Aftermath

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.

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21 thoughts on “Aftermath

  1. Wow. Your aftermath stories — your friends’ responses — are possibly more upsetting than the original story. We women tend to put ourselves down a lot, let fear guide our decisions, talk ourselves out of things. Sometimes we can muster up the courage and strength to advise friends to do things we wouldn’t dare to do ourselves. And sometimes we turn our own doubts outward and use the strength of our relationships to hold our friends down the way we do to ourselves. I recently found out about someone else’s date rape — a very young woman who was very upset and conflicted about what had happened — and the part that made me most angry was thinking about the countless other women everywhere thinking the rape was their fault. So many silent sisters.

    Thank you, again, for your courage: for facing up to yourself and your own story, and then again for sharing it here.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. It’s funny, but posting this didn’t feel brave at all. Having to say the word “rape” and have it be about me was hard. Really hard. Because I’m not a woman these things happen to … crazy, of course. Because any woman — every woman — is a woman these things happen to. Which is exactly the point.

  2. I just want to echo thanks to you for your courage and share my sadness that your friends weren’t able to respond appropriately.

    So much love to you, dear one –
    Karen

    1. Thanks, Karen. I still try to understand what could have been true about my friends at that time that made them respond the way they did. I have no answers other than to say, “well, none of us is perfect,” but that doesn’t do much to soothe that old hurt. I’m definitely feeling very loved right now, however, and I am extremely grateful for that.

  3. I fully understand the reasons of not wanting speaking up to speak up in the beginning. My mother died without my ever telling her I was raped. I knew, KNEW she would have turned into something my fault, when I knew just as hard that it was not. My two closest friends knew and kept my counsel, but not my own mother. I was with my husband for nearly five years before I told him I was rape survivor. It was seven years before I told him the entire story and even then it came out in the form of a poem. We don’t need to walk around with “survivor” bedazzled on our personal coat of arms, but nor do we need to hide under the shrouds of our own truths.

    We tell our stories when they need to be told and not a moment before. The stories unfold in the manner of their choosing, “… but I did, too. “. Don’t let anyone chastise you (or you chastise yourself) for that.

    I echo satsumaart, thank you for trusting us, and more importantly yourself, in sharing this.

    Much love to you my formerly silent sister.

    1. Thank you, Raivenne. (How happy am I that I know you?) I love what you say here about telling our stories exactly when they need to be told. That really resonates with me. I have a lot of thinking to do about that. Imagine if we could have combined the reactions of your friends and my mother in both of our lives …

  4. molly

    you got re-raped by people you should have been able to trust, other women, your friends. that is very sad, and a sad comment on them as human beings. shame on them.

    the shadow that events in the past throw on our present lives ican be really surprising, but so very natural when you consider it. how could such an experience (I keep thinking about the “I just want a hug” part of the story. there is nothing more comforting and trusting than a hug, is there?) NOT leave a very, very long shadow?

    I am glad your family is coming through in ways that are helpful to you, and not just to them. congratulations to them, they should be proud of themselves, since a helpful reaction from family members is not always what people get.

    I agree with you that the background of the friendship was necessary to understanding the story. and the aftermath re-rape episodes are also essential to understanding what happened to you.

    you should be proud of yourself for addressing such a painful event in your life. I am convinced that writing about things can help us, and help other people who read the story and think about it.

    1. Wow, Molly, I hadn’t even thought about the significance of Alain asking for a hug! Because that had to be deliberate, didn’t it? He had to have known his request would difuse the situation, put me at my ease. Oh, so ugly.

      I’m glad my family is my family. Like any family, we don’t always agree or get along, but I do know how fiercely and stubbornly the love me. I wish I could have allowed myself see that at the time.

  5. inmate1972

    My mind is just spinning and I’m not sure if it is because of the fact that it happened to you, or the fact that I have heard variations of this same story before from other women.

    Be strong. You’re are a wonderful woman with a powerful voice. I am so glad you could see around the pain to make it public, to let other women know they don’t have to be alone.

  6. This story leaves me feeling shaky, with shock and anger. Both about what Alain did to you, and how your friends responded. I can hardly imagine how deeply you must have felt your best friend’s betrayal.

    While I am angry at your friends’ reactions, angry at them on an individual level, I can’t help but feel sad about them, too. Because they reflect attitudes about women and sexuality and power that are all too common.

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m sure that it took a lot out of you–it must have been exhausting. I’m so glad that your family has been so supportive of you.

    1. Thanks, Alejna. As I said to Lisa above, the hardest part in all of this was acknowledging that I was raped. “Thinking it out loud” to myself, as it were, when I started writing about HR3 really shook me. I totally shrank away from it, ready to keep denying it … but then I didn’t. The second hardest part was trying to think of a “nice” way to tell my family. There’s no such thing, of course.

  7. So I want to collectively thank all of you for your caring and supportive comments (as if I would expect anything else from such lovely people!). I’m lucky to know each of you.

  8. I wonder how many women stay silent forever because their first tentative attempts at telling went just like that? I think a lot. A LOT.

    I’m sorry it took this long for you to find this healing response from your loved ones. So sorry.

    Most of all, I’m sorry you were raped. Because you WERE.

    Love to you, girl. xo

    1. Hey, Maggie. I’ve been thinking about this, too, how many have stayed silent, how many (like me) haven’t allowed themselves to acknowledge the truth of what happened to them. The power of the space you’ve created still leaves me breathless. Thank you.

    1. As much as I’d like to be 2011-Stacie and be back in that moment so I could respond appropriately to her, I’m actually feeling ok right now. Definitely feeling embraced by family and friends.

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