Warning — this post jumps pretty quickly into pretty straightforward talk about sexual assault and its effect on my life, just in case you need to care for yourself and not read on.
I let slip last night in a conversation with my mom that I had been assaulted on a date. My first date, in fact. Well, my first date with someone who wasn’t someone I’d known for years. It was the first time a guy asked me out because he met me and thought I was funny or cute or something. And I said yes.
I regretted it later. Both the date and the telling.
I wished for years that I’d said no to going out with someone I didn’t really know, that I’d been smart enough to anticipate what would happen, that I didn’t have to cross paths with him at school and feel the shame and embarrassment the memories of that night evoked. Every. Stinking. Time.
I wish I hadn’t seen the crazy mix of surprise, sorrow, compassion, pain and anger flash in my mother’s eyes. I honestly didn’t mean to set her up to feel any of that. I dropped that little truth bomb in the middle of a conversation about that rape case in California. The one that revealed in such stunning relief the insane culture in which we live. I went on with my theory about learning by high school everything I needed to know about sex – except consent – just like so many of us GenX-ers. We then turned around and did an equally crappy job with our kids…
But I did go out that night, I was assaulted, and thirty-plus years later, mom finally heard about it.
What she didn’t hear was the other story. The story that more closely resembles that of the victim in the case in the news.
The one in which I was more than a little drunk and sleeping at a friend’s house while a guy I was dating long-distance was visiting. I woke up to find him on top of me and in me. Not because I’d invited him, not because I’d agreed, but because once before we had been intimate. Therefore, apparently, my proximity was all the consent he needed.
I was too ashamed to say anything the next day, when he was leaving town. I was ashamed that I could be stupid enough to be the girl who was so drunk that I allowed this to happen… that my body had responded in a way that must have seemed like I wanted more… that I was so groggy, I couldn’t think or speak until it was over. And when he didn’t call back for several weeks, not even to officially break things off, I was a little relieved.
And yet, it wasn’t over for me. Not by a long shot.
When I hear the excuses made by the father of the rapist in California, by the judge who was so lenient, they echo the reasons I was so devastated. I was an athlete and a really good student. I had tremendous potential. I was going places.
If I could get past the confusion and shock and shame, and maybe get back to studying again.
If I weren’t carrying the child of my rapist. Who had apparently gone into the witness protection program, or had some other really good excuse for not answering my calls.
If I weren’t part of a community of churchy people who were appalled that I drank at all, much less allowed myself to get raped because of it. And considering where and how to get an abortion…
If I weren’t so frightened of disappointing my parents with being responsible for all of the above.
After all, good, smart, capable girls don’t…. and they sure don’t talk about it.
Nope. It wasn’t over for me, not until I lost many friends over all of the above, burned through a lot more liquor to dull the pain and silence the inner voices, moved back home, graduated, finally realized that being raped by someone I knew wasn’t a choice I had made, stopped drinking, and started living into that potential again.
It’s all part of my story, even though I haven’t talked about it with more than a handful of people. At least that choice has become more about privacy than secrecy as I healed a bit, walked a bit, then healed some more. But today, I feel like I need to stand with the countless other women who have made that trek and are well enough to say to those in pain “You are not alone. You are stronger than the fear and shame that is trying to silence you.”
And by the way, there are too damn many of us to shush.
PS. Mom- if you read this before we talk, maybe just consider this rehearsal?