I’ve tried to move on. Boyfriends, family members, therapists, friends, they’ve all tried to assure me that my assault was in the past and that it was time I forget it. Perhaps my frequent reappearances on she-BOMB about this issue are a sign that I no longer know how to move on. The fact is: I’m haunted by my own memories. Like the protagonist in all my stories, I hear sounds, feel sensations, and see visions of what happened to me that night. For a while, it was all about him. And I had a hard time letting go of the memory of him when I was with someone new (i.e. a loving boyfriend). But eventually real love came into my life, and I felt safe and happy, I had whittled the intrusions down to the occasional reminder that I would never be whole.
Sexual harassment on this campus changed all of that. I say this only as a warning against those who might not take their language seriously. Quite frankly I am petrified that publishing this might make my perpetrators recognize my identity and pursue further attacks against me. “Rape jokes” are never jokes, they are a visceral reminder that, if a man wanted, he could subjugate a woman at any moment and rape her–because he is stronger, bigger, more physically powerful. After this happened, I could no longer distinguish between the men I had once trusted as friends, who betrayed me in sexual harassment, between the man who physically violated me, and my loving boyfriend, who only wanted to see me heal. My ex and I both point to the harassment as the demise of our relationship.
Many women on this campus have to confront the memory and the physical presence of their rapists on this campus. I felt that the harassment made my rapist reappear before my eyes all over campus, in a paranoid psychological kind of way. The following excerpt comes from a larger work, but I believe (given the bit of context shared here) it stands on its own.
scuump-dump. scuump-dump. scuump-dump. scuump-dump. Her feet always hit the pavement with uneven weight, legs falling into the numbing rhythm. The blood thrashed and receeded to the beat: it was like a prayer, issuing forth from her body… scuump-dump. It soothed her. And she mouthed the sounds, bringing all of her mind into the body’s hypnosis. It was the same noise that circled and engulfed her in the night; it was always there, thundering silently on her eardrums. But when she ran it was self-induced: hers to possess, not the other way around. And it was soothing, it consumed and united her entire body into the memory of a single sound: just with the dial turned down.
Then he was there. On the path. As if the ritual of memory had invoked his presence. Reverie had become reality. She would say ‘hi.’ She would. And she would make eye contact. That was civil. His figure grew larger in approach and the sound pounded violently against her chest. The sound waves tightened around her, accelerating in a spell of dizziness, scuump-dump, scuump-dump, scuump-dump, it jolted and convulsed, it grabbed her by the throat and pulled her stomach up a few inches till her insides tightened and twisted and then… ‘hi.’
He smiled back. greasy–and knowing. The smile shook loose beads of plump sweat which had been growing overripe around his upper lip, and she thought, she thought of how they pushed themselves out of his pores, globulous, like wet fungus forcing itself through a needle hole, and they kept coming, the thick puss-like sweat emerged through his skin like armies, coming one after the other; first they formed there, but grew and grew uncontrollably; until, too fat to support itself, the thick ball of salty sweat jostled from its place on his skin and dislodged. form. grow. jostle. dislodge. form. grow. jostle. dislodge. form. grow. jostle. dislodge. form. grow. jostle. dislodge. form. grow. jostle. dislodge. form. grow. jostle…the vomit pushed its way up her throat, through her teeth and then spittled out of her tightly tensed lips; and as she fell onto all fours heaving, her lungs rattled with a desperate gasp for air–scuump–then the flat sound of putrescent vomit hit the pavement–dump–it splattered all over her before her lungs convulsed in a fit for fresh air; and stumble, she stumbled to the creekside, lost in the scuump-dump, lost in the sound, only thankful the creek wasn’t far off; she thrust her hands into the water, and only the stinging cold kept the pieces of her skin from vanishing away with the chunks…
In a survey conducted in 1980, 900 women were randomly selected and given extensive psychological care to determine rates of sexual abuse. One in three had been sexually assaulted. This is one woman’s story of trying to move on and live her life years after her rape. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, don’t hesitate to contact a peer advocate.