I’ve just returned from a writer’s retreat with one of my favorite writers in the world. We  worked on our respective projects in a townhouse in Orlando. 2.5 days of uninterruptedness focused solely on doing the work, on writing.

For me a part of writing is the unpacking of things. The novel that I’m currently working on is set in a fictionalized version of the town where my father is from in Southern NJ.

In the beginning of the story I’m nostalgic. I miss the Custard Ranch and Lake Nummy. I want to take my family there. At the Climax of the story I realize that I have all of these reasons why I never go to the family reunion, how I’m always too busy or “want to remember them how they were when they were alive” for funerals, and I realize that I haven’t really been back to my father’s town since the night that I was raped, in my aunt’s home, in my cousin’s bed. How that night pretty much changed everything. How my father’s reaction was the first time anyone broke my heart and how it taught me that no matter who says that they will always have my back, I can always only depend on me.

How after that night I haven’t spoken to my cousin since:
1: she didn’t believe me
2: she was naked in her bed so why did her man come and destroy me.

I realize that these thoughts too are rape culture.

I realize that that night in my father’s town was my introduction to rape culture and how it was the final lesson on why as a woman child I needed to learn to disappear.

I watch this election cycle and witness rape apologists question why Drump’s rape victim waited until she was an adult when the allegation happened when she was thirteen and I want to yell at them that the reason she waited all of this time doesn’t matter. Hell I told and not much happened to him. A person can have cuts and bruises on her vagina and people will still figure out a way to make the incident that person’s fault.

See the Stanford Victim.
See the women in the Holtzclaw case.
Witness the questions.

What were you wearing?
What were you drinking?
Did you laugh with him?
Like Nate Parker’s victim had the two of you been intimate in the past?
Why were you at the party, the club, his house, your aunt’s house.
Why were you doing whatever you were doing that made it possible for him/her/them to do what they did?
 The burden of the proof for alleged rape is on the complainant and anything that they say or do or don’t do or wear will be used against them in a court of law. 

Anything that they say or do or don’t do will be judged on the internet by a jury of the world. Their name and address may be leaked on Fox News.

After that night It would be many years before I would wear a bikini. I never drank in excess, especially if I wasn’t around a shit ton of people who could protect me. I didn’t experiment with drugs. Always walked to my car with one key sticking out of my fist. Took self defense classes. I was leary of all men and most women. I wouldn’t dress provocatively for many years- remember when I was in that jeans and t-shirt phase for a long ass time? That and so many things came out of that night.

A night when I went to sleep a teenager wearing a long nightgown and awoke to someone already inside of me. A temptress with perky breasts and no panties on. A night that taught me that the police don’t have the rape victim’s back in the ways portrayed on Law and Order. A night that would eventually lead to the first heartbreak of my life when my father didn’t believe me. Where I lost one of my best friends. Isn’t that a Facebook meme? How a cousin is your first best friend?

Writing is supposed to be cathartic but I didn’t enter the writing of this story hoping to get any relief from the events of my past. I’m a Landmark Grad. I’m over that. Or so I thought.  I went in to the writing of this story hoping to write a story about a girl who gets raped and portray the way the adults act in a manner that shows adults how they should respond to girls who are victimized in their lives.

I hoped to raise awareness.

I hoped to show other girls that they aren’t alone. To inspire them to tell someone. If that person doesn’t respond appropriately, to tell someone else. (I find that teachers are great people to tell. They will tell some shit and back you all the way up.)

I hoped so many things  that authors hope when they write novels centered on true events, mostly about lessons, and I still do. But now, I also hope to get the courage to go to my father’s hometown. To take my family to buy chicken tenders and french fries from the Custard Ranch with honey mustard. To convince AB to swim in the lake even though it is not the clear blue water that she prefers to swim in. To introduce DJ to cousins whose entire adult lives I’ve missed. To take back the power from my rapist. Because he did rape me. And  I did wake up with him already on top of me. Already inside of me. And I deserve to get back every single thing that he took on that day.

2 thoughts on “Unpacking

  1. Cyn Hanrahan McCollum says:

    I read this blog this morning with coffee, and the attached stories. It was 84 degrees in here, but my feet were icy and my hands were numb. Happens when I read about sexual assault, I’m not sure I’ll ever be done unpacking the real parts. It’s like pulling weeds and leaving enough root behind that it grows back. Nothing seems to kill it, and I can only write the edges.

    I wanted to tell you no don’t go there. I wanted to bring your family into my hut and hide you here with me. Which is, of course, delusional. So I ran into the main house and cleaned my daughter’s kitchen while half a bag of Tatertots cooked. The dog got most of them. He was thrilled.

    You might be the bravest woman I know.


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