Yesterday the Huffington Post featured a front page full of readers stories based on the hashtag #beenrapedneverreported. This morning I woke to a stream of overwhelming memories that just needed to be written. Regardless of what my past holds, these things do not define me. Sure they were a part of shaping me, but everyone has their junk. Most importantly, I have resisted writing details of my story because it seemed self-serving, wallowing, and pointless. Now I realize it really should be told. Not for any benefit to me, but because maybe others will learn that they are not alone.
I tried to tell them that nothing had happened. But my journal said otherwise. It was a hardbound book with a puffy purple cover. Something for silly little girls to write about crushes and best friends and breakups. Mine told of long phone conversations with someone I had never met. He was nice to me. We talked for hours after school while I waited for my mom to come home from her college classes, my brothers did who knows what, and my dad worked. I described my room to him, pink and sweet. A trundle bed and a closet where I hid the cigarrettes I stole from the grocery store each week. My black cat Domino following me wherever I went and kneading her paws across my chest, purring as I stretched my tall eleven year old frame out on the bed. He asked if I had heard of hide the quarter. I had not. We played our own version of it almost every day. I hid the quarter somewhere on my body and he described how he wanted my hands to explore the landscape until he guided them to the right spot. "Good." He said, "Now somewhere even harder to find." I giggled. It was so forbidden, but it was exciting and fun.
We talked about my parents liquor cabinet and he encouraged me to try a rum and coke. It tasted terrible. But I drank it down anyway. We talked about meeting up, and when we finally did, I saw that he was nothing like I had imagined. He was shorter and full of acne. He was not my age or anywhere near, that was for sure. He saw me briefly, sizing him up, and then I hid. But I didn't write about that in my diary. I translated my disappointment into an elaborate story involving alcohol and speed and sex. It was my diary after all. No one would ever see it. Until they did.
By the time the court date came around I had become a different girl. I wore dark flannels, Guns and Roses Tshirts and torn jeans. I didn't take care of myself anymore. I was angry. Guilt was eating me alive. I threw up when they told me he had the names and phone numbers of over 120 girls in his room at his mother's house. All between the ages of 11 and 14. I was instructed to testify wearing something that would make me look more innocent. A light colored collared shirt and a skirt maybe?
His eyes burned truth into me from his seat behind the defendant's table, but mine threw their own dose of truth back at him. I threw up again when the verdict came back "Not Guilty."
Suddenly I knew there was no going back. I was tainted and torn. A liar who still had a secret that didn't seem to compare to the stories I had told. My best friend was dating a 15 year old, and one day after school, while she talked to him on the payphone, I struck up my own conversation with her older brother who was 18. 7 years wasn't such a big deal after all. Was it? Besides, I was almost 12. Within a few weeks he was driving out to Parker to meet me at youth group since that was the only place my parents ever left me, knowing I'd be under the supervision of another trusted adult. I snuck him down to the basement of the old church house. He snuck my hand down his pants, and taught me what to do with what I found down there. Then one day he disappeared. His mother told me sweetly that he had moved to Florida to be with his father. There was no judgement in her pleading voice when she told me to please take care of myself. She asked shakily how old I was, and when I told her, she said "Please, sweety, don't try to call him anymore, ok?"
The carelessness with which I put myself in situation after situation just asking for trouble became a life long pattern. And when I paid the price with violence, I knew it was what I deserved. A pennance of sorts. I wasn't about to make any reports. Who would believe a little liar like me? And who would believe one person could be telling the truth about rape in her twenties after accusing someone of statutory rape as a child. I had no credibility. I had cried wolf as a child, and as an adult would have no one on my side if they knew. As an adult I was raped twice. Both times because I was drunk. Both times I cried as he did what he did. I cried because I already knew I'd have to keep this time a secret too. I cried because I deserved it. I cried because I wanted to be a better person than this.