Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Story

What’s is like to be a girl?

Well, I’m generally given credit for the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. The time I was straight-up, unquestionably raped. The most recent time. There are always skeptical looks at first, until careful tones and word choices cause me to feel pressured to explain the whole thing start to finish, and then the reaction is always the same: “So you were actually raped? Oh my God, I thought it was another one of those situations where the girl just regrets it afterwards and then changes her mind…”

Yea, no. 

And I’m 99% sure that’s not a thing at least 99% of the time, so stop it.

The other times are almost worse. Almost. I get no validation for the other times, from other people or from myself. 

The first time something happened to me that might be called rape was when I was 18. I have very sensitive skin on my entire body, and once, when I was having sex with my then-boyfriend, I felt myself rip. It hurt like a bitch, and when I told him to stop he said “I’m almost finished,” and kept going, despite my pain. I couldn’t have sex for months afterwards because it hurt so bad, and that of course caused more problems. I went into myself, and resented and then hated him for it.

The next time I was 19 and working downtown, and I was out drinking one night. I ended up going to a party after last call with some coworkers, which I don’t remember. All I remember is tequila shots at the bar and then being curled up against a wall, and being aware that something very uncomfortable was happening to me below the belt as I went in and out of consciousness. I don’t know if I initiated what was happening (though I doubt it), but I do know that I wasn’t conscious for half of it, and I’m not 100% sure who I was with. And I know I woke up naked. The only thing I remember clearly is being confused and afraid, and I vividly recall the feeling of trying to hold onto consciousness for long enough to figure out what was happening. But it was like drowning, gasping for breath but only taking in mouthfuls of water. 

I was too ashamed to even try to find out what happened that night and it still haunts me. In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve ever told anyone about it.

The next time was probably the least traumatic, but my stomach still knots up in shame when I think of it. I was still 19, but almost 20. It was right before I moved to Toronto for the summer. Some friends and I went to a party being held by some people we went to high school with. There was a guy there who I kind of knew, and he tried to hook up with me all night, and I kept saying no and trying to get away from him because I wasn’t attracted to him in the least. Not even a little bit. So we were drinking and having a good time, and he waited and kept trying, not taking no for an answer and waiting for my inhibitions to lower. Eventually, he isolated me by backing me into another part of the house and not letting me get back to the group. He kept doing what he’d been doing, wearing me down and tiring me out, and, after hours of saying no, I gave up. I left that party feeling disgusting and ashamed, and I didn’t get over it any time soon. There was no consent; I had no voice, and my words had meant nothing. I had no agency. He wore me away to nothing.

This was about 6 months before the worst time. The one I won’t darken you with now.

So, by the age of 20, a girl who didn’t have a particularly high number of sexual partners managed to get definitely raped once, and pretty-fucking-close-if-not-definitely raped three more times leading up to that. And somehow the shame was on me.

I realize that some people would say this was all my fault for not having a fucking lock on my vagina, or that I must have deserved it somehow. But they would be wrong. I can only control the things I do, and not, in most cases, how others conduct themselves.

Sometimes, 7 years after the most recent incident, one of these times will just jump in my head and I won’t be able to get it out for weeks. Feelings of shame and dread drown me, no matter what I’m doing. During these times, I don’t like myself—I even blame myself, despite knowing that it wasn’t my fault. As a result, I can’t stand to be alone with myself, so every waking moment I have to be doing something with my hands and something with my eyes and something with my ears… but not music, because that draws out the hurt.

Eventually the pain begins to dull, and the shame begins to fade like a nightmare at noontime. But it always comes back.

Take from this what you want, but for countless people around the world this is what it’s like to be a girl.

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