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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

February 6, 2012 is the one day where every minute detail of the day cannot escape my mind, no matter how hard I try to make them go away. I will never know the names of my assaulters or what they look like. Despite the fact that I continuously see them out in public. Any African-American male, I wonder, "is that the man who raped me?" Yes, raped. It has taken almost three years for me to actually be able to say it or see the word in front of me. I never thought something that horrific could happen to me. I was a well-behaved teenager, or atleast I thought I was. Yet due to the fact that the night I was raped I was out partying and under the influence of alcohol, I can't help but blame myself. If only I wouldn't have been drunk, or what stupid girl goes to a guys apartment that late. However, I thought I could trust my guy friend. Unfortunately, the specific details of the night could fill an entire book, but what I can say is that on February 6, 2010 I was raped by 2 African-American males whom I did not even know. This occurred while 3 other boys stood in the room and watched, one of them putting his penis in my face the entire time, while I lay there helpless. Boys, that is what they were and still are. No man would every rape any woman. I was a junior in high school, 17 years old, and a virgin. Now I sit here, waiting for the day when I can just forget it all. Forget every detail, like the fact that one of them used a Food Lion bag as a condom or that I bled for 2 days straight after it happened. When will I be able to move on? In my mind, I forgave my friend whose apartment it was. I wrote out every detail of the incident and read it. I shared the details of my story with close friends. But the details will not escape me. It's been almost 3 years, I think to myself. So why can I not just move on like a normal person and go about my life. Why can't I be alone in a room with a person of the opposite sex without feeling uncomfortable? Why did I have a panic attack when I finally made the choice to lose my virginity? Why do I have to be intoxicated to have any sort of interaction with a guy. Will these problems ever go away, or will they stay with me forever because of that one god-awful night? Who knows? I just hope that one day I will be able to accept the fact that my rape was not my fault, and in the end it has made me stronger.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An open letter to my future lovers,

You need to know that I can’t count the number of times he raped me. My memories of the abuse sort of blur together- fuzzy, the way my vision clouded when he slammed my head into that rock the first time, so I couldn’t fight back. I can still picture some specific images. I can hear his voice. I specifically remember the first and last times it happened. And the one time he used a condom. To write my whole story would take more pages than you want to hear right know, I know. But I need you to understand. So I will tell you about one night, the final time he assaulted me, the straw that broke my back. Through old journals, flashbacks, and bad dreams I’ve collected all the events of that night. It’s not the censored story I told at 15. It’s not the confused story I told at 17. It’s not the vague one I told at 19. It’s the gritty, bloody, violent, accurate truth at 20. Five years later- cleared from a post-traumatic haze. Lucid, thorough, and intact.

We went to a dance, the first one we’d been to where he wore civilian clothes. His commanders threw this party to reward the unit for passing inspection from the big important Air Force guy who flew in from New Orleans or Atlanta or some other big Southern city. The night of the dance, December 14th, I had an unholy migraine- as I imagine most people do when they don’t eat, sleep, or smile. This was one of those migraines that scratches downward from the backs of your eyes, into your jaws, your neck, your shoulders, and finally lands in your spirit.  Needless to say, I was less than thrilled about sitting in a room with five foot speakers blasting techno, hip hop, and the occasional slow country song. So he got all mad. He danced dirty with a few other girls just to prove that he could. But, as one song ended, he walked toward my table slowly and deliberately, leaned down, kissed my neck, and whispered in my ear, “Let’s get some fresh air.” I followed him outside and the cold hit like a wall of ice. He wrapped me in his arms and guided me through the parking lot to his friend’s pickup truck. He lowered the gate and we sat on the edge of the truck bed. I laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes. He rubbed my head and, as I relaxed into him, the pain began to fade. These moments of peace were rare, precious- but only moments.

He leaned down his head and kissed me, long and deep. I smiled obediently and lay my head back down, trying to delay the inevitable. But he put a finger under my chin and lifted my mouth to his. He laid me down slowly. He pushed one arm up my blouse, the blouse I borrowed from my friend just for that night. I laced my fingers in his big military hands and pushed them away from me with all my pathetic strength. I said things. Things like his name, like “not tonight,” and then “please.” And then finally a desperate, pleading, and defeated cry, “No.” He grabbed at my breasts and twisted them left and right, chaffing them with his calloused palms. Then he ran his teeth down my stomach as he unbuttoned my jeans. I counted stars and allowed my consciousness to fade as his face lie between my thighs. Suddenly, acute and horrifying pain reunited my mind with my body as I realized he’d bitten down on a delicate layer of flesh. I felt warm, sticky blood begin to flood in and around me. He lifted his head and smiled at me with bloody teeth, then spat out a piece of my skin. A piece of me. I tried to refocus my mind and ignore the pain. I contemplated screaming as he shoved his fist inside of me and I felt the tissue continue to tear. I pictured the blissful young couples just fifty feet away, kissing and dancing in a room with loud music that would muffle my cries. I drifted in and out of awareness as he pulled down his jeans and I felt his weight on top of me. Three thousand hours later, when he finished, I unconsciously pulled up my jeans and lay back down next to him where he whispered in my ear, “No one’s gonna’ love you after what I’ve done to you.” And I laid there and I believed him.

So, to my future lovers, I told you this story to help you understand where I’m coming from.  So you’ll remember I have at least a hundred other memories like this one.

So you might understand that sometimes I don’t sleep. And, yes, sometimes I miss class.

I told you this story so you’ll start connecting the dots that even though I’m too scared to tell you yet, I really like you and want to kiss you. So you’ll know that I already want you because you make me feel safe.

So you’ll know that reading bell hooks and Jackson Katz are prerequisites to making love with me.

So you might get why sometimes I hate my body and why I’m scared to show my body to you. So you know why I need you to be tender, slow, and communicative with me. So that you’ll know I’ll be tender, communicative, and grateful to you. So you’ll know it’s not your fault when I pull away.

But mostly I told you because I’m still pretty sure he was right, that I’m unlovable. I really told you my story in the hopes that you can love me past that pain.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I don’t want to write about the man who raped me because he has no power over me. The man who abused me for a year, who spit his evil into my body and ignored my sobs, my pain, my every plea of NO has become less than nothing to me, and I thank God for that. I could write about his emotional abuse and manipulation, his anger, his sexual abuse that made his disgusting eyes glow with hatred and sick, perverted lust—the abuse that put me in the ER’s trauma room a year and a half ago from a failed suicide attempt. I could talk about the cuts, the depression and anxiety that haunted me, the fear, the shame, the overdoses. I could write about his repeated apologies and pleas to have me back after I—thank God!—left him. But honestly, he isn’t worth my time of day—he isn’t worth a word or even a fleeting thought. I pitied him for much too long. Hatred takes energy, and he doesn’t deserve the energy it would take for me to hate him—but if there is any hatred in my heart that lingers, it is because of the lies he told me about myself. I don’t believe them anymore, and I know I’m beautiful, I’m intelligent, I’m fiercely strong, I’m passionate and powerful, and I am PERFECT at being me. He didn’t take any of that away. 

I am more inclined to write about the people that betrayed me, the people that didn’t believe me, the people that ignored the signs and facilitated his abuse. A handful of girls on my hall defended him without even asking me or talking to me at all because he was “always nice to them.” None of them have confronted me about it to this day. They defended my rapist without even asking me “Did this happen to you?” I still cannot understand how women can betray other women like that. 
I could write about the people in my life that called my emotions “silly,” that told me part of my soul had been taken away forever because of what happened, that look at me differently now, that trace EVERY action and decision I make back to what happened, the people that torture me with their apathy and ignorance and their refusal to even try to understand. I could write about the questions people asked me: “Why didn’t you break up with him the first time it happened?” “Why were you ever alone with him?” “Why didn’t you run away and call the police?” Why, why, fucking why, every day for weeks and weeks. Few people wondered why he raped me, why no one asked me if I was okay when I walked through the halls of my dorm sobbing, why no one reported it after I told them about his threats of violence, why no one noticed him showing up outside my door countless times every day, why people didn’t interfere when he would scream, curse and verbally abuse me in public. 

But this is not even half of the story. If you don’t know my story, you can’t know my glory, and my glory is in the beautiful people—the angels God sent me—that have lifted me from my suffering and made me stronger and more wildly beautiful than before. I wish I could list each of them here and tell them why I love them and how each of them has, quite literally, saved my life. The people that believe me, LOVE me, encourage me, support me, laugh and cry with me, hold me, smile at me, believe IN me . . . I love you more than you will ever know. You inspire me to stay true to my responsibility to give back to this world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear, I want you to know that you are so much more than what one person inflicted - much, much more than those feelings of guilt, shame, and incompleteness. You are beautiful. You are whole. You are so, so, so very invaluable. I could, quite literally, utter that I love you to an inexhaustible length. I think about you every day, and my life is so much better when it is graced with you. Those times mom talks about partnering you, and those times when you see couples perfectly intertwined and those times you wish you could retreat into girlhood and believe that the fairy tales were your life - I know those thoughts, they're those omnipresent pains that are shoved onto our path of thought. But you are so much more than that. You aren't tainted, broken, worthless, and any possible erroneous characteristic that the toxins of others make you think. No, you are quite literally the opposite. You are that invaluable beauty of courage; you whom is reading this right now; your story,your soul, your heart - all of you. You are important to me.I could not imagine my life without you, and I'll be damned if someone ever devalues it. You're so much more than what others want, or desire. You are not something of "value," or "worth." I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. And I will say it, always - and never want anything less or more than you - because YOU are whom I love, not anything else.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I think I learned what the words "domestic violence" meant about a year after I got out of my first abusive relationship. I was twelve or thirteen when it started, maybe younger. While I was being abused I pretended that it wasn't happening, but a year after it was mostly over, I began to realize what had happened and how it had affected me. He had been my friend off and on since the fourth grade; he was a year older than me. He started by telling me scary things, like the different ways that he could kill me, or how he could touch me wherever he wanted or kiss me if he wanted to (but didn't want to because I was ugly). He would always touch me wherever or whenever he wanted, and make me go where he wanted to go, and he would walk around forcefully holding his arm around me even if I said I didn't want to. If I tried to push him away, even if we were with other people, he would grab be back of my neck and squeeze my neck and spine in a really painful way. Then he started hitting me. He would shove me into stuff, or slap me in the face, or hit me with objects or whatever was laying around. I barely remember any of this. I remember that one time he came over to my house when my mom was not around. There was a lead pipe in my basement and he dragged me down the stairs to the basement. He kept swinging the pipe at me and saying he could kill me. I kept asking him to stop, and then begging him to stop, and he kept getting closer to me. He pushed me on the ground and beat me with the pipe. I barely remember this at all now. It was winter and he did not hit me in the face, but instead in places where bruises would not be seen. During and after this he described other ways that he could kill me. Sometimes at night we would have to work together on a project at school. The teacher made us go outside alone together and he always walked outside with his arm around me. Then when we got outside he would act like he was going to hit me. I would flinch and he would tell me not to flinch and ask me why I didn't trust him. He would keep pretending to hit me and telling me not to flinch until I didn't. Then he would hit me many times. I never really noticed the physical pain so much-- I played soccer and I got picked on a lot at school, I was clumsy too, so I always had bruises or little cuts, little wounds that never seemed to heal. My muscles felt stiff all of the time and I was always tired. He always seemed to be around. If I was singing he would tell me I had the worst voice he had ever heard, he would talk about all of the girls who were hot and how I wasn't one of them. He would say we weren't friends. He would slam my face into walls, and throw me on the ground or on his bed, and lay on top of me, and put his hands around my throat. He would say that he would always come back in my life and that when I went to college he would find me in a club or bar one night. He went on to high school and I didn't see him very much. He was still there though, we were in marching band together. One time he caught me alone in the instrument room and he grabbed me by my throat and choked me against the wall.

After being beaten on and pushed around so much when I was 13, I didn't feel like I had any control over my body. Several times guys started to touch me and put their hands in my pants, even when I started dating someone, and I was terrified to say no. On buses, or at friends movie nights, and later in the backs of cars and in movie theaters and in my own bed; in churches, and dark parking lots, and the woods, I would get touched and felt and kissed while my guts were throbbing and hurting and screaming and trembling and my mouth was too scared to open. If I tried to say no there was always a convincing argument against me and I always felt that I would have my face bloodied and bruised if I said no. Anyway, I felt that someone wanting me, even for just sex, was better than being feeling so alone. So I pretended I didn't care instead. I didn't have any real friends and I didn't trust anyone. After awhile, I didn't really have any emotions or feelings or tears or anything left. I started cutting myself, just to feel something. I lived with just my mom then, and she wasn't home much, so I would sit at home alone and eat microwave dinners and watch the news and cut myself. After awhile I didn't really notice it, it just became a habit, like biting my nails is now. But then it kept getting out of control, and I kept getting more and more depressed, and began to feel more and more suicidal. My cuts got deeper, and I started cutting all over my body. My legs, chest, sides, stomach, arms, wrists. I carved the words "fuck" and "whore" and "trust" into my arm. One night I felt completely done with everything. I wrote a letter saying fuck you to all the people who had hurt me. Then I took my knife and stabbed it into my arm as hard and deep as I could, and jerked the knife up my arm. There was blood everywhere, I felt dizzy, I felt scared about what I had done. It became hard to stand up, then I couldn't. I got in the bathtub and tried to wash all the blood down the drain. I just lay there trying not to pass out, but eventually I was able to breathe easier and the bleeding slowed down. I wrapped it up, and it bled very slowly for a long time, maybe a day or more. After that I had no grip in that hand for 4 or 5 years. I saw the guy who had been hitting me sometime after that and I told him about the cutting, he laughed and said I deserved it or something like that. I finally got up the guts to tell my guidance counselor after that. I told him about getting beaten on so much and how I was hurting myself. He threatened to tell my mom if I kept cutting and he said that he would call me in to talk to him again soon. He never talked to me again after that.

Sophomore year of high school I got dumped, and I felt horrible. I had found someone who I trusted enough to tell a little bit about how I had been beat on, but after dating for awhile he told me that God had said that he had to break up with me. I finally started dating this other guy, but I didn't trust him. After awhile that ended, and around the same time one of my friends moved away and I lost some other friends, and I started feeling really lonely and lost. I had still not made sense of anything that happened to me and did not trust anyone. I went to the beach over spring break with my mom and a friend. I hadn't really been able to drink before, at least not much, because my mom was very strict and also I didn't have any friends who invited me to drink or do anything like that. At the beach I decided to go out and find a random hotel filled with college kids there on their spring break. My friend and I immediately got picked up by guys who were probably 21 or 22, but told us they were 18. They took us to their room and gave us shots and shots and shots of liquor, which we washed down with beer. I weighed less than 115 lbs and the most I had previously drank in one night was 3 beers. After about 10 minutes of being there I was falling over. The guys said we had to play strip poker. One of them pulled me onto his lap and started taking off my clothes. After he took off my shirt he threw me on the bed and started having sex with me. I was barely conscious, but it was my first time, and it hurt. He didn't use a condom. Some of the other guys came back in the room while he was still having sex with me and starting laughing and filming it with a video camera. I had a friend with me, and another guy had sex with her. I finally grabbed her and I carried her home. She was throwing up and really sick. Then in the morning I told her what happened. I tried to get excited, and feel like I had had my first one night stand, but all I really felt was broken. The next day I went out to the beach and got some booze from another guy. I drank myself into the hospital. Somehow people at school found out and everyone called me a whore.

That summer I was lost. I went up to visit my uncle in Milwaukee. As soon as I got up there he started touching me and putting his hands all over me. He would push me up against his car and hold me there and not let me move, and he would grab my ass and rub his hands up and down my legs. Then one day he stuck his hands down the front of my pants. One day when he had me pushed up against his car he said he would have done more if I was 18.

When I came home after the week I took all the pills in my house. I woke up the next morning in the hospital. I was there for a couple days and I was almost always in a state of semi sleep. Sometimes I would look over and see a zombie version of myself crawling towards me on the floor. After I got out I started hurting myself more. I would beat the shit out of myself, smash my head into metal or wood, burn myself, choke myself. I'd knock myself out with a hockey stick. I would have big lumps on my head, even little cuts. The pain felt comfortable, it felt like something I was familiar with, it felt like the only thing I could trust. I hated myself and blamed myself for all that had happened. Every night I had terrible flashbacks and nightmares.

When I got my license I would drive around aimlessly at 90-100. I'd speed around on mountain roads, not going anywhere in particular, not caring if I died. I'd smoke cigarette after cigarette alone by myself in the park after dark. I would drink or smoke any chance I got, and drive around wasted.

When I was 16 I ended up in a relationship with a guy who was 3 years older than me. He was a big dude from a rough background. It started off that he would come over to my house, and sometimes bring some alcohol or drugs or something, but mostly I would sit and tell him how much I was hurting and he would hug me. But then after a little while he would start to kiss me, and put his hands on me and in me. I just wanted a friend and I didn't want to hook up, but I wasn't in a position to be too picky. I didn't have anybody else. I'd try to move his hands out of my shirt, out of my pants, keep my clothes on, I'd say stop, but his hands would come back and my clothes would come off. This dude was literally about 30 lbs heavier than twice my size. He'd end up on top of me, kissing me, grabbing me; I couldn't move, I could barely breathe. At that point, I gave up. We started dating, I told myself I was in love with him, I told myself I would marry him. He was a great friend. He went to school a few hours away, so I saw him in the summers and during the school year, I saw him about every other weekend. We dated until I came to college. He started having sex with me pretty soon into our relationship. He didn't have a car, so I would always drive him home and we would sit in my car in the driveway, he would beg me to have sex in the backseat or at least give him a bj. I'd say no, I was tired, I didn't feel like it, I didn't like to hook up in the car, I didn't want to. He'd say he couldn't sleep if he didn't have sex, that it was hard enough to sleep already on his shitty broken couch with roaches crawling over him, that I got to sleep in a nice bed so couldn't I just do this one thing, he'd grab me, he'd pull me towards him. Then I'd just let him do whatever he wanted, and he would leave, and I would drive home bawling my eyes out blasting the stereo as loud as I could. This would happen all the time, in lots of different places: my house, my car, motel rooms, outside in sketchy dark places, other people's places. One time he made me go into this sketchy shed behind his house in the middle of the day, and he bent me over and shoved my head towards the ground and fucked me. 

He started having anal sex with me, he didn't ask me, he just started doing it. One day he was fucking me that way so hard, it was excruciating. I started begging him to stop, and trying to get up or get away, and he pushed my face down into the pillow and kept going till he finished. I was bleeding when he was done, and he said oops and left. Sometimes we had rough sex, he would hit me or choke me, tie me up, hold me down. In a way that felt more normal to me, I was still beating the shit out of myself when I was alone, I wanted that to happen. Sometimes he would hit me so hard that I would almost pass out, then he would feel bad and scream and get upset, and I would just be laying there trying to keep it together. We'd get in fights, he would get really mad and scream and throw stuff, and break stuff. I was really scared of him when he was angry. If I tried to touch him to calm him down he would throw me off of him, he'd shove me away really hard. I felt like there was no way out, nothing to do. We broke up when I went to college, but I'd still go visit him because I felt really lonely and didn't trust anyone still. I remember saying to a friend I met at school one time, something like, damn I don't really want to go visit this guy cause he's probably going to tie me up and fuck the shit out of me. My friend was like whaaaaaaa. I went up there that time anyway. The second night I was there, I don't remember exactly what happened, but I was so drunk and didn't feel like getting shoved around so much. He wanted to have real rough sex though, and he started pushing me around, ripping my clothes, hitting me across the face, choking me. He was drunk so he didn't hold back like he had other times. I don't remember much other than it hurt so bad and I was so scared while it was happening. Afterwards my whole body was throbbing.