Nine Year Anniversary
June 2010 lingers on my brain like the fluttering breezes that remind you rain is on the way. June 2019 marks nine years.
It was warm for the time of night that it was; the grass had grown tall by now, the vibrations of the bass hummed throughout the dirt and tree roots. The further we got, the more the panic grew. This wasn’t a high school make-out session going down. You stood over a foot taller than me, almost two of me in width and weight, your hand held my wrist like it was gripping a twig. There was no time to waste in your mind, no consideration, just force. Tripping forward by the catch of my own jeans wrapped around my ankles, I turned to plead with you as you pulled my tampon out, and my voice became lost in the darkness that you found to be so comfortable. It felt like a lifetime. It felt like my insides were ready to explode across the ground. I could hear my fear in the shaking buckle of my belt as I searched for the strength to pull my pants back up around my waist. You’re supposed to feel like your walking on clouds after a good experience, not one that displaces you.
One friend was passed out drunk against a parking cone; one friend was approaching blackout while the other held her head straight; one friend punched the wall of the club when I resurfaced. I watched him walk back into the club, he high-fived a couple of his buddies and disappeared into the crowd. That night, I stood at home in my bathroom and told her what had happened. Eight years later, she said, “you’re not special, what happened to you, it happens to a lot of people, I know more girls now that have been raped, you’re not the only one”. Quickly I learned that those who do not experience traumatic events, cannot bear the empathy or sympathy to provide support. Emma, after ten years of friendship, this will always be the most unforgivable thing you’ve ever said and done.
2015: the PTSD surfaced gruesomely; I stopped seeing his face and started seeing yours. It was worse, not just a one time stab, it was days upon weeks of repetition; your satisfaction mattered far more than mine ever would. Therapists, pills, weight loss, anger, and darkness. You were blind to the abuse that oozed from your existence; it took me months to find the courage to slip out from under it all, it has taken me years to face the effects, to try to move on. I would be in a much better state at nine years if you had not disrupted the healing.
2018: across the screen of my computer is an online article with a headline that says something about being raped and how it didn’t ruin her life. A new sense of finally not feeling alone. It didn’t ruin my life - it fucked me up for life.
Nine years later and I fear enclosed stairwells and elevators; my blood boils with panic when I suddenly find myself searching for every safe “out” as my space begins to be shared with someone I do not know. His face still lives vividly in my memory. The other face, dressed in red, I see daily; it lives in the strangers that I see in passing, in the double takes that I need to rule out that you’re not actually standing a hundred feet from me.
Post nine years after the rape and I swim in a pool of mixed emotions regarding all of it. Sometimes I want to look him up and see where he ended up in life, secretly hoping it was behind bars somewhere but torn because I hate the idea of him having done the same thing to someone else. Sometimes I want to send a message to my abusive ex, the most serious relationship I had after the rape, and spit words of fire at him for not taking the time to find a way to respect my past. Sometimes I curse time for not making these things easier to deal with. But, most of the time, I’m free from it all.
Most of the time there is peace, most of the time there acceptance, not forgiveness, but instead the sense of ownership over it’s toll on my life. It’s been almost two and a half years since the last time the secondary abuse took place. There are definitely aspects that had faded, their edge has been taken away, mainly due to being in the first healthy relationship of my life, mainly because I am dating someone who was raised so incredibly well that it’s given me back the confidence and courage to feel sexual, not scared.
In the immediate years that followed the rape, I had only told three people, none of them being my mother. It wasn’t until a few years later that I found the terrifying courage to share with her what had become my most painful secret. I did it in public so that she couldn’t have a reaction - I often did this to her: the news about my virginity, telling her that I use pot, the list goes on…I was the first-born, can you tell? The first thing that came out of her was the question if I needed help, no more than I did need to get help. It took me almost three more years after that conversation to admit that I was ready to face a therapist.
The number nine has always been my number of choice, there’s just something about it for me. This June marks the ninth year since the summer rape. Every year I share my story because to me, it is what feels right, it is what has given me the voice that I lost that night in the grass. If I have the courage to recount it, year after year, maybe I’ll have the courage to forgive the past. If I share my story, maybe it will open the door for others to begin their healing process. While my healing requires a great deal of me being actively present for it, I am hoping that in year nine, I will finally find total peace with all that has happened.