It took him three minutes to ruin my life and completely destroy my sense of self. The ownership I had over my body had vanished. I didn’t control it anymore, he controlled it. He had me, and he was in charge. I know it only lasted three minutes because I was counting, holding on to every second and pleading with time to stop. I didn’t ask him to stop until the end. The words didn’t come. I went into survival mode. I moved into a world where words didn’t exist and all I could do was react. I screamed the entire time. I screamed so loudly and powerfully that my it made my throat hurt. When it was over, he apologized, put on his pants, and told me it was an accident. He didn’t mean it and he was sorry. He did mean it, and he knew what he was doing, but I let myself believe his twisted little lies. I took what he did and pushed it down so far that it would take me two years to uncover the truth and be able to tell my story.
I was drunk. We started early and I had, had margaritas and beers upon beers with my friends all before ten thirty. The other girls I was with were tired so I went on with out them to meet up with some guys from work. I stumbled through the door, giddy and giggling and dizzy from drunkeness. I quickly found my friends and proceeded to move towards the bar. There was a man standing at the bar and he was staring at me. My stomach flipped and my hands began to shake even before I realized who he was. I looked deeply into his eyes and studied his face. I skimmed his cool, weak smirk and thats when it hit me. I knew this man. I had loved him once and for far too long. I used to tickle and touch and laugh with this man. I used to sleep in his bed and wake up with him in the morning. This was the man who raped me.
Once again the words didn’t come. He was smiling and waving at me and all I could do was turn away. None of the people I was with knew my secret. They didn’t know who he was or why I couldn’t catch my breath. I found my friend and grabbed his arm, “That’s my rapist…that’s him at the bar…” I managed, my voice still weak and wavering. I pushed through the crowd and into the bathroom. I locked the door and bent over the toilet. I held my hair back and emptied the contents of my stomach. I flushed the toilet with my foot and stood in front of the mirror. Still breathing heavily, I stared back at my reflection and hated what I saw. I’m weak, I’m worthless, I’m dirty, I’m a whore. I pushed my makeup around my face and smoothed my hair. No, I won’t let him do this to me again. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I am none of those things, I’m strong and I can do this.
I’m a runner. Not in the sense that I go for runs or run for exercise. Rather, when I feel threatened or scared I leave. I take off and I don’t deal with it. This urge of flight is a direct result of being raped and just another component of my PTSD. I want to run when I’m sitting in class, when we’re discussing trauma and affects of sexual abuse. I cringe and shake and sweat and the only thought in my head is I’ve got to get out, I have to leave, I need to leave, I’m not safe here, and it pounds within my skull like a bass drum. I’ve never wanted to run more than in those moments. I had no one to comfort me, no kind of support, I was frozen in space and completely alone. My friend kept telling me that it would be okay, that he wouldn’t do anything to me because they were all right there and they had my back. They didn’t understand, how could they? His presence was violent in and of itself. I was terrified and silenced all from one look.
In therapy, I’m asked what I would do if I ever saw him again. I think about it a lot. I think of saying all of these powerful things that would hurt him the way he hurt me. I think about smashing a beer bottle on the bar and thrashing it at his jugular. I even imagine punching him in the face until I remember that he towers over me. (That was the way of us, though. I was always too little to get away, or to stand up to him.) Instead I just stood there and said nothing. God, if I could have only said something.
At last call he came up to me and as I saw him walk towards me I thought my heart was going to explode within my chest. “Hey, I’m sorry.” He ripped the breath from my lungs and my mouth fell open. “You’re sorry?” As I looked at him in disgust, I thought about everything I had been through in the past year. I thought about all the times I cried myself to sleep, believing that it was all my fault. I thought about how many relationships I had ruined because I’m incapable of real intimacy. Laying in the dark and letting the tears fall from eyes after sex wasn’t rare for me. I remembered the cool fall night when I stood on my ex’s porch, facing him and crying, listening to his pleas for me to calm down, “I’m not him Liz, I’m not Joe, I would never do that to you.” I thought about the progress that I had made with the help of somatic therapy. There were times when the exercises we’d do in class stirred up too many emotions and I would cry, or try to run away but instead I remained grounded and strong. The other women in my class would put their hands on my back and tell me that I was enough and that I was safe.
My mind was flooded with memories of my entire healing process. The ups, the downs, all of the struggles and the progress I had made trying to return to my body and understand that I have a voice. So when, I heard him say “I’m sorry” I was incomplete disbelief. “You destroyed everything for me, and you want to tell me that you’re sorry?” I pushed the words out of my mouth, “Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?” “Listen, I’m just trying to apologize.” With that, he left and I felt completely trampled. My friend came towards me and I held back my tears. I told him I was okay, everything was okay, but it wasn’t. It was the least ‘okay’ I had felt in months, but nothing could be done and it was what it was.
I didn’t consent to what he did to me. It broke my heart and ripped apart what little trust I had left. My problems with men and intimacy have all stemmed from my relationship with this person. At first when I woke up this morning I was disappointed in myself for not saying more to him than I had. Now, I understand that I could never relay the fact that he had ruined my life in a matter of sentences. Sometimes I try to see the positive side of my situation. I’m more empathetic, I have a stronger voice, I am a better person because of my suffering, but most days this outlook doesn’t work. I would rather have my innocence back. It took three minutes for him to derail my young life and years to put the pieces back together.