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Fantasies of a Rape Victim

Sep 20, 2018

*Note: I wrote this in August 2014, and soon after I stopped blogging altogether. How could I write authentically if I was silencing myself? Today I am publishing it, for Christine Blasey Ford, and for me.

I wrote the *title of this post first, and as soon as I did, something akin to a chill rushed through my body and out of every pore of my skin. (*Original title was "#BeenRapedNeverReported")

I'm still safe, I find myself thinking. It's not on Twitter. It's not on Facebook. I can leave it here in draft form on my blog and no one ever has to know.

The first step, for me, is simply writing it down, you see. It's been 14 years, and the thought of it still manages to paralyze me. So writing it down is the best I can do in this moment.

The first time I realized I'd been raped was three and a half years ago. The issue of sexual assault was heating up in the military, and that topic happened to be in my portfolio for my client at the time. I was reading up on everything I could find on sexual assault and sexual harassment, so I knew the statistics, the behaviors of rapists, the fears of victims. I knew that most victims are women but men are raped too. I knew that rape is more about exercising power and dominance than it is about sex. I knew it is often violent, and I knew most rapists are repeat offenders. I knew that, at best, only about 50 percent of rape victims report what happened.

And beyond my comprehension but with my complete compassion, I knew most victims blame themselves.

I attended an Army conference on sexual assault that March, which consisted of two or three days of brief after brief on sexual harassment and assault. I took notes fervently, appalled and becoming more and more passionate about giving victims a voice. I was sexually harassed by my first boss in DC, and I began drawing comparisons between what I was hearing and my experiences with him. Thinking about it, even now, makes my core tremble.

But I was lucky. It never got as far as rape (I call it "rape" and not "sexual assault" because rape is generally uglier, maybe because it's one syllable? I just prefer to call it the four-letter-word that it is. It's rape.). I filed a complaint with human resources, shaking violently as I gave my account of what had been happening over the last five months. It was terrifying, but I didn't know why. I had every reason to believe that HR would handle it appropriately, that he would have to leave me alone, and that the company would protect me. He wasn't some big wig, and I wasn't starting a PR nightmare for the company. All I wanted was to never have to interact with him again. But the psychological warfare he'd engaged me in was so oppressive and so profound that it felt like I was signing my own death sentence.

Sitting in that hotel ballroom with hundreds of other people -- many who were women in uniform -- I felt empowered to never allow myself to be in that situation again. And then, armed with newfound strength and resolve, my subconscious finally let me in on a dark secret it had been keeping: I was raped.

The details of the night flashed before me in an instant. They were the same as I had remembered them the day after it happened, but they looked different now. I remember making a joke to my housemate about what a hobag I had been, attempting to make light of the revolting night before to glaze over it, hoping to make it all go away. In time, this will go away, I told myself.

But it was always there, and it has been a pervasive memory since 2011. One that has escalated to more than a memory. One that makes my throat feel like it's closing up when I think of it, which is random and increasingly often. One that continues to make me so fearful it has kept me silent.

It did not go away.

Last year I finally told someone about it. She had recently joined a task force for the Air Force's sexual assault program, and she was telling me about how few people report, but that it's necessary for them to so they can stop the perpetrators. Their decision not to was no longer beyond my comprehension.

"You know, I was raped," I told her.

"Did you report it?" she asked excitedly.

I had thought I could throw it out there, that it wouldn't bother me to talk about it because I believed my subconscious had protected me all those years ago by not allowing me to realize what had happened, and in the process, I wasn't really damaged. But when I sensed her urgency, her desire for me to have reported it, I realized the damage was there; it was just hiding.

"No, and I don't plan to," I said. "It's past the statute of limitations I'm sure. He was a good ole Georgia boy, and I'm sure he has a wife and kids now. I don't want to wreck their lives."

She leaned in and locked eyes with me. "Forget the statute of limitations. You can still report it. You could stop it from happening to someone else."

I was shocked by what came out of my mouth, but I wasn't sorry for it. "That's not my problem." I suddenly felt extremely protective of myself and my experience, and no one was going to make me do something else I didn't want to do. I may not have had the upper hand in my rape, but I certainly had it now.

She backed off, but I started thinking about reporting it. In fact, over the last year, I have thought about reporting it a lot. It comes in waves, and I get very worked up when I entertain the idea. I ultimately squash those feelings by telling myself it would upset my parents, bring shame to my family, confirm that I was a slut in college to anyone who ever wondered, decrease my chance of finding love, cause my friends to turn against me, make things awkward with my church group, hurt my chances for career progression, mar my reputation.

It would change the way people see me. 

It would forever link "rape" to my name.

A couple of weeks ago, the urge to report it became stronger than it ever has. Nothing in particular set it off except that my mother was visiting me and I wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her, then I wanted to call my two college friends who I had tried to get help from that night at the University of Georgia house party but who ignored me because we were all drunk and one was busy losing his virginity and the other was amused. That would be the next step, letting them know that the nickname they gave me after that night, "Mary Ho," was nearly as criminal as the rape itself. That I'm pretty sure someone put Rohypnol, or something of the likes, in my drink that night, in my friend's house, under his watch. That I was desperate, panicking, to get out of there but too inebriated to go home, and eventually too inebriated to go anywhere.

I would tell them that I begged my friend's housemate to let me sleep in his room because, even though we'd made out once and then I ignored him, leaving him scorned and believing I was a tease, I felt safer with him than the other guy. I would tell them how their friend made me leave his room and the other guy was waiting for me in the shadows. I would tell them that I knew he was waiting to rape me but I was quickly losing any ability to resist him. I would tell them that I was terrified but had run out of options so I went along with him and told him I did not want to have sex but he took off my clothes and did it anyway.

I would tell the friend who was lying on the couch nearby, watching it all happen, that I was not a ho. I was raped. And I believe deep down he knew that, but it was easier for him to believe that I was drunk and easy, because I'd been voted "Biggest Flirt" the year before during our senior year of high school.

Oh how liberating it is to write it all down, to imagine finally telling them! The weight on my chest is lighter, my body less tense. But I am filled with shame, because I am not yet ready to tell.

It's the same shame that flooded me as soon as he penetrated me. I wanted to believe that I was a slut, so I could somehow make sense of what was happening to me. Me being a slut would be more acceptable than me allowing myself to be raped. So when he'd finished and somehow got me out of that house and to his house, although I have no recollection of leaving, and he wanted to have more sex, and more, and more...I told myself I was enjoying it, that this would make a great story somehow. Can you believe how crazy I was?! I would tell a few select friends who could handle it. We had so much sex that he ran out of condoms and had to borrow some from his housemate, who happened to be a really popular jock from my high school and now is playing football for UGA! AHH! How embarrassing!

The next morning I was so hungover that I could not get up to get to the bathroom. I lay in the bed for hours, desperately wanting to leave. At one point, the friend who had watched it happen the night before showed up with my purse. He opened the door, dropped it on the floor and left before I could say anything. I felt like I was being held hostage, and I'd missed my opportunity for escape. Paralyzed by fear and vertigo, my rapist took the opportunity to rape me several more times. Again, I told myself I was enjoying it. But how could I enjoy that? I hadn't been to the bathroom. I couldn't even sit up. Logically, I could not have been enjoying it. But is that enough evidence to prove that I was indeed raped? If someone else were telling me this story, I would say, "YES! Absolutely! You were raped and I support you. This was not your fault." And yet, somehow, I am still stricken with fear and doubt. Somehow, this thing still controls me.

Finally, late that afternoon, he agreed to take me back to my car. I had no clothes, so I wore a t-shirt of his. I had no shoes, so I walked barefoot. Stepping outside the front door into the sun, I had almost escaped, but I was greeted by several familiar faces. Three that I can remember for sure, but I know there were more. People I'd gone to high school with. People who were jocks and cheerleaders. Popular. Not like me. But they knew who I was. Maybe they'll think I'm cool now that they've seen how wild I am? I told myself, trying to find a shred of a silver lining. But I knew that it wasn't cool. It was disgusting. And they knew it was disgusting.

He drove me back and talked to me the way a guy might after a first date. I think I gave him my number. I don't remember much else except somehow getting my clothes back and sitting in my locked car for a while, alone and grateful to have made it through, and never wanting to go to Athens, Georgia again.

That's my story, but it's not finished, because I haven't dealt with it yet. This past week, when two extremely brave women reported that their boss raped them and started the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported, I knew I had to take some kind of action. I may not be brave enough yet to join the movement, much less report my rape, but I cannot tell y'all how incredible it feels to have finally written it down. For me, it's the first step toward freedom.