I have told a lie for 35 years.
I have told it numerous times, so many in fact that I had almost forgotten the truth.
Here is the truth.
When was 15 we moved to a new neighborhood. Again.
I was in 9th grade and I was at my 3rd school that year having left the friends had managed to make the past 5 months. There was only 3 months of junior high left and I missed my friends.
Since we had no phone at home I spent a lot of my time at the convenience store half a block away using the pay phone to call my friends. This continued through the summer until we moved that fall.
Because of my spending so much time at the store I got to know not only the employees but the regulars as well. There was one guy that used to came in often, for cigarettes mostly. I have forgotten his name now but he was in his mid twenties, 5’9”-ish, thin. He had a beautiful face and an intense presence. I was interested right away. Over time we came to smile say Hi and learned each others names.
One summer day he asked me if I wanted to get high. Without delay I agreed, I loved getting high. I love the distance it created between me and the world, I was happy for the invite.
We walked the three and a half blocks up 6th Ave to his apartment. He lived on the third floor of a building that was built in the 60’s, the kind than looks like a motel. His apartment was at the top of the stairs. During the walk he I learned that he had been in Vietnam and that he chain smoked.
His apartment was a one bedroom with a galley kitchen, and as I expected, had cheap not matching furniture. What did surprise me was how clean his place was. Everything had its place and was in it. His decorations were mostly mementos he had brought back from Nam.
Without sitting down he reached under the couch and pulled out a shoebox lid with loose weed and a couple of already rolled joints. He plucked one out lit it, took a couple of hits and handed it to me where I sat on the couch. Without sitting down, he began showing me all his Vietnam memorabilia. He was moving around non-stop, chain smoking, unable to be still. I realized that he was already high, wired on something else. He was agitated and manic and I was immediately uncomfortable and knew I needed to get out of there.
I waited a few minutes then said I had to go. He quickly said no, that he wanted to show me something and went off to the bedroom muttering to himself. I stood up and stared to the door. My intent was to have the door open so I could leave as soon as he was back. As I started to toward the door I heard a sound from the bedroom that I recognized from the movies, it sent adrenaline through my body, my new plan was to just leave. No goodbye.
I didn’t make it to the door, he was back in a second and had a sword. A long curved Vietnamese sword. The sound I heard was it coming out of its sheath. I stood there admiring it as he told me about its easy capabilities to do physical damage to the human form.
Once more I said I had to leave, again he said no and that he wanted to show me something in the bedroom. He grabbed my wrist and still holding the sword, took me to the bedroom. Again everything was cheap, clean and in its place. Again everything was decorated with items from about Vietnam.
I was standing by the door, at the foot of the bed, he had let go of my hand and pointed out a flag on the wall and told me a story about it, a story I didn’t really hear since I was desperately trying to think of a way to get out of his apartment.
He suddenly turned and with his free hand grabbed me around the waist and kissed me. Now mind you this was something I wanted to do for some time, kiss him, but not his way. Not with me feeling trapped in his apartment, not with him holding a sword, not with me feeling scared. There was nothing nice about this kiss, it was hard and demanding. I could feel his erection pressing against me, I couldn’t think of a way out. As long as he had the sword he had an additional 3 foot reach that prevented me from getting away. I knew there was no way to outrun the reach of that sword.
Still holding the sword he pushed me to the bed. The edge of the mattress hit the back of my knees, and feet remaining on the floor, I fell backward onto the bed. He was next to me in an instant. The sword was still in his hand, on the bed just above my head. My objective changed, I knew there was no way out of the sex, I just wanted out without getting seriously hurt or even killed, which had became my immediate fear.
He then pushed his running shorts down to expose himself and rolled on top of me. He slid the crouch of my shorts to one side and raped me. It was over quickly and he rolled off of me onto his back to catch his breath. At some point he had finally let go of the sword.
I immediately stood up and said I needed to go to the bathroom. As I headed out of he room I heard him tell me to wait. I didn’t. I ran to the front door, unlocked the bolt and threw the door wide open and started running down the stairs. My fear was exploding in me and and adrenaline was now pumping through my body, all I could hear was my own pulse thudding in my ears. I ran all the way home.
Although I have told parts of the story before, I had never told about the rape. Never. Not to anyone. “MY” story is a cautionary tale of what could happen. In “MY” story I escape. In “MY” story I am my own heroine. “MY” story has always been the cover-up for the guilt I felt for having been somewhere I shouldn’t have been. For going into a stranger’s house to get high with him. For not being as grown as I thought I was. Mostly, for not protecting myself.
Recently I was watching a movie in which a 14 year old girl was rapped in a situation similar to mine. “MY” story fell apart in my mind and for the first time I cried about what had happened to the the 15 year old girl I once was.
Although I had intellectually known I didn’t “deserve” it, I had still believed that some of the blame was mine for being where I was at the time. I had never said no to him since I as afraid that it would escalate the situation dangerously. Seeing that rape acted out of film, for some reason, freed me. Seeing her innocence and trust, understanding my innocence and trust, I was finally able to forgive myself for not saving myself from being raped. My relief is immeasurable.
Looking back with adult eyes, I am now confident that even though I did nothing to stop it, it was rape. He silenced my voice through intimidation as completely as if he had his hand over my mouth. I was my own heroine in that I played the best cards dealt at the time and I got out from what had all the potential of becoming a much worse situation. Finally, 35 years later, my guilt, shame and embarrassment are gone.
Thirtyfive years later, my truth is back, my lie is gone.
I know some of you were uncomfortable hearing my story.
According to a poll taken by the Colorado Dept of Health, 24% of women and 7% of men admitted being victims of sexual violence. That is in line with the rest of the United States.
What do those numbers really mean?
Colorado’s population is about 5 million. So over 1 million people in Colorado have admitted to being victims of sexual violence.
One million people. That is the is populations of Denver, Aurora and Centennial combined. And we know that only 40% of sexual assaults are reported. Yet the subject of Rape is still a taboo topic not meant for “polite” company. Much like Breast Cancer once was.
My goal in sharing my story is to begin making change. I want to start opening communication and bring this topic that affects so many people out so we can begin to help those who's voices are silenced by the shame that secrecy brings.
It is my dream that one day “shame” is longer listed as an effect of rape and that no one else ever have to lie about their truth again.
If you or someone you know is in need of someone to talk to about a sexual violence incident, please contact National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)