When I did report, it was 12 hours after the assault had occurred and already nobody believed me.
My roommate didn’t believe me. His girlfriend sat next to me on my couch and posted funny cat videos to my rapist’s Facebook profile.
The nurses didn’t believe me, and neither did the police, because I came 12 hours after the assault occurred. When the assault occurred, I had been sleeping in my own house, next to my boyfriend, who didn’t wake me when he left for work. I had been drinking. Weeks later, I realized my rapist had drugged my drink.
The nurses would not treat me unless I filed a police report. So I did. The police would not take a report unless I wanted to press charges. So I did. I did, and I called my detective every week for two months. My rapist was never questioned.
A volunteer from a local non-profit came to my room and asked me to tell her what happened. I don’t know how many times I told my side of the story that day, but I do remember what I felt like the first time I was believed.
When I did the rape kit, I had to surrender the outfit I was wearing: my favorite leggings, a t-shirt from a rally against domestic violence, and a brand new floral print bra from Victoria’s Secret. I will never see those clothes again. It is unlikely they were ever tested.
This is a portion of my trauma. Should I tell you it was even worse?
I tell my story again and again. I write about it. I mention it in passing conversations. More often, I try to act like it never happened; the paperwork from the hospital and police is stored away. It’s collecting dust in a hanging folder labeled bad times. I mostly leave these details there.
Today is eight years since I’ve been raped. Eight years, and I have portioned out this trauma so many times. I know how to adjust to audience, how little to say and when to stay quiet. I have accidentally told too much before, and my roommate was right. Things get worse.
In eight years, I have heard so many stories from other victims. I don’t have a word for my deep anger at the commonality of this horror. How often I have wished this world was any other way.
Most of the time I give a portion of my story, a listener tells me Sorry. If you feel sorry about my story, all I can say is how I have heard stories even worse than mine. And also: how readily I have heard from others, “It can’t be as bad as you say it is.”
When I told my roommate about the police report, he said I was ruining my rapist’s life.
“What about my life?” I asked him.
He hesitated. “I was raped when I was a child, and I didn’t tell anyone. It’s better this way.”
Is it true that silence is rewarded?
Can I just let a thing happen to me?
Can I just let it be over?
In eight years, I have practiced speaking and silence. Both exhaust me. This world exhausts me. Listening or speaking always feels like receiving a new wound, and yet it is also the only thing that feels like healing.
I wonder, often, about the responsibility of my voice, whether it is speaking or silence that better suits me.
I wonder, often, if we can let a change happen. How much longer until this ends.