This is how it happened to me the second time
No red flags
No textbook examples
No black hat
No history of violence
Crime done but no police report to write
Because without the bruises
There is nothing to write down and present to the police, to a courtroom
I can only say that it happened
I was violated
You took without asking and when I pushed you away
Jumped back from you (from it) as if you were the temperature of lava,
You laughed without seeing the horror filling my eyes
When I asked if that had really just happened,
As if you couldn’t imagine anything wrong with what you’d just done
And even though I stopped you,
I couldn’t move
I let you put your arms around me and pretend you could make it okay
I had to explain why it was wrong
When all I wanted was to pour my rage over you like hot coals
I had to listen to you making effusive hollow paper thin apologies
That clung to me like the physical memory of the feeling of you taking without asking
My brain was replaying the pressure and the push and I just wanted you and all your words, breath, sound, smell off of me
I wanted to burn myself clean of everything about you
I didn’t understand why I never saw it coming
I didn’t understand why I hadn’t hurt you, hit you, kicked you, clawed at your eyes
I keep a blade and tear gas on me and I never used them on you when I had every right to
I wanted to tell everyone, but I had nothing to show them that would prove that it happened
So I told people who believed me, who asked me if I wanted to go to the police
But I had nothing but my word
Sometimes I wish I’d done more
Maybe there would’ve been epithelial cells for them to swab and capture
After all, that’s who I am, right?
I speak out, I advocate, I fight, I do the right thing, collect physical evidence and documentation of harm done so justice can be done
But what is justice when there is no physical proof of the crime?
Only a few people are going to truly understand and believe what happen,
I don’t have to be beaten or bloodied or have male DNA collected from body to make what happened count as violence against my body
I thought, after it happened once, I knew better. I can prevent this from happening ever again, but it never happens in the way you think it might. You’re taught, as females, about sexual assault. It will be violent, it will involve being drugged, physical restraint, guns and sharp edges–it will be someone you don’t know. A bad man, a villain. It will end in the capacity to press criminal charges. You think you’ll fight back because you’re strong. You’ll use your voice to call this person out because you’re a strong woman. Strong women use their words and fists and America’s justice system and end up vindicated. That’s what you do at work, at home, in social settings—how could this be any different?
I volunteer this idea: maybe it’ll be someone you know. Maybe it’ll happen before you even have time to say stop, no, this is my body and you have no fucking right to invade it. Maybe they’ll apologize. Maybe they mean it, maybe they don’t. Maybe they’re really great guys who made a mistake. Maybe you should forgive them because, after all, they say they really care about you, they just couldn’t help themselves. How could they know about your history?
I say this: you don’t have to know my history to know right from wrong. You don’t have to know how far it will set me back, how many days I won’t want to eat, how long it’ll be before I let another man touch me again. All you have to know is that you didn’t have permission.
My wish for you? I hope one day you understand exactly what you did and how it feels to have someone just help themselves to your body as if they owned it. I wish for you the ability to empathize. I wish for you to understand how easily it is to endanger a woman’s sexual health. I hope you learn to listen, to not laugh as you’re crossing the most intimate of someone’s physical boundaries. Perhaps most of all, I wish you could learn from this, pass this lesson on to your son, and to not blow it off as some crazy feminazi’s overly emotional reaction or any way rationalize your own behavior as a mistake anyone could have made.
My message to everyone else? Sexual assault doesn’t just happen in a dark alley with a stranger holding a knife to your throat. It’s not necessarily going to happen because someone drugged your drink or because you wore something too revealing, or because you were made vulnerable or overpowered in any other physical or chemical way. Sometimes everything’s consensual until it’s not. Sometimes because you believe everything’s consensual and drop your guard because everything up to this point has pointed to this person being a safe person. In that moment of trust and vulnerability, it won’t take much force because you won’t be expecting it. In fact, you would never have expected that. Despite all this, you’ll blame yourself. You’ll feel so completely violated that it feels as if you could never get clean. You won’t have physical evidence to prove it, but it will indeed be sexual assault that has just happened to you. You’ll have all the same feelings of any sexual assault victim, but very few people will understand the gravity of a situation that didn’t leave you bloodied and bruised. But guess what?
It still happened.
I haven’t really thought about it all day, which makes sense because I’ve been working. I found out this morning that a friend of mine had died within the past 24 hours-ish. I knew her from ED group. She wasn’t my best friend, we hadn’t talked recently, and I had been watching her steady decline via facebook for nearly a decade. There’s something that happens when someone who comes from a similar background to yours, dies. It gets even more complicated when their set of circumstances match yours in such a way that had you made different choices, you could have been the one lying on a slab in the Dallas morgue today. I don’t know what happened in the end, I wasn’t there to witness every part of her struggle, but I’m still angry. I know some people are angry at the eating disorder that was most likely the primary COD. I’m angry at that, too, but mostly I’m just angry at the people who enabled her. I know I can’t guarantee that she’d still be alive had someone filed for non compos mentis to take over all of her medical decisions, and maybe someone did. I’m just angry that she slipped through the cracks despite all the resources and support she had. I honestly wonder how that happens, because it happens all the gd time with eating disorders and addiction. I can only reiterate that if you know someone struggling with any kind of mental illness, pissing them off by not enabling them, or calling them on their bulllshit, or calling 911 if you suspect they may be a danger to themselves or other is far FAR better than them being dead.
Young Sally Owens: He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards.
Young Gillian Owens: What are you doing?
Young Sally Owens: Summoning up a true love spell called Amas Veritas. He can flip pancakes in the air. He’ll be marvelously kind. And his favorite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye and one blue.
Young Gillian Owens: Thought you never wanted to fall in love.
Young Sally Owens: That’s the point. The guy I dreamed of doesn’t exist. And if he doesn’t exist, I’ll never die of a broken heart.
When I was young
And you were young
Even when you were middle aged you were so so young
You were my warrior
You were everything
Because you could be
Because you had to be
Because really, you were the only parent, the only adult, the only one fighting
You were Athena
Born from your father’s pain
god, you were so powerful
Now, I wonder
If I made up that entire mythology in my head
Now, you’re smaller
Your hands are paler and colder
You are no longer the commander you taught me how to be
I will speak for you
And tell your battle stories that keep your memory alive
The gap between your two front teeth
The smell of motor oil
The nickname you had for me that no one else ever used
I would get so irritated
With all your noise
Heavy workboot footsteps
Resonant Texan presence
I was in my 20s before I realized
This was all how you cared
The questions that could border on interrogating interviews
The careful analysis of the men in my life
The never disapproving
The good god almightys and the ensuing laughter
I love you
I love you baby
Meant I love you
I wish for your safety
However you may find it
And now the smell of motor oil
Chevy Silverado rumbling
The empty seat at our table twice a year
Are sharp edged reminders of loss
One less ally
In my war
But I have consolidated memory
Of a father
And of love