My rape is an old story, really. It’s a common story. It’s the story of so many women. I said no, and I said no, and I said no again, but I was drunk and he took advantage of me. I thought it was my fault until someone pointed out that I was assaulted. I still carry a nagging sense of guilt and shame. I’m terrified of judgment, especially from those I love the most.
So I’ve kept it a secret. Because how do I possibly say, “Mom, I was raped”?
It takes years to recover from rape. It takes years to claw your way from darkness back to light, to reach back from victimhood and into survivorship. It’s hard. It’s frightening. It’s lonesome. It’s dark nights and flashbacks and bad dreams. You wake up screaming. You don’t want to be touched. You get triggered. Sometimes, you just want your mommy,
I do not know how to tell. I want to tell my mother, and I am telling her now. I am telling her on behalf of all of us who cannot share that knowledge, who cannot find the words, who cannot look their mother in the face and utter the words they long to say. Mom, I was raped.
He held me down even after I told him no. Yes, I was drunk. I said no, and I said no, and he did it anyway. I was scared. I didn’t want this to happen. I laid there until it was over, my eyes shut in the manner of rape victims since the world began, and when it was over I took a shower. He drove me home. I was so ashamed. I felt so dirty. I still feel dirty sometimes. Sometimes, I still feel ashamed.
And I stand here now, ashamed again. I am scared. I am scared of your questions. Because you will ask them. You are not from the #metoo generation. You don’t know that the first thing you say to a sexual assault survivor is “I believe you,” and the second thing is, “How can I support you?” You may cry, you may hug me, but you will ask me questions, things I don’t want to answer. You will ask me why I didn’t report it. You will ask me who he was and why I was out with him in the first place.
But I am scared the questions may get deeper and darker. Why was I drinking? Why was I at his place to begin with — was I planning to have sex with him? No mother wants to think their precious daughter is sexually active, the same way no daughter wants to think about her mother getting laid. You will ask about the aftermath. You will get sad and you will get mad and you will cry and I am afraid I will end up comforting you instead of the other way around.
Because, you see, I still need comfort. After all these years, I still need reassurance. And these questions you ask, they will bring up all the doubts and fears I’ve always had about my rape. They will scream down at me again: This was your fault. You should be ashamed of yourself.
What if you tell me that you, too, were assaulted?
There is no roadmap for this conversation. There is no guidebook, no lesson plan, no script to help me with this. It’s all messy reaction and terrified emotion. But I want to tell you. You are important to me. This rape, this thing that happened to me, it is and always will be, unfortunately, a part of who I am. It will always be with me. It will not define me, but it will always linger. It will motivate me to do things I wouldn’t do otherwise, like go out of my way to help other sexual assault survivors.
When you ask why I’m involved with a certain organization or cause, and I tell you that I’m helping a friend who was raped, how am I supposed to tell you: “Because that was me. Because I have experienced what she experienced. Because I’ve been there, and seeing me survive is giving her the hope she needs right now.”
Because Mom, I was raped.
I was raped, and it was horrible. I was scared. I was scared for a long, long, time, and I was afraid and ashamed to tell you. I’m sorry if that makes you feel sad. I’m sorry if that makes you feel like I didn’t trust you. But I didn’t want you to be ashamed of me and for me.
I was raped, and it took me a long time to recover. I am still recovering. I will always be recovering. It gets better every day but it will never go away. The violation can never be erased. But it can be used, which is why I help fellow victims in any way I can.
I was raped, and I want you to know, because I love you. I don’t want to keep the walls up anymore. I don’t want to ignore things the way we do in our family. I want to stop pretending.
Mom, I was raped. Please give me a hug and tell me everything’s okay. It’s not, really. Everything is not okay. But when you say everything’s okay, I hear instead that I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. It’s that, more than anything, that I need from you.
Please mom, please tell me that I am okay.