DO NOT ANSWER
**This blog shares a narrative regarding sexual assault and violence. Please note we understand the sensitive nature of the topic and read with that in mind.
I started composing this piece at 3 am while thoughts raced through my mind jumbling into emotional sentences suited for the page. I didn’t know where else to put them. They seeped into my conscious and I did not want to hold them. I fell back asleep reciting potential paragraphs a few hours later. And then after a sleepless night I gathered my energy to talk about something I’ve kept fairly secret. Something I keep hearing again and again from others online in various forums.
Several weeks ago my mother bravely announced #Metoo and offered a listening ear to survivors. My mother’s history with the movement is her story to tell but I felt called to credit her courage. It takes guts to not only say “No More” but also to say “I am willing to listen.” Stopping to listen exposes a person to secondary trauma. Listening isn’t for the faint of heart.
So mom…. I’m telling my story. At least a little part. Maybe someone will listen.
Last night as I rolled over in my sleep I glanced at messages on my phone.
In bold letters across the screen I read DO NOT ANSWER.
In 2013, I started dating using online apps to cope with the loss of my marriage. I craved connection and pathetically felt I only served the world best in a relationship. I certainly had no business seeking a relationship: I had an infant, a toxic relationship with my ex, I worked all the time and I sincerely walked the earth as a fragment of myself. But alas, I swiped left and right daily. I accepted invitations to go on dates out of boredom and a sheer need to have a decent meal. I felt equipped to date—I had a pretty face, a cell phone, and boobs. What else did I need? Oh… self-respect. I seemed to have misplaced that in my purse.
I put on a nice bra, cute underwear with no intention to show them to anyone, but having never dated before I used what I saw in movies as my guide for preparing for adult interaction. TV told me lace underwear and pushup bras were necessary components for dating. I loathed the whole ordeal of it all; however, I despised wallowing in loneliness too. I shaved my legs and thought about the food I would order while soaking in the tub. I needed the date to help me escape my empty home while the baby stayed with his father. The quiet pierced loneliness to a numbing degree. Outings required conversation, music and the clink of ice cubes over someone’s whiskey.
Most dates turned out to be nothing but nice conversation and a free meal. And that was ok. The Bear visited with his father or a sitter and each night I’d return home to my apartment. I followed zero dating safety rules and knew nothing about monitoring my one drink. I joined a successful business man on an outing to a local bar for dinner and drinks. He was charming, spoke multiple languages, and read books. He opened doors, used manners and tipped well. I need not worry. All was well.
Fast forward. I started feeling woozy and sillier. My limbs felt more like noodles. My speech slurred. I had one drink---- has it been that long since I actually drank? My gentleman caller politely noted we needed to leave the bar. He planned to drive me back to my car he said. We got into his truck and my keys seemed misplaced. Did I drop my phone? I felt concerned but not on high alert. I was on a date with a nice person, a pillar in the community.
He drove me to his home since we couldn’t recover my keys. With my guard down and my need to be cared for I allowed him to kiss me. Soft pecks shifted to harder pressed kissing . Now my internal alarm alerted me something was amiss. The tone of the date changed dramatically. My brain kept screaming at me to move and put up a stronger fight as he tore my clothes and ripped my necklace off. My body refused to listen to my brain. My mouth couldn’t form words coherently.
I felt trapped in a coma—aware of my surroundings and everything happening around me but completely unable to move my body as my mind willed for it to. I won’t go into graphic detail here… to save my mother and others from their own flashbacks.
I woke up the next morning sleeping on bloody sheets, a massive headache, and hurting all over. He glanced at me smiling. A gun sat precariously on his nightstand. My upstanding citizen thanked me for a nice evening and escorted me to his living room where he handed me the shreds of clothes that no longer buttoned or zipped. He offered me a “sweatshirt a friend left there.” I panicked knowing I had no way to start my car or call for a ride. Noticing my anxiety he handed me my phone and keys. He said he found them in my purse and had a friend go get my car for me. None of this felt right. Normally a talker… I stayed silent.
I drove away in the morning light with the sun glaring in my eyes. I kept wishing I lived farther away. My chest hurt placing my seatbelt across my body.
I entered my sunny apartment greeted by my ex and child. He disapprovingly looked me over and chastised “You’re such a slut.” (This was his weekend with the baby).
“I think I was raped.”
“Then go to the hospital. I don’t care.”
I walked upstairs, drew a bath, and soaked my sore body. I scrubbed and scrubbed my skin until it turned more shades of red and purple. I put on pajamas and prepared to go meet friends for a church sing-along.
I attended the event a shadow. The host pulled me aside and asked me if I felt ok. His concerned glance looked quietly intense.
“I think I was raped last night. I don’t totally remember.”
“I am so sorry.”
“I just think I want to go home.”
Later I had to pick up a friend’s teenage daughter. She noticed I wasn’t the same. I laughed and said I was hungover from a great date. I pretended all the bruises all over my body served as evidence of a fabulous evening. I didn’t know what else to say. I had zero maturity in the matter. I acted like a college kid back from a drunken party. I still ache from that shame.
She saw me wince in pain and suggested we get ice and arnica cream. A 15 year old, a KID, rubbed pain relieving gel on the bruising I couldn’t reach and brought me peas to ice my blackened breasts. She cancelled her plans and sat with me on my couch watching reruns on Netflix. She stayed close so I could sleep. She knew. She understood. She folded a load of laundry while I slept on the couch.
That day changed me to my core. Deep in my guts I altered. Already a survivor of abuse I figured my resolve to prevent victimhood proved strong. But… I failed myself. I didn’t take heed to best practices and advice on safe dating. I cringe thinking how easily I could have prevented that night. I determined after this I was a garbage person. I was a slut like my ex told me. I mean I did put on my finest underwear. That’s a signal to some people right? I placed so much blame on myself.
I rushed into more dating--- anything to think I deserved an ounce of love to remove my “garbage person” status. I tried winning my actual self back. But after a lifetime of trauma, a recent ugly divorce, and then this violation---- I concluded I had no worth. My PTSD does a lot of the talking sometimes here.
I chose to share my #Metoo because if my mother can go on Facebook and be supportive to others than I can tell my story to encourage women to be safe, to heal, and to stop thinking a relationship defines worth. I need to directly address the feeling many women experience after a big break up: the loss of value and as a result they loosen boundaries that can have lasting impacts. I don’t want this to keep happening to women, to anyone for that matter. I must advocate for the voices I seek and can be.
It occurred to me at 3 am (after the man that raped me texted me casually in the middle of the night sitting next to his new wife) that in his mind he felt he did no wrong. I didn’t report him. He was an upstanding citizen with his name next to organizations as a proud sponsor. I even accepted an invitation to meet up with mutual friends at his invitation (I ultimately didn’t go).
I pretended it didn’t happen. By choosing to pretend, to wish him away, I granted him permission to prey on me and possibly others. And last night at 3 am he tried to prey on me again. My boyfriend, someone who actually loves me, helped me manage that trigger.
I’m not the fragile human he met over a stupid a dating app anymore. I no longer hide in relationships to mask my insecurity. I crusade to help women find a voice that speaks to them. I take risks of the heart to prove it’s possible to heal. It’s possible to challenge yourself to embrace new health over familiar dysfunction. Friends, strangers…. be safe. When you hit the ground running looking for love practice caution. The marks faded but the idea my son could have lost his mother to a predatory being makes my stomach turn. What if he had used that gun so nonchalantly placed on his desk?
My son saved me the day I learned he started growing in my belly so I owe it to him to be around to watch him grow as a wild, free, respectful boy. My son needs me. This simple mistake almost cost me my life. To make matters worse it altered the quality of my life drastically. Yet my tenacity to be the best, most loving, and alive mother for him drives me to tell you:
You do your child no good if you aren’t here to raise him.
Be brave. Be kind.
Have you experienced sexual assault?
Get support from SAVA: Sexual Assault Victims Center
SAVA’s Direct Victim Services include:
24-Hour Rape Crisis Hotline – Call us at any time: (970) 472-4200 or (877) 352-7273.
Individual Advocacy – Medical and legal advocacy to help survivors understand their rights and options.
Therapy – Sliding scale therapy for those affected by sexual assault.
Support Groups – Weekly groups for primary and secondary survivors of sexual assault.
Safe Dating Tips: