…forgive me. I’m not sure exactly where this is going, but it’s so pressing on me to be told that I have to tell it somewhere….
I have a lot of old friends from high school on my Facebook now, friends whom I was close to and spent a lot of time with. Old crushes, soul sisters, the works. I’ve grown into a bold, confident #metoo ‘er, an advocate for myself and others. But there’s still a question I’m afraid to ask, and a story I’m too chicken to tell. I really don’t know why I’m afraid to tell this story, but I am.
In high school, I got my first boyfriend. A boy a year younger than me with flame red hair and a ripped body and an ego like nothing I’d ever seen – bold and brash. Everyone liked him, kids and adults. And for whatever reason, he liked me. No one had even noticed me before him; he was hyper focused on everything I did. It was flattering and overwhelming. I fell for it.
I often want to ask the people who knew us if they knew about the abuse. I can remember playing a truth or dare type game where I was asked how many times he and I had had sex. We’d dated two years. There was never a day without sex unless I was on my period, sometimes multiple times a day. I answered honestly, “Hundreds.” The group around me reacted with disgust; I can remember clearly one saying “That’s NASTY!”
I want to know so much – did they know I was being raped? Did they know I’d been forced to study porn so I could “do it right” and if I didn’t play along and make the right sounds, he made me watch it again? Did they know how often tears POURED down my cheeks while I made the “right” sounds, because he couldn’t see my face, so it didn’t matter what my face did? I didn’t know relationships weren’t supposed to be like that. I don’t know if I told anyone. I remember the violence and pain and brainwashing and manipulation…but I didn’t know it was wrong then. Would they have? Did they know?
Anyway, the memory. This boyfriend didn’t just fuck rough, he played rough. He liked to wrestle. He was bigger and taller and stronger than me, lifting weights and very athletic. Once we were in his bedroom “playing” and he started strangling me. I’ll never forget it; I didn’t know what was happening at first, but then awareness hit that I couldn’t breathe. I fought back; maybe playfully at first but then more seriously hitting and trying to push him off. I remember his face; he was watching me so intently. Curiously. Like watching a documentary you find really fascinating. And just when I thought I’d black out, I remember seeing realization cross his face.
He finally let go. He was laughing – he’d been laughing, the whole time. I was crying and gasping for breath, my hands were shaking. He was laughing. “What the fuck, I was just playing with you! Why are you crying? What, did you think I’d actually kill you??” He laughed uproariously at that. I chuckled and tried to pretend I hadn’t been scared of exactly that. I had been. I had been afraid I’d die right there.
George Floyd was recently murdered while being restrained for a crime he never committed. The cop restraining him had a knee on his throat; he was suffocated. Mr. Floyd knew that he was dying, and seemed to know that the cop didn’t realize what he was doing to him – he tried to tell him. It didn’t work. The cop didn’t listen. Mr. Floyd never got to see that moment of realization and feel the release. He didn’t get to be scarred for life, shaken, returned to his family. He just died, right there on the concrete. My heart hurts.
I know this post goes in a lot of directions; my brain does, too. I’m wondering why I was lucky enough to escape when others aren’t or can’t. I’m wondering why I’m afraid to call it rape and tell my story, why 25 years later I’m still afraid of my accuser, still trying to justify his actions as “we were both teenagers, he didn’t really know what he was doing.” I’m wondering how, in a world so incredibly beautiful, there can be people who rape and torture with such callous disregard? Why we aren’t all focused on enjoying all the beauty and growth and exploration available to us, instead of hating each other so deeply over stupid things like sex organs and skin color – things we can’t control in anyway but that make us no less human.
I’m wondering why there are things that I’m brave enough to say and tell, and things I will never have the courage to share.