Indelible

I couldn’t tell you what neighborhood the house was in or even what town. I know the date because it was a holiday. I remember who did it because Ford was right, trauma sears your memory like a hot iron.

The reason her story struck a nerve is because mine was eerily similar. I was corralled into a room by two male acquaintances and pinned to the floor by one while the other watched. They both laughed like we were all in on it. I tried to yell but it was like in a dream where it wasn’t loud enough. I’m not sure if the parents sleeping two floors above would have heard me in a locked room in the basement anyway.

The boy covered my mouth with his hand and I instinctively stuck my tongue out because my mother taught me that trick. I’m sure she never had that scenario in mind, but it worked and he withdrew his hand, repulsed, and laughed again. Look at how much fun we’re having! I remember these details but not why I didn’t scream louder or claw at his eyes or fight with everything I had. The truth is, after what felt like an hour of being pinned down (so much time had passed that the other boy had passed out on the floor beside us), I simply stopped fighting and went along with it. That has been the hardest thing to carry all these years.

The NIAA estimates alcohol is involved in at least 50% of sexual assaults. Since we know most sexual assaults go unreported, that number is probably low. Alcohol was definitely a factor in mine. If I could go back in time, the first thing I would do is not drink that night. Hell, I would have never started drinking in the first place since alcohol was involved in roughly 90% of the decisions I regret. Alcohol was enemy number two after the asshat who pinned me to the floor.

The other thing I wish I’d done differently is not worry about what other people thought of me. I didn’t call my parents to come get me when I found out my girlfriends were no longer staying the night. I worried I’d get into trouble for drinking and being at a party with just boys. Then, when things turned ugly, I was absurdly afraid to make a scene.

The other thing I should have done is tell the police or even a trusted adult. That somehow felt scarier than being pinned to the floor by someone I knew. I didn’t tell anyone except a couple of close friends shortly afterwards and a few more in college. If I wasn’t sure what to make of what happened and my own role in it, others were even more confused. It’s not that I blamed myself, exactly, but it felt personal and specific to me. Now I realize what a mistake I made thinking that way.

This week I got a flu shot after reading about how it’s our civic duty not to spread illness. If I’m worried about possibly passing on a case of the sniffles to a stranger, why wasn’t I gravely concerned about passing on a rapist to other young women? When we don’t report sexual assault, that person is pretty likely to do the same thing to someone else. The only thing special about me that night is I was the only drunk girl in a room with the wrong boys.

And if I thought it was easier to keep it to myself than risk short term and no doubt significant public humiliation and disbelief, I now know better. I paid plenty over the years for my shameful secret. It didn’t really change the way I looked at men because I knew there were plenty of guys who wouldn’t pin a girl to the floor, drunk or not. But it definitely changed the way I saw myself. Instead of dealing with what happened, I avoided and buried and blazed a path of self-destruction for years.

I hope my daughters and all young women make better choices than I did. I hope they understand binge drinking is a really bad idea on many levels and it doesn’t have to be part of growing up. I hope they listen to that little voice that tells them when something (or someone) doesn’t feel right. I hope they aren’t afraid to speak up (even scream) and do the right thing. Even if it feels like the hardest thing possible, they might be saving not only themselves but others just like them.

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29 thoughts on “Indelible

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  1. Thanks for this…
    I have plenty of mine too.
    Were they bad decisions? Not all, mostly not my decision.

    The hardest thing is the telling because, look at what happens? The president of the effing US makes fun of you in public.
    i just want to sit with her and hold her hand and buy her a coffee.
    I want to do the same for you. and me, and countless others.
    i want to hurt those boys and men.
    i want to scream as this particularly asshat gets put on the highest court.
    I will vote. I will talk and I will comfort where I can.
    I will also honor my rage and others

    I’m so sorry that happened to you, it is so eerily similar, these last few weeks must have been unbearable. Sending love

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s weird is all these coming out stories women keep sharing (in phases it seems), when I’m pretty sure we thought we were the only ones it had happened to. I don’t want to say every woman has a heartbreaking story, but it feels pretty close. I’m sorry for your suffering but I’m so glad you’re here. It feels right to finally share it. Thank you for being there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing. You are not alone.
    I hope some day soon something significantly changes in the US because what happened the last weeks it re-traumatising many, many women in the country and all over the world. They could not have planned it better if they had done it on purpose. Which actually makes me wonder. 😦 I am so worried for women in the USA in these times.
    Sending hugs.
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The timing your courageous article could not be more powerful. I hope it gets widely read by men and women, and by their daughters and sons.

    As a fellow writer, the paragraph about the ‘flu shot’ was particularly powerful. Really well done.

    As a fellow human, as a person with developmental trauma, as a man, I find it hard to say anything at all. The abuse of power at any level, at any time in life, is deplorable and lessens us all.

    As a therapist, I sincerely hope that writing this outstanding article helps your own journey. I know that sharing our stories–simply, honestly, trustingly–is increasingly important in a post-truth world.

    Thank you.

    – Bruce

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was brought up believing that living in America was a story of progress and bettering ourselves. It’s hard to come to the understanding that we tolerate so many abuses, inequalities, and injustices, all this crap that’s continued to plague and corrupt us, for so long. And sometimes, it sure seems like the bad guys are winning – racists, misogynists, liars, and reactionaries seem to have the upper hand. But some of these people, not all, but more than a few years ago — corporate bigshots, conductors, chefs, newspeople, politicians etc. have been canned and publicly disgraced. Nobody wants to know them. I think it’s penetrating more thick skulls, that they aren’t going to be allowed to laugh it off any more. I think things will progress, inch by inch. I hesitated to comment on your post, but I wanted to say that I admire your guts.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had an experience of inappropriate touching by a close relative when I was a teenager. Totally blocked it until YEARS later, when he came to apologize. Then, it all came back.
    Much love to you, and all people who have been traumatized.
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The worry about not being polite was what got me into trouble. Nice girls don’t scream or embarrass boys … or uncles. Ugh. It’s been a rough several weeks – feelings of shame don’t go away just because thirty years pass. It waits lurking in the shadows until the right moment to pounce.
    Thank you for sharing your story and for being the friend you’ve always been to me – insightful, supportive, and compassionate. I have learned so much about resilience from you – thank you, K ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hats off to you for sharing this, for being the woman who finds the strength to do so and thereby shining a light for others who may find their strength when they see they are not alone. Your last line sums it up for me: “Even if it feels like the hardest thing possible, they might be saving not only themselves but others just like them.” Thank you. x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for your bravery in writing this.

    I just wish that more women were listened too – esp when they finally speak out after years of internal pain. What they don’t need is to be dismissed and mocked. I find much of today’s reaction to this stuff as repulsive as the original act.

    Liked by 1 person

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