PREFACE: I used to think it was important to only share recovery, and on that same wavelength, I used to think only love poems were the kinds that were important to share. Today, I am reminded of the process and how I had to hear experience, then strength and hope in order to heal. Knowing that you’re not alone is key to releasing the power that traumatic experiences have on the mental, emotional and spiritual states of the person who has been disturbed. I am reminded that both light and dark exist together. The following might be triggering for some assault/rape survivors.
My dream last night was about James. He was the sweet neighbor boy who lived around the corner from my house growing up. We would ride our bikes around the dirt roads together. One day he “forgot” his bike, so we had to walk, and he grabbed my hand and held it all afternoon. We would go swimming in ponds and pick blackberries and on one evening, he gave me my first real kiss when I was 13 in the back of my mom’s car.
I remember wearing his football jersey to school on a Friday to support him for the game that evening. Feeling important and trusted, I wore it like a badge of my status, popularity and commitment to my new and first boyfriend. After the game, he kissed me again, this time in front of his friends. I was amazed at his confidence and bravery in liking me. He was a year older at 14, and fellow friends envied that an older boy was dating me. It gave me this image of “maturity” where locker room girls asked for dating advice.
James and I didn’t date long, however, age differences at that time of puberty made a big difference. Girls at 14 were starting to make-out with boys, get felt-up, even play below the belt. But I wasn’t ready. Nervous to even french kiss him, that didn’t seem to be enough for his current appetite. However, we remained friends all throughout junior high and into high school.
We went to parties together often, although he typically would socialize with the more popular, athletic crowd. Whereas, my group was a little more rough around the edges. He was never judgmental, though. When I wore too much makeup, or a shirt too low, or when rumors began to spread of my sexual conquests (apparently I slept with an entire football team at another school and got 7 abortions one summer), he remained my friend.
I often thought he was one of the kindest, truest men I had ever met. I trusted him wholeheartedly and even thought that one day we might end up together when life balanced out a bit. I could see us on the farm raising a bunch of babies, working the soil and having too many animals. He loved dogs and I loved pigs and we both already had at least 5 cats between us.
Within a single evening, those tender daydreams turned into rocks that were thrown into my perception and shattered my reality. Parts of me broke all while I slept. At 17, he raped me in his dorm room when I was unconscious. The once sweet boy who I shared so many memories with became a horrible nightmare for 13 years to come.
I got very drunk at a party one night. I knew I had overdone it and was worried about my safety. As a smart girl, I knew that boys could take advantage, so I called James to come get me since he lived in a dormitory nearby. It was no secret that I was fall-over drunk. I was young, still trying to figure out my limits with alcohol and as some children from disturbed childhoods do, I was self-medicating. Even as I write this, I find myself justifying.
I don’t remember much after returning to his dorm room. Just laying in his bed and trying to fall asleep, my shirt coming off and telling him I was cold.
I woke up the next morning completely naked beside him. Confused, embarrassed and sore. I got dressed and left knowing that I didn’t want to have sex with him, but I had, or he had with me. Feeling like it was my fault – for years to come. Scared if he had or hadn’t used protection. (He hadn’t). If only I hadn’t drank so much. If only I could remember what happened. If only I was awake long enough to tell him no. If only…
I drove home missing a part of myself. I drove home never wanting to see myself naked again. I drove home with my skin tensing with disgust and anger. I drove home to a place where I was not safe to tell anyone about what had happened. I drove home in silence and alone. I drove home looking at a sunrise and feeling like nothing would ever look beautiful again. I drove home empty and numb. I drove home passing his house. I drove home.
That night, I was given three things: an inability to get close or trust men for nearly a decade, a tendency to disassociate with myself that spawned many more years of abuse, and I was given chlamydia. Which my parents nearly disowned me over. (Back then parents were notified of sexually transmitted diseases if the child was under the age of 18.) Fortunately, one of those things was treatable with a tiny little pill. Unfortunately, everything else wasn’t that easy to overcome.
I wrote a poem that day, it later won some prestigious thing that’s not even worth mentioning – but here it is. A poem I haven’t read in 13 years that all of a sudden today, on the eve of 2018, somehow feels important:
Hold my heart out on my sleeve,
Take a breath and watch me leave,
Caught in passion that I didn’t want,
Act as if you’re nonchalant.
One can’t be after such an assault.
The heart is in remorse and life comes to a halt.
Hide my tears and never tell a soul,
My body is numb and my love is cold.
Never regain consciousness from this perdition I’ve been placed.
My life is over.
I’ve been erased.
Not so fast, this isn’t my fault.
Don’t ask why, one could never understand,
Why this man could have laid his hand,
His hand upon myself in an outraged way.
Don’t ask why, for on that day,
You will take your life away.