Until it wasn't.
I said no. I said it loudly. I said it several times. He ignored me. He said, "Come on. What did you think you were coming back here for?"
When it was over, he fell asleep. I got dressed and went home. In tears.
I didn't say a word to anyone. Not for days.
When I finally got up the courage to tell my mother what happened, she blamed me.
She blamed me.
She blamed me.
And I blamed myself. I was drinking. I went to his room voluntarily. I kissed him. What did I think was going to happen?
It was my fault.
I believed that. For over 30 years, I believed it. I was ashamed, embarrassed, angry with myself for putting myself in that situation. And until this morning, my mother was the only person I'd ever told. This morning I blurted it out to a friend during conversation on FB Messenger... and I realized that I could say it out loud.
I can finally say the word I've refused to apply to myself for nearly 35 years...
I was raped.
So I stopped thinking about it. I just pretended it didn't happen.
Occasionally the memory would bubble to the surface, during a conversation, a movie, a date. When I did a report on sexual assault on college campuses for work a few years ago, the memory reared up, tall and strong, and slapped me right in the face. Hard. I had to think about it, whether I wanted to or not. I realized then that the incident - the rape - has impacted, on some level, every single relationship I've ever had (including the one with my mother). It explains how I haven't ever fully trusted myself or men... how I've never been able to completely show myself to anyone, to be completely vulnerable or honest.
That was a hard realization to come to.
So I pushed it on down again.
Because that's what I do.
A couple of years ago, two very good friends countered a comment I'd made on Facebook about how a girl shouldn't "put herself in a position to be raped." They lovingly told me that no matter what position a girl puts herself in, when she says no (or is incapable of saying yes), that should be ALL it takes for a rape NOT to happen. I tried to justify my statement, born out of 30+ years of belief and blame. They persisted. And for the first time ever, I began to see it all in a different light. For the first time ever, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't my fault.
Then, a few days ago, the 'Me, too' posts started showing up on Facebook... and I started reading about what other women have endured. At first I thought, how brave they are. Then I thought, there's so many of them. Then I thought, I'm one of them.
People often comment about how open I am, in my blog and on Facebook. I always maintain that there are parts of me no one has ever seen and there are things I will likely never discuss. I believed for a long time this would be one of those things. But this morning I said it out loud and the Earth didn't open and swallow me whole. The sun is still shining, the breeze is still blowing, and I'm still right here...
... a little closer to whole than I've been for 35 years.