Being One in Four

I recently read a statistic that says that one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape in their lifetime...

and it shook me to my core.

Because I am one in four. And I had no idea that there were so many of us.

The information you are about to read is important, but it is also sacred. Not in a "sacred because I make it holy" type of way, but sacred in a you are some of  the first to hear this information way. Guard this knowledge within your heart, because it is that important. And it has almost never been shared in my actual life. It's an odd conversation topic to broach, and one that I have never been able to approach with anyone really.

Our Christmas Card picture from 2009. 

So what happened exactly? Well, that is kind of difficult to say because I don't remember much. I was in the middle of a divorce. A divorce that was already difficult, not that many of them are super easy, because of the circumstances that my marriage crumbled under. I was terrified about the prospect of what my life could be, or would be. I knew that I was going to be going at this harsh world alone, with a very young son. Or even worse, I was going to have to allow my parent's to help me with everything, and even though I was so grateful they were helping me at that point...the idea that they would be helping me forever was simply humiliating.

I felt alone and defeated, but mostly I felt damaged. I felt like I was now damaged property. Someone that would be known for her "mistakes" and would face endless judgment for her "choices." It was the hardest part of my life up until that point. I felt like everything around going on around me was so out of my control, and if you know me at all you know that I'm a bit of a control freak. That entire period of my life was very much like extended torture by mere existence.

Around the holidays of that year I started to receive text messages from an "old friend." So much of an old friend that I had actually given my virginity to him just a few years before. You can assume by that fact alone that he was a well trusted individual in my life during that time, and when he came back into my life in 2009 I instantly placed him back into his trusted confidant position. Probably a misjudgment on my part, but there was a huge part of myself that was yearning for the simplicity of life when I was 17. Life before I had a young child that was solely my responsibility. Life before I was a "soon to be ex-wife." Life back when I thought I was emotionally tormented.

Drinks with an old friend at a bar would be a nice break from being a single mom. It would be a great opportunity to talk to this person that knew me, and the old me, so well. To talk and catch up on life. To chat about our families and the people we grew up with. To catch up on the gossip, and maybe spend an entire evening without changing a diaper.

Nothing that happened after arriving at that bar was what I anticipated. Honestly, I don't remember everything that happened that night. I remember drinking long island iced teas for the first time. I remember holding his arm as I tried to get up from the bar stool. I vaguely remember that polyester scratchiness of the hotel comforter on my back and the television being turned up really loud, like obscenely loud. I don't know if it was actually loud or if that is just the way my memories serve me because of the state...whatever state... I was in. The room was freezing, but I didn't realize that until I woke up the next morning half hanging off of the bed. I laid there for what seemed like an eternity. I was to scared to move, but too cold not to shiver. I was shaking so gently and timidly and I laid there with  my eyes closed for what seemed like an eternity trying to figure out what exactly happened. What had just happened? Where was I? Was I alone in this room? Why couldn't I remember what happened just a few hours before? I am not exaggerating when I say it took every ounce of strength in my body just to open my eyes. Just to confront the space that I was part of and the state of my being.

I don't remember much of that night. Just bits and pieces, pretty much exactly how it appears above. I found it to be desperately frustrating not to remember. Now, I can be thankful for that...but there were months that I would try to remember; to figure out where I went wrong. What I had done to cause him to think that it was okay to rape me that night?

I left that cheap motel with a bar attached, questioned my judgment for the hundredth thousandth time that morning, and drove home. I drove home with tears streaming down my face and a mix tape from my rapist playing in my car. You see, I was so excited to be 17 again that I had played that mix tape on the way to the bar. I was ushering in happy and melodic memories of the early 2000's screamo era. That time in my life where I was an artist, and quirky, and conflicted about religion, but hopeful for fairytales and endless laughter forever. When I left that motel I understood the agony behind those screams in a way I'd never heard them before.

I walked into that bar as a girl that thought she had problems, and left that motel as a girl that would ultimately become that emotionally tormented individual.

I parked my car in my drive way, walked up to my home, and found a toddling child to greet me at the door. There was never a moment, other than that eternity on the bed in the motel room and my emotionally sound tracked drive home to process what had happened, but then I had to go back to being a Mom. In an instant I went from someone who needed to be taken care of, to someone that had to do the taking care of.

If I said this was easy to deal with I would be lying. I mostly wanted to lay in my bed and check out of reality for the next 10 -12 months of my life. I had a divorce to deal with, a sweet child who had no idea what was happening in his sweet and perfect world to deal with, and now I had rape and it's repercussions to deal with.

But this is life and you have to look at it in chapters. I decided that I would allow this to be a chapter in my life, but it would in no way become the main storyline of my life. He did not the deserve the power to dictate my entire existence. He didn't get to write my story, only I have that choice. Alienating him as an author of my tale has contributed to me being silent about what happened to me. Now it is time to stop being silent about it all.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I'm sure that if I am one of four, you probably know another one. or a few more. or maybe you are also one in four.

I encourage you to take the time to explore what effect sexual assault have had in your own life story. If you are local to the Shreveport/Bossier area swing by artspace and check out Outliers until May 7. It is a fine arts photography exhibition created by Mollie Corbett in celebration of sexual assault survivors and their stories. You may find a familiar face on the wall. 

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1 comment:

  1. I can't imagine the courage it took to share what you went through and continue to understand. You're so brave to do so. Thank you for sharing your experience! *hugs*