I know the exact date I started blogging against sexual violence, 2 years ago today March 17, 2006, because I can see the date listed on my first post which explained the purpose of this blog.
That date changed my life as have other dates which I don't have on my calendar. The date I first answered my local rape crisis line, the date I first went to the hospital to advocate for a woman going through the forensics exam, the date I reluctantly stopped answering the rape crisis line after taking so many 9, 15 and 24 hour shifts where I had to be able to drop everything and get to the hospital or the law enforcement center. So many dates.
The date I was first raped by my boyfriend.
This one date which I don't remember by the exact date because my shock was so great that I couldn't even think to look at a calendar. That anniversary which I know is approaching because winter is fading and spring is on the horizon. I think I was raped in April or May, probably May because I remember feeling totally carefree while eating lunch with friends in the warm grass as we talked about our last summer break before high school. I had a boyfriend who I had known seemingly forever and I had a boy in my class who I thought might have a crush on me and who I would have wanted to date if I wasn't already in love. I was going to get my learner's permit as soon as I was eligible and spend much of the summer learning to drive. Life seemed as close to perfect as it could get for a 15 year old girl.
I remember going back to school the next day feeling so sore from being raped that I ached with every step I took. I remember thinking that what had been done to me had to be as obvious as a flashing light and I remember that surreal feeling when everyone else acted as if this were just another school day between them and summer vacation.
By noon on that first school day after being raped I felt completely alone.
The days that followed were surreal in a vague sort of way. My clearest thought was over my fear of pregnancy and the backlash I would face for the result of something I hadn't wanted. My boyfriend was sweeter than ever. He would never intentionally hurt me. He still loved me and he still wanted to marry me. Because of my numbness I somehow ended up alone with him again. This time I didn't comply with any of his requests for contact. The thought of even kissing him turned my stomach. I sat next to him in his car as stiff and frozen as a block of ice. And he raped me again as quickly as he could. This rape hurt as much as the first one.
I might have been trusting because I knew him nearly my entire life and I might have still been in shock, but twice indicates a pattern and this one was going nowhere I wanted to go. I didn't break up with him, but I refused to be alone with him where he could have any chance of forcing himself on me again.
I remember the school year was almost over when a girl in my geometry class asked me the last name of my boyfriend whom I had talked about in glowing terms -- until he raped me the first time. If I talked about him at all after that it was likely responding to my friends questions and likely something about him wanting to marry me.
When I told this girl my boyfriend's last name, I remember her breaking the news to me that my boyfriend had another girlfriend who lived in a small town to the northeast of us. I remember a rage rising up in me pushing the numbness out. The nice girl inside me who couldn't accept the reality of being raped was shoved out. My rage wasn't over his cheating. It was a rage over the knowledge that he was a coldblooded liar as well as a rapist. All those words about how he was motivated by love which couldn't contain itself were lies designed to help him succeed at getting close enough to force himself on me. Twice.
I remember staying late after school that day and writing a Dear John letter on a page of spiral notebook paper then I remember striding home and going straight for my mother's writing cabinet and grabbing an envelope and stamp before leaving the house again. I had to walk the short distance to my boyfriend's house to get the house number before dropping that Dear John letter in the corner mailbox.
The next time I saw my ex-boyfriend he was the one who looked traumatized and maybe even scared. I didn't realize that I could report him to the cops, but looking back I think he knew I could do just that. He was 19 and I was 15 so even though the cops wouldn't likely view him as the real rapist he was, they could have viewed him as a statutory rapist, which he also was.
If he had been a stranger to my family and not one of my 2 brothers closest friends I think I would have told my parents and I think I would have been willing to go to the cops and report him. But he was one of my brothers' closest friends and it was no secret that we had been going out.
Then there were the unknown number of days where shock kept me silent. I knew that the delay in disclosing could be used against me. My Dear John letter could be used to make me look like nothing more than a liar motivated to get even with a cheating boyfriend.
In that regard little has changed since the spring of 1974. Shock and paralysis are still taken as proof of consent or proof that a true allegation is nothing more than a vindictive lie. Even those who don't buy this nonsense know that the general attitudes among potential jurors make justice for rape victims attacked as I was highly unlikely.
Rapists like my ex-boyfriend know this. But for many rapists and their friends justice which is highly unlikely isn't good enough. They want justice for these rapists to be impossible.
This is part of the reason why I've been blogging these last 2 years, searching for the right words to tell the truth about all aspects of a crime which many people avoid thinking about. But out of sight does not mean out of existence.
We can't just ignore rape away.
This is part of the reason why I will continue to blog and why I will be doing more outside of the blogosphere such as interview I did for the Orange County Register and my letter to the editor published in the LA Times and I will be working on a non-fiction book proposal.
Writing has helped me and through my writing I know I have helped others. Yet I know writing alone isn't enough.
I have a new goal. I want to reach as many people as the popular rape denialists reach, but rather than soothing people with the lie that rape is rare I want to share with people the sustainable hope I have that rape can become rare in reality and not just in the fiction created by rape denialists.
This will be a definite stretch for me. In some ways I am still that girl who was too scared to disclose.
I know that I will be accused of egomania, profiting from rape and a laundry list of tired old accusations with greater vigor. I also know that I am free enough from the abyss which came as a result of rape that I can be peaceful while under attack.
Sexual violence is something I think about daily, but I am the happiest I've been in my life.
Since I decided to break my silence by writing the book which turned out to be my novel, Cherry Love, one by one I took out all the landmines set by my rapist and those who intentionally and unintentionally aid rapists like him and I've exploded every single one of them. Doing that hurt, sometimes unbelievably so. But living landmine free is glorious.
I want to help other survivors do that without the decades of silence and isolation and without the dangerous attempts at self-medication. I want to help those who are now only would-be rapists change their attitudes so they will not become rapists even if they get into a position where they could rape and get away with it.
I have hope and insight and I'm going to spread both where I can. I'll figure out the how as I go along with the help of those who know where I'm coming from and who believe in where I'm trying to go.
Labels: Violence Against Women