There are moments I fall asleep, only to awake from a nightmare; where instantly, through no will of my own, I am carried back in time to the spring of 1986. Transported to a place in time I wish never existed; paralyzed by my own fear, feeling the same gut wrenching feelings, from head to toe, as if I have relived that horrible night once again. It is all part of the post traumatic stress, as well as the healing process.
I was fifteen years old when I was raped, less than five months from my sweet sixteen. Right there I could end this entire narrative, with the knowledge that most people do not desire to comprehend anything about mine or any other survivor’s accounts. But I won’t. I do not need or want anyone’s sympathy, help or understanding. What I need is for you to read my story and grasp how real rape is; I need you to understand the damage inflicted does not end once the rape is over. I want you to realize that most assailants are someone their victim already knows, and possibly trusts. I need you to recognize the signals and I want you to teach your children what consent is and what it is not. Until that happens rape will continue to be an epidemic, of infinite proportions.
I spent many Friday and or Saturday nights at our town’s roller rink, Fit-n-Fun. It was always a welcomed opportunity to escape the judgmental, self-righteous individuals who ran and attended the strict Baptist school I was forced to attend and a distracting refuge from the abusive dwelling I called home. Before one weekend was over, I was busy making plans for the following weekend. This particular Saturday, most of my friends did not go roller skating; I was sitting outside, trying to decide if I should walk home or stay for the rest of the evening. Unexpectedly, a familiar face drove up and began talking to me; it was my best friend’s older brother. After telling him I was bored and was considering walking home, he told me there was a party at his neighbor’s house. I made it clear I had no interest in going anywhere with him; it was at that point he said his sister was there. She was never there, she never showed up, in fact there was no party.
I was fifteen when my best friend’s, much older, brother deceived me; knowing exactly what to say, luring me to his neighbors and plied me with peach schnapps. It did not take an abundance of alcohol for my eighty-five pound body to be intoxicated, to the point of passing out. Making it effortless for this man, who towered over my five-foot two-inch petite frame, to carry me up to a bedroom where he violently and forcefully ripped away the most intimate part of me I had to give. Where he temporarily stole my trust in people and life itself. When my eyes opened to the darkened room I was half naked, confused and terrified. My drunken cries of no and please stop, were muffled by his large hand covering my mouth. I laid there suffering, feeling like I was in an incessant time warp; with each thrust, inflicting more pain. Only until I vomited everywhere, on him, me and the strange, dark room, did it bring my torture to an abrupt halt. Causing his mentality to turn from his own pleasures, to anger and finally a punch to my stomach. I was returned to the roller rink, from the same place I was coerced away from, in time for my mother and grandmother to pick me up. In a haze of fear, pain and alcohol, I climbed into the backseat of my mom’s car.
My grandmother had drove up earlier in the evening, to spend the night; her being there was a Godsend. That night she sat with me on the floor, of our downstairs bathroom; holding me as I vomited and begged God for death. Never once realizing what happened or that she probably saved my life on that ill-fated night.
While the concrete covered linoleum floor was hard, the coldness was somehow soothing to my aching body. In between several rounds of vomiting I laid there with my head on my grandmother’s lap, dozing in and out of sleep and crying. I don’t remember much conversation except telling her, how sorry I was and I wish I would just die. She continued stroking my hair in a calming motion, telling me, “Everything will be alright.” In the moment she did her best to comfort me; yet in the recesses of my fifteen year old mind, NOTHING would ever be “alright”, ever again.
I don’t remember us going up to bed that night, but when I woke up I was in my own bed. In the grogginess of waking, for a split second, I had forgotten what happened; as if the prior night was nothing more than a horrific nightmare. My Mom asked how I was feeling; I think she had stayed up all night to ensure I would be okay. I was anything, but okay; my head was pounding, my throat hurt, my stomach was sore and my vagina felt like someone had just raped me. I was swollen and sore; when I undressed to shower, my underwear was bloodstained. My emotions took over and I began crying again; I am not sure why. Maybe it was the sight of my own blood and knowing what caused the bleeding. Maybe because my head felt like it was going to explode or maybe it was the fact that my heart and soul felt as if someone had thrown a grenade at them, callously shredding them into billions of pieces. My movements for the remainder of the day, and days to come, were slow and calculated; in an effort to cause the least amount of discomfort. No matter how delicately I moved, nothing could prepare me for the emotional pain that would follow in the coming days.
I had two best friends; Kay I had known since I was five, Ann since the fourth grade. I was afraid to tell Ann it was her brother who was responsible for the horrific pain I was in; instead I turned to Kay. We had been through many things together, which made turning to her in confidence and for comfort, a natural choice. Somehow I believed our shared experiences signified I could trust her silence and solidarity. Towards the end of our conversation she stated, “so basically you got drunk and slept with Ann’s brother?!?” “No,” I screamed, “it wasn’t like that.” Against my pleas, she insisted Ann needed to know; before we hung up the phone she promised me she would not tell anyone. Monday morning, standing in the girl’s bathroom at our school, Ann walked in full of rage; I could see the hatred in her eyes and I could feel it encompassing me. “You are such a slut, how could you do that?!?”
Those words tore through my heart like a double edged blade. While I hated my school, at least it was a solace from my abusive home; now that was gone as well. My attempts to separate the truth from Kay’s lies, and her distorted view, were in vain. Not only had I lived through waking up to being raped, while I was passed out, I was now being shamed and blamed for it. I began questioning everything. Before the blaming, I never questioned whether or not what transpired was my fault; now as the words and accusations washed over me like a shroud of shame, I was no longer certain of anything. I wanted and intended to tell my mom; I now feared she would blame me as well.
I continued to question myself, along with the role I had in my rape. Excluding my neighbor and a friend from our church, I distanced myself from everything and everyone. I never breathed a word to either of them, for fear of the same accusations. My silence became my own private hell. Pretend it did not happen, pretend you are fine, let no one see your pain; I believed if I pretended well enough and long enough, my pretense would become the reality. Living a pretense was not new to me; in attempts to hide what transpired behind the walls of our house, I had pretended many times in the past. This pretense was completely different, I wasn’t protecting my sister, my mother or myself from retaliation; this time I was protecting myself from further shame, while also protecting a monster.
I was fifteen when my world turned inside out and upside down. It has been thirty years since that night, yet the images still vividly play out in my head like a horror movie; one I never had a choice in watching. I was at an age where my biggest worries should have been whether or not I was going to pass geometry or seeing the next Molly Ringwald movie.
Instead I spent the next month stressing, worrying and fearing I may be pregnant with my best friend’s niece or nephew and the following years in shame; still questioning what could I have done differently. My beautiful daughter will be fifteen in six short months, I find it more difficult to not allow my mind to wander back in time; to that place of horror, fear and anger. The sheer thought of her enduring a fraction of what I did, is unconscionable. I have a vivid memory that generally does not permit me to forget; along with the scars from what he intentionally stole, which remind me in case I do. Many people see scars as something ugly, something that should be hidden; yet I am proud of the scars. These scars are proof that someone did their best to damage me, but they did not break me. I survived.
I now know my rape, was not my fault; but at fifteen I didn’t. If my account makes you uncomfortable, it should. It should make you sad, it should make you angry. What happened to me is not uncommon in a sea of survivors, which have come and gone in the thirty years since a man I knew, and trusted, violently stole what was mine and only mine to give. Rape is rape, there is no gray area; nor should it ever be open for debate. What was she wearing, she shouldn’t have drank so much, she should have known better or she was willing last week…these are questions and statements that never need spoken. The primary goal of any rape victim is to move past their assault, the pain and the trauma and become a survivor. Victim shaming and blaming only perpetuates the pain; forcing the victim to continuously relive the trauma of their rape. It took me many years to find my voice, to allow myself to tell my story. It took me many years to realize, pretending and suffering alone in silence only allowed my rapist to win and continue his reign of terror over my life. I realize I can never retrieve what he stole from me that night, but only I can stop him from traumatizing me any further.
I was fifteen when I was raped, but I am only one of many.