I spent a lot of time deciding whether or not to post my story about Alain. I thought I’d put it up on the private blog I’ve been invited to join, the blog that offers me so much freedom it has shut me down almost entirely: what is so private that I can’t write it here, can’t share it in a forum where my family, my friends, my coworkers read? Well, plenty of things, I guess, but I haven’t thought of any of them yet. I thought Alain belonged there (or on Maggie’s amazing Violence UnSilenced), but I brought him here instead.
First I had to email my family because none of them knew that story. They know a lot of things about me, but never that one thing, and to learn it from reading here … well, that would just be too ugly.
When I teach essay writing and we work on using vignettes to introduce and frame an essay, I always tell students to think about the story they’re going to use, to make sure they only tell the part that is absolutely connected to the point they hope to make. I should listen to my own advice. I didn’t need to tell the entire story of my friendship with Alain, the entire story of that night out with Alain … but I did, too. I needed to show how not charged our relationship was, how totally fine and normal Alain was, how totally not dating we were. I needed to convince you to be on my side at the end of the story.
Because I’m still struggling with that night, all these years later. Writing that post pushed me to see that I’ve been stuck there, trying to understand what I did wrong, how I’m responsible for what happened. It wasn’t until I started posting comments about HR3 that I was able to get the word “rape” out of my mouth when telling that story. All these years, and I’ve never actually said it: Alain raped me. When I sent my family the “heads up” email about that last post, I assured them that I’m fine, that I didn’t want them to worry about me, to freak out. But how fine am I if I haven’t been able to name what happened in 25 years?
And, too, I haven’t told the whole story.
I remember getting home that Sunday night and having the full weight of what Alain did settle on me. I remember sitting in a corner of my mom’s bedroom, hunched on the floor between her bed and the closet, on the phone with a friend. I remember whispering the story to her, nervous to say aloud what had happened.
And she listened … and then she said, “Well, on some level, don’t you think you wanted that to happen? I mean, you haven’t had a boyfriend in a long time, maybe that’s why you kept going out with him.”
There was more to the conversation, but I can’t pull it back to the front of my brain. I just remember sitting there thinking something was very wrong. I wasn’t able to call what had happened “rape,” but I knew I hadn’t wanted it to happen, knew that it shouldn’t have happened, knew that my friend should have supported me rather than damned me for being single and obviously “wanting it.”
Shortly after that, my best friend returned from France. She and Alain’s best friend were still together, but not smoothly. My friend was angry and sad and very much caught up in her own drama. I chose not to say anything about Alain, but my other “friend” took it upon herself to share my story. I got a call from my best friend. She was angry with me for “making a fuss over nothing.” She said she couldn’t believe I could have the nerve to say Alain had raped me, that I should think very carefully about what I was doing, that I could ruin Alain’s life making an accusation like that.
That I could ruin Alain’s life. Yes.
I had no response for her, but she didn’t seem to need one, seemed to have called only to rail at me for being so cruel as to accuse Alain. “You can’t call it rape because you didn’t like it,” she said at the end. “Besides, I heard his penis is huge, you must have enjoyed it.”
Which was when I knew I’d never tell. If a woman who was supposed to be my closest friend could respond in that way, how could I ever talk to anyone else?
And I didn’t. I’ve never told anyone. Until now.
And now? I’m glad I’ve finally told my family. They are reacting in all the ways I would expect them to: completely loving and supportive of me, fiercely angry at what happened to me. Fox is being careful investigative girl, trying to ferret out online details that will uncover Alain all these years later. My mother, in full lionness mode, isn’t telling me any of the things she’s wishing she could do to Alain but is being, instead, very protective of me. My brother is ready to hand out a beat down like the world has never seen. (Fortunately, Alain has disappeared into history because I’m not sure I could talk any of them out of the graphic plans they have for him.)
Fox’s first question when she called me Saturday was about whether or not I’d seen someone, talked to someone trained to help rape victims. I didn’t. I really never told anyone other than the two women I thought were my friends. So that seems like a good place to start, the right place to start.