Tag Archives: assault

Five Days from World Mental Health Day

There have been many conversations sparked recently by assault and honestly? I find it exhausting.

Don’t mistake me – survivors’ stories, especially high-profile survivors of multiple genders, are incredibly important. It is the public reaction that tires me.

“But she got in the film, so she traded her integrity for her career. I don’t feel bad for her.” and “but he’s a huge, buff guy. There’s no way.” and “I don’t see what the big deal is. All men in power are like that, they should’ve known better.”

You know what fucking sucks about assault and rape culture? If we speak out against it, if we explain our experiences, then we’re told we

1) should’ve said something sooner.
2) asked for it.
3) can’t possibly mind the attention.
4) are lying.

But if we don’t say anything for a long time because we’re afraid – of the repercussions, of the blame, of opening the floor for everyone to comment on one of life’s darkest experiences – then nothing changes.

There is no winning. Where do we go from here?

I’ll tell you where I’m going. I’m writing for other survivors, through and through. I’m not writing to convince anyone of what’s happened. I fucking know what happened. Your boyfriend, your brother, your sister, your son, your daughters – every hand that’s ever laid on me without my explicit consent? They know what happened. And I’ve already learned that it’s a lot easier to be angry at the woman who tells you she’s been assaulted than it is to be angry at the assailant – especially when it’s someone you love.

I get it. No one wants to believe they’re getting in bed with a monster. But that doesn’t mean I won’t raise the alarms – that doesn’t mean I won’t draw explicit, angry boundaries to ensure my safety.

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Look ma, no hands.

don’t touch me. please.

stop.

but you won’t stop. I know that about people like you. Rarely do I even get a chance to say anything before your hand is grating against my body – unwanted, unwelcome.

I don’t know why it keeps happening. I don’t know what about my body makes it seem like communal property. I just don’t understand. But it always hurts, it aches, I feel every single goddamn hand from every motherfucker who violated me before you. I don’t sleep for awhile. I leave a little too often to get sick in the bathroom. I cry in my boyfriend’s arms and try to piece the night together.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

Maybe this time, when you touch me and my skin burns and my mind goes blank, maybe this time I’ll repay violence with violence. I’m granting myself permission.

If your hands are on my body without consent, I will take them. I will unhinge my jaw and swallow you whole, I will yank you into the nightmares that keep me up at night – of hands and loss and fear.  I will take no prisoners. And then, when I have made myself unforgettable, I will fucking leave. Let me crawl the road to your childhood home with your hands in tow. I will bring them home to your mother, all skin and tendons and blood, and I will tell her about the monster she has raised – that she will bury. And I will go home and I’ll sleep soundly at night.

let this be your only warning.

don’t

fucking 

touch me.

 

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On Again

Some days I can’t be touched, not even by animals. The thought of someone’s fingertips on my skin makes me queasy.

Some days I cry because I want to be held so badly that my skin physically hurts.

It’s not easy to think of me as a survivor of assault. I know that. Remembering that my body was a space I had to reclaim, time and time again, has never made my loved ones happy. But I want to be seen fully by the people I love. I want them to understand, almost viscerally, the ground through which I had to claw myself in order to become the woman I am today.

I relish the idea of being known to my depths and I’ve been fortunate in that there are a handful of people who can throw my voice from their mouth. I am lucky. And even they don’t want to hear about all the nights I spent peeling other people’s fingerprints from my skin.

So why do it? Why remind you of where I’ve been, of the shape of the bruises that still ache when I move?

Writing is the only thing that makes sense to me. It’s the only cure, the quickest way back to normal, the most trusted record of who I am. And for years, I wrote without sharing. I wrote for myself, chronicling every breath, every misstep, every victory. Now, I write with you.

My father told me I share too much – that my words could, at any moment, outlast me in the worst ways. For a moment, I was scared. But then I flipped through my journals, through the pages that questioned and wept and burnt for something, some sign that I was meant to live and create, some proof that my pain could matter somewhere outside of myself… and I couldn’t look back. Writing is all I can do.

It is a selfish practice. I can’t sugarcoat that. I am trying to rip experiences from the walls of my ribs, the good and the bad, so my lungs have more room to expand. But sometimes I read comments and secret messages, written for my eyes alone, and I remember that I’m not the only survivor you know.

I don’t have a tidy ending to these thoughts, only a promise that I will keep creating as often as possible and I will be honest. There are good days and there are bad days. I’ll continue to share both.

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To My Family Who’s Still Voting Trump

It is time we had a chat.

This election is no longer about politics – it is disturbingly personal as we watch a rape-supporting bully claw his way toward the Oval Office.

Trump reminds me of Niko.

You should know who Niko is, right? You’re my family. You know he’s the man who pinned me to his bed when I was 18 years old, who asked me to stay after he finished, who drove past my dorm multiple times in the weeks after as I ignored his countless messages? I still have nightmares about him –  I still wake up crying.

Trump is Niko on a grand stage. I saw a post comparing Trump’s comments about grabbing a woman’s pussy to the Fifty Shades series – and I was disgusted. Absolutely, completely horrified. Fifty Shades is terrible, yes, and it is problematic in terms of BDSM and consent but to set the Republican nominee’s hateful, misogynistic talk of rape and compare it to a fictional narrative?

And make no mistake – he is talking about rape. When someone holds power over another person and the victim feels like they can’t say no, that’s rape. Condoning Trump’s comments is condoning rape. It’s condoning Niko and his hands on every inch of my skin.

Niko told me women deserved to be preyed upon and, just like Trump, he had more money and power than I did. He decided he could do whatever he wanted to me, so he did. And now you want to put a rapist in the White House because, like you said, if women are willing to buy Fifty Shades of Grey, how can we be horrified when a presidential candidate says he’s entitled to rape us?

Following that logic, what did I do to deserve to be assaulted? What book did I read, what website did I visit, that labeled me as ‘rape-able?’ No, really. Feel free to get back to me on that.

I wish you could understand how terrifying this is. To hear your family agree with – and applaud! – a man who sounds eerily close to a rapist. And yes, the only people who are comfortable making ‘jokes’ about rape have either considered or committed rape.

When you justify Trump’s comments, you are justifying Niko’s actions. You are telling me that you do not care about survivors of assault, that you don’t care about me – and you’re telling me you want to give Trump the power to hurt more women. Because, when you think about it, there’s no more powerful position in government than that of the President… and if Trump is comfortable raping women while he’s a floundering businessman, what exactly do you think is going to happen when he’s the leader of the free world?

On election day, you will be asked to make a choice. I would like to remind you who you’re voting against when you vote Trump. You are voting against survivors of assault. You are voting against people with PTSD. You are voting against every minority. You are voting against people with disabilities. You are voting against the LGBT community.

You are voting against me, as a survivor of assault, as a person with PTSD, as a disabled woman. You are voting against my sister and her girlfriend. You are actively voting against your family, your flesh and blood, and for what?

Why would you want to hurt us this way?

 

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Queen of Sad Things

I’ll be the first to say it: my body of work is largely depressing, a sea of sad stories that stretch far beyond the horizon. It isn’t often easy to read, nor is it meant to be, because stories of bodily assault should never be easily tolerable. Their very nature insists on being difficult, tragic, scarring.

As a species, we tend to deal with trauma in a few specific ways. We can let it engulf us. We can swallow it. Or we can cut off its head and parade down the streets, blood dripping on our shoes as we refuse to stay quiet.

There is no right way to do it. I have tried staying silent. I have tried being swallowed. Only now, in this age of unrest, do I feel comfortable demanding to be heard.

I was eight and her name was Andrea. I was eighteen and his name was Niko. I was twenty-one and their names were Audrey and something I didn’t quite catch.

I was in school. I went home with him. I was at a party and everyone else was drunk.

I went back. I went back. I burnt everything down.

And now I speak – no, I shout. I scream. But why?

First and foremost, I write for myself. I write to process what has happened, to glean meaning from the wreckage, to find peace in the aftermath. Writing is a wonderful and healthy alternative to being dead, so I write. Additionally, these events have shaped the manner in which I interact with the world. To ignore them is tantamount to erasing my past and, without this context, you will not understand how incredible my existence is today.

I share my writing for four reasons.

  1. I didn’t know women could be perpetrators of assault. I did not know a woman could hurt me this badly. When I was first assaulted in a classroom at school, I didn’t even realize what had happened. I didn’t have the language for it. For years, I felt like I was a monster, like there was this consuming darkness in my lungs. I felt like it was my fault. When I was researching data for my thesis, I couldn’t find much about female sex offenders – and if I can’t find it, that means other victims can’t find it either. It is vital that other survivors hear me. Being able to articulate your experiences cannot happen without vocabulary, without language, and I am here to scream for them, too.
  2. I am not a ‘good’ survivor. It is important to be seen exactly as flawed and imperfect as I am in conjunction with my experiences – because the police asked me why I went to Niko’s house alone, because people told me I shouldn’t have gone to Audrey’s party, because people keep finding ways to tell me that the assaults were my fault. “you shouldn’t have… you could have… you didn’t…”

    No more. I am not a ‘good’ survivor. I didn’t follow the rules that people rubbed in my face afterward, and by no means does that translate to fault. I want survivors to know that. There’s nothing you can do that justifies sexual violence against you.
    It was never your fault.

  3. I want to be more transparent with my mental illness. There is so much stigma around people with PTSD – how we function, what we look like, what we’re capable of. We’re not all soldiers returning from war, but my diagnosis is just as valid as anyone’s. I want to reframe the conversation about mental illness. This past Tuesday, as I sat in a training room, the speaker told us how to deal with ‘brain sick’ patients. They spoke to us as if no one in the room could relate to a man dissociating in a lobby – as if we had never had nightmares we couldn’t shake. And I felt such shame in that moment, like my illness was always going to make me an Other, like I couldn’t belong here. They can’t tell that I’m sick, but only because they have a very clear idea of what sick should look like. I’m here to tell you that, unless you live with a mental illness, your perception of the mentally ill is probably incorrect. I want to change how we are seen – I want to change the limits people think we can reach –  I want to excel and grow and become successful enough to educate the masses: we are sick, but we are capable. Furthermore, I want other survivors to see that it really does get better.
    {I promise.}
  4. There are still assholes in my life who make rape jokes – who make PTSD jokes – who spread rumors about my sexual promiscuity to excuse their flippant disregard of my safety – who told me I deserved it – who basically make time to announce to the world that they are trash. I write to remind them that I am ill, that I am conquering, that I refuse to be quiet in the face of their cruelty. I write to stick in their brains. I write because the next time they open their mouths to say they totally raped a guy on a video game, the next time they expect me to laugh at a joke where I am the punchline, I want them to picture me as a child.

    20160820_220221

    Picture this little girl crying herself to sleep – refusing to sleep alone until she was eighteen – throwing up in the dorm room showers for three hours afterward – entering a psychiatric hospital barely a month after turning nineteen – spending years wanting to die. I want them to see me. I want to be inescapable. I want them to feel guilty. If you picture and you choose to make that PTSD joke anyway, I hope you fucking choke.

***********************************************************************

And now, a brief note for those who know me outside of my blog. Please do not ask me for details about the assaults. If I want to talk to you about these situations, I will initiate the conversation. Otherwise, let me be. Do not ask my other friends and family for details. If you’re worried about me after reading this post, please know that I am healthy and happy. My life is exceptionally beautiful right now. I am okay.

If you read this post and you recognized Andrea, Niko, or Audrey’s name, absolutely do NOT talk to them about me, do not ask them about me, do not share this post with them, and do not talk to our former coworkers about my assault. I did not include their last names for a reason. I do not want to speak to them, I do not want to speak to you about them, nor do I want to be spoken about to them or to anyone. My assault is not a circus act, it is not a gossiping point, it is a tragedy and they have taken enough from me. Please respect that. I take my safety very seriously and so should you. If you cannot, you will be cut out of my life so fast that you’ll get whiplash. If, however, you have also been assaulted (either by these individuals or someone else), and you want to talk survivor-to-survivor, then I am absolutely here for you.

As always, thank you for reading.

It really did get better. Really.

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A Letter to Fort Collins

In the end, I didn’t hate you – or, to paraphrase,

it is the end and I am amazed.

You almost swallowed me whole, you know. And I was so angry because of it, so inwardly vicious, so poisonous. How else do you kill a thing with teeth?

Anyway.

Fort Collins, I met you at seventeen, pursuing you with hazy determination. I had chosen you at eight years old, promised to find your soil beneath my feet, planted myself amongst the mountains and trees and waited to feel… something. And I did.

I lost my friends here. I was stalked and lied to and assaulted here, twice. I was shamed and humiliated here. I hurt so badly here.

For the longest time, it felt like you hated me. Imagine that – a little girl dreams of escaping to a bustling town for nine years, only to have the city spit in her face. Only to be ripped apart and rearranged, to be called a whore and a liar, to be turned inside out by those she considered friends.

But change is always painful.

So maybe you didn’t hate me. Maybe you loved me like I loved loose teeth as a child – I yanked the teeth from my mouth, swallowing the blood as my tongue traced its old permiter. You ripped at my edges until it ached, yeah, but there was something stronger underneath. Or maybe you didn’t think of me at all and this story is one more broken narrative I’ll have to revisit later.

Maybe.

Just to be safe: thank you for what you gave me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to build myself time and time again. Thank you for teaching me every lesson, especially the ones that ended poorly. Thank you for letting me leave with my dignity, my humor, my words. Thank you for the professors who changed my life. Thank you for letting me live. Thank you for my beautiful, strong friends who found me here, who kept me here – thank you for housing the man I love, thank you for bringing us all together. Thank you for being the last place I knew Mani alive. We used to conpare our mountain towns and I think she would’ve found so many places to love here.

Fort Collins, this is the first thing I remember writing about you:

“Temporary girl in a temporary town –
someday I’ll run away and burn it all down.”

It’s almost funny to read that couplet now. Neither of us is running, you’re still standing, and I’ve never felt more permanent.

Thank you.

xoxox

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The Luxury of Forgetting

On December 2nd, 2014, I called my boss at Ruby Tuesday’s and told him I had been sexually assaulted by a member of the staff. He promised me that someone from corporate would call me as I cried, my hand tightly wound in that of my best friend’s, and he wished me luck. Seven months later, I called corporate myself.

I spoke to a woman named Chris and she brought about one of the most hurtful moments I had ever experienced. I explained who I was, how I was assaulted, everything – and all she would say was that it was not the company’s fault. Nearing tears, I asked her why she hadn’t called me the week of the assault and Chris said, “Someone should’ve been in touch. I would’ve called, but I forgot.”

She forgot one of the most terrible moments of my life, something that continues to haunt me to this day. I asked her how that luxury felt, having the space to drop someone’s trauma at the door, and she had no answer. How could she?

I was reminded of that feeling this past week. I was discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing with people who refuse to acknowledge the systematic oppression that faces black Americans, and all the sudden I wanted to stop. For a second, I wanted to forget. It made me nauseous and anxious and I wanted a reprieve.

All at once, I felt disgusted by myself. I had the luxury of forgetting and I knew how much easier it would be. For a moment, I wanted it. But how could I?

I heard Chris’ harsh voice grating in my ear, saying she forgot to call, and I wanted to cry. I couldn’t be that person. I can’t be a useful comrade to this movement without paying this price – a price that, as a white woman, is so much less costly than that of the black community. If I was less of a person, I could drop their struggles at the door and refuse to speak, refuse to use my privilege to act, refuse and refuse and refuse.

But I would hate myself for being a passive participant. I would hate myself for standing by while others were in pain. I can’t do it.

Here’s what I’m reading in the hopes that I’ll be a more useful member of the movement. I highly suggest that white people read along with me. There’s so much work to do.

allhouses

From the brilliant cartoonist at chainsawsuit.com. Check him out!

Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves

If we do not help make a difference, we are a part of the problem.

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