One Voice of Many

(A real photo from a brothel raid in the United States via

My arm has been hurting all day. The aching began when I woke up this morning. I stretched upwards towards the sky and felt a sharp pain shoot through my elbow and into my wrist. The pain was brief and blinding and I gasped as I held it against my breast. I knew why it hurt. I knew why the pain had come today and not yesterday or the day before. This pain was a sign, a warning, telling me that it’s time to stand and fight.

When he took it, he had me up against a wall. I had my arms out in front of me—pushing, wiggling, and trying to escape. I overextended my elbow in the struggle. Now the memory of my trauma is caught there and every time I hear rape, or feel it getting closer my arm aches and signals that it’s near.

Three women who had each been missing for nearly a decade escaped from a home on Cleveland’s west side where they were being held against their will. Most news stations haven’t come out and declared this as a case of sexual slavery but my sinking gut tells me that, that is exactly what this is. One girl, Amanda Berry called out to a neighbor for help as she scratched and pushed at the back door of the house which held her. After the neighbor helped her pry open the door she ran into his arms still clutching the hand of a six year-old girl. The heart wrenching 911 call she made after her escape can be heard all over mainstream media.

For the first time in 10 years we’re hearing Amanda Berry’s voice. A voice that her community believed had fallen silent. They probably thought that she had been kidnapped and killed, that her attacker was some deranged pervert who lusted for the blood of young girls. But he wasn’t. He was a school bus driver and Amanda wasn’t killed on the same night of her abduction, she was kept locked up in a house where she was raped, beaten, and humiliated at her captor’s convenience. Although it now appears less likely that this is a case of human trafficking – which is still a form of sexual slavery – we must take note that it has become increasinly more prevelant in the U.S.. Especially in my home state of Ohio. When we see cases where women and girls are being abducted by members of their own community it forces us to accept that rape is not a personal issue but a societal one.

Think of all the women and children who go missing from parks and neighborhoods every day who we assume have been kidnapped by one killer, one man, who is evil and unlike us. Now, let’s think about the fact that all these missing bodies could be hidden away in a dark room, two houses down from where we live. One man, one killer, one rapist who drives a white van isn’t the problem—we are the problem. Worldwide we have set up societal systems that allow women and children to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. By allowing this to continue we reinforce the notion that women are worthless and that our identities are meaningless. If there weren’t men willing to buy sex, and men and women who place a higher value on money than on the humanity of women and girls than sex trafficking wouldn’t exist, it’s that simple.

Last week 13 were arrested in New York for having ties in a human trafficking ring. These men were promising Mexican women brighter futures in the United States and then selling them to brothels once they crossed the border.  This wasn’t even big news. I didn’t see it in any headlines; it didn’t cover any of the popular magazines or printed papers that I pass in the supermarket. Besides an official news release from the Department of Homeland Security, the story didn’t see too much airtime. It was covered, but it didn’t get as much recognition as it should have. Women’s lives were stolen right under our nose. We should be up in arms about that but instead there’s just—silence.

Well I’m not going to be silent. I’m outraged and I will continue to express my thoughts on this issue fearlessly and with determination. When I stand up for women both here in the U.S. and around the world, I’m standing up for myself. When I fight against the desecration of women’s bodies, I fight for my own body. Human trafficking is the greatest form of genocide the world has ever known, claiming the lives of countless women and girls, and I’m sick of it. The rapes, the mistreatment, and the abuse of the sacred female have to end. I’ve made my stand, what will you do to stop human trafficking?

The Man Who Was a Monster

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.

Spreading Your Legs for Better Health

It’s that time of year again, time to face that little appointment that’s been haunting your calendar for months. If you’re anything like me the most dreaded day of the year is one that involves waiting for at least 20 minutes in a sterol waiting room, followed by having to wear an awkward backless “gown”, ending in the utter humiliation that is a pap smear. Yes, that’s right ladies, I’m talking about the yearly visit to the gynecologist.

My gyno is a fast talker. She rattles off all kinds of uncomfortable questions including how many people in total I’ve slept with. I lie of course, because she is the same woman who delivered me and well frankly, she’s judgmental and would assume that I’m a whore. In the midst of my lies she continues on with her usual routine. By the time she has to use that steely torture device, which by the way is always ice cold, her questions have turned to who I’m currently sleeping with. No matter what I say she will always reply with her opinion that men at “your age” are untrustworthy and unable to be monogamous. Uncomfortable and ready to leave I dress quickly and when it’s time for her to say, “Looks great, any questions?” I say “No.” and run for the door. I’m going to tell you why this entire scenario is wrong as well as 5 ways to ensure you are having a productive experience.

A common problem that all people, not just women, share is something called White Coat Syndrome. This phenomenon usually refers to the change in patients blood pressure. In Women’s Studies we discuss it as a patient’s blind trust in what their physician is telling them, or the inability to ask important questions concerning your body due to either intimidation or your doctor’s busy schedule. If I don’t feel comfortable with my doctor, or feel that she is talking to down to me, how am I supposed to ask her anything important? I feel inferior and pushed along which doesn’t help me or anyone else. Every question you have concerning your body is an important one. We need to educate ourselves on the functions of your bodies and the conditions which we are susceptible to.

Another problem with my experience is that asking a patient’s number of sexual partners has absolutely no relevance unless she has and STD/STI. It makes for an uncomfortable situation and only adds to an intimidated feeling. Also, when my doctor talks over her procedure she’s not letting me know exactly what she’s doing. By not explaining the exam fully I remain uneducated and in the dark about my own body. Instead of taking the time to ask questions I get nervous and run. This is possibly the WORST thing anyone can do at the doctor’s office.

So let’s fix this, shall we? First thing’s first,

  • Prepare Questions: Your body may undergo many changes in the span of a year so make sure if you come across something that worries you but is not an emergency you write it down. Preparing questions for your physician before your appointment can not only give you piece of mind but can help your doctor catch something that he/she may have overlooked previously.

Example: For the past couple of months I would become extremely uncomfortable and almost sick during and the week after my period ended. When I finally told my doctor what was happening she informed me that I am allergic to scented tampons and that if I didn’t stop using them I could get a serious infection. I switched brands and could not be happier – all because I asked.

  • Set Boundaries: If at anytime your physician makes you feel uncomfortable speak up about it. Let him or her know that certain questions are unfair to ask, allow him or her to explain themselves but still stand your ground. If at anytime you realize that you and your doctor are not on the same page do not hesitate to find a new one!
  • Get the Real Scoop on Birth Control: Birth control commercials and ads are all over the media. These ads will inform you of all the wonders of these seemingly magic little pills, but what are they not telling you that your doctor actually can?  Before you decide to use birth control make sure you get all of the facts including the major side effects. Also, don’t let yourself be pressured into using any of these methods. Many times, doctors will insist that sexually active young women take the pill, the shot, or use the IUD because “nothing is worse than a young pregnancy”. There is nothing  wrong with using condoms, as long as you actually use them every time.
  • Discuss What’s Important: As I’ve stated above, there is no shame in asking questions. For your own education make sure you discuss big issues with your doctor. Start with breast lumps and how you can check for them at home. As we all know breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women and conducting regular self checks is a great way to ensure the health of your breasts. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is another big topic. Although there are little to no side effects for men infected, in women certain strands of this virus can lead to cervical cancer. The Gardasil vaccine only protects from a few strands but not all. Be sure that you understand exactly how this virus can spread so that you can protect yourself from it.
  • GET TESTED: No matter if you’ve slept with one person or seventy one be sure to get tested regularly to prevent the spread of STD/STI’s as well as obtain any treatment you may need.

You have the right to know everything about your body and how to protect it. As awkward and terrible as those appointments may be for you they are of incredible importance to your health.

21 Going On Greatness.

She stood nervously beneath the spot light at center stage, eagerly shifting her weight from one side to another. As the piano player began to play she took a deep breath in. Holding both hands over her heart she began to sing. Her voice seemed to pour out from the deepest parts of her soul. At times it moved slowly and smoothly like chocolate, at other times it was sharp and strong like a silvery blade. At the 2011 VMA’sAdele, who had received seven nominations for her song Rolling in the Deep, gave an unshakable performance and proved that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Adele’s album 21 takes listeners on a journey through an intense break up. Her lyrics illustrate pain and loss beautifully. Her words are not only intelligently written but are ones that all women can relate to. The initial falling out of love, followed closely by the agonizing back and forth game, ending of course in the loss of a partner. From heartbreak she created a powerful album that will not soon be forgotten.

There are of course other reasons why I chose to write about this reasonably new songstress. Adele has been quoted as saying that she loves her body and that to her, health is more important than thinness for aesthetic purposes. She is a big girl who has the ability to change entertainment’s view of beauty. This is one reason why I believe that she is an amazing role model for young girls. It is important for girls to see women in the media as strong and beautiful, but also relatable. Most starlets obsess over their image and struggle with their desire to be thin. Girls need a role model who loves and appreciates her body so that they can feel supported enough to feel the same way about their own.

Pop stars like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj use different characters and facades as mediums to express themselves. What really does this tell young listeners? That your emotional/creative self is separate from your everyday self? Perhaps that’s not what they intended to say, but there is no question that, that’s what girls are hearing.  I’m all for creative expression and I love their music but girls need someone who they can really identify with. Adele paints an understandable portrait of pain that is quite more realistic than the songs topping the charts this year. She brings back an element of humanity to today’s music that was quickly losing it’s footing.

The English singer songwriter is on her way to becoming a true American icon. At 21 Adele has become an inspiration for young women. Her lyrics express the reality of a woman’s experience in a way that is deeply poetic and powerful. Adele’s love for her body and respect for herself are admirable qualities not usually found in young Hollywood. Simply put, this girl is on her way to greatness.

C’mon, Lesbihonest Here.

As a huge supporter of gay rights I believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality. I have lot’s of gay friends. In fact, it’s been said time and time again that a gay man is a straight woman’s best friend. After all, “every woman needs a great shopping partner!” So that’s great we’re all in agreeance that we love our gays. We love gay bars and drag queens and sassy men who stick their hands out in opinionated protest, but what about lesbians? Yes, that’s right ladies. I want to talk about good old girl on girl love.

This blog is all about women and girls so of course I have to talk about my sisters who share same sex practices. As the curser flashes at me annoyingly I’m reminded that I don’t really know anything about lesbianism. Or a gay woman’s struggles in this male dominated society. Why is that? I can sit with my friends having drinks, encircled in our usual cloud of smoke, and I can guarantee the word “fag” will not be said. However I also know that the word “dyke” will be, more than once. Why are we as women, more inclined to accept gay men over gay women? I once read an article that surveyed the opinions of college girls on homosexuality. These girls were increasingly more likely to surround themselves with gay men than lesbians. They reported that they would live with a gay woman as long as she “kept it to herself”, or hid her outrageous lesbianism, but most confided that they wanted no interaction with lesbian students. When asked why, many of them explained that they would be labeled as gay by association and would lose friends. Oh God! You mean these girls would be cordially uninvited to Kappa Kappa Delta’s sexist kegger and rape fest? The horror. I would rather kill myself than let a lesbian stand between me and a bromantic beer pong tournament.

No, stop. Just stop it. We have to change this. We can’t continue to isolate women just because they like other women. Isolation could be the reason that, from what I’ve seen, most gay women choose to hang out primarily with other gay women. There are many bars in my city that cater to gay men and only one or two, that I know of, who’s clientele is mostly lesbians. I was at one of these bars the other night, waiting in line for the bathroom. Thin little sorority girls were running through in their highest heals with a gay man strapped to their arm like a purse. I heard one of them say to the other, “Don’t worry I won’t let those dykes get you.” I’m sorry, but excuse me? I don’t know who you’re getting your information from, but believe it or not lesbians don’t attack innocent college girls with strap-ons. Even worse, the girl I was standing next to looked down at me and asked if she was scary looking. I was horrified.

As an adamant feminist I have been referred to as a “dyke” on more than one occasion or even asked, “oh, so you don’t like dick?” I understand that men feel extremely threatened by lesbians. Perhaps they feel they have to compete with these women because they’re both seeking the same prize. Or maybe it’s some sort of penis inadequacy because there are women out there that they cannot please. There are tons and tons of feminist analyses on the subject but frankly, they bore me so I choose not read them. I remember one however, from a feminist theorist who’s name I can no longer recall who believed that there was no such thing as consensual heterosexual sex. Her argument being that that if men and women are not equal, than women cannot properly consent to sex. The only consensual sex happens between gays and lesbians. Obviously this didn’t go over too well with many readers, and now that “you’re a feminist so you’re a dyke” stereotype hangs a little lower over our heads, but it’s still something to think about.

Even as I type “lesbian” into google images I am astonished by the amount pornography that appears before me. Now, obviously I need to change my security settings but regardless there’s something wrong here. Lesbians don’t exist for Girls Gone Wild as much as they don’t flip innocent straight girls. Let’s stop forcing their sexuality into a box that makes us feel comfortable. When I write about supporting other women, I mean completely supporting them. Accepting and celebrating the differences that bind us together making us uniquely female. We must stop stereotyping each other. When you tear one woman down, you bring us all down. For the record, this applies to gay men as well. They are not designer purses and were not put on this earth to help us with our outfits, even though some may be great at it.

Hey Girl, What’s Your Number?

From the moment we take that first big plunge into womanhood, we start counting. We count on fingers and toes the men we’ve had sex with. We torture ourselves by making lists and comparing ourselves to our friends and even worse the girls we hate. Why are we so afraid to venture away from purity? “Well I’ve only slept with three people..” Pause to look around at the girls in the room who are biting their nails or furiously texting their other friends. They feel judged and exposed because they’re well aware that they’re the whores to the one speaking’s madonna.

So what is this number thing anyway, and why is it stressed so intensely? I personally stopped counting when i surpassed my mother’s number (a “baker’s dozen”). Does that make me a whore? No. I’m just a girl with boundary issues who feels the need to use her vagina quite regularly. I also stopped counting in order to avoid long nights sobbing into my Ben & Jerry’s. That’s the thing though isn’t it? We start counting in order to place a boundary on ourselves. Not to actually remember the men we’ve slept with, and who would want to anyway? Some of those are mistakes that we’d love to forget, and when we’re counting they just hang over you like a rain cloud.

I remember battling with numbers. I got to number nine before I started revising my list. Well, he doesn’t count because it was awful and awkward. If he doesn’t count than neither does he, and my 7 becomes my 5, and my 5 gets thrown to the dogs to make room for my new 8 and then before you know it, it’s a never ending story. Yuck, no thanks! I let all of the men fall away, the only ones I really choose to remember are the those who actually made it mean something. It doesn’t matter if you have sex with 5 people or 85. The number’s irrelevant, what matters is how those 85 men made you feel as a woman. If they were all fantastic experiences and you have no regrets than more power to you. However, if you’re the type of girl who wakes up in the morning feeling ashamed not because he was number 10, but because it was a bad experience than stop. Throw on last night’s party dress, slip on those broken heals and take that walk of shame home because you have a lot to think about. Sex always has the opportunity to be bad. Chemistry can be off, boundaries could be overstepped, you realized your beer goggles had fooled you yet again, but to feel shame is different. If you wake up from one night stands feeling ashamed then put yourself on sexual probation. You may be someone who requires more intimacy and trust, you value the relationship over the sexual experience itself. That’s perfectly fine just as having great one night stands is fine. Do not have sex that you feel ashamed of, and do not let other people’s ideas of how you should be and how you should act make you ashamed.

I have never met a man who judged me for the amount of people I’ve been with. To my face anyway. Besides the guy who upon hearing that I wanted to write a book about the men I’ve slept with said, “Wow. You’ve slept with enough men to write a book?!” But he was an asshole so I put my cigarette out in his beer. I’ve actually never even heard of a man who keeps track of the number of partners he’s had. So why should we? As a straight woman I can’t say what it’s like in the gay/lesbian community, but in the straight world the number game appears to be a way for women to judge other women. Looking back at it, the amount of pressure I put on myself to keep my number down was absolutely absurd. Screaming at my “ex lover” saying, “You’re number 11 Pat, I can’t take that back!” Is just embarrassing. My God, what a dumb thing to say, and what an even dumber thing to stress out about. Don’t use the number system to keep your sexuality in a cage. Practice emotionally and physically safe sex. Know what kind of sexual relationships work for you and settle for nothing less.

This is the Day I Lay My Shame to Rest.

My intention is usually to candy coat important issues with humor. I believe laughter is the best way to touch people, and although my posts are meant to inspire and be taken seriously there is nothing wrong with having a little giggle. A spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down. However there are issues too sobering that must be discussed. Direct crimes against women are happening right under our noses. These issues must be addressed so that we can change our society. Rape is just one of them. Using sexuality as a weapon against another is completely immoral but somehow perpetrators walk around free everyday as their victims are left to repair the damage done to them. I could give you statistics and theories about sexual assault and hope you choose to run out into the world and make a difference. I won’t, I don’t expect anyone to feel moved or even remember sets of numbers. Instead I have realized that the best way to bring this issue to light is to give my own first hand account.

Trauma is a funny thing. Before it happens one might expect to remember every detail, like it was yesterday for example. I can’t remember the date. I think it was October though, maybe before halloween. I don’t remember how I got to his house or what we talked about before it happened. What I do remember is how exactly it happened and the way it felt to want to climb out of my own body and run away.

This was a bad person. A bad person that I had loved so completely and perfectly it would have made you sick. It makes me sick. To think of his, as a face I used to look at endearingly. There was a time when I wanted his body on me. A time when I wanted affection from him and I would have done anything to get it, just a taste of what I thought love was. By that warm October night my desire for him had long passed. All I wanted was closure. For him to tell me he was sorry, for him to hold me and make all those old nasty feelings disappear. I wanted a “Hey, I care about you. Let’s be friends.” This is the funny thing about me, I can never let go of things on bad terms. I can’t let it die, not when I invested so many beautiful feelings in what the other person tried to destroy. Instead of sexless intimacy our new routine had become one of quiet submission. He would grab my wrists, and God I hated that, I hate it still. Just thinking of it makes me want to shake the feeling out of my hands. Then he would pull me on top of him, hushing my “no’s” and my “stop’s” until I understood that this was how it was going to be. I chose to leave while it was happening. I would shut my eyes tightly and pretend to be someone else. If I just moved around enough and made enough noise it would all be over soon.

That night was different. It started out normal, though I tried to fight it. Tried to be happy and playful, tried to get him to speak to me. To realize that I was a real person and to recognize that I was even in the room. It didn’t work of course, but in the midst of our morbid rendezvous he did something evil. He entered me in a way that had never been done before and was not allowed. I was pinned between him and the wall against his bed. Screaming and begging for him to stop. I don’t know how long it lasted. There was a pounding in my head that I couldn’t control and when he finally stopped my body fell limp. I was shaking at an unbelievable, uncontrollable pace. He panicked and told me he thought I was screaming because I liked it. He cried and slept on the couch. I tell people that I left, but I didn’t. I pretended that it was an accident like he said it was. I made the decision to be quiet. To not deal with what had happened. To maintain that he missed and it was just another hilarious story. Laughing at my own innocence in order to distance myself from the truth.

I stayed quiet for two years. I let it sit and fester inside me while I wrapped myself up in complete denial. It wasn’t a part of me, it didn’t happen to me, that’s not what rape is or ever was. Rape happens in a dark alley, because you chose to walk alone, because you weren’t protecting yourself. Your rapist is “the other” not the boy you lay next to you in bed. No that’s not rape, he didn’t mean it. He couldn’t hate me this much, not when I loved him the way that I did. For two long years this was my mantra. My body knew what really happened, your body always does. It would shake when I would get close to men. I found no pleasure sexual situations, just fear. Just the incessant desire to leave and run away. I pushed it down deep but the universe placed road blocks in my path that encouraged its exposure.

Feeling support from women was never a problem. I have the most beautiful friends who have stood beside me through all of this. My innate fear of men however, is palpable. There are some good ones though. There’s this one I know who always has a soft shoulder to cry on. Sometimes I wake up in his bed hot and afraid, forgetting where I am. He doesn’t know it, but when this happens I look over at him. At his quiet sleepy face. I study every bump and stubble of hair, all the imperfections that become perfect in the morning light. I know I’m safe here in this place. I lay back down grabbing him a little tighter, burying my head a little deeper into his chest and allow myself to breathe. When I throw drunken tantrums, screaming and sobbing throwing out meaningless accusations he stays quiet. He remains quiet at the times when my rapist would’ve stood in my face yelling at me with a booming voice, so loud it stung my ears and made me tremble. He doesn’t belong to me. I’m temporary in his bed but forever by his side. When we met, he caused something to move in me. That move started a chain reaction of growth. He’s not the one I love, but he is one that I love unconditionally. I trust a little more now, I’m a little bit stronger, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

My rapist pretends he’s not a rapist. He pretends that I’m crazy and obsessive. He hates me in a way that I could never hate anyone, not even him. He speaks to girls I used to consider my best friends. They don’t care, because they don’t understand. Like the rest of our society they don’t know that rape can happen with anyone, in any setting and that my story carries weight. He speaks to the girls that I’m still friends with, too. I asked him to leave them alone and to stay as far away from me as at all possible. He responded yesterday with, “Fuck you you crazy bitch. I fucked all of your friends after that happened and they all know what a crazy bitch you are.”

I’ve spent the last 6 months being sad and hating myself for what I thought I “let” him do to me, but after reading that I got pissed. An anger so filled with fire I could’ve self combusted. After reading those two grammatically incorrect sentences I made a decision. I will take my power back from him, I will stand strong and be brave. I will stop feeling shame for once loving an evil man. No longer will I be the victim, today I am waking up from my years of slumber. I have a voice and I will use it to speak profoundly and powerfully for people like me. I will not live in a world where this kind of sickening crime is permitted. Where law requires a harmful rape kit as a means of conviction. Where it’s our word against theirs, where they look at you like you’re the dirty whore who drank too much, or wore too tight of a skirt, or who had invited him in before so why not again? I didn’t invite him in, I just didn’t lock my doors. I was hopeful and naive for thinking my neighbors wouldn’t steal from me. There is no power in silence and I cannot help anyone else with out telling my story.

There is power in the collective. Let’s wake up every morning and tell ourselves that, “We will not be victims” and we will not stand for hate, abuse, and degradation of women and girls. Let’s come together to support each other. If you have been a victim at any place or any time in your life, then you have my support. Women are the mother’s of culture and society and mistreatment shall not stand in my life. Let this story move you, let my words cause a shift inside you, let that shift push you towards growth in supporting your fellow woman. He took everything he could from me but he will not take away my drive and ability to help women and the victims of these senseless crimes.