Time Stood Still

TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE, RAPE

 

May 13, 2005
On a dingy bathroom floor in a house full of addicts, she waited. The test sat on the counter, scarce inches away, yet she couldn’t look. One… two… three minutes passed. It was now or never. Her hands shaking, she picked up her future, wrapped in a disguise of plastic and paper and urine. Positive. She closed her eyes, unsure if she was relieved or disappointed. Time stood still.

January 27, 2006
The hospital was crowded, as if everyone in a fifty mile radius had decided to give birth right then and there. A blur of lights and sleep and strange beeps and frantic calls and pain, oh the pain! She couldn’t quite remember how or why she had ended up in the operating room or why they wouldn’t let her hold her daughter right away or anything beyond the overwhelming agony that every second away from the child caused. A bundle was placed in her arms – The bluest eyes she’d ever seen, the blackest hair, the most perfect little mouth. The world melted away and she finally knew the meaning of her life.

July 15, 2006
She could smell the whiskey on his breath before he entered the room. Her heart beat faster as she clutched her baby closer. One foot out the window, easy does it, twist and turn and grab the ledge … – his hand wrapped around hers and in a single breath she was on the bedroom floor again. The baby bawled in his arms as he hurled accusation after accusation, stepping more firmly on her throat with every uttered syllable. Her life flashed before her eyes and in the moment before the stars became darkness, time stood still.

June 1, 2007
He stumbled in at 9am, drunk, though god knows he’d gone to work last night. She lay awake – eyes closed, breathing regular – hoping he’d think she was still asleep. Their daughter stirred; a heavenly coo from the cradle next to their bed. She jumped up to attend before his clumsy hands could reach the tiny being, but not before a slurred “Stunned cunt, let me sleep” escaped his lips as he collapsed into the pillows. When the darkness overcame him, she methodically packed her belongings and drove to the new apartment across town. Furniture would have to wait, but in that moment, her life started over.

December 17, 2011
The night was young, the music loud, the tequila flowing freely. Across the table, he winked and smiled and she had never felt so sexy. The bar closed, the after party started, and before she knew it, 3am had arrived and it was only the two of them awake. He kissed her, she kissed back, he reached up her skirt. She said no. He stopped. He tried again. The no became more urgent. He conceded and allowed her to drift into unconsciousness. She awoke long enough to kick him and roll over as he peeled her panties off, then returned to the nothingness she had been roused from. Seconds… minutes… ages later, her mind snapped out of the fog, feeling him inside her, momentum building, grunts of pleasure escaping his lips. Her body froze. Words caught in her throat. As he emptied himself into her, time stood still.

July 19, 2013
Eight hours of magic was coming to a close. She thought it was going well, but one could never quite tell with a first date. They placed a bet on the last bowling match – if he won, she had to say yes to a second date. She lost, albeit unintentionally, though she was far from disappointed at the prospect of more time in his company. He walked her to her car; she thanked him for a wonderful day. The sun was setting just behind him, a brilliant cascade of light gleaming over his left shoulder. He hugged her and she could feel the restless energy stirring within him. In a moment of impulsive desire, she pressed her lips to his and held on tightly as the rest of the world became irrelevant.

November 8, 2013
They lay in bed, her head on his chest, his arms protectively cocooning her. He kissed her goodnight, and just as he was dozing off, a timid whisper asked if he was still awake. Now alert, he asked her why. Seconds passed as she took a calming breath and responded with some off-pitch statement about needing to tell him something. With a hint of suspicion, he probed her intentions. Her heart beat faster as she attempted to gather her courage. “I love you,” she breathed, barely audible, as she buried her face in his neck. He gently lifted her chin, gazing into her eyes through the dark. “I love you,” he responded, kissing her tenderly as time stood still.

Release.

It’s reached a point where I feel the need to share the deepest, darkest, most hated part of my soul. I need to confess my sin, bare my inadequacy, and eliminate the pretense.

I’m not perfect, no matter how much he tells me I am. He knows almost everything about me: my hopes, my dreams, my fears, my quirks, my loves and hates. But every time I go to tell him this one thing, I freeze. My lips stop working. My thoughts slow down and my heart speeds up. My mouth goes dry and I find myself changing the topic of conversation to avoid telling him.

I don’t know why I’m afraid.

He’s never been anything but understanding. He’s never given me a reason to think that he wouldn’t sympathise, or would judge me, or would look at me any different. But yet, I hesitate. I’m scared to say the words. I’m terrified to feel their prescence looming in the space between us whenever we’re together. I’m ashamed to see the look in his eyes when he processes the truth, and I’m worried that he’ll start to read into the nuances of my personality and my preferences, finding causation that isn’t accurate in the slightest.

How do you tell someone you were raped without it colouring the way they view you? There’s no way to go back from that point. What has been said cannot be unsaid. And so I hesitate.

I had hoped that before we’d reached this point, I would have found a way to tell him. But I didn’t. Or maybe I didn’t take the chances that were given. Either way, the conversation is still pending and my stomach drops in fear every time I realise that I’m getting close to revealing the truth. It’s like I know that everything between us will change once the statement has been made, and I haven’t yet decided if it will be a positive experience.

I don’t doubt that he will support me. The very depths of my soul tell me that there is nothing I could say to change his feelings for me. But letting go and admitting my brokenness is a step I’m afraid to take. And so I resist, waiting for the perfect moment to drop the bomb, knowing that the longer I wait, the more I will fight the urge and keep the secret buried deep inside.

Dangling my toes over the edge has never felt so perilous.

Walking Away.

TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE/RAPE APOLOGISM/RAPE CULTURE

 

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

“Rape is not worth throwing away a friendship over.”

“Stop overreacting.”

“Don’t be a feminazi.”

These are a sample of the responses I received this weekend when someone I consider a friend made a callous rape joke on Facebook. I politely called him out, and was inundated with comments of similar ilk, as well as several other rape jokes and multiple excuses for this friend’s behaviour.

Frankly, dealing with this shit is getting exhausting.

I’m tired of telling people that rape jokes aren’t funny. I’m tired of being called a feminazi every time I call someone out on rape apologetics. I’m tired of having to personalise the discussion to “Would X be funny if it was in regard to your daughter/girlfriend/wife/etc?” in order to make my point. I’m tired of the victim-blaming. I’m tired of knowing that these people honestly and truly don’t give a shit about rape culture and aren’t going to, ever.

I’ve reached that difficult point where I want to cut these people out of my life. Their disdain for equal rights, their bigotry, their unchecked privilege, and their blatant misogyny colour every conversation we have. Yet, I haven’t been able to call it quits.

These are people I’ve known for 20+ years. We’ve been friends since before we were in school. They’ve been there through tough moments in my life, and I have, likewise, stayed by their side during suicide attempts, parents divorcing, heartbreaks, rehab, and so much more. These are people who’s opinions I have valued for years. When the giant shift in demeanour came, I thought it was a phase. The longer it lasted, the less I could convince myself that it wasn’t here to stay.

Now, I’m stuck here with friendships I would hate to end over a difference in opinion… but in the case of this opinion, it’s so toxic that it has irreparably damaged the fabric of our relationships. Is this worth trying to salvage?  Or will this just end with more frustration on my part and a general sense of animosity all around?

I try to live by the ideal of loving everyone, especially those who don’t deserve it, because they need it the most. It’s hard to resign yourself to knowing that sometimes loving someone means walking away… and sometimes loving yourself means walking away, too.

Survival.

Some days, when my past feels really hard to deal with, I remind myself that simply getting up and facing the world makes me stronger than I ever thought possible, and gives a giant middle finger to those who have tried to hold me down.

I am not the person I was then. For better, for worse, everything in my life has changed. And that’s okay.

One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. I will make it through. I will survive. I will thrive, despite my demons.

We’ve all been sorry
We’ve all been hurt
But how we survive is what makes us who we are.
– Rise Against

Gratitude

but you changed the rules
in an hour or two
and I don’t know what you
and your sisters do
but please don’t
please stop
this is not my obligation
what does my body have to do
with my gratitude?

look at you
little white lying
for the purpose of justifying
what you’re trying to do
I know that you feel my resistance
I know that you heard what I said
otherwise you wouldn’t need the excuse

– Ani DiFranco

Unbreakable.

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE**

Today I was introduced to an amazing project: Project Unbreakable. Created in October 2011, this project helps survivors of sexual abuse, violence and rape take back the power of words used against them. Creator Grace Brown asks survivors to make a poster showing a quote from their attacker and be photographed holding it. Many survivors outside Grace’s area are taking their own photos and submitting them as well.

This project resonated with me for several reasons. One: I’m a feminist. Sexual violence does not ONLY occur to women, but the majority of it does, and the pain of my sisters is my pain. Two: Rape culture is all around us. It pervades everyday  life. One third of women have experienced some form of sexual abuse, violence or rape. And three: I, too, am a survivor of rape – more than once, in fact.

As I devoured page after page of these photos, my emotions ran the gamut from angry to sad, discouraged, horrified, pained, and yes, even inspired. The strength shown by these survivors is admirable. The stigma around sexual violence often places blame upon the  victims and ignores the responsibility of the perpetrators. Speaking out about these topics may be triggering. It may cause conflict with friends or family members. And, let’s face it, speaking out is downright scary. In a world where most of us care to some extent what others think of us, it’s incredibly hard to open up about a topic that many are judgemental about.

So, in the interest of furthering my One Word project, of healing myself, of learning to speak out against injustice… I will take this step. I will be strong. I will be unbreakable. (And in typical over-achiever fashion, I’ll be submitting two pictures – one for each rape.)

(July 2001 – age 16)

(December 2011 – age 26)