not go anywhere that doesn’t feel safe. Nonetheless, on August 5 I ended up in one of the places that doesn’t feel safe. While waiting outside it proved to be just that. The part of me that will always blame myself initially for something that isn’t my fault keeps telling me that it’s like when a dog senses you’re afraid of her. She knows. She bites. People are not dogs. Some of them are, however, monsters.

I’m trying to build safe spaces for my brain to heal. I’m trying to learn where I can go. If I have any hesitation, I can’t go. If there are people I don’t know, right now, I can’t go. It’s not always respected. It’s not always heard. I can’t care about that anymore. I know what’s right for me now, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

It is some times I heard and respected. On August 5 a friend found me immediately after, and while not always quick to read people, saw my pain and never left my side, let me cry on him. A friend let me cry on her the moment I saw her. Two friends arrived shortly after and ran interference. I’m lucky. Some people aren’t supported like I am. I know that. Still, every time it happens it feels completely isolating. It’s meant to.

On August 5 I never wanted it to be able to happen again. I did some things I’m not proud of. It’s hard to believe it won’t ever happen again when it won’t stop happening. That doesn’t mean I should give up. I want to. Right now, I’d like to give up. I’m still here.

You are not alone. Even if you are on your own, you are not alone. It is not your fault.

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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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