Last night, I read something that Carrie wrote on Violence UnSilenced, and a question that I’d considered emailing her about was answered for me. But before all that, there was a little girl who grew up protected, and bad things couldn’t happen to her. Sure, the man who lived next door, who always gave out hugs and lifted her clear off the ground, he reached out in his living room one afternoon and firmly grabbed her breast. But he had taken her sister to the hospital when a truck hit her, and the family saw him as a friend, so she said nothing. His son would creep into her room after visiting her brother and put his hand between her legs as she squeezed her eyes shut and wished he would go away.But the old man next door died and she was happy. And she wrote a letter to her brother asking him to keep the son away at night, and he never came back and she was grateful.
I’m detaching myself by using the third person, aren’t I? I started college at sixteen, young and religious, wrapped in the incense of the Church. I had a joy in it that I couldn’t find anywhere else, although it came heavy with guilt, as the Church often does. I was a virgin, a word that leaves a sour taste in my mouth till today, and I wore my gold cross around my neck proudly, replete with my promise to God. My friends laughed fondly, little naïve girl, that’s what we all said, that we’d wait till marriage, you won’t be any different. I just smiled, knowing my God was a rock and I was all good.
When I started dating him, I made it clear what was off limits, I explained my vow to him and he knew how important it was to me. He knew, he had been raised in a similar church and he knew, for I was very clear. He would try and be sneaky about it, but I stopped him and repeated myself, no. No, no, no, no, a thousand times no. I should have been wary when he tried it again, and I had to say no again. He would apologize over and over, all full of regrets that didn’t weigh enough to stop him from giving it another shot.
One day, he stood up from the bed and looked at me. You need to get birth control pills, he said, and my world crumbled. I had no memory of what had just happened, all I knew was that it wasn’t the first time. I sat on the sheets on the floor and screamed and screamed, staring blankly out of the window and talking to myself. When he finally let me leave, I ran my arms through hedges outside until they bled and lay in the graveyard of the church up the hill. This is not a story about him though, or his selfishness, temper, jealousy, or possessiveness. I told that story a long time ago.
This is the story of how I blamed myself afterward, how dirty I felt that I had betrayed the one vow I cherished so dearly, how much of a sinner I was and how I didn’t deserve any better. Nothing anyone could say convinced me otherwise, and I just stopped talking about it. I had failed myself, and that was all, now move on, little girl with broken world. (I cut off my hair after this story, which led me to the blog I have now.) There’s been a journey from the girl I was then to the woman I am now, but Carrie led me to see something I had never admitted to myself.
She wrote, Rape is any act of sexual intercourse that is non-consensual. I never thought it was that simple. I still have no memory of my first time, it remains a black hole along with my second time or any other time before I screamed. But what I do know is that I had said no, that I never said yes, and that he knew these things. I don’t want to be classed as a victim, and I feel no anger towards him, that tale has been woven and tossed to the wind. All I feel is sorrow, grief for the child I was then and the pain she went through for months afterward, for the damage caused to my faith, for the past. Because the one thing I didn’t know, the one thing that no one explained to me is the same thing I realized when I read Carrie’s response to the girl who wrote in to her.
Three years ago, I was raped, and it wasn’t my fault.
I shut my computer after I read that post, then the man I’m going to marry held me in his arms as the grief from the past years of guilt washed out of my eyes. I’m okay now with everything that’s happened, but this final step was important, knowing at last that I’m not to blame for a piece of my past that I don’t even remember. I might not have known this if it wasn’t for someone else telling her story to the world, so to her and to Carrie and to Maggie, I want to say, Thank you.
You gave me a piece of myself back.