I have been through a lot of shit. You know some of it and some I have yet to divulge publicly. Most of these things were extremely painful. I am lucky to be who and where I am with the people I am with. And I feel like in Christianity, I was told that I was almost required to use my suffering for good. That because I suffered something, experienced something, I was now obligated to help others, to use or tell my story. I was told that that was precisely the reason those things happened to me. So god could use them to help others. So he could be glorified.
And I have considered the same things, rape crisis, drug rehab work, etc. and I may do them someday. I think it is noble and beautiful to be able to do these things.
BUT it is okay to just have survived. It is okay to hold your stories close too. It is okay to do nothing with them or tell them in secret as needed. And it is okay to never try to make sense of it by doing any of these things. It is okay to just want to live a normal life and decorate your office with spider webs, and enjoy it because some days it is a miracle you are breathing. It is okay to only tell them to your therapist or husband or best friend. We are not obligated to share our pain. We are allowed to move on and choose not to let it define us forever by making sitting in that story our life’s work. We can choose to tell, write, do…because if is good for US.
The nice thing about Catholic school is that they take you on these retreats every year. It was my senior retreat, and my friends and I were having a great time.
On the second or third day, they brought in this female guest speaker. She got up to the podium, and began to recount the story of how she was date raped. I don’t remember any of the details. All I know is that I was overcome with grief. The floodgates opened and I was sobbing.
Celina and another few girls took me outside. This is the first time I told my story and admitted to myself that it was rape. Celina comforted me, as did the other girls.
* * * *
A year or so later. My phone rings.
"Hey! What’s up?" Celina says. I catch her up on some of the details of my life. She continued.
"So, guess who I’ve been talking to? Loco Joe. We’re seeing each other." My stomach dropped. I was stunned.
"Oh, that’s cool." I said. We really weren’t hanging out much anymore.
"Yeah. We talked about you. Very interesting." She said in a condescending tone.
She no longer believed what she had witnessed the year or so before. Fuck her.
She went on to have a kid with him.
* * * *
I’m 27 years old and it’s my birthday. I am standing in line with friends, waiting to get into a bar.
I look up. I see him coming my direction. I freeze.
"Fucking BITCH." He spat as he walked by.
I said nothing.
Bobby and I are sitting in front of IHOP in my car. We haven’t hung out in a long time.
At some point, the conversation turns to his cousin Joe. I tell him the truth. I tell him what happened that first night.
"I believe you." He said.
Wait, what? Why the fuck is his cousin not shocked?
"You didn’t know about Dolly?"
"No." I said as my heart sank and my anger surged.
"Yeah, that is what he was in prison for. She was 13. He was 18. He was in there for statutory rape."
"I….I…thought it was drugs." I managed.
Our friendship began its slow and painful death that day. How could I call someone who had the power to protect me, but did not use it, “friend”?
By the next day, I was in complete denial. I had convinced myself it did not happen the way that it happened. What other options did I have?
The gang he was a member of had a gang of girls, many of whom were my friends. If I told, if he was arrested, if word even got out that I was saying he raped me…I would get jumped. I would be harassed. I would not be safe.
So when he called me, acting like nothing, I went with it. He saw nothing wrong with his actions. My ex-boyfriend, who had broken my heart, called to warn me about Joe. He begged me not to be with him and warned me. It was too late. The damage was done. And so, we were a couple, if you could call it that. For 4-6 months before he landed himself back in prison, I stayed.
He was trying to stay out of trouble at first, being on parole. That didn’t last very long. Before I knew it, I was driving him around to score coke. He never, ever, allowed his friends to offer me any. He protected me from everyone except him. He was hustling. He would disappear for a few days at a time. I would feel relieved. And then he would come back.
One of these times, we were with another couple and we ended up at a park. They all took turns going into the public restroom. It was then that I realized they were now using heroin. I was so stuck. I hated him but was afraid to do anything about it.
On the last day, my best friend, Celina and I went to his house right after school. We were there for about 20 minutes, when the phone rang. It was his aunt.
"The police are coming over there right now, Joe. They just left my house."
He slammed down the phone, told us where to pick him up, and he started running. He jumped his back fence, ran through the elementary school to the place he told us to go. I was terrified, but I obeyed.
Celina and I hopped in my car. We did not know that the entire neighborhood was staked out. We went and picked him up at the spot. He made me take him to several of his friends’ houses. He and another guy had robbed someone of their jewelry. The other guy had already been arrested. He was pissed, he believed his friend had ratted him out.
He told me to drive him to his aunt’s house. He was trying to make a plan to run. I pulled into the driveway, and he made it as far as the front door before several police cars arrived. They arrested him and insisted on searching my car. They questioned me about the jewelry I had from Claire’s. And then they told me.
They had searched his home and found my backpack with my student planner in it. Then they went to my house and knocked on my door.
They asked my dad some questions about Joe. Then they asked him, “Do you know if he has had sex with your daughter?”
That was the last day I saw him.
My dad refused to speak to me, and had plans to send me away to live with my 20 year old sister. He didn’t want to deal with me. I didn’t end up going, and we never, ever, talked about it again.
The friends that he had forbidden from giving me drugs were told to watch out for me. They did this by giving me drugs.
I went into full self-destruct mode for the next year. I partied. One of his friends was a dealer, and would give me free crank for every customer I brought him.
Soon he was using my bedroom to cut up the crank into 10’s, 20’s, and eightballs. I had as much as I wanted whenever I wanted. I lost 30 lbs in a matter of weeks. My parents didn’t notice.
Eventually I slowed down and started to rebuild a little. I was a senior now.
"We should party with my cousin Joe!", my best guy friend Bobby said.
So we did. My parents were out of town, so a bunch of us Catholic school girls and Bobby, his cousin Joe, and a few other guys played drinking games in my garage. I never let people party in the house.
Despite going to Catholic school, I didn’t hang out with the best crowd and knew a lot of gang members from the public school my parents pulled me out of.
There was a lot of fanfare surrounding “Loco Joe”. He had recently been released from 3 or 4 years in state prison. Drug charges, they said. He was a member of a gang and was well respected in town because, you know, in that world, people who go to prison are super awesome. He was very outgoing. People loved him because the party started when Loco Joe walked into the room. He was very charming. He asked for my number.
The next day he called me and asked me to hang out. Something deep inside of me was apprehensive to be alone with him in a non-public place. Maybe it was the prison record? My intuition? I have always said it was God, and blamed myself for letting it happen even though God tried to warn me.
We spent the day together in various public places. We went to eat and to the park. It was fun. He was charming.
When I drove him home (because recently released felons don’t usually have cars), he invited me in. His mom was home, and I had such a nice day with him. I let my guard down. Shortly after I went inside, his mom left.
We hung out for a little bit and ended up making out on the couch. He tried to take it further, and I said I wasn’t ready. We had barely met each other. He said okay.
We made out some more. I was fully clothed, but he was on top of me.
He exposed himself.
I said, “No.”
He said, “Okay.”
He then penetrated me by going up up the leg of my belted shorts.
I began to cry, silently.
When he looked at my face, he asked, “Why are you CRYING?!?” Like I was bat shit crazy.
The reality of the situation sunk in.
I am 16. He is 21.
He was just released from prison. I am a Junior in high school.
I am 5’2” and maybe 140 lbs.
He is 6’1” and at least 240 of muscle.
So I complied. I tried to make it end as quickly as possible. I even went to his room and finished it off. And then I got dressed and got into my car.
As soon as I sat down my mind was screaming, “WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?”
As I drove home, I convinced myself it was not as it was.
“You finished it.”
“You took off your clothes.”
“You came here and didn’t listen to your gut.”
“You wanted it.”
I went to bed.