I have a couple topics rattling around in my head for today – most recently a fun fling one with a twist I had planned to write today.  This was also a day I planned to take no breaks and just plow through getting a lot of work done.

I cannot stick to script today.  For reasons outside my province, I cannot share what prompted my choice but I do it with full on vigor, conviction and love for everyone else who has one of these stories.

Thursday was “Therapy Thursday” last week.  After my recent discovery that I am damaged beyond repair, I decided to share with my doctor three of the four 10 ton bags I carry with me where I feel shame.  Immense, paralyzing shame.  Yes, I have been in therapy my entire life and not shared these three things.  But they are the three things I feel ashamed of and responsible for.  Whenever something bad happens to me, I believe it’s karma for these things.

I shared them with my doctor as my last resort before walking into a church and just confessing them to a priest because, while not currently religious, I feel like that’s the only way to move on – name my sins and make my atonements.  But it’s really not that simple.  I don’t actually have anything to really atone for after speaking to a certified professional.

I was sexually assaulted at the age of 21.  I knew who he was.  I let him in my home and my bedroom.  I was only looking to talk.  He was looking for something else.  What happened wasn’t right.  It wasn’t something I wanted.  But I was going to live with it and keep it to myself because I must have led him on somehow.  Somehow, this had to have been my fault and everyone would have said that because I let him in and we had slept together before.

Until, coincidentally, I found out I was working with two other women he had sexually assaulted.  Suddenly, I took it as a personal responsibility to prevent him from doing it again because if he did, it would have been my fault for not reporting it.  Together, we all filed charges and went to court.  My case was strong.  He was convicted.

Until he got out on appeal several months later.  We went to court again and this time, lost.  I was ok with that because I had done everything within my control at that point.  It was the court system which failed us.  Not me –  I hadn’t failed us.  (Talk to me about my hatred for the state of New Hampshire and I joke it’s about the Republicans or the carrying folks, the Walmarts and the folks who think leaving the state is way too long a drive or their inability to prepare for snow removal.  These things are silly but it’s their court system, their jury build which angers me.)

The things which were spoken of me by the defense, a really obese man named Sven – those things took hold of me for many, many years following.  I had been diagnosed with depression so me making this story up must have been a symptom of that.  I was an English Major and creative writer so it was my overactive imagination leading me to make this story up.  I had let him in my home and had to have known why he was there.  We had had sex before so why would this have been any different?

Truth – I have exaggerated for attention because of depression.  It wasn’t depression that made me do it, exactly.  It was more like I didn’t know why I would be depressed because I couldn’t think of a reason for it.  To tell someone you are depressed but have no reason why is like it’s not true.  At least in my circles.  You had to have had something bad happen to you in order for your brain to not work right.  So, I found other ways to point out a problem.  People thought I was crazy, rightly so, in some cases.  But I wasn’t.  I just wasn’t in full control of the way my brain processed situations and sometimes I could be juvenile, spiteful and attention getting even if it was the wrong kind of attention.

Because the assault happened during this time where I second guessed my mind and knew I was capable of shameful things, I have spent the past 2 decades actually trying to talk myself out of my story being real.  I told myself I must have exaggerated or that I was forgetting something.  I have told very few people about it in the past 10 years because I try to pretend it didn’t happen so it doesn’t continue to be part of “my story.”  Plus, I have more than enough other shit to influence late night beers, overeating, one night stands, and some other lovely unmentionables.  I didn’t need any other fabric for the quilt.  It’s already king size.

Thing is,  my story is real.  I did not exaggerate it.  It would not be questioned today the way it was 22 years ago.  It was strong then.  It would be Pope mobile bullet proof if it happened now.  I allowed myself to admit this at therapy with my doctor who thinks the only crazy thing I did was try to convince myself I made it up in the first place.  Somehow it was easier for me to water it down and second guess myself and then eventually try to erase it than it was to continue carrying it.

For the first time in 20 years, I felt free.  I am not afraid to admit to it anymore.  I own it.  It did happen.  It happened exactly the way I said it happened.  And it was wrong.  Even though I feel bad a person went to prison, if you can believe it.  I think that was the worst part for me.  I felt worse for him than I did for me and his victims.  I just wanted him to stop raping women.  I didn’t think about how that would be done.  It was hard for me to see that consequence.  That doesn’t mean I lied or exaggerated.  It means I am a compassionate human being.  I am an empath.  And I was still assaulted.

I have no idea the statistics of women being assaulted right now while I write this.  But I do know they will be shamed.  They will be asked what they were wearing or if they had been drinking.  They will be asked why they are on dating websites and meeting up with strangers.  They will be asked if they said “no” or could have led him on.  Their medical records will be reviewed and their anxiety or depression will be unearthed and used to discredit them as stable, sane witnesses.  Heaven forbid they are artists or writers – they will be accused of having more tools to fabricate elaborate untruths.

Some will come from upper middle class families and a jury will favor the disadvantaged rapist more because he comes from less and so do they.  His family isn’t in the court wearing suits like hers.  He isn’t as articulate as her on the stand.  He doesn’t have the education she does. Victims will be expected to fear going to trial.  The defense team will hire private investigators to follow them around looking for anything else that can embarrass or discredit them.  Their families will be threatened by his family to drop charges.  They will fear their own family members taking on vigilante justice.  They will be assaulted over and over and over again by society, by the legal system, their fears,  their nightmares and their desire to re-write the narratives.

It’s one thing to post #MeToo online in overall solidarity, which I have done and believe in.  There’s a whole different context when a fresh victim is sharing a story with you and the words that fall off your lips are “me too…”  when that’s all you have.  It just never ever stops.  What will it take to make it stop?

I am not sharing this story to make you feel bad for me.  I don’t need that.  This isn’t about me.  This is about rape.  This is about rape culture.  This is about all the victims after me.  How many stories need to be told?  How many stories need to be hidden? How many “me too” responses do there need to be?  1 in 4.  Look around.  Look around you right now.  That’s right.  1 in 4 of those people has a story that would make you vomit if you have any compassion.  Look at them.  There is nothing about them that differs from you or your loved ones.  Nothing they did.  Nothing they conjured up.  Nothing they solicited.  No safety warnings ignored.  Now do something.  Make this change.  Make it stop.