He looked tenderly into my eyes, coconut rum courage surging through his veins. “Kim, remember when I said I used to have feelings for you?” My heart suddenly threatened to leap through mI wasn't exactly being truthful. Really I think I love and always have. I want us to be much more than friends.” There is was. The guy I had loved for three years. The guy who I always believed loved me but was afraid of how much he cared. I had been waiting for this moment. I felt his love surround me. He was finally admitting to me something he had only admitted to himself earlier that evening at the symphony. Or was that the night of the German film I didn't want to see? Whatever cam before no longer mattered. All that mattered was that moment and what next, his gentle touch on my thigh and my mad dash for the bathroom.
I don't remember anymore if I even excused myself first. I just remember the terror. A terror that permeated that apartment. A terror so great and so out of context I would spend the next four years driving this man out of my life in an attempt to hide from it.
We didn't make love that night. We never would. That night was pre-secret. I couldn't save us or what was my first real taste of another human showing real love for me. I didn't understand what was wrong with me. I worried I never would.
Two years later when I finally when what had happened that night, I thought I would be relieved. I figured knowing about my abuse would make the terror go away. I had mastered the art of emotional intimacy and craved the physical. Healing took longer than I expected or desired, and the terror wouldn't l lesson. So I hid.
Instead of facing that part of myself I just suppressed the entirety of my sexuality. I surrounded myself with a plethora of gay male friends who were safe from these desires. I ate to make myself less appealing, and I succeeded. It was easier to deny the urges than face the terror.
As my healing progressed, I hit a wall. I had faced many of my demons. I could tell my secret to other with courage and faith in it's truth. I was beginning to remember bits at a time. I had stopped the most destructive of self-harm behaviors. But the terror still lurked behind waiting to emerge at the slightest hint of physical intimacy.
Defective is the best word I can use to describe how I felt. I was almost thirty and had yet to find a way to comfortably express my sexuality. When approached even in the most innocent ways, my four year old self would show up and freak out. I read books and listened to others and knew it was all about communication. Yes, it was, as always, about telling my secret. This time though to make for a safe place. Not everyone was my father, not everyone would hurt me. These are the things I repeated over and over to myself. What I naively didn't realize was how well my secret could be used against me.
It was exactly one week before my 30th birthday. We had met online about three months before and that night we were to meet for the first time. He was a cop from a town several hours away and after countless hours of talking on the phone we had decided we would meet. He traveled to me and we started the evening with a movie. After the movie we went out for a bite to eat and to talk. I was surprised when he had his gun with him. I didn't understand why an off duty cop needed his gun on a date, but what did I know about cops. Because he had traveled so far, he had decided to spend the night in town. And after what seemed like hours of intense connection and communication, we went back to his room to continue talking.
I know that's where I made my first mistake. But I wanted to finally trust someone. He knew my history. He knew I didn't want to rush anything physical. He was a cop. I thought I would be safe with a cop. My little girl inside thought she was safe. We let our guard down.
He knew if he pushed hard enough I would freeze. He knew if he ignored the first couple of times I said “No” I would stop. He knew I couldn't keep track of his gun. I couldn't keep track of his gun. I wasn't brutal. Sometimes I wish it had been. He didn't stop until I was crying so hard I think he was afraid someone would hear me. I got out of bed, went into the bathroom, took a shower and sat on the floor crying. Why was I always hiding in bathrooms? I could have left. I didn't realized that at the time, but I could have. I went back to bed, blamed myself, woke up the next morning and went home.
The next day a friend mentioned the word rape. I refused to acknowledge the truth behind that word. It couldn't possibly have been that. I could have left, right? I could have tried to fight him off more, right? I stopped saying no, right? How could I explain the terror that had come back, or the complete immersion into the mind of a four year old. I couldn't keep track of the gun, if only I had known where the gun was I could have gotten away, right? Didn't they realize I hadn't done a good enough job keeping track of that damn gun.
My inner struggle fought against the wisdom of those around me for almost a week, before I was able to admit that indeed, rape was the correct term for what had happened. Shame poured through me as I found courage to report the crime. How would the police see me as I reported one of their own? Would they even believe me? I had to try.
As the clock struck midnight on my 30th birthday, I sat in a room at the Watsonville police station finding my words. There were stuffed animals all around me, I looked to them for courage. I chose a wonderful gargoyle to hold and protect me. I heard myself describe again what had happened the week before. The details tumbled out of my mouth as the tears flowed out of my eyes. At the end of the interview the gargoyle insisted on coming home with me. Luckily the detective understood how I needed protection there also.
Every time I told my story I had to explain my past. What happened to me a week ago may as well have happened close to three decades ago. I tried to explain how I had little experience because of the terror. I tried to explain how I didn't know leaving when it was first over was an option. How could I make them understand the point I stopped being there. The moment it was no longer a 29 year old woman, but a four year old child no longer able to say no.
For hours I went over it again and again, then for weeks and months. First came the SART nurse who needed the words and then needed the physical evidence. Pictures and notes taken of parts of my body mostly foreign even to me. A week after the “incident”, as I was now calling it, my body still wept red tears of blood from my most private parts. “That shouldn't be happening” the nurse commented. “Vaginal tissue should heal much faster than that”. Blood taken to check for pregnancy came back positive, only to be discovered a short time later that a mix up had occurred in the lab. No big deal they said, happens all the time. Except they hadn't just spent the worst 30 minutes of their life thinking they were pregnant from a rape. She never did call me back to re-check the bleeding issue or to give me the second dose of preventative anti-biotics.
I learned a lot about our injustice system that summer. I learned that when a women is raped, it ceases to be a crime against the person, but a crime against the state. This means the victim has little or no say in what action if any is ever taken. First the police scrutinize the victim, who has suddenly come nothing more than a witness to their case, and decide if there is enough to even bother the DA with. Then it all starts over again. The DA then decides if there is enough evidence to win the case, hence deciding if it is worth their time or not.
For me the next step was meeting with the official detective assigned to the case. He wanted permission to tape a conversation between me and the “accused” having me try to trap him into admitting what he did. The detective didn't understand the terror at the idea of talking to him. He didn't understand my fear when I was told my rapist would be in town for questioning. He didn't get it that the little girl was still wondering where the gun was.
I felt this man's words laugh at me when he told the police it was consensual. “What about when I said stop or no?” I wondered. He was careful to stay close to the truth. He could. He knew I had froze and had stopped fighting. He knew I couldn't prove I wasn't saying yes, by not continuing to say no. His only denials to my story came around the parts where I did resist and when I did say no. They were the only inconsistencies in our stories.
To my surprise the police found adequate reasons to pass the case along to the DA. For the first time in two months I felt hopeful. Maybe, just maybe I would finally be heard. The ADA assigned was supposedly a great supporter of victim's rights. If anyone was going to be able to help my younger self find her voice it was her.
Instead, the waiting continued. When I finally met up with my substitute advocate, my hope was dwindling. There in an office in the government building in Santa Cruz, I finally met the woman who was supposed to have my best interests at heart. With her, was an investicator armed with a tape recorded and an arsenal of “What do you mean you were still a virgin to consensual sex?” “How old were you when you were molested?” “Don't you think not really having had sex before might have made it more ambiguous as to whether you really said no or not?”
Soon into the retelling of my story I began to actually wonder who had committed the crime. Was it the man who tortured me or was it my history of sexual abuse that was to be on trial. How did my being virginal make his ignoring me say no ok? How did being raped by my father translate into not being able to recognize rape by someone else? I left even more traumatized, feeling I would never be listened to. I felt confused as to whether it was the rape or the molest they were more interested in. Again my secret was used against me. I saw them as no different from my rapist. Would adults ever believe me? Like my mother's response to my accusations against my father, there was an air of disbelief. A lack of understanding that I had no reason to make these things up. Why would I put myself through three months of hell because of one night of regret as they suggested. Funny thing is I have never believed in regret in general and wasn't sure why I would start now.
The final call came three weeks later. I was sitting at my desk at work listening to her voice tell me her decision. “It's his word against yours.” “There isn't enough evidence.” “We couldn't win the case”. These phrases flew around in my head. Suddenly I felt myself shut off. I heard a stranger's oice say “than you” and decline any questions at this time. That same voice told other about the DA office's decision. Broken and defeated I stopped believing in the process I had just been through.
For almost nine months I stayed in that hidden place. As the first anniversary approached my what was left of my sanity dissolved. One night I found myself with a blade in my had for the first time in six years. I saw the skin break and the blood escape as I finally found release from the pain. That jolt brought me back. This wouldn't do. I wouldn't not hurt myself again because of someone else's crimes.
June 11, 2000 I wrote my rapist a letter. I found my voice. I wrote the words I wasn't allowed to say in court. I would not be ignored. The healing began.
June 11, 2002 I went on my first date since the rape. I learned again that all men are not the same. I could show my little girl her secret was not her fault.
June 11, 2003 I stood in front of a room full of strangers and read this story. Freed by letting go of the silence.
June 11 year after year I grow stronger. Each year I recognize the date for what I survived. I will never forget.
As I look around my life as the 14th anniversary approaches next month I am thrilled by what I see. I am in a long term committed relationship with someone who loves me greatly. I have found family and friends I thought I would never have. I am happy. The gargoyle still sits perched above me in a corner of my room watching over me. The healing continues.