I told myself that if I just so happened to place in a writing contest I entered, that I'd throw up the entry. Not so much to toot my own horn necessarily, but because I felt that maybe, just maybe, it'd be an important one to throw out there. There's a purpose to this piece. I entered the creative non-fiction category. Read on if you're interested...
At 1:50 P.M every Monday, a beat up Hyundai Elantra steadily makes its way to a pair of brown buildings on the east side of Tempe.
She sighs heavily; she’s made it just in time for her 2 o’clock appointment. She gets out of the car and adjusts her aviator sunglasses; she would prefer if no one got a good look at her eyes. They would give a lot away.
On the way out of the appointment, each week like clockwork, the first girl passes a second girl. They edge past each other easily, but for how young they are; there is not bounce to their step. Both girls look a lot alike, long dark hair, deep-set dark eyes, and similar height. They share much more than just physical qualities, they share a purpose for being in the same place every Monday afternoon.
The sun glints off the glass door as she shuts it behind her. She turns to look at the sign mounted on the door, “A safe haven for the survivors of sexual crimes.”
It was just a few hours spent at a party over Thanksgiving weekend, I am often floored that what transpired in those few hours would turn my life upside down for the next eleven months.
There is a question that is clearly reflected in both young women’s eyes as they pass another and offer half smiles.
The first girl asked with her eyes, “How much have you suffered like I’ve suffered?” The second girl responded with a pointed look that seemed to say it all. “I’ve suffered a lot, and I know you have too.”
Since that dark and hurtful incident, I have questioned much of what I’ve done. My thoughts, my decisions, my interactions, the intentions of others, anything that could be questioned are and were questioned. A lack of trust in myself is where I have suffered most.
There is a stigma that most males, and even a large number of females have in their mind that a victim of rape ‘must have been asking for it.’ That female was advertising her cleavage, this female was drinking shots of tequila, and the list goes on. Me? I was wearing a zip-up hoodie and skinny jeans. I believed myself to be drinking amongst friends, so I did let loose a bit more than normal. No victim asks for ‘it’, those who believe so are sadly mistaken.
There is an irony to what happened to me, that holiday weekend was going to be my last period of drinking for a few months. I had plans to go into a ‘dry season’. I wasn’t an avid party girl. That’s another misconception, that it is the party girl that gets raped. No, not true, I was the laid-back girl that preferred going to art walks and coffee shops that was caught in the wrong place this time.
Both girls pass each other like clockwork, and while their eyes may have said one thing to each other, they both made a point to walk tall and upright past each other. It was always in both girls’ minds that how tall they could walk past another that week was a progress report of their resilience.
I didn't post this up here for sympathy, I don't need your pity, and if you look at me differently now, well, that's too damn bad. I wrote this for awareness. I know too many girls that didn't have it in 'em to say shit about what happened to them. Perhaps they had no outlet for the pain and numbness, or a friend to confide in, or family to back them up, or they were just ashamed. I have seen beautiful friends suffer and it really tore me up, watching as an outside third party, I would see imperceptible changes occur. They would get lost, lose sight of things, themselves, their goals, and most importantly, their worth.
I have felt all these emotions and ten times that, but what I saw ultimately served as an example as what I did not want to do. I didn't have the time or desire to get lost, if I could help it, I wanted to reach for more for myself and get myself the help and support that I needed.
As of next Friday, Black Friday (interesting irony huh?), it will have been a year since I climbed out of the dark hole I was pushed in and I can say wholeheartedly, I'm doing a lot better. It's left its mark, no doubt about that, but my end goal is to not let this occurrence define who I am, for it to be something that, simply stated, is a thing of the past. It broke me for a while, but I am repairing myself.
Real talk, I told myself if I won, that I wanted my experience to help educate someone else and create awareness. It was the whole purpose for writing what I did, along with release for me. It gets easier to talk about what happened and I took a risk with this, but I felt that in the end it could be worth it.
Because if this has ever been you, I promise you, you do not have the scarlet letter V, for victim, branded on you. You have an S on you, for sobreviviente, or in English, survivor. S is for survivor. You're not alone. Know this.
P.s. Thank you Kayta, for cementing my decision with this. You're the best.