Updated: May 15, 2019
Blogging is hard for me. I am not an on-demand writer. Creation without emotional motivation just feels like an empty thing. This may not hold true for every writer, but the quickest way I develop writer’s block is to try to force my muse into line.
Pain. That’s most of what drives my writing. Reflecting on it, I don’t think there’s a single short story, poem or chapter in the Shattered Lives Chronicles written without a traumatizing experience as the precursor. And the more devastating, the darker the writing. For instance, the original Corbin was not a victim of extreme child abuse. The second version of him was neglected as a child and verbally attacked by his father as an adult, but it wasn’t until last year when I was on the verge of killing myself that I created the 13-page description of the Manning Brainwashing Program.
Sexism. Chauvinism. Sadism. Homicidal. Patricidal. Patriarchal. Madness. Every last one of those fuckers has a mental disorder. I even drew up documents for Michael, William, Kyle, and Corbin’s mental evaluations, complete with diagnoses, the exact symptoms they suffer and possible treatments.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because I wrote a rape culture novel to deal with the sexual assaults I have endured. And today, I faced one of them in a way I have never done before. Maybe I prevented another victim this time. I waited too fucking long to do it, sure. But I did something.
In September of last year, a co-worker grabbed my hips. I was shocked. I started making excuses for him in my head. Reasons he might not have meant it. It had to be an accident, right? I went home early that day and I cried. Things had been going so well, after coming off a project that was hell I felt like the co-worker and I were an actual team. How could this happen? What was I to do?
I worked from home the following day and resolved to handle it myself. I called him on the phone and I said “you know, I feel we work well together. But yesterday you did something that was inappropriate and made me uncomfortable. I need for it to not happen again so we can continue working as a team.” He apologized profusely, saying he was sorry for making me uncomfortable and putting us both in this position. He said it would never happen again. I believed him. Things went back to somewhat normal and I felt I had succeeded in being an adult and dealing with the situation assertively to an effective end. And nothing like that happened again.
Until my last day with that company.
We were talking as I was leaving. Standing at my car I got this bad vibe. I remember thinking “he’s not going to try to kiss me. He couldn’t be that dumb.” He wasn’t that dumb, but he was still stupid. He asked me for a kiss. I immediately said no. He got angry and started to raise his voice at me. Insisting he wasn’t trying to make me uncomfortable; that he was “just going to miss me, that’s all”. He continued to pressure me, saying it was just as friends. Demanding at least one kiss on the cheek as he gestured to it and pushed his face closer.
That was several months ago. The humiliation and anger was potent. But who the fuck was I going to tell? We were alone in the parking area, so it’s not like I had witnesses. It was my last goddamned day there, maybe I could just move on with my life like nothing happened.
It doesn’t work like that. Anyone who has ever been assaulted, coerced or harassed knows this. Anger and humiliation turn to rage and self-blame. Why did I let him do that to me? How could I have been the stupid one to put myself in that position? We were alone, who is going to believe me? It boiled inside, overcooking my internal organs and poisoning my thoughts. I saw a post on Facebook where someone was touched inappropriately at work and the offender was swiftly dealt with. I was so overcome with resentful fury that I hid the thread. Rational thought told me I didn’t report what happened like she did, but my brain came up with all the reasons my situation would be different even if I did speak up. That I would not have justice, even if I said something immediately. The sad part is I really did have some good examples of why it would be best to suffer in silence. Instances of others who were put in similar positions by men they worked with who not only did not get justice, but were shamed and made to feel like they were not important enough to warrant protection from physical harm.
But then something else started to gnaw at me. I had women friends who still worked at that company. What if he did the same thing to them? After all, he apologized after assaulting me, only to turn around and use coercion nine months later. Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention he called me a week after the fit he threw over me not wanting to kiss him and apologized for that, too. Said the same shit. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I should never have put you in that situation.” Isn’t it the cliché that most abusers are sorry after they offend? His first sorry didn’t mean he wouldn’t do it to me again, why the fuck would the second one mean he wouldn’t do it to someone else.
Still, tried to ignore it and move on. It was too late, anyway, right? But the whole Kavanaugh thing hit the media and the rage, shame and betrayal rushed back in on me. Don’t get me wrong, I know my co-worker didn’t rape me. I’ve been in that position, too. An ex-boyfriend forced himself on me 15 years ago. No, I didn’t report because who the fuck would believe I begged the guy I loved NOT to have sex with me? Same goddamn thing. The rage just continues to swell. How is it the actions of others can make me feel like I’M the shitty person? I’ve always considered myself strong, how is it that I failed to create hell for those who violated me? How did I ever sit there in silence and try to pretend I didn’t go through those things?
Simple. The reason is everywhere right now. I can’t turn on the fucking radio or go online without seeing all the victim blaming; some of it from my friends who are women! It’s all a bunch of ‘he said/she said’ and the ‘he said’ is believed a lot more often than what she said. Women may have rights these days, but they still try to muzzle us. To shove us into this little box where we can be seen but not heard.
I have never considered myself a feminist, but the injustice of feeling like you aren’t safe to stand up for physical rights to your own body is bullshit. The fact most sexual assaults and harassment go unreported is bullshit, but who wants to relive the horror just to have people doubt you. Blame you, even. Why would you want to relive it again and again and again and again as it continues to destroy your fucking soul?
When I was raped by my ex, know what I did? First I tried to make it okay by telling myself he really loves me. I stayed for a couple days, only to realize that wasn’t the case. It was territorial, nothing more. I broke up with him because it wasn’t working out, and he reacted by reinstating his claim through force. So I went and stood by the side of a busy highway with every intention of throwing myself into a speeding semi. As I stood there with silent tears streaming down my cheeks, a voice asked me what I was doing. A complete stranger talked me down that day. He talked with me on the side of the road for over an hour as I bawled. He then took down my number and called me everyday for a few days to make sure I was not on the side of another street about to take my life and ruin someone else’s.
Grief does some fucked up shit to your head.
So today, I relinquished a small portion of the guilt my co-worker left me with by letting someone at my former company know not to let that fucker be alone with other women. Then I broke down in panic attacks at the side of my office building where no one could see me because I was terrified my friend would dismiss my confession. It was not a logical thought; that’s not who my friend is. Still, I haven’t eaten all day because I’m too consumed with anxiety. I fear alienation. I fear doubt. I fear judgement. I fear disappointing my support network. And I fear retaliation.
Most of all, I hate that I still feel like a fucking victim. I hate that I’m still trying to bury these emotions and downplay the severity of what was done and how it made me feel. I hate that every time I go online or switch on a radio, I’m filled with so much rage. Victims of sexual abuse should be able to come forward without fear of being persecuted and drug through the mud for something that wasn’t their fault. Something they DID NOT ask for and would never want.
So I write. I write to escape the rage. I write to make my characters go through worse so my pain doesn’t seem so bad. I write so I can control my universe... or at least control SOMETHING. Eventually, all the writing allows my brain to process these wrongs. But things never fully heal. They just scab over. And maybe that’s the most I’ll ever be able to hope for.