Warning: this article contains potentially triggering material regarding sexual violence
The second of a two-part piece.
the night you should start rethinking your life
is the night you ask your rapist to
come home with you
he cared wanted desired saw
enough to rape you
You are friends with your rapist on Facebook. Sometimes he sends you messages asking how things are going, telling you how cute you are, wondering if he’ll see you at the party this weekend. Your replies are brief and noncommittal to the point of being devoid of personality. This is fitting, because that is how you feel when you think about what happened: how you let him into your house just because he told you to, how he refused to wear a condom, how he asked if you were in pain and then continued when you said yes, how he held you down and did it again and again and again. How, after a while, you just stopped saying no. How some of the friends you told did not believe you. How they looked you in the eye and gently asked if you were lying, because you are known for making up stories for attention.
You feel like you are not a person, like you have no options, like every emotion is inappropriate. As though even words, which have always been your greatest strength, have become empty of meaning.
there is some kind of loving in the
your skin and a pair of
Months later, the same questions cycle through your mind: why did it happen? How could you let it? Again? How could you lie there, barely fighting, as he pushed himself inside, as you felt something tear and start to bleed? The memory swims and shifts as you try to grasp it, searching for answers. You start to question yourself. Maybe you are making it up – not all of it, but certain, crucial details. Maybe you never said no, or not loudly enough for him to hear you, maybe you enjoyed yourself just enough to make it not rape. Perhaps you ought to consider yourself lucky to have had sex at all – because beggars can’t be choosers, and how many people will want to sleep with an Asian, cross-dressing freak like you?
It’s amazing, what time and denial will do to the mind. All pain will scar over, become silent and immobile, if you let it. The story of this assault is eager to slip away, just like the first and the second and all the rest.
your body is a garden;
you’ve understood since
the violence of flowers
Yet something inside you refuses to settle this time, to let this story go. You don’t know why. Perhaps because, this time, you are an adult, or almost, and the thought of living out an adulthood where this can happen, anytime, inside the communities that you live and love in, is just too much to add to a childhood spent thinking that rape is normal. Perhaps because you already feel like you are responsible for every rape you have experienced, and if you don’t speak up now, then every future assault you encounter will also be your fault. You know that this isn’t true, objectively speaking. But it is the way you feel.
you overflow with the pain of
touching you are barren for lack
you think you’ll die from the pain
of touching you think you’ll die
from being untouched
(when you were little, your
daddy taught you never to touch
another boy except with your fists)
Your rapist is a member of the queer, activist, and student communities in Montreal. You see him all the time, at parties and political rallies and clothing swaps and dinners. Sometimes he flirts with you. Sometimes he ignores you. Sometimes, you overhear him talk about the prevalence of racism, classism, and rape culture in the community, and you are frozen more with surprise than anger at the hypocrisy that surrounds you. You are paralyzed by the reign of normalcy over these proceedings. Experience tells you that you can name your rapist to all your mutual acquaintances (these things never stay confidential) and begin a long process of name-calling and side-taking, during which someone will question your sanity and call you a whore. Or you remain silent. Or you can leave.
your body is the night time flower
burning like the cold starlight
reaching as the shadow reaches
As you wonder, and rage, and cry, and rage, you are struck by the thought that you are not alone. You are not the only person who has experienced rape, and yours is not the only community that harbours rapists while isolating victims and survivors. You think of your own initiation into sex, of drunken fumblings that you were told you should want, were not ready for, could not stop. You believed that this was the only way sex could be – at least for you, ugly and freakish as you were. You begin to question how many friends have been raped. You begin to question whether any of your partners have been raped by you. You question, also, the stories of survival that have been offered to you – the stories that say you must be either silent and stoic or brave and confrontational. The stories that ignore the responsibility your community, your people, had to protect you, to keep you safe. You begin to understand that there is another option, another story. You begin to think that storytelling might be the most powerful kind of healing, and the best kind of revenge.
The story you want to tell begins like this: You met your rapist in a place that was supposed to be safe. Your best friend’s boyfriend is your rapist. Your anarchist feminist queer lover is your rapist. You are friends with your rapist on Facebook.
tonight you asked your rapist to
come home with you
tomorrow you look for loving
in a pair of open hands
Ryan Kai Cheng Thom is a queer survivor and storyteller. Contact them at email@example.com.