CONTENT WARNING: Triggering material about rape, sexual assault, and PTSD contained herein. Lots of cussing, too, and honest discussion of how I feel, not how I’m “supposed” to feel.
I always refer to it as “that thing that happened with Max* (name changed to protect the guilty)” or “the Max situation” with my best friend, Angela. She knows me so well. Today I thought of that thing I don’t call rape and the thoughts wouldn’t go away.
It was this week.
I always forget the anniversary. I don’t remember the exact date, I know it was around this time though. All day I have been trying to place the date. It’s the same thing I go through every time it surfaces. If it was that impactful, why can’t I remember the date? The minute, the second that it happened?
A few years ago, at one of my best friend’s wedding, she had a groomsman. He was kind and funny. He was flirtatious. I was flirtatious. We were drinking and dancing and joking sarcastically all night. He came up behind me, perfectly unaware that I had a hulking guardian I call PTSD, and I freaked out on him. “Don’t touch me!” I said. “Get away from me.” And in a second, I was transported back to the day that thing-I-don’t-call-rape happened:
I was sitting at the kitchen table, working for him. He was starting a business from home, I needed a job, he offered to pay me to work. He was in the house, carrying on conversation, talking about the work, talking about my body. The floor was so ugly. 70’s linoleum, 70’s shag carpet. He kept touching me, my shoulders, my arm. I turned inward. Already it had been a difficult summer because of the end of my marriage, because so many things were uncertain right now. I was afraid of failing. I was depressed. I was manic. I was scared to death.
His flirting increased, I asked for water. He told me he would give me water if I took off my shirt and I laughed at him. I took off my shirt because I had a tank top underneath and he said that wasn’t what he was expecting. “It’ll have to do.” I said, feeling very small.
Getting ready to leave for the day, I started gathering my things, and he came up behind me. I was frozen. He started kissing me and I said no.
I said “Your wife is my FRIEND. No. We cannot do this.”
He kept going and I pushed him away. We were standing next to the couch and he pushed me down onto it. He took off his shirt and pulled down my pants and I said “no…” only weakly this time. I remember being so disgusted by him. He wore tighty-whiteys. I hate tighty-whiteys. I hate them so much.
I closed my eyes and pushed against him with all my might. At about 280 pounds, he far outweighed me and simply pinned my arms above my head, and that’s when I checked out.
It was before the sex that I checked out. The sex happened second, after I left my body and watched.
He held me down and fucked me.
He turned me over and fucked me more.
When he was done, he stood up and I stood up shaking and collecting my clothes.
“I have to go…” I said. The voice didn’t sound like mine. It was tiny.
I turned to leave and he grabbed my arms pinning me against him again, chest to chest, my wrists caught and pinned behind my back with one of his hands. I struggled and he pulled my hair back and put his face next to my ear. “She doesn’t find out.” He said.
“No, I would never. Please don’t ever tell her. This never happened.” I said back fervently. She was my friend.
“Maybe you need a second round?” he said roughly, grinning.
I said nothing. He was so much bigger. The Little Mermaid movie was in a box staring at me. Ariel saw that shit. Ariel. She is the Little Mermaid, for god’s sake. She is INNOCENT and PURE. And I am dirty.
I felt anger rising up inside of me. I pushed him away with everything in me and he let me go. It was almost time to pick up his daughter. It was almost time for his wife to return.
I didn’t even put on my shoes. I ran to my car, praying that it would start and I drove. I had a date that evening. We set it up before I knew this would happen. I didn’t know what else to do except to go. Kenny took one look at me and asked me what happened. It was our first date. I told him what happened and I could see his jaw flexing, anger rising in his eyes. He wanted me to give him the address. He wanted to kick Max’s ass. I said no, I just wanted it to be over, let’s not talk about it anymore… and instead he held my hand and bought me ice cream and told me about flying planes.
“It was just sex.”
That’s what I think every time it surfaces.
It was my fault. I was flirty. I was in a bad place mentally. It was my fault. She was my friend. He was her husband. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
I never saw him again. I never went back to work for him, I never spoke to him again. Ever. I never spoke to her again either.
…And now, 8 years later, I wake up feeling as if I’m back there, arms pinned behind my back, being given exactly what he wants to give. And it makes me wonder when it will go away.
I don’t call it (rape). Rape seems too hard a word, a word reserved for girls in third world countries who have their virginity ripped from them at too young an age. Or women who are held at gunpoint, or drugged…or women who don’t check out. Women who stay present are raped, right? Rape happens to people who aren’t me. Because I’m crazy, and being crazy makes me guilty and deserving of punishment. I led him on. I flirted back (at first). This was my fault.
Today I woke up immediately wanting to go and sit on the floor of my closet where it’s dark and surrounded and stuffy and safe. Where I can’t be found by him, if I’m really really quiet.
Remember that game you played when you were a child, under the covers, afraid of the dark? Hold your breath, Jones, wait and listen. Don’t move.
Today I took myself to a client meeting. I felt very small. I felt very separate from myself. I did what I had to do and put on a pretty face and smiled and made jokes and survived. Small victories. This weekend, when the flashbacks came flooding back, I felt my body and mind separating again, dissociation; it comes at the most inopportune times.
Today I wait. Because after 8 years I “should” be over this, but I’m not. Because history tells me that an end will come. Because I know with my head that it wasn’t my fault and that Max deserves to be nut kicked. Today I wait. Part of that day may be spent waiting in my closet.
If you have been raped (or “not-raped,” like me), please know: you are not alone. I’m in this with you. We got this. It hurts like a mother fucker. It’s scary as hell. And it will end.
I keep telling myself that. I think I’m not lying.