On weekends when I was little, I fell asleep in bed with Mama until Daddy came to bed. He would then lift me gently to his shoulder, tuck My-My under his arm, and carry me to my own bed. He would turn down the covers, place me on the mattress, snuggle My-My under my arm, tuck me in, and whisper that he loved me. I know he whispered so he wouldn't disturb me, but I always managed to hear him.
Sometimes I daydream about the simplicity of those times. And now, even though I no longer live with my parents, I am thankful for having those memories... grateful for the possibility of someday passing those "little things" along to children of my own.
At times I wonder where I went wrong. Or if I did. I feel like I can never give enough to the people I love. I don't understand how I can be loved.
I wander through my past, analyzing specific moments, certain relationships... and I end up in the same place every time: experiences have had a significant impact on who I am and why I feel things in the ways I do.
In August, I was assigned the task of writing about a time I felt extreme pain. The following is what was born of that assignment:
"Credula vitam spes fovet et melius cras fore semper dicit." (Credulous hope supports our life, and always says that tomorrow will be better.)
I was raped.
It has taken me two years, eight months, and six days to be able to verbalize that. For so long I couldn’t remember anything from “that night” except the ugly feeling I had afterwards and the nagging suspicion that something terribly wrong had happened.
I am ready to write about it, not so that I can relive it, but so that I can gain some closure for that part of my life. It happened, it will always be a part of me, but I no longer have to allow it to define me.
I was raped, and today I can say that with my eyes open and my heart hopeful.
Let’s rewind to that night…
Jay broke a promise to me once again, but I refused to sit back and dwell on it. I made up my mind I was going to go out for Michelle’s twenty-first birthday, I was going to have a great time with my Sisters, and then I was going to get a good night’s sleep for the next day’s exam.
Almost as an afterthought, I also decided I would deal with Jay after the exam.
Those were the thoughts I had leading up to the celebration of the anniversary of Michelle’s birth. That is, of course, until we walked in and he was there. I was nonchalant while I was screaming inside, “My throat is raw and bleeding from the sharp edges of the heart I keep choking up!!”
Why do thoughts like that hit me at the most inopportune times? I mean, gosh, I didn’t even have a tablet with me so I could continue with the thought.
I decided to be tough and cool, calm and collected. So I ignored him. HA! That’ll always show ‘em, right?
He was downright mean to me in front of everyone. He had been drinking for many hours already and was incredibly intoxicated. Huge amounts of drama ensued, his friends demeaned and belittled me, and he was smoking (something he and I both detested). He tried to get in a fight with an unknown man simply because he sat an empty glass down on their table.
I continued to ignore him, and the night improved from there. (Even though I later found out, from a message he left on my cell phone, that he drove home drunk after promising me he would do no such thing.)
A promise is made, a promise is broken...
I went home, got a decent night’s sleep, and blew through my exam the next day. I can’t even remember what it was about, but I remember being in the classroom for fifteen minutes, tops. I never second-guessed my test answers… that’s bad luck.
Jay said he’d talk to me after work that night, and I wanted so badly to believe him. When he came to pick me up after he closed the lab at Midnight, he suggested we go to Perkins to grab a cup of tea and to talk. I agreed and was pretty disappointed when we got to Perkins only to realize they closed at Midnight through the week.
He took me back to my place where I asked him to come in. He fought with me, and I decided I’d had enough. I got out of the car, slamming the door on my way, and walked towards the parking lot. He rolled down the window and asked “just what [I] thought [I was] doing when [I] should be going inside and going to bed”.
I shot him a haughty look over my shoulder punctuated with a, “You gave up the right to know ANYTHING about what I do and where I go, and you DEFINITELY gave up your right to advise me on my bedtime!” I walked to my car and drove away.
With no destination in mind, I drove and I sang. I cried and I screamed and I shook. I noticed blurry headlights behind me, and then the car slowly pulled up beside me, the window rolled down, and a female voice said, "I love you. What are you doing? Where are you going? Oh my gosh, what's wrong?" At the right place, at the right time.
The girls were going to pick Leslie up at the bar, so I followed them. They found out what happened with Jay, so Leslie, Andrea, Kelly, Michelle, and Stephanie left the bar, and we all went back to their place, where Tommy and Lukas and a few other guys were hanging out... and that's where the night went to Hell.
I can't seem to talk to God without yelling anymore... It used to be so full of faith and now it only hurts, and I can heart the Devil whisper, 'Things are only getting worse.'... The preacher came by Sunday... He told me Jesus loves me, but I'm not sure I deserve it... I still believe in Heaven... but as for me... I don't have a prayer...
At the height of vulnerability...
It didn't feel good, it didn't feel sweet, it didn't feel sexy, it didn't feel right. It didn't feel anything other than dirty and scary.
The door locked, and it wasn't the kind of being thrown on a bed I will ever find intimate. Being held down on the floor made so many unwelcome memories flood my consciousness. I was sober; his blessing was that he might forget by the time the rays of the next day’s sun rose.
I wasn't squirming in pleasure, but he didn't notice (or he didn't care). I wasn't rubbing against him because he turned me on, I was trying to get away from him, to get out from under him, to run away and wipe his touch from my mind, from my body. Being carried down a hallway has always been sweet to me, until that night.
I wonder sometimes if he noticed he was the only one laughing…
The door clicked closed, and it was him, me, and an empty stairwell... not exactly how I like to be alone.
Hey look, it's snowing.
"Let me see!! I want to look out the window!!"
You can look out the window in my room.
When I say no, I mean no.
I didn’t, couldn’t say anything to the girls. Going home, I drove down the middle of the road, watching in the rear-view mirror as my tires cut tracks in the snow behind me. I didn't have to worry about oncoming traffic; please, at that time of the morning? The only vehicle I saw was Officer Torok, and that was after I had already parked and stood still in the middle of the snow, staring at the sky, the moisture of melting snow mixing with the tears already coursing down my cheeks. I'm sure he was thinking, "Stupid kid not wearing a coat, get inside."
At the time, I'm sure I really didn't care.
Do you ever feel like breaking down? Do you ever feel out of place? Like somehow you just don't belong and no one understands you? Do you ever wanna run away? Do you lock yourself in your room with the radio on turned up so loud that no one hears you screaming?... To be hurt, to feel lost, to be left out in the dark. To be kicked when you're down, to feel like you've been pushed around, to be on the edge of breaking down when no one's there to save you... Are you stuck inside a world you hate?... deep inside you're bleeding... You might think I'm happy, but I'm not gonna be okay...
Healing comes so painfully and it chills to the bone. Will anyone get close to me? I'm damaged, as I'm sure you know.
I walked inside and upstairs, like I was in somebody else's body, not seeing, not hearing, not feeling. I took a shower, and then another, and then two more, scrubbing my body as hard as I could as my tears mixed with the scalding water. I went to bed in two pairs of PJ pants, two t-shirts, a long-sleeved shirt, a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up... socks, gloves... I piled extra blankets on the King-sized bed, and huddled in the middle, as far away from the edges as I could be.
I felt so empty, so strange, so much like a shell. I felt as if I was watching my life from the outside. Look, there’s a girl, shuddering on the bed, sobbing with her whole body, flinching away from the bruises. Oh... I know her. I was her. I am her?
She can cover a bruise, but her spirit hurts like hell.
I was awake off and on for five hours and took three more scalding showers. I knew I wanted another, but I was just so tired. Everything hurt.
I would rather be deaf than hear that sound like a pistol cracking as the spirit breaks.
I see her as a little girl, hiding in her room, she takes another bath and she sprays her mama’s perfume to try to wipe away the scent he left behind, but it haunts her mind. You see she’s his little rag, nothing more than just a waif, and he’s mopping up his need, she is tired and afraid… Still she leaves the light burning in the hall, it’s hard to sleep at all. She crawls up in her bed acting quiet as a mouse, deep inside she’s listening for a creaking in the house…
I listened for every sound, any noise telling of his coming back. With the morning light I dragged myself from bed only to take another shower. I was horrified by my naked body and showered with my eyes closed, returning to my room to put clean clothes back on, more this time. I didn't have Friday classes, which was a blessing and a curse. I didn't have to skip them, I didn't have to face people, but I was faced with a whole lot of down time. I didn't know what to do. At that point, no one knew, unless he had bragged to his friends.
Days like this, I don't know what to do with myself... I wander the halls along the walls, and under my breath I say to myself, 'I need fuel to take flight.' And there's too much going on... He washed me ashore... and left an empty shell of me...
Jay came over in time to go to Jeremy's and found me still in bed. He thought I had a headache, or that I was still upset from the previous two days. When I couldn't talk, he thought something more serious was wrong. I pointed to my computer and he sat down and read what had happened; I couldn't speak. He turned to me, shaking, sobbing, and walked to the bed, questions and guilt in his eyes. "If only I had stayed..."
I was terrified.
I didn’t understand that night, the next day, or for the next two years, but there was a piece missing from my recollection of my time under his control. I knew he had assaulted me, but I couldn’t comprehend why I was so sore from the assault, why I felt so nauseous, so dirty, so… so… used.
It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I realized the reason for those feelings.
I was raped. Fully, completely, totally penetrated.
I didn't really cry until I talked to Jay. And then it was hard to stop.
She showed her crown of thorns. She whispered softly to tell a story about how she had been wronged... Well, I guess she closed her eyes and just imagined everything's alright, but she could not hide her tears... My anger's violent, but still I'm silent when tragedy strikes at home...
He left me for a little bit, long enough to run to Jeremy’s so he could tell him we wouldn't be over that night. While he was gone, he tried to call my parents, but they weren't home. He called his mom, too, and even though I liked Karen a lot, I didn't know how to react to that. I was still in shock myself, and now people knew about it. I felt so dirty, like such a whore... that guy had his hands and his mouth and his body all over me, and I felt like I was to blame.
Jay would sit on the bed with me, but he wouldn't come near me. I finally screamed at him, "Damnit, I'm broken enough, I won't break any further, you can touch me! The last touch I have in my mind is his and I HATE THAT!" Jay broke down and said he that he just didn't want to hurt me, that looking at my bruises and scratches hurt him. He was afraid to touch me.
My boyfriend was afraid to touch me. I couldn't blame him, but it hurt to hear. Anger flared in me as I realized what he had done... he made my boyfriend afraid to touch me.
Jay said he would help me tell my parents later that night, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it; it isn't exactly something you prepare for.
It was just all so unreal to me. I felt like I should have been waking up from a horrible nightmare, but I then I realized I was awake.
I called my parents and Jay and I both talked to them. It was very difficult.
She can account for all of the men in her past... She knew their backgrounds, family and friends; a few she even talks to now and then. But there is one she can't put her finger on, there is one who never leaves her thoughts... A chance meeting... broad shoulders and blue eyes, his hair was so black. He was a friend of a friend you could say... She... cries herself to sleep 'cause she let a stranger kill her hopes and her dreams, and all her friends say 'What a pity, what a loss.'...
I don't know if "better" is a good word to use to describe how I felt after I talked to my parents, but I did feel a little different. I don't know what I would do without supportive parents. I never doubted their support, I just... I was glad they knew. I didn't want them to hurt, but I couldn’t hide it from them. I hate being a disappointment, I hate bearing any kind of negative news, but I couldn’t have that inside without them knowing.
I knew things were going to be strange for a while, hard, emotional... It was far from over, I knew that. However, I also knew that I wasn’t alone (as much as it felt like it on the inside sometimes).
A couple times during the following day I felt absolutely wonderful. And then it would hit me out of nowhere, my throat closing while I felt like I was being watched. My skin got clammy and my heart felt like it was being squeezed by strong, icy fingers. Panic swept over me and I realized that everything wasn't absolutely wonderful, and wasn’t going to be for a while.
I realized there were things in my life that are amazing, and I was thankful for that. It also became apparent to me that I had to deal with it in a lot of ways, and I knew it was going to be tough. It hurt, but I told myself that someday it wouldn't hurt so bad.
I cried out to my friends, “Don't be afraid to hug me. I won't break!” I didn’t know how much more “broken” I could feel, but I knew that support from my friends couldn’t mangle me.
Back in school they never taught us what we needed to know, like how to deal with despair, or someone breaking your heart... I've held it all together, but a night like this is begging to pull me apart... They say you need to pray if you want to go to Heaven, but they don't tell you what to say when your whole life has gone to Hell... So, is that what you call a getaway? Tell me what you got away with 'cause I've seen more spine on jellyfish, I've seen more guts in eleven year-old kids...
Somewhere there's a stolen halo... Everything would shine wherever she would go, but looking at her now you'd never tell. Someone ran away with her innocence, a memory she can't get out of her head... She's praying, kneeling at the edge of her bed. And she says, 'Take me away, and take me farther. Surround me now, and hold, hold, hold me like holy water... She wants someone to call her angel, someone to put the light back in her eyes. She's looking through the faces, the unfamiliar places. She needs someone to hear her when she cries... She just needs a little help to wash away the pain she's felt. She wants to feel the healing hands of someone who understands...
I still have nightmares about that night, and I still have flashbacks from time to time, but I now see that I’m going to be okay.
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”
Today, December 1, 2007... I struggle with the feelings that come with this time of the year. Sitting here alone, I seethe. My heart goes out to the naive girl who thought "things like that" were so far removed from her life that she would only deal with them "from the other side". I thought I was prepared to be a counselor, but I never thought I would deal with it as a victim... a survivor... whatever.
I had a young girl on my caseload who had gone through incredible trauma as a young child. One day she screamed at me through hot tears, "You don't get it, you don't know what it's like to be beaten. To be called a whore. To be abused." I had to leave the house before I threw up. I was able to go back and talk to her, but I had to come up with an appropriate amount of self-disclosure in order to deal with situations like that.
Sometimes I just don't know how to move forward. In many ways I feel like my life stopped that day and now I'm just treading water.
I'd love to be able to say I'm over it. But I don't think I will ever be "over it". Perhaps, someday, I will find more proactive ways of dealing with the pain.
I got a new tattoo a couple weeks ago... in addition to the outline of the star on my left foot, I had a teal-colored ribbon and the word "Survivor" in black. Along with "HOPE" on the back of my neck, it gives me something tangible to focus on during the tough times.