I am physically and emotionally exhausted.  I am running a fever which may explain my recent dizzy spells.  I get sick a lot.  Ever since I got PTSD 4.5 years ago, I am sick quite frequently.  My body has a miraculous ability to carry me through incredibly stressful situations with a numbness that is designed to increase my survival chances.  Only after the crisis ends, does my body process the battering and my immune system pretty much goes on sabbatical.

Thursday night I attended a fundraising event for a sexual assault support services group which helped me 20 years ago.  A wonderful friend was there whom I have not seen in 20 years.  I regret letting that amount of time pass as she is an inspiring, intelligent, strong, loving, funny as hell woman.  She is fearless.  She is an advocate.  She will say the things others are afraid to such as my favorite dark, funny “Let’s have some wine and talk about rape.” She is a survivor of unspeakable things.  Yet, she speaks.  It was divine therapy to see her.

I know her because the person who assaulted me, assaulted her a few months later.  That’s how we met.  A mutual friend assaulted by this man in High School introduced us and then there were 3. Most times you bond over music, Books and the like.  Not us.  We got right to the down and dirty.  Something that seems to be the norm for an INFP like me.  I didn’t know that then.  I worked at the Olive Garden.

I was poised to keep my attack to myself.  I thought it was my fault.  I thought I was imagining it.  I was embarrassed.  But if you know me and my guilt issues (previous blogs,) meeting a woman assaulted after me is something I felt directly responsible for.  I was not going to let that happen again.  That’s when we joined together and pressed charges – each of us to serve as witnesses in one another’s cases.

In terms of friendships and the strength of sisterhood, this became one of the most important experiences of my life; despite the circumstances which formed our friendship.  Felix Culpa.  It wasn’t just them.  It was the friendships we brought with us too.  We had wonderful support systems externally who became interwoven in each other’s stories.  I re-met one last week who remembers parts of my case better than I do.  I brought Nicole and Bethann.  Nicole came to court with me every day.  She stood up to my father to tell him he has an incredibly strong daughter he should learn to appreciate.  Bethann stood guard to the daily phone calls and dinners I needed to decompress.  I was horrified to have my father be the one there listening to the case.  He and I did not have a good relationship at that time.  He wasn’t someone I turned to for comfort.  If I didn’t have all these girls, their girls and their parents….well, I physically would have folded and not been able to get through that case.  I was subsisting on cigarettes, coffee and maybe one chicken nugget I could choke down during lunches.

Not only did I see “little” Jess last week, she remembers every detail of my case.  My attorney was there and she was refreshing him on this case.  Things I have buried to forget, she recalls in an instant.  I actually needed that.

Have you seen Stranger Things?  The upside down?  How it goes everywhere under the surface and is so much bigger than you can imagine?  That’s the history of my assault and where it has lived inside me the last 20 years I have been trying to pretend it isn’t there.  I don’t even know if I should be writing about it because it’s still in process without a tidy little recap.  It’s simply  not good writing.

I have been an advocate these past few weeks in terms of all the #metoo stories and even brought mine out publically in this forum.  I have been in therapy these entire 20 years without mentioning it to any therapists until 2 weeks ago.  I haven’t felt like it’s fair for me to acknowledge my experience or talk about it anymore because I was trying to convince myself I made it up.  They also talk about how all this news is causing victims to be re-traumatized.  I didn’t want to be that victim.  I didn’t want to be what I mistakenly categorized a media cliche.

I did not make anything up.  If anything, I waited too long to tell someone this happened and I waited too long to go to the police.  I am telling you about 3 women.  Little Jess reminded me there were 8 women.  Jess even remembers the name of a piece I wrote and got published during that time.  I forgot that.  I remember now; that publication is in my basement.

I am re-traumatized and it’s ok.  It’s not a cliche.  It’s a National epidemic and it needs to happen.  I am having flashbacks and memories I didn’t even know I had.  I am starting to remember how we discovered the other 5 women.  I was the one who talked to the only other ex-girlfriend and heard her story.  I forgot that.  I remember the first conviction, the name of that attorney and the mistake he made which allowed for an appeal.  I remember the day at work when I got that call from the victim assistant telling me he had been released from prison.  I left work immediately and sought hiding and comfort out of town with Sally and family because he wouldn’t find me there.  I feared for my life.  I forgot that.

I remember odd vans being parked outside my apartment and the feeling I was being followed….because I was when he hired a PI to find a way to discredit me.  Too bad.  I was the biggest nerd back then.  Hardly drank.  I smoked butts and went out to breakfast a lot with Bethann.  My progressive weight gain started then.  Never a thin girl, 12 was as big as I got.  After the assault and the first trial, I started passing that point.  I never associated the weight with that time period until now.  I thought it was from being cheated on in my next relationship.  Who knows?  I was too fat to attract a plethora of boyfriends.  Not an exciting time for a PI.  I just sat on the living room floor playing CDS in my stereo while smoking and eating Ben & Jerry’s talking on the phone with Beth or Nic.

I went through a second trial too.  People who like to say women make this stuff up for attention are incredibly ignorant.  Yes, there is a minuscule percentage.  But going through the court process is hard core.  There are definite reasons why victims don’t report.  The court process is a whole different assault except done out in the open, in front of friends and family discussing things one would never share under normal circumstances.  It’s a complete character assassination of the victim.  The first assault is in the woods, behind closed doors, behind a dumpster, in a parking lot.  Reporting it to the police is just the beginning of a public onslaught of repeated assaults over and over and over and over and over again in the hopes you lose the strength to carry on and just give up; letting your predator go free.  It is an uphill climb to reclaim power you likely never will.

Except, the three of us are the strongest kind of women there are and we were not deterred.  We were shamed, threatened, followed, intimidated, embarrassed, emotionally brutalized by male defense attorneys who enjoyed it.  We watched our rapist smile at us in court every time we got vilified.  Our fathers watched that.

On Friday, I found my rapist online.  It wasn’t hard.  I just had never considered it before.  I moved around a few times so that he would lose track of me.  I kind of knew he was the kind of guy who wouldn’t go far in life both literally and figuratively so I figured if I stayed away from the Rochester, Dover, Somersworth, Durham area I should be ok.  That’s probably why I hadn’t seen Jess until last Thursday night.  We have been on Facebook for a few years, thankfully.  I get a lot more strength from her than she knows.  Whenever I hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head telling me that my mouth always gets me in trouble, I see something really important Jess is bringing to light and I don’t care if my mouth gets me in trouble.  If I am pissing someone off, they are someone who should get pissed off. I am on the right side of my mom’s argument.

Looking at his face was pretty weird.  I felt like I was in some kind of bubble all day.  People were talking to me at work and I was nodding along but I was picturing my rapist posing with photos of his children, his girlfriend, his dog.  It was visceral, haunting and disturbing to look.  But it’s done.  And now I am sick.  And this is all ok.  I needed Thursday night.  I needed Jess to remind me of the 8 women.  I needed to see my second lawyer from the case we lost.  I have no money to spare but I needed to write a check to Haven.  I needed these memories to come back.  I needed to start researching organizations I might be able to volunteer my time with.

We lost that second case.  In the end, I was relieved because I had been through so much.  And I felt like it was on the jury if he continued to assault other women.  I was able to wash my hands of that onus.  But I wonder now how many others there have been.  It would appear he is divorced from the wife he acquired during our trials.  I have to wonder what caused that and then decide I am really not surprised. Friendships have evolved over the years.  Families have grown.  “Little” Jess has made a career out of advocacy, volunteering and politics ( by the way,  my mom thought that was very cool when I told her this weekend.) Her roommate from that time gives children words and resources to report their stories.  It’s incredible the life of service these women have taken on.

I do get sick a lot.  I have PTSD from a bombing.  Maybe I had it all along from the rape and just didn’t recognize it.  Who knows?  I need to go to bed a lot earlier these days than I did 20 years ago.  I gained a hundred pounds, lost 80 of it and found about 25 again.  It’s relentless work.  I do drink more than I ever did in my 20s but I kicked the butts.  Who can even afford them?  But if you ever wonder about my tenacity or willingness to fight back in life, you don’t know me very well.  Beth, Nic, “Big” Jess and “Little” Jess have seen the fighter and no matter where our paths have taken us in 20 years, they know that I would physically waste my body fighting against the wrong of rape  (pretty much the wrong of anything) than to ever turn away and say “it’s too much”  and leave it for someone else to clean up.

I am a very determined motherfucker if you are a rapist because…well, that just shouldn’t need any explanation.  And, yet, it apparently does when you hear stories of powerful men taking their dicks out of their pants and masturbating in front of women or dry humping them against their will or making them feel like they need to suck dick to get a job, date 14 year olds and get excluded from your local mall but live a long successful life in politics.

p.s. I stopped this abruptly in a tough place. As I was just showering to get blood circulating in my fingers and toes, it occurred to me these women are happily married to amazing men who know all about their upside downs. Most remarkable is that across these 4 women are 12 children. 11 of them are boys. There is hope. Maybe, just maybe, that one little girl won’t be telling the same story her mother had to.