xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: November 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

#MeToo Post: But It Was So Long Ago...

A while back I made an offer to my friends that if they had a #MeToo story they wanted to share, in a safe and anonymous space, my blog was there for them. This is the first story I'm proud to publish for a friend of mine. I didn't write this, but I'm very happy to give her a place to tell her story.

But It Was So Long Ago......

When I was 16, I was raped. It took me going to therapy for the past two and a half years to even be able to say the word "rape" out loud. I met him at a store across the street from where I worked. He said his name was Manny and that he was 19. I was young and naive. I believed him. That was not his real name and he had to be pushing 30.

I went to his house for a party one night close to Halloween. I lied to my parents about where I was going. When I got to his house, nobody else was there. I tried to get away from him, and I told him no. I knew he had a gun in his room. He showed it to me on a previous visit. He pressed his mouth against mine to keep me quiet. I told my mom that my bloody lip was from sparring at my Taekwondo lessons. He left finger shaped bruises on my thighs where he held my legs open. When a friend eagerly asked if I had finally lost my virginity that night, I told her that I didn't know. I didn't report it to the police, and I only told a few of my friends. My parents found out much later. I was embarrassed and I was scared. But my rape at the age of 16 is only part of what this story is about.

I was raped again when I was 23. I know, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Again?" Yes, again. It turns out that once you have been sexually assaulted, you are more likely to have it happen again, not less likely. I was staying the night in a hotel. Okay, calling it a hotel is charitable. It was a roach motel. I was by myself and only there for one night, so I wasn't too worried about the accommodations. The motel had an outdoor ice machine. When I went to fill up my ice bucket, two men were sitting in their open doorway. They asked me if I wanted a beer. I was told not to take candy from strangers, but nothing about beer. I'm sorry if I seem glib. I use humor as a shield sometimes.

I drank a couple of beers with them in their room. Later that night, I went back to my room and went to bed. I don't know how much later it was, but I was in a deep sleep when I heard someone pounding on the door. My first thought was, "Why are the police pounding on my door?" There was no peephole to look through, and I didn't think to put on the chain. When I cracked the door to see who was there, one of the men from earlier shoved his way into my room. He pushed the door in with such force that it knocked me into the wall behind it.

I momentarily thought he was confused. I tried to tell him that this wasn't his room. He responded by shoving me onto the bed. A lot of what happened next is a blur. You would think that would be a blessing, but not remembering everything keeps me up at night. I know that he hit me. I know that he bit me on my breasts hard enough to leave teeth marks. I know that he smothered me with a pillow. That I struggled to catch even a gasp of air. Through my panic, I could hear him tell me to stop fighting. That if I stopped fighting, he would let me breathe. So I went limp. I had two children. I didn't want them to know their mother died that way.

He took him time. I do remember that. When he was finished, he got up and left. Of course he did. It's not like he was going to wish me a good evening. I laid there until morning. After my first rape, I promised myself that if it ever happened again, I would report it. I called the police. They came and pulled all the males from that side of the motel outside, and had me go pick my rapist out of the line. Then they took me to the hospital. Someone taking pictures wondered if they should take a mold of the bite marks. Maybe they could match them to his dental records. The doctor went to comb for my attacker's pubic hair, but then laughed when he realized that I shaved. He put the comb aside and said, "I guess we won't be needing this." I don't shave anymore.

I gave a statement to the police. I went to court. My case was thrown out because my rapist wore a condom. His DNA didn't match the DNA they found during my rape exam. That DNA matched his friend. Oh, I didn't mention that I had a one night stand with a stranger earlier that evening? Do you believe me any less now? Because the police, the judge, and my own mother told me that they thought I was lying. So I wouldn't blame you if you did, too. But my rape at the age of 23 is also only part of what this story is about.

After trying and failing to repress my feelings from these assaults, I was a wreck. I developed agoraphobia. I had panic attacks. I flinched when my husband touched me. I had nightmares. Once I dreamed that my rapist set me on fire when he was finished. I woke up screaming. I finally sought out therapy, and it saved my life. I was truly on the verge when I went in for my first appointment. With a lot of hard work and prescription medication, I started to get my life back. I even began volunteering with a local organization for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. That led me to get involved with a group trying to prevent Rep. David Byrd from being re-elected. And that's another part of what this story is about.

I know that by mentioning this man by name, it could expose my identity. I don't care. The world needs to know what he did, just as they need to know what my rapists did. Rep. David Byrd has been credibly accused of sexually abusing three of his students when he was a teacher. These allegations have been corroborated by another teacher. We tried so hard to prevent his re-election. We failed to do so. He won by a landslide in this deeply red county. I canvassed and phone banked. I got to know one of his accusers. By far the most disheartening thing that I heard - and I heard it over and over - was, "But it was so long ago." As if victims' pain had an expiration date. As if their need for justice just fades away at some point.

I never got justice for my rapes. I have to live with that. But I have made it my mission to fight rape culture in my community and to push for victim's rights. And that is why it was so devastating to see Byrd win on Election Night. Once again, I did the right thing. And once again, there was no justice. I was messaging with one of Byrd's accusers as the results came in. She thanked me for everything I had done to help her. That's when I finally started crying. She was so grateful just to be believed, and that broke my heart. We are not going to stop fighting to hold Byrd accountable for his actions. And it is my most sincere hope that through speaking to the people in my community and sharing my past, I can help to change some minds. Help people to see that it doesn't matter if it was 30 days ago or 30 years ago. Rape leaves a wound which eventually becomes a scar. But that scar can rip open at any time, and you never know when it might happen. And you can't predict what will come out when it does.