Personal Statement: I don’t know how to write this article
Editor's note: The author of this piece remains anonymous to protect their identity.
I don’t know how to write this article.
I have been trying to write it for hours, for weeks, for months, for years now, but every time I sit down to write this article, my words jumble, my brain shuts down, and my page stays blank.
I don’t know how to write this article, but I know I want to. And I think I have to.
It’s not because I don’t know what to say. It’s because I have too much to tell. I want to write a lot of things. How I still remember the filthy bathroom in his house. How that visceral image — of that grimy, dirty bathroom — is what, strangely, haunts me most. I want to write about how it’s ironic that I watched “Spring Awakening,” hours before, because the musical is about a loss of innocence. I want to write about when, a few weeks after, I had a sip of hard cider and how that single sip was met with a sharp pain in my gut and wet tears on my cheeks. How I ran to the bathroom after that sip and experienced what would be the first of countless panic attacks, as I fought off flashbacks I didn’t want to remember.
I want to write about how big the needle looked at University Health Services, and how alone I felt when the nurse pressed that sharp, long pin into my left butt cheek. How I laughed nervously when she told me the shot was to counteract HIV, since there was no way of knowing if I’d been exposed or not.
How I can’t walk down East University Avenue without remembering that we stopped on the street in his car that night, and how I wish I could remember why I didn’t get out and run.
How I don’t know why, but thinking about coconut water makes me sick, because it brings back a hazy image of something — something I think might be important but can’t quite place. Thinking about coconut water invites a faint, fuzzy memory of a dark room that I can see and I can hear — but everything is distorted and nothing makes sense.
I want to write about how I ate at Frita Batidos after going to the police station with my mother, and it is only years later that I realize how hard that day must have been for her. How I’m grateful of the care she took with me, how watchful she was as I ate my burger. How before I went to speak with the officer, she pressed a small ceramic token in my hand and told me it was full of love. How I’d laughed at the sappiness of her actions, when only now I realize she was doing everything she could and knew it would never be enough.
How after my mother took me to the police station, I received a text from my father telling me how much he loved me and how sorry he was for me. How it broke my heart to read it. How I wished my father had never found out what had happened to his daughter.
I want to write how grateful I am for the friends who recognized I was hurting and stuck by my side. How my roommate checked to make sure I got out of bed in the morning. How they religiously ensured I never had to sit in the front seat of an Uber. How they threw me a surprise 20th birthday party and how I thought it was because they wanted to, but now, I realize it was because they needed to. How they watched me carefully two years ago and watch me carefully today. How they know I’m broken but still want to be my friend.
There’s the story of my first therapist, who asked why I didn’t feel guiltier about what happened. Asked why I was surprised, because I was drunk and alone that night, and I shouldn’t have put myself in that position. How, though she never outwardly said the words, she thought it was my fault and I should think it was too.
How I was “fine” for a while, but was never really OK. How I spent a year and a half having meaningless sex with whoever paid the slightest bit of attention. How I desperately grasped at any semblance of normalcy and how I gave up my self-worth in the process. How I convinced myself I didn’t need intimacy or affection.
How I learned not to trust anyone. How people will disappoint you. How I learned that no one wants to talk about what happened. How it makes them uncomfortable. How people distance themselves from what scares them. How they’ll live normal lives and mine will be anything but. How easy it is to believe no one cares if you’re dead or alive.
I want to write that I can’t connect with the women coming forward in Hollywood and on Facebook, and how I feel ashamed for it. How those stories make me feel worse. That my experience is both minimized and heightened by this barrage of revelations. That it doesn’t help knowing I’m not alone in my struggle because I never thought I was. That I am glad it will benefit women in the future, but selfishly, I am bitter it will not change a thing for me.
How the Friday of the third week of November is the hardest day because that’s when it happened to me.
How I wonder if he thinks of it too, and if he feels guilty. If he knows what he did was wrong. I wonder if he has a family now, or a wife, or a girlfriend, or a job. I wonder where he lives. I wonder what he reads. I wonder what he does on the weekends. I wonder if he wonders.
I think about what I’d say if I saw him. I think about it and my stomach tightens and I start to shake. I think about how I’d ask if he remembers me, and tell him that what he did was sick, and wrong, and evil, and remind him that I was 19 and he was 35 and I was a drunk kid going home and he was an adult who was supposed to get me there. I think about how I’d ask if he drugged me, because I wonder every day and know I’ll never know. I think about how I’d tell him all of the things he took away from me. I think about how I’d tell him I’m scared of everything. I think about how I’d tell him I have panic attacks in bars and restaurants and in class and with friends and during sex and when I’m sleeping and when I’m walking and when I’m thinking and when I’m breathing.
I think about how I’d tell him all of this, and then I think about how I’d punch him in the face.
I want to write that I am very broken, and have PTSD, and will probably always be a little bit not OK. I want to write that I am not just a victim or a survivor or an anecdote or a statistic. I want to write that I am a person. A living, breathing, person. I want to write that I’m proud of who I’ve become in spite of it all.
I don’t want to write about what happened, because I can’t. I can’t write about what happened, because I don’t remember. I won’t write about what happened, because that’s not what defines the past two years of my life.
What defines the past two years is a mess of high and low, of good and bad, of pain and pleasure. What defines the past two years is learning to depend on my parents. What defines the past two years is the darkness pushing me to give up and the light urging me to fight. What defines the past two years is an experience that taught me life is short, and things can change in a moment. What defines the past two years is that there’s many more to come.
I have been trying to write this article for two years. For two years, I have fallen short. For two years, I could not write about what happened because to write this article would be to accept what happened to me as real.
I wanted to write that two years ago I was raped, but I just didn't know how to write this article.