Almost four years ago, I visited a friend and sat on his couch singing Radiohead’s Karma Police. He was a musician in a band that played pretty decent music, and I had confided in him that I loved singing and always dreamed of being in a band of my own.
As we sang, he kept urging me to be louder, to hit the high notes that my lungs and chest were not ready for. As a sheepishly shied away from pushing myself there, he got angrier. He would abruptly stop playing the guitar so his fingers made a sound like a muffled whine on the strings, then turn toward me and gruffly say no no, like this, you have to try. Stop being so afraid.
I was afraid that night, it was the most mean I had ever seen him. A few days later I went back after he had been texting me heartbroken over his ex wife. I didn’t want to go but I made myself because he needed a friend. That night, July 18, 2015, seemed calmer. That night, I was drunk when I walked in the door to meet with him. He told me he was sober but seemed agitated. He said he had one beer earlier in the night, but because of his DUI record, he couldn’t drive me home so I was welcome to sleep on the cot in his music room or in his bed.
In the music room we played piano together and I listened to him sing original songs he was working on. He offered me glass after glass of white wine, and in between, Xanax. He told me I seemed depressed and that I needed something to take the edge off. I declined each time and watched him walk away with my glass to fill it up with more wine, supposedly. Within an hour I felt exhausted—not even exhausted—a place beyond it, like I was slowly slipping out of my body. My eyes were heavy and my lips felt numb, my jaw hung open and I struggled to stay conscious and keep it closed. Before I blacked out, he turned to me and said
you know, I’m sure it seems like I’m trying to take advantage of you with all the drugs and alcohol. But I’m not, I love you and I would never do something like that.
I woke up to him raping me, between my legs saying things that I can’t repeat here and that when said to me, trigger an immediate flashback to this day. My arms were spread across the pillows of his bed and I couldn’t move them, so I tried using my knees to knock his head away. When he penetrated me I screamed inside but could only manage a whimper from my mouth, followed by pitiful crying. It was only then that he stopped, climbed beside me, and wrapped my arms around him in a forced embrace.
I’ve thought about that night over and over again this week, even when I didn’t want to. I try to remember my exact words, to pick apart the truth and find the speck that maybe suggests I was asking for it. I say
well i could have walked home
I did say yes to the wine
I did say yes to sleeping in his bed but he told me he would take the couch
It’s horrific to remember every detail, to struggle to say them in writing or out loud. Going through the trial process, I had to give specifics, to talk in clinical and explicit detail about what he did to me. It was humiliating and shameful.
That rape changed the way I felt about my body and my desire to live in it. First I disappeared into alcohol and unsafe sex. Then, into an abusive relationship. I blamed myself every day for being the kind of woman that was “prone” to being abused by the men in my life. Radiohead is one of my favorite bands, and I couldn’t listen to Karma Police without having panic attacks until 2018. That fact is small and to most, irrelevant, but to me it signifies what I lost in being raped. I couldn’t listen to one of my favorite songs anymore. Something as simple as the beginning chords would set me off. When I was intimate with someone after that night I exited my body, in the same way I did before blacking out. It was like I was watching myself from above through a pair of heavy eyes.
The man that raped me still lives in my city. He plays shows. He’s told people that asked about his criminal history that it didn’t happen, I was just “confused…or something” even though his defense team tried to argue he really did drug me because I was depressed and he was trying to help me. The american justice system allows for these sorts of ridiculous arguments to persist, allows for a sitting President to be an accused serial rapist with no repercussions.
This country was built on the murder and rape of black women. Sometimes I sit and think about the legacy of suffering women, especially black women, have inherited and endured. It puts me in a place beyond exhaustion. I have survived, I have endured and gone on to do wonderful things with my life, but I’m tired. I can’t escape what my body remembers.
I wish I could end this in a high, positive place, but that isn’t where I am now. Right now I’m barely moving. I spent most of the day in bed or lying on my couch. My heart hurts for myself and the women who were raped by the President, the women suffering at our borders and in detention centers, the women suffering in my city.
Please find some compassion and empathy in your heart for us. Please find some action in your body for those of us who can’t move.