There’s a sense of momentum afoot. All of the allegations of sexual assault in Hollywood, having a serial sexual predator as our President. Women have finally reached their limit. All across social media, cries of “me too, me too!” can be heard. The sheer magnitude, the enormity of the problem makes it hard for me to breathe.
I’ve written often about these subjects, rape culture, slut shaming, feminism. I’ve tried to educate with facts, shock into awakeness with anecdotes, anything, anything to make people listen. To change the tide so the world my girls grow up to live in won’t be this world. I’ve stated before that I don’t know any women who haven’t been sexually harassed at least and more often sexually assaulted. Many of them on multiple occasions.
I wonder if people think I’m joking when I say these things. Exaggerating.
My entire life, from my very first memories, has featured a thrumming backdrop of sexual threat and violence. Inside my family, in the families around me, in total strangers. I was a witness, I was a victim. I was guileless and complicit. What am I now? A warrior fucking goddess who will fight to the death for women and girls.
I’ve also said before how much it bothers me that our society makes women feel like they have to slice open an artery, fingerpaint a picture in their own blood to illustrate their experiences. Women are raped and then they are raped again in the retelling, in the minute examination.
But right now, this is what I choose. I choose to try to share some of my story. Not because the details are any of your business, only because it might make even one girl feel less alone. If you are lost in a dark place, you should know I am there reaching for your hand. If you think you are the only one, you should know— me, too.
So. When I was five years old.
When I was five years old, you’re so dirty pretty little girl, let’s wash together in the shower, fingers in places that didn’t need cleaned, feigned innocence while you were rubbing, scrubbing away mine. Catching you in bed with my even smaller brother, running away crying while you chased after me, held me, told me I was still your favorite. Because I was jealous. Jealous. Sick.
I can’t make these words come out like poetry. I can’t make the puke and the tears, the neurotic hiding, lying, twisted soul this world has put inside of me into something beautiful.
Watching my mom raped by my father, can’t rape the married, I know, I know. It’s almost like willing. Even if you’re being half-killed, slammed against the wall in your gaudy black lingerie, ripped from your body, bleeding on the kitchen floor while he mounts you, uses you like the whore he sees all women are. Eyes bigger than my face, I won’t look away.
When I was seven years old, the man at the beach, bleached whale, rolls of blubber held afloat on his black innertube. Giant bait, just lurking. Right out in the open. Oh hey pretty little girls. My toys can be yours, just play a game. Hold your breath. Swim between my legs. Who can stay down longest. Fat fingers grabbing, pinching, brushing, rubbing.
His thing touched me, we’d giggle after, hands cupped over ears, delicate seashells, secret communication devices. His thing ! Pinchy fingers between our thighs, watch out for those biting fishies he would laugh.
Later in the summer when we would follow him to his van in the parking lot, lured by snacks and five dollars. We were so skinny that year, every vertebra held accountable in our hand-me-down swimsuits, stretched out, frayed. Baby bird faces turned up, hungry for anything, attention, food, danger. Our mothers both far away. Passed out drunk. Letting it happen. You were the older one, braver, more sophisticated in my eyes.
We must have glowed like prey.
Much later I would realize your father was raping you too. And probably your sisters, all stick thin, eating disorders, bleeding eyes. Luminously pale and gorgeous. You with your freckles and wild curly hair, my best friend. I watched your every move, emulated, ached to be just like you. I never looked away but I somehow didn’t see. By the time I realized, you were gone to wherever the people we lose go.
When I was ten years old, I woke up cursed and bleeding. I had no illusions about the glory of womanhood. I knew things were only going to get worse. I was meat before and I was riper meat now. My brother quickly proved this by stealing the panties I bled into and masturbating himself while stabbing the crotch with a hunting knife, shredding them into a gory confetti, hiding them under his bed.
Is it still assault if someone only thinks about raping you with a knife? I know it isn’t, but it’s something. A reminder of your place in the world.
I think I have to stop here.
If it’s true that the only way out is through, I should be floating among the stars by now. I should be an explosion of dust and glitter and light that won’t be visible for millions of years, no matter how people stare and stare.
I should be out and through.