Browsing Tag

violence

Abuse, Guest Posts

F*ck Self-Help

October 21, 2018
By Zoe Brigley

Because I work and teach on domestic violence, people sometimes write to me unexpectedly with their own stories. They are usually women (though abuse does happen to men and non-binary folks too), and often they have questions about whether a partner’s behavior is abusive. Very often it is.

Sometimes these can be liberating stories. A woman once wrote to say that finally, after ten years of an abusive relationship, she had left, and her life had changed irrevocably. Food was more flavorsome, smells were more vivid, colors luminous, as if she had been imprisoned in grey world.

Other stories are less comforting. I spent a month writing back and forth with a friend on Facebook living in another country. Her abusive boyfriend had dumped her, except she wasn’t really dumped: it was more a test to see how much she would put up with before he took her back. We talked many times about working to forget him, and to create a new life. Then one day on Facebook, she posted a photograph of the two of them on vacation, relaxing at a beachfront hotel. She stopped writing to me then, and while I hope that she is happy, I can’t help thinking about what I could or should have done to help her. Continue Reading…

Activism, Grief, Guest Posts, motherhood

“17”- A Poem Plus an excerpt from “Good Cop, Bad Daughter” by Karen Lynch

March 14, 2018

By Karen Lynch. 

17

When you were born, I nestled you in my arms and nursed you on demand to help build your immune system and keep you safe from disease.
933 breast feedings

When you were 18 months old, I cut your grapes in half to keep you safe from choking.
3,406 grapes sliced

When you were 2, I bought you the bicycle helmet ranked highest by Parenting Magazine.
5,327 miles peddled

When you were five, six, seven, I let you watch only PBS kids to keep you innocent of the violence in the world as long as possible.
1,273 episodes Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood watched.

When you were 12, I let you ride your bike across town and prayed for your safety as I waited for your call.
17 petitions offered up to the universe.

When you were sick and no one knew why, I took you to a faraway clinic and found a doctor to heal you.
522 miles driven, 4 doctors seen, 18 bottles supplements purchased.

When you were 16, I found the best driving instructor in the county. I told you to call me for a ride anytime, no questions asked.
2 speeding tickets, 1 fender bender, 0 calls for pickup.

When you left for school today, I gave you an organic Fuji apple with your whole wheat almond butter sandwich. I reminded you to eat fruit and veggies in college next year.
2,367 Fuji apples washed and sliced.
1 Valentine slipped into your backpack.

When the deputy called this afternoon, I was selecting your senior picture.
17 dead. 15 wounded. 152 shots fired.

Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Hope

When Despair Tried To Settle

November 23, 2016
despair

By Melanie Brooks

On a Sunday morning in June, when my sixteen-year-old son reported the news that a gunman had walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, pointed his assault rifle at a festive crowd of people dancing to a Latin beat, and gunned down over one hundred of them, killing forty-nine, I felt it. An unseen hand reaching into my chest, grabbing my heart, and squeezing. Hard. Its fingernails punctured, leaving behind aching wounds.

The ache intensified with every new photograph or video of victims fleeing the horror of the scene, every interview with family members who learned their loved ones were among the dead, every narrative of a beautiful life taken, every media brief on the ongoing investigation that solidified the gunman’s motives of terror and hate.

There was an enticing drag to the hate that pulled at me in the days that followed, and my anger flared. Targets for my fury, the ones that crept into my social media feed or sought sound bites on the news, weren’t tough to find. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Hope

Detangling the Knot

September 1, 2016
hope

By Jennifer Rieger

People close to me know that I have psychosomatic reactions to stress. Many do, but sometimes mine are downright bizarre. When I found out I was pregnant, I kept getting these muscle spasms… in my face. As I studied for the Praxis Exams, I had a relentless burning sensation in my left boob. When I was writing my Master’s thesis, my tongue felt like it itched, for weeks. A few years ago, my work kept getting rejected by every publication I sent it to, and the blood vessels in my left eye burst causing a two-month scary zombie eye. My students couldn’t even look at me! I contend with these nuisances, but my typical reaction, and I believe the one most common to normal individuals, is the lump I get in my throat. It’s different than my stress symptoms though. I imagine it as an intricate little ball of nerves woven together in times of sadness and pain—when life is too much to bear, and I can’t seem to find the right words. A little bit of wine, but not too much, can provide temporary relief. Overindulgence usually results in one pathetic alter-ego that even my husband, God love him, cringes to deal with. The one thing that really helps globus—the proper medical term for Jen Rieger’s imaginary, but very annoying, lump—is time. Ah, time, that selfish, fickle bitch that quickens at every lovely occasion and halts at every boring and difficult moment of life. The knot has appeared at sudden moments of sadness, or even weeks later causing me to run to the doctor’s office in a state of hypochondriatic frenzy crying, “It’s cancer, isn’t it?” It’s there when loved ones pass, when my own child is sad, and when favorite graduates leave me.

It reappeared this summer just by watching the news. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Relationships

What It Feels Like When Someone You Love Threatens to Kill You

March 5, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Cheryl Yanek.

Every moment is in slow motion. How the roughness of the chair feels against your shoulder blades. How the scissors pressed against your neck feel so cold. So cold. How you think, “Everyone will just blame me.” How he tells you they’ll laugh at you when you tell him you’re going to call the police.

You don’t call the cops, but later, always, wish you did. Even though you lived. You want him to be punished. Still. Even today.

To love this kind of person is to never forget. How even when you remember the good times, you think, “He tried to kill me. He threatened to kill me. He tried to kill my cat.”

Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Women

Why She Stays.

November 30, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Carin Makuz 

When the feel of his fist is fresh on her face…

Why does she stay??

It’s always the first question and it’s worse when there’s money involved, the implication being she stays for that, for the lifestyle. Right. The lifestyle…

And the answers,  they’ve been all over social media recently but they’re not new. The sad truth is they’ll still be valid long after we stop listening, stop talking about it.

And so… we should not stop.

**

 

Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love

I Am A Woman Who Survived.

June 5, 2014

*Update: This post got The Manifest-Station awarded the “Freshly Pressed” Award! Brava, Janine! Jen here. I have a broken foot as many of you know, so I am giving the site all my attention right now. I am over the moon with the posts these days! Pinching myself! Today’s essay is one I hope you will read and share and help me make viral. This is so well-written, so important. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has known abuse- you are not alone. And you don’t need to stay. Janine Canty, you blew me away with this beautifully nuanced and heartbreaking piece.

Simplereminders.com

Simplereminders.com

I Am A Woman Who Survived. By Janine Canty. Every October I wear a purple ribbon. It represents women who have lost their lives to senseless violence. It represents men and children who have lost their lives to senseless violence. It represents people who died too young, with most of their words still inside them. It represents the empty place at a table. It represents a voice forever silenced by familiar hands. It also represents endurance and survival. It represents the years I endured. The seventeen years I survived inside the basement apartment, and on a floor in my Mother-In-Law’s den, and in a pretty little brown house affordable because it was in a flood zone, and in the blue house with the failing septic system. That little piece of ribbon represents the times I was too afraid to speak. Or move. Or cry. Or breathe. That little piece of ribbon celebrates the me I grew up to be. I earned that ribbon. I love that ribbon, and I hate that ribbon. It reminds me that we live in a world capable of beauty, and brutality. It reminds me of a hunger that can’t be curbed or controlled. It reminds me that I want my granddaughters to grow up believing that hands are gentle, and strong, and wonderful. They are things designed to caress, and to hold. They are designed to build foundations, and to express oneself with chalk, and ink, pencil, and crayon. To immortalize childhood in clay. Hands are not weapons. They are not a punishment. They are not something to be afraid of. They are not something to flinch from .I want them to grow up, and have homes where they never have to be afraid. To speak. Or move. Or cry. Or breathe. I want them to grow up to have partners who make them feel valued, and beautiful. I want them to look in the mirror, and see something besides despair. Or fear. I want them to see, and feel, taste, and experience their own beauty. I want them to believe in that beauty. Every October I stand with strangers, and with friends, and neighbors. I stand with policemen in the dusk, and the rain, and the wind. I walk alongside people with similar stories. I carry a candle in the dark. Sometimes I speak a strangers name. Always I cry for someone I never met. Every October I remember that I’m free and I’m alive, and I am humbled at what a simple gift it is to open my eyes in the morning. I am amazed at the sound of my own laughter. I am in awe at the singular joy found in hot water, and at the bottom of a shampoo bottle. After you’ve lived in the dark, the long lines at WalMart, and a walk through the supermarket, are friggin’ adventures. Like dancing under the rainbow. Every October I am a little older, and hopefully a little wiser. I look in the mirror, and the broken woman that I was, the one who walked down that driveway,in November of 2000, she’s a memory. She’s all about the things that happened to me. The woman in the mirror, the one you see at Wal Mart, and the dairy bar, and laughing over a med cart in the nursing home, she’s who I am. Who I became in spite of all the damage, and because of the damage. She’s all the parts that survived the run through fire, and came out on the other side, with new, unblistered skin. Every October the question inevitably comes up. The question I hate. The question I am beginning to think has no answer. “Why did you stay”? I’ve discussed this. I’ve sat on the nightly news. I’ve talked to the newspaper. I’ve talked to countless women and even a few men on a hotline. I’ve stood at a podium in the State House, and addressed legislature. I am a woman who survived 17 years with an abusive man. I am a woman who loves words. I am told I can be an eloquent speaker/ writer/ person/ whatever. I am not eloquent when it comes to that question. I don’t know why your daughter/sister/ niece/ cousin/ brother/ son, stays. I don’t know why some people grow up with hatred where a heart once was. A rage that overtakes the soul. I don’t know why people hurt people. There’s fear. I know about fear. Everybody who’s ever seen a spider, or a snake, knows fear. Everybody who’s ever stood up to speak in a crowded room, knows fear. Anyone who’s gotten married, given birth, or started a new job, has strapped fear on like an apron. Anyone who’s ever found an unexpected lump in the shower, knows what it is to sit in the shadows, with the icy fingers of fear. Fear of the unknown. It’s a biggie, right? Fear is a mountain full of mean. Fear freezes, and cripples, and destroys. Fear sucks. Fear is power and heat. If fear could be bottled, cancer would be cured, and there would be no more war. Every October I put on a purple ribbon, and I hope for something better in my world, and in yours. I hope that one person somewhere, just one, will understand. One person will see, that if they are being terrorized within the four walls of their home, it’s as much a crime as a mugging on the street. I hope for more education for teachers, and volunteers, and the police force. For judges, and employers, Parents, and children. Victims and survivors. I hope for someone more eloquent than I, to explain this in a few simple words. I hope for just one person to believe that they don’t deserve to close their eyes beside fear each night. They don’t deserve to wake up afraid of what the sunshine in a new day will bring. Every October it’s 1978 again. I am 13, and in a brand new town. I have eyeglasses, and a haircut that I hate. I have a little sister that could give the breck girl a run for her money. I want thin thighs. I want to be able to jump over the hobby horse in gym. I want to grow up to be a writer. Or an actress. I want to be everything I’m not. Confident and beautiful. I want to live in New York. My first kiss from a boy hurts. My skin turns angry colors underneath his hand. He demands a kiss, and I obey without thinking about it. Because my arm feels like it’s going to snap. Because I am afraid in a way I have never been before. Because I am 13, and I don’t know any better. I don’t see things like respect, and self love as viable options for myself. Afterwards, he laughs. Maybe this is just the way boys are. Maybe this is normal. Maybe I’m as abnormal and weird as I feel at 13. I am addicted to the ABC Afterschool Specials. They talk against drinking, and drugs. They warn about strangers touching you in a private place. Everyone gets a happy ending in 45 minutes. What’s not to love, as the credits roll, and the Bee Gees sing “How do you mend a broken heart”? It’s 1981. I have acne to go with my chubby thighs. I’ve never conquered the hobby horse in gym. Crowded locker rooms, and scratchy towels that smell like other people’s sweat, are never going to be my thing. I’m courting an eating disorder while scarfing down Town Spa pizza. I want to live in Europe. I want to drive a sports car with the top down. I want contact lenses. I want not to be sixteen, with chubby thighs, and acne. The boy next door plays the guitar for me, with deceptively gentle hands. He tells me I’m beautiful. I believe him, as I nurse bruises his teeth have left against my mouth. I have seen my father on his knees. I have seen my parents ready to kill one another over a can of flat beer. I have seen my father in handcuffs, and packing a suitcase. I’ve seen him walking away, and I’ve seen him coming back. I am never getting married. I am never having babies. It’s 1983. I am 18. I put on a borrowed wedding dress. I walk down the aisle, towards the boy next door. I’m carrying a bouquet in shaking hands, and a baby in my belly. My mother has stopped crying long enough to put on a kick ass purple, Mother of the Bride, dress. She looks stunning. She also looks cold and dazed. My sister is crying softly beside me. She tells me how romantic it is, as she holds my bouquet while I’m sick. She asks me if she can have my stereo and posters. She asks me what it feels like. I ask her to shut up. My father puts down the Rosary he’s held for 3 weeks, to walk me down the aisle. He looks like he’s craving that flat beer. I’m just enough of a Catholic girl to understand that I disappointed Jesus by having condomless sex before marriage. I’m just enough of a Daddy’s girl to be devastated at the look on my Father’s face during our shared, silent, march down the aisle. I am 18. I am married. I have never cooked a meal. I have never driven a car. My sister is barely 15. She dances too closely with the 20 year old best man. she catches the bouquet, and finds herself lost in her first pair of brown male eyes. My groom has been drunk since 10 am, when he drove to the church listening to David Bowies “Modern Love”. His arm was dangling out a window. An early December sun was in his eyes. My future was nearly derailed by a rusted out red Chevy running a light. Later, he gave thanks under an altar as he kissed me. He tasted like Listerine, and Michelob, and Copper.   It’s 1989. I have 3 beautiful babies. I have bruises, but they’re in places only I can see. I have a voice growing rusty from lack of use. I answer to names you wouldn’t call an animal. He tells me I’m ugly and fat. I believe him. I don’t have a split lip or a broken bone to show a doctor. This is so clearly not the Farrah Fawcett, “Burning Bed” depiction of abuse. I believe it’s not abuse. My children who’ve never known any other life, believe it. My parents live with it. The few friends I’ve held onto from high school, are driven away by it. My world has diminished to the size of a small bedroom in the back part of my husbands childhood home. I still don’t drive. I don’t yet have a high school diploma. I don’t have friends. I have fear, and 3 beautiful babies, and bruises in places only I can see. It’s 1989, and I’m pregnant again for the fourth time in 5 years. I am 6 months pregnant. I am fat and slow, and I disgust him. I am never fast enough for him. His arm catches me across the chest. Later he’ll say it was an accident, and he never means to get that upset. None of it will matter. All that will matter is the chair I fell over. An ugly green chair, with a rip in the vinyl. Stuffing poking out like cottage cheese. I could be as fat and awkward as the day was long, and maybe, just maybe, that was why my little boy died inside me. None of it mattered after I saw his sweet, silent, face. My little boy died, and he took my belief in happily ever after with him. My baby died, and I hated myself. I hated my husband, and that ugly green chair, and that arm. It’s 1995. We return to the little blue house with the failing septic system. We’d been younger in that house. Calling naivety happiness. How I needed to believe it could be. We ate moose track ice cream out of green Tupperware bowls. We had returned to a familiar place, as different people. Fear lived beside me as unseen as a mosquito in a windstorm. Crippling, freezing, powerful fear . It didn’t show up all of a sudden, it didn’t announce itself with fireworks. It was quiet and insidious. Like mold. It was stale air, and molecules. It wasn’t to be questioned, it just was. I carried fear like a tired child. It was as much a part of me as my arms and legs, and my lazy eye. You can’t play the game if you don’t know what the rules are. You can’t question yourself when you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. When all you’ve known is fear, fear becomes love.. When the body begins dying, the heart turns into a selfish Mofo. It pulls the blood away from the extremities. It hogs all the blood. So that it can continue to beat. So that it can survive. The body becomes colder. It becomes numb. As a medical person, today, I call that mottling. Back then I wouldn’t have known enough to call it survival. My body was amazing, as all bodies are. It allowed itself to become numb. I became numb, I survived. It’s 2000, and something. I’m working in the nursing home. I’ve rediscovered parts of myself I’d forgotten all about. My love of words, and writing. My love of card games, and scrabble, and walks in a warm rain. I am a work in progress. Forgiving myself is still a jigsaw in the making. It’s October. I put on a purple ribbon. I sit on the evening news. People call me brave because of the crap I’ve been through. People called me brave, because I didn’t lay down and die, but at one point I wanted to. I wanted to lay down and die. I wanted to cease existing. I wanted to cease hurting. That’s what strong armed the fear. That’s what numbed me, and then brought me back. My desire to die was where I found my will to live. That’s where I found the capacity to love myself. To forgive myself for things that were beyond my control. That’s where I found the strength to walk down that driveway. Don’t ask me why I stayed. I can’t answer that. Don’t ask me why your sister or neighbor, or friend stays. I can’t answer that. Not in black and white. Not in simple words. It’s individual to the person. Like hair color. Do I suspect fear? The all knowing, all powerful, crippling, freezing, fear? Yeah. I suspect it hides behind the curtains. It keeps company with the shattered dishes. The broken dreams, and the bruises no one else can see. Don’t ask me why I stayed. Ask me why I left. Then put on a purple ribbon, and carry a candle beside me in the dark. 67117_10151138515472569_450235920_n My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.” Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook. I fail at tweeting.   Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature writing/yoga retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. To submit to The Manifest-Station email submissions@jenniferpastiloff.com. Next workshop is London July 6. 

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

You Did Not Cause Your Rape.

February 3, 2014

Note from Jen: Trigger Warning within this post. This post is not written by me. There is graphic mention of rape and sexual assault! I am posting this anonymously, per the author’s request. I think this is such an important step in her healing, but also, this needs to be talked about. This is not your fault, whoever you are. In light of so many recent discussions about the rape culture we live in, I wanted to share this powerful post with you all. Please do not stay silent. Please find what you need, even if you start here with this post and this community on this anonymous blog post. You are NOT alone or at fault. I have been in contact with the author for many months now and this is the first time she has talked about this, let alone written about it. It is beautiful and brave and I bow to her. May you all find the healing you need and the community you need. I hope this is a start. Please post comments to the author as she will read them all. 

***

I never knew going for a run was something I could regret so much.  That I could regret for so long.  That one choice, one night would change the way I look at myself, the way I interact with people – my basic identity and self-esteem so much.  But it did.

I wasn’t even a runner; I was a soccer player.  I played soccer almost every night of the week, year round.  Once every couple months, each team had to take a hit and play in the latest time-slot – kick off didn’t begin until eleven o’clock.  It was a brutal time-slot for most; the moms who would have to get up with their kids in the morning, the twenty-somethings who had to go to work – but I’m a nighthawk and I was a student, so it didn’t matter to me.

My week had been particularly stressful and I was gearing up for a stressful weekend.  It was a long-weekend and all my local family was heading out of town to be with the rest of my family.  I wasn’t able to attend because I was shooting a wedding that weekend and hosting about six people at my place who were coming to the wedding from out of town.  I’m not a great host, I didn’t know the people very well and the wedding was going to be widely attended by guests from a part of my life I was trying to disengage from.

So when I got home from soccer late that night, I was totally wired.  I decided I needed to run off some more anxiety and frustration, so I took off in my soccer gear straight from my driveway and headed to the trails near my house.

The neighborhood I live in is safe.  It is one of the safest in my state.  There’s not a lot of crime here – and the crime that is here is usually frauds and domestics.  Needless to say, crime was never really at the forefront of my mind when I was trying to make choices or discern whether I should do something.  That was probably another mistake.

There’s a half-mile stretch of well-lit sidewalk on a main road when you leave my driveway.  Then you have to go through a parking lot and through a clearing in the woods and down a dirt path to get to the hiking trails of the local nature park.  Once you hit the parking lot, that half mile separates you from the nearest houses.  Once you’re through the clearing, the trees shield your visibility from any passing traffic.  Really, it’s the perfect place to hide.  Or to commit a crime.  But again, that wasn’t on my mind at the time.

Now, I could launch into an explanation about why those things should have been on my mind.  I could talk about my background, my education, the fact that my best friend is a decorated police officer – all the things that should have made me stop and think.  But I wasn’t thinking about those things; I was thinking about other things.  I was thinking about how great the soccer game I’d just played was.  I was thinking about how much cleaning I had to do to prepare for the wedding guests.  I was thinking about how screwed I’d be if it rained that weekend and how that would screw up my photo ideas.  I was thinking about how I wouldn’t get to see my two baby nieces that weekend because I was stuck doing this wedding on a long weekend.

So while I was totally wrapped up in all that, I forgot to be smart.  I forgot to think about myself.  And I made a stupid choice.  Like I said, it’s a choice I am always going to remember.  And it’s a choice that some part of me, even if it is the smallest part possible, is going to blame myself for for the rest of my life.

Because I was raped that night.  Twice.  All those specifics about what would make the area an excellent spot for a crime that I wasn’t thinking about – someone else was thinking about.  And they were waiting.

Which is crazy.  Because… I mean, it was the middle of the night.  And who goes on trails in a park in the middle of the night?  Trails with no houses around?  So who would wait there in the off chance that someone does?  But they did.  And I did.  So it happened.

I think I would have been able to get away if there had been one guy.  My high school made all the girls take self-defense every year in P.E.  I was the most fit I’ve ever been.  I’m strong.  I’m resourceful.  So, if there was just one, I think I would have gotten away.  But there were two.  And I couldn’t get away no matter how hard I tried.

The thing that surprised me the most – and still surprises me today – was how not violent it was.  It was sexually violent, but it wasn’t violent; they didn’t beat the shit out of me, they didn’t try to kill me.  They just restrained me and took turns with me; I had a few bruises from their grasp and a few scrapes from when they pushed me up against a tree or forced me to my knees; one of them hit me once, not even very hard, when I bit him from said position.  But my face showed no signs of violence.  And no one I knew would even bat an eye at scrapes because of my intense soccer schedule.  It’s like they knew exactly what to do to keep me quiet.

If my face had had a bruise on it and someone would have asked me what happened, I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold it in.  Not in the few days following the attack, not while I was still grieving and processing.  If my best friend, the police officer – or my mom – or my sisters, had asked what was wrong, or what happened, I wouldn’t have been able to keep it to myself.  But my family was already gone for the weekend, my best friend didn’t see my until after the wedding and… even looking at photos from the wedding now, I don’t know that I can even tell something terrible had just happened.  So no one asked.

They didn’t ask and I didn’t feel like I could tell them.  Because my best friend is a cop, I know exactly what “rape victims” go through when they report.  You go to a hospital where you strip all your clothes and let a stranger examine every inch of your body for evidence, do a full vaginal exam and give you a bunch of pills to fight unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.  Then you sit in a room with a cop, either male or female (who you already know because your best friend is a cop so you know all her co-workers), and answer questions, explain your story, say the same thing over and over again, so they can see whether you’re lying or not.

And then you try to explain to your cop best friend, who was told what happened by the cop who interviewed you, how you let yourself get raped.  And then no one… ever… looks at you the same way again.

Then they look for the guys but because they’re strangers and they wore condoms, odds aren’t good to begin with.  If they do find them, if they get charged, if they make it to court – everybody knows what happened.  Everybody knows what they did to you.  It becomes a completely public record and the proceedings are open to everyone.

And I cannot speak for other people who have gone through this, but when I was laying on the cold ground in the middle of the night after something like this happened to me, I was only thinking about what other people would think.  So knowing what I knew and knowing who I knew and not really yet understanding the gravity of what happened to me or how my choices following the attack could weigh just as heavy on me as the choices leading up to it, I got up off the ground, composed myself, walked home and sat in the shower in the hottest water I could bare for as long as I could bare and tried to get the feelings I was feeling to wash down the drain.  That may sound like such a clichéd “movie of the week” thing to do, but that was my experience; telling a rape victim not to shower until they’ve sought medical attention is ridiculous.  I understand why they tell you that, but come on; I’ve never felt so dirty and gross and disgusting.

I hadn’t had sex before that.  I was eighteen and “waiting” or whatever (I’d never even had a PAP).  Obviously, I knew what was happening to me; I didn’t grow up under a rock.  But there were so many things I didn’t understand – like whether all sex hurt like that, or whether they were making it hurt more because of what they were doing to me.  Personally, I think they were making it that way because it hurt significantly more after I bit the one guy and pissed him off than it did before.

Six months later, after I started having meaningless, random sex with a meaningless, random guy a bunch of times to just try to get these guys off me and out of my head, I felt guilted into getting my body checked out because “I could knowingly be giving someone something I caught from the rapists” and blah blah blah.  So I did.  And I’m healthy (and I went back for the appropriate follow-up blood tests, etc).  I also stopped having sex because it was hurting me in my current state way more than it was helping me.

Around the same time, I told a friend what was going on.  Coincidentally, it was the friend whose wedding I was at that weekend (a detail I left out when I told her).  She has since completely severed all contact with me.  Perhaps me telling her has nothing to do with that, but it seems like curious timing – so that experience hasn’t led me to open up to more people around me.  In fact, I am afraid that whoever if reading this right now, if they know me, will do the same thing.  I’m terrified of people not loving me.

Long term, I question every day whether I made the right choice after the attack.  I don’t really think I did, but I think it is much too late to change those choices now.  No one around me knows.  I went to see a counsellor once; I don’t plan on going back.  And everyday when I look at the people around me who I love and who I think love me, I always wonder if they know.  If they can tell by looking at me.  If there is some silent signal that this happened to me.  And I wonder if they’ll continue loving me if it was ever confirmed.  If they ever read this.

I’m sure I give off red flags; I’m sure there are things I do that have just become part of my personality that I do because of what happened; I hate being touched by most people and even my closest friends recognize that I want to initiate and be in control of any physical contact.  I am neurotic about locking doors and windows when I am in my house or any other.  I insist on the buddy system when walking anywhere after dark.  I had never really cared about these kinds of things before; I guess I thought I was invincible, and now I know I’m not.

And there’s always this internal battle going on.  Part of me just wants to be another statistic, because nobody notices a number; but if I am just another number, my experiences can never ensure that someone else doesn’t have to have the same experiences.

~Anonymous.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation workshop is London July 6. Book here.

Jen works with many young women like the brave author of this piece on her retreats and workshops.