To get help if you’ve been raped and are struggling with the aftermath: Please find someone to talk to! You are not alone! One option is to call RAINN at 1800-656-4673 or use the link to find help closer to where you are. People who staff these phonelines are trained to help us survivors.
“It wasn’t that bad. It’s been so long ago.”
These are the thoughts that keep going through my head. And yet, there are all the signs that this isn’t true. I oscillate between feeling tremendous rage at mostly white men dismissing her account. And then I want to hide somewhere. Both signs of post-traumatic stress injury.
It was in 1988. 30 years ago. I had met Dennis through work. He seemed charming. And I was intrigued by the idea of having a relationship with an African-American man. In my naive 20-year-old mind, he must automatically be progressive and interested in all the same things I was. I was politically active. I had come to the United States from Germany to reconcile the crimes of the Nazis. He invited me to his friend’s house. I can’t remember what excuse he made for that. It was only much later that I found out that he was married. He picked me up in front of the library. He drove a sportsy car. A green sports car, maybe a Volkswagen. I could still pick it out from a lineup. Just like him. We walked up the stairs to his friend’s apartment. It was a one bedroom. The living room had a bar-like counter that connected to the kitchen. I was sent into the friend’s bedroom because they had to do something. The friend came in after a while and chatted with me. I actually liked him better than Dennis.
My memory of what happened next is a bit fuzzy. I was offered something to drink – and got a cola that seemed very sweet. Then the friend left and Dennis and I were alone. Somehow we ended up on the couch. Dennis pulled my pants down. I am not sure why I didn’t resist. It was as if I had become paralyzed, become an object for a man’s pleasure without her own will. I remember the small window, high above that let light in. I was trying to go there with my mind while he tried to enter me. I remember that for some reason he couldn’t. I was too tight. He gave up at some point. Not sure if he ever came. I remember him suggesting I take a shower. I remember that I desperately tried to wash off what had just happened. And I couldn’t. I felt both numb and disgusted. And confused. What had just happened? Something in me had shattered.
He brought me home. As I was leaving the car, he touched me between my legs and told me to save that for him. I never did let him get close again. He must’ve been reassigned at work because I hardly saw him again. At some point, his wife called. She had found a poem I wrote him. I wish I would’ve told her to burn it. Maybe she did anyways.
I got an STD from the whole thing. The doctor who examined me told me I had been raped. I hadn’t associated that word with my experience. It fit. I had been raped. Me. The feminist. Something more shattered.
Because soon after the rape I ended up in an abusive marriage, I rarely talked about the rape. It wasn’t so bad compared to what I survived in the marriage. That’s what I told myself. It wasn’t until recently, when I read in “Not That Bad” about downplaying our experience, that I realized that the two are probably connected. My self-image had been shattered. The rape made me vulnerable to an abusive man.
So, yes, all this is 30 years ago now. I was a young adult then. And it’s still haunting me. Today, 30 years later, I am still the woman who was raped. And I am certain Dennis won’t even remember me. Nothing shattered for him. He was not traumatized by the experience. Hearing all the dismissals of Dr. Blasey Ford’s story, it seems more shatters inside of me. Each dismissal tells me: What happened to me doesn’t matter. It is such a long time ago.
And this is why I get angry because, damn it, it does matter! Even though it happened 30 years ago, the wound is still there. Sure, I put myself back together again – and I can still feel the cracks where I had shattered. Every time someone dismisses Dr. Blasey Ford’s story, the cracks open again. I shatter some more. Being raped is traumatizing. Being doubted is retraumatizing.
So, I am angry because every time a rape is dismissed, I am dismissed. Every time a rape is dismissed, I am told what happened to me doesn’t matter. Every time a rape is dismissed, I am told that my experience isn’t that important, I am not that important.
I am tired of these stories men (and, sadly some women…) make up to downplay the impact of rape. The rape shaped my life. That is important. And if you tell me otherwise, you’re just an asshole – and most likely a privileged white man. And your #timesup, damn it!