This weekend, Mike and I enjoyed an anniversary getaway to Mackinac Island, sans-kids. It would have been wonderful no matter what, but it had the added bonus of giving me a wonderful excuse not to go to my high school reunion.
I only attended high school for about fifteen months. Around that time I was raped by a fellow student, attempted suicide, and ended up dropping out to attend college full-time instead. As so many of us are, I'm still friends with a lot of people I knew in high school, and "friends" with even more on Facebook. So it wasn't exactly a surprise to be invited to the reunion.
I did what I think most people do when invited to an event on Facebook they might actually consider going to, I checked the guest list. And has happened so many times since I joined Facebook, found my heart racing and my breath catching as my eyes found a familiar face. No, not my assailant, thank God, but the guy who hosted the party at which I was raped, who helped incapacitate me, spread the rumors about what happened at his house, and drove me home when it was clear I had served my purpose to him and his friends.
He isn't my rapist, but is complicit to the extreme in what happened to me.
He was an important figure in my school, and still holds a fair amount of influence in my old town. And as I have every time his face has appeared on my Facebook, I clicked on it. I scoured his page for any evidence he was still an enabling scumbag, that he ever acknowledge the damage he facilitated, that he ever hurt anyone else. As always I found none of that, but as always, found myself hurt and astounded by how many friends we have in common.
Only this time was different. This time, as I gaped at our mutual friends, people I didn't think even knew him but are connected to him online, the root of the raw pain I always feel in these moments found its voice.
How have they never asked who raped me in high school?
I have been speaking out publicly about my assaults for six years, speaking out not only on my blog but at actual events, with an actual megaphone. I deliver presentations about sexual violence and consent, highlighting my own story for hundreds if not thousands of people each year yet the people I knew then, before I was raped, before I attempted suicide, before I ran away from that town as though its toxicity were tangible, have never asked, "Who did it?"
Is it because they don't want to know? Is it because they know how painful it is for me to name my assailant? Or is it because they are so afraid of finding out it's somebody known to them, somebody they believe to be "good," or "safe," or even a friend?
They know when it was, New Year's Eve, the countdown to 1999. And they know they weren't at the party.
They know I went because I was invited by a friend who didn't want to go alone and didn't show up, and they have never asked who she was, either. She's never asked, either, but I did my best to cut her out of my life after I had to face the idea I was going to continue living, so I don't exactly blame her for that.
It shouldn't be hard to extrapolate who was involved in this. It's not that big a town.
It shouldn't be hard to figure out there are people around them who are complicit in what happened to me, nor that it's unlikely that I was the one and only victim.
And yet once again, I faced an invitation to attend a real-life event with a man responsible for violently transforming me into a survivor of rape and attempted suicide and PTSD. An invitation from a friend who knows us both, who knew me before, and does not care to know enough of the details to understand that I am still living in this. I am still living with the consequences of being raped by an acquaintance and their conspirators, that the very nature of PTSD is that when I see his face, aged and changed as it might be by the past twenty years, in my mind it is as though I am seeing it in the moments after being violated, vomiting at his feet and being swept off to leave me on my lawn as though I were nothing. For me, it is always right now. For me, it is always happening.
I am not about to go on a campaign to tell everyone we know in common that they are friends with a Bad Person. But that wounded voice inside me, it is hurt that anyone who loves me could have never asked, "Was it somebody I know?"
If you ever have to ask yourself this question, assume the answer is "yes." Assume you have not done what you can for your friend or loved one. Assume there are many people in their lives that connect them to their assailants. And decide, once and for all, whether you want to be one of them.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence and need somebody to talk to, at any time, please reach out the RAINN hope line: 800.656.HOPE, or their chat service at RAINN.org
Read more about sexual violence survival here: The Difference You Don't Know between 'Normal' and 'Right'
Read my most recent post here: What I've Learned in 10 Years of Marriage
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