I ask my guests to dig deep. This is an especially harrowing guest post by writer and blogger Cindy Brown. I’m honored this is her very first guest post. When I suggested something raw and honest about her past, her first pass was about giving up cursing. It was great — but I knew there was more to this strong, sassy woman.
Giving her my typical Lorrie Moore quote: Write something you’d never show your mother or father, I in no way expected this level of truth. Astounded and proud, I asked her, “Are you sure about this?” “Yup,” she replied.
Please read, follow her Twitter, blog, Facebook…I’m honored to know her. We welcome your comments below!
Bad Things Come in Threes
I write a humor blog called Everyday Underwear. Recently, I wrote a piece titled, “Excuse Me, But Are Those Real?” where I talk about true things about me that at one time or another, people didn’t believe. The two I cited were humorous and normal observances: 1) My boobs are real 2) My teeth are naturally straight. There was a third thing, however, that didn’t quite fit into my humor post.
3) I’ve been raped three times.
I stared at the screen in disbelief. My stomach felt sick and a lump appeared in my throat, making it difficult to swallow. My face flushed hot and red, as a sudden personal heat wave permeated the cool room. My heart skipped a beat. I had bared my soul. I had put my story of hardship and healing out there for the world and this is what I get?
Online commenting was a new thing at that time. I anxiously waited to see what was said about my story. SAFE (Sexual Assault and Family Emergencies) had the idea to share my journey and they arranged for an interviewer from the local paper to come to my home. We agreed I would use a pseudonym.
I was so impressed that the newspaper not only put the article on the front page of the print version, but that it was available online as well – with a comment section! I hadn’t written the article. The article was about me. I couldn’t wait! By allowing my story to be shared, did I help someone come to terms with their own rape? Who would reach out? What kind of wonderful comments, support, and emotional sympathy would I receive?
I stared at the screen again and read the single comment. This couldn’t be! I stood up and paced the room. I was on fire, a burning soul filled with the fuel of anger. Who do I call? How do I get this removed? Who would do such a thing? I sat and read the comment again.
“This story can’t be true. Nobody gets raped three times unless they are in prison or asking for it.”
I stewed. I waited. I checked the page frequently. One more commenter thanked me for sharing, but the overshadowing of the first statement blackened my spirit. That was it; two comments. It’s a miracle I had the nerve to pursue being a blogger all of these years later. But I had helped someone. SAFE told me they had a client come in because she read my story. That gave me hope.
I could have let fear keep me from writing and sharing again. I could have said, “Forget it; there is only negativity in this world.” But no, I was determined even more now to share my story. “Later,” I thought, “in a book.”
The idea of fear controlling me came clearly to the forefront. It was fear that put me in the situation to be raped. The commenter (I assumed it was a man because surely a woman could not be so crass about rape, right?) was correct. I was neither a criminal nor a slut, but I WAS in prison.
My life had been a prison of fear and self-loathing since that first rape.
I’ll never forget that evening. I was so excited. I had been asked out by one of the most popular boys in school. Me! I wasn’t super popular. I was kind of middle ground. I had a friend who was in the upper echelon of popularity, and so by proxy, I was accepted at times. But nothing like this had ever happened.
I was just sixteen. I was ready for the date an hour early. I stared out the window, scanning the road for headlights, wondering if this could be the best night of my life, eager for the adventure. Where would he take me to dinner? Would we go see a movie? He hadn’t told me what we were going to be doing, but I was dressed and ready for whatever he wanted to do. He was an hour late.
The doorbell chimed and my mother invited him in and greeted him while I tried not to look ready, even though I’d been waiting for two hours. I was so proud! This was a very popular boy (an upper classmen even) and he was taking me on a date. He was a preppy dresser and everyone liked him. Upon entering, the normally gregarious and verbally interactive young man seemed reluctant to talk to my mother. “Odd,” I thought, “maybe he’s nervous, but he certainly isn’t being very polite. What’s wrong with him?”
We went out to the car and I was caught off guard. Another boy was driving the car. My date gestured for me to sit in the back with him. I naively thought perhaps he had arranged for this friend to chauffeur. I was not prepared for what happened next.
It didn’t take two seconds after the car backed out of the driveway before he was all over me. I knew right then why he hadn’t spoken to my mother. He was stinking drunk. His breath was revolting, disgusting, and telling of why he was an hour late. He’d been drinking some kind of hard liquor; that was certain.
Our house was in a small subdivision just outside town. The driver, a boy I was familiar with but didn’t know well, drove us to a dark country road behind the subdivision and parked. He turned up the music. My “date” got more and more aggressive. I was embarrassed that he was doing this and not only that, but with another boy right there in the car! The driver ignored us, eyes forward, tapping the steering wheel to the beat of the music. Don’t ask me what was playing. My mind was elsewhere.
As he forced himself upon me, I received my first of many lessons in the meaning of the phrase “paralyzed with fear.” This is the part in the story where people who have never been raped ask the most stupid questions. Why didn’t you fight? Why didn’t you scream for the other boy to help you? These are the questions of a person who has never had the dead weight of a drunken boy on top of you, violating you in a confined space.
At first my voice was audible, “Stop, please stop, no!” I repeated the words over and over. There was no response to my words from either boy. The driver intended to ignore, and he did, or at least pretended not to notice what was taking place. My “date” was too busy with his agenda to hear my plea.
It was as though my voice became smaller and smaller and smaller until it literally imploded in a tiny “poof” and was gone. Adrenalin coursed through my body so strongly that instead of giving me strength, it made my muscles feel like jelly. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t fight. I couldn’t move. I heard my heartbeat, but I was paralyzed. I was in shock.
When he was done with me, he got into the front seat of the car and told me they were going to a party at such-and-such’s house and he asked if I wanted to go.
I don’t remember my exact words, but I said something along the lines of, “No, I don’t want to go to any damn party with you. Let me out of this car!”
I stood on the edge of the road. As the car drove away in the night, I watched the taillights. I didn’t move an inch. They turned the corner and were gone. To this day, I can’t tell you who the driver was. I can’t tell you what the car looked like. I don’t even know the date that it happened, as my diary is long lost.
I watched my dream date drive away and marveled at how quickly he had transformed into my worst nightmare.
I left something very important in that car that night; those boys drove off with my self-respect. In a matter of twenty minutes, my life had changed forever. I would never be the same. My life as a woman, as a human, would be shaped and molded by this event in ways that wouldn’t be revealed or understood by me or to anyone else until eighteen years later in intense therapy.
The night was silent. I was neither cold, nor hot, but I don’t recall what time of year it was, other than I know it wasn’t winter. The results of trauma are strange. I remember the events clearly, but other details are inexplicably gone. In pattern form, the other rapes ended up just the same, clear memory of the trauma, all other details fuzzy. It’s an opposite response than many who have experienced such events.
I would rather be one of the ones who can’t remember the trauma.
I wasn’t even fifty yards from my house. I walked home, but was too humiliated to enter the house and tell anyone what happened. I sat behind the house on the sidewalk for a few hours and waited, waited, waited until the lights went out and I snuck back in.
I should have turned him in. I should have told someone. The humiliation and degradation of the night’s events were too much. I just wanted to forget it. I wanted to erase it. I wanted to be numb. I don’t remember ever seeing the boy again. If I did, I have blocked it from memory completely. I must have seen him at school. To this day, I’m sure he has no idea of the magnitude of the trauma he caused me and the resulting events that took place in the shattered life he left on the side of the road. As drunk as he was, he may not even remember raping me.
Twenty years later, I was on Facebook, trolling friends’ friends to find old classmates to connect with. I saw a picture and name jump off the screen. It was him. I literally shot up out of the chair and yelled out loud. I never thought I would see him again. But there he was. The trauma I thought I had dealt with in therapy came boiling to the surface again.
So many urges and thoughts went through my mind in that instant, I cannot even begin to explain them. The things I wanted to do! Oh, oh, oh, the things I wanted to do swirled above my head like a swarm of angry bees. Emotions spilled out and I screamed at the air in release. I felt as though I might pass out. Once again, I was in shock.
I stared at the picture, injecting venom into each pixel with my stare. His once lush head of thick hair… gone.
“Thank God, at least the asshole is balding,” I thought.