Really the only thing you can do is stare at the ceiling, numb your soul and wait. Feel his filthy body heave while he is so consumed with his own pleasure that he doesn’t notice you weep. See, the funny thing about evil is that there is some unknown amount of it in all of us. Horror films lead us to believe that when we look evil in the eye, we’ll know. No I did not become a woman when I turned 18, when I lost my virginity, or even when I moved 3000 miles from home. I became a woman when I overcame evil. The night I walked back to my dorm room with a ripped shirt and filthy cum still between my legs, I survived something that buried my innocent childhood away to a place far removed.
The first time I touched a man I was seventeen and thrilled. Young love filled my heart with joy and I wanted nothing more than to give all of myself. He was gentle and we carried on our romance for over a year. Together we discovered pleasure and intimacy. I treasure the memories of us laying in the bed of his pickup truck past curfew, counting the stars in the night sky. I am grateful that I learned to make love with someone who treasured the gift I was giving.
Living in a dorm with over 2000 other freshman, we called it “the eternal sleepover,” and rightly so. The first months away from home we bathed in freedom. We drank cheap beer on Wednesday afternoons and framed our noise violation tickets. I met Robert after a long night of drinking and dancing with my girls. We came back to our hall to find new faces. After all drunkenness loves company. The dozen of us socialized together until dawn.
He had dark wavy hair and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. We would stay up talking about art, politics and dreams. He was the mysterious man from every teen romance novel I’d read in high school and I wanted to see him again.
A lonely Tuesday night in December he invited to look at some art in his dorm room. He hung white Christmas lights across the ceiling. Soft indie music played as he pulled me in for a kiss. Intoxicating passion.
He went for a second kiss when he grabbed my breast. That sure was a hell of a lot faster than I was used to but I bit my lip. So long as things don’t go passed here, I could just get over my prude self right?
Moments latter he pulled a condom out of his pocket and held me down. I begged him to stop. I screamed NO and ripped the condom out of his hand and threw it.
Then all at once he was inside me. With one arm he held me down and looked the other way while he fucked me. He turned his head from my silent tears. Consumed with his pleasure he thrust me harder and harder.
What I remember most was the moment I relinquished control. I fought him and begged him to stop but eventually the moment came when his physical strength overpowered me and at all at once I went numb. The tears stopped and time stood still. I stared up at the Pink Floyd poster on the ceiling.
That night, I settled into my own bed, still moist with his cum inside me, but I didn’t cry. Numbness had overtaken me in an unrecoverable way. I felt disgust, but not anguish. I looked introspectively to find that hollowness. Something inside my soul had perished.
I have been blessed with incredible parents. We share our lives with one another and lean on each other to this day. A week after my rape I realized that if I kept this secret from them we could never be close ever again. It would not be possible to continue an intimate relationship with my parents and keep something this life altering to myself. After all that Robert took away from me, I would not let him take away my most cherished relationship. A dark winter night I called my house phone. My mother answered, chipper with the details of her workday. “Put dad on the phone too. I have to tell both of you something.” I could feel my mother’s voice tremble as she heard the weakness in my voice. I spared them the details of my rape but I made it clear what had happened. My father didn’t say a word but I heard him cry. My big, strong, Marine of a father wept in a childlike way. The three of us sat on the phone and together mourned the loss of our peace of mind. Things would be different now. We all knew it.
For months I struggled with PTSD. I would get up and check that my door was locked fifteen times a night. I isolated myself from my friends and began binge drinking. Fear became me and I had nothing to lose. God? What God. Who did I have to honor with my life? Fuck it all. I’ll drink and smoke and wash away the pain on a daily basis. How dare you tell me to do anything different?
My parents begged me to turn Robert in to the police but I wouldn’t. We still lived in the same dorm building and I was terrified of friends finding out. I didn’t want to be “the girl who got raped.” I wasn’t ready to talk about what happened to me let alone recount my story to an unsympathetic judge who would simply weigh my word against my rapist’s. The possibility of losing the case for lack of evidence scared me even worse. What would Robert do to retaliate? What would people say during trial? I couldn’t handle it. But deeper than that, I feared that maybe part of me wanted it to happen. Maybe I was curious about my sexuality. Though I screamed no, I was terrified of what was in myself that he took advantage of. See that’s why rape is the worst crime a man can commit. It is not just a physical crime. It degrades what a woman thinks of herself. Guilt permeates her body for what he did. For when his filthy semen is inside her, her most sacred place is turned into a crime scene. Every glorious pink fold, tainted with his dishonor.
The next day my mother flew here to be with me. I never said a word to her of the details, but for three days, she laid in a fluffy white bed with me and held me. I cried in her arms and she stroked my dark hair until I fell asleep.
It wasn’t until Christmas break that my dad spoke of my rape. I was in the car with him driving back from dinner when he told me his plan. Initially he wanted to kill Robert. As a former Marine, I knew that he had thought quite seriously about this. Weighing the amount of jail time with the satisfaction of justice, I am grateful he had the self-control not to seek revenge. Thankfully, he conspired another way to ruin this twisted man’s life. “I’m going to call his grandmother. I’m going to find out where he lives and tell his family exactly who he is and what he’s done. And then every few years, I’ll come back around to find out who is closest friends are or if he has a serious girlfriend. And then again I’ll call them and tell them what he’s done. I will haunt him and make sure that the shame follows him the rest of his life. Everyone he loves will feel disgust.”
I wouldn’t let my father do this either. As much indignation as I felt, I had took no interest in what happened to Robert. He had to live with what he did. God will repay his wrath more than me or my father could ever achieve. My rejection hurt my father. He needed retribution.
Two months later I went into Student Health to get tested for HIV.
This warm, maternal nurse walked in humming as if the day were bright. My face was stone cold. As I watched the syringe fill with my red blood, every emotion I should have felt the night I was raped came to me all at once: the rage, the injustice, the disgust.
At that moment I collapsed on the floor. I screamed. My face was red with furry and blurred from the tears. I fell apart.
Half dozen nurses fled to my side and carried my writhing body over to the psych ward as I sobbed uncontrollably. I couldn’t support my own weight. The world faded in and out.
I began seeing a therapist regularly. She explained to me that trauma is stored in our short-term memory. That’s why the adrenaline rush won’t go away. It feels like it’s still happening. All day. Everyday. It’s still happening.
By verbally reliving the rape, every detail, every angle, I was able to transfer the memory from something that is “happening” to something that “happened.”
My third session of therapy was on a Tuesday. It was the beginning of spring and everything was beginning to come alive except me. This was the session where I finally finished retelling my store to her. My beautiful therapist looked deep into my eyes as I recounted every agonizing detail. I welled up with tears when I finished.
That afternoon walking home, I felt lighter. A few blocks into my walk I paused in front of an apartment complex. I looked down at the garden and the most delicate roses looked back at me. We stared at each other. I examined each perfectly formed petal and it was at that moment that I finally saw.
They were pink.
At this moment, I saw color for the first time in months. Joyful, glorious pink! The gray haze had lifted and I felt this small spark of joy in my soul! I cannot explain to you the ecstasy of seeing color as if it we’re your first breath of air on earth, but it felt something to that impact. My deadened senses tinged with life. As I shared this moment with most beautiful pink roses I’ll ever see, I decided I wanted to live.
All at once, I had hope.