I wrote this poem when the first man who raped me died. In the summer of 2016, N* died of leukemia and Brock Turner served 90 (!) days in Palo Alto County jail on three charges for sexually assaulting a woman identified then only as Emily Doe.
I don’t want to tell the details of what happened to me anymore. I’ve shared it. Drunk. With new boyfriends and bartenders and strangers. Sober. With therapists and councilors and close friends. He shared it. With MySpace and Facebook and his friends and acquaintances at each of the bars that I worked at after it happened, mocking me and crafting his version with me as a desperate tease and him as someone so desirable I couldn’t help myself.
And he wasn’t the last. The other men who did the same…I told them all what they did to me. Faced them directly to say that I didn’t want it, that I wasn’t ok. They all said the same thing — “are you saying I abused you? Are you kidding me?”
And I would cry and try to explain, or give up and say “never mind, you’re right, I was just…I must have been more drunk than I thought…” or “nevermind, yeah it was… fun…” and the story would change. Guilt filled the space where powerlessness had been. Blame shifted to shame and my punishment would follow closely behind — in self-harm or bottles or saying “yes” when I really meant “no,” so that I could be the one in control.
I never went to the police. I never charged them with a crime. Because my mother told me it would ruin my life for no reason. That they wouldn’t believe me. That I’m not white. That I drink. That I was young. That I slept around. That they would drag out everyone who knew me to tarnish my character. That if the men didn’t admit their guilt, then I would be left publicly humiliated and they would only gain in social status for having been “wanted.” And as disgusting as it feels to say, she told me the truth.
“are you saying I abused you? Are you kidding me?”
But when N* died, for the first time it felt like my story got to be mine. That my truth got to be true. I recognize how problematic that is. I…