You were given this battle because you were strong enough to win it.
They tell me.
Every scar is a reminder that, with time, you will heal.
Scribbled on a note.
You’re an inspiration.
What a hard notion to believe, as I sit, crumpled in a heap in an empty parking lot, nearing midnight, watching the clouds bubble over the moon looking for once like the smoke that boils out from my chest every single night.
They say that you should tell you story, unwind the words like the lyrics to our national anthem “I was raped and beat.” You show your scars proudly, you fight for your rights, you teach other that justice is real. But it’s a true catch 22 when you tell your story and the men in your life are too afraid to touch you too afraid to hug you and show you they care so they walk away. Rape victim has become synonymous with defiled, broken, crazy, dirty, stay away, danger sign. Abuse victim has become synonymous with attention seeking, high maintenance, untouchable. I’m tired of being told to be proud of what I’ve overcome because I am treated as more of an outcast when people know than when people don’t.
So I tell my story finally, my heart lifts up, justice is taken, and here I am, whole again. The men in my life gone, both the good and the bad because the bad have been punished and the good punish themselves. But time passes and I heal and those memories suddenly and thankfully turn into dust coated home videos, memories on a reel that I can toss in the attic and pull out anew. I am whole, I am new, I am clean.
But I lay here still, blood dripping from my ribs, my hands grasping at it as if every drop was a drop of sanity leaving my body. My pants torn, half on, revealing my pale scratched skin to the moonlight. Am I brave now? Am I an inspiration now?
Because when the dark van pulled up behind my car and parked, I didn’t do the brave thing. I didn’t do the smart thing. I was naïve and I left the store and I went to my door. And when the man came out of the car and came to my door and I respectfully declined was I doing the brave thing? Was I doing the brave thing when I screamed and only felt dirty hands clasping my mouth and my nose. Was I doing the right thing when a blade was drawn and slashed my side like the only thing it was slashing was my soul? Was I an inspiration when my eyes rolled to the moon and I saw the Eucharist in the sky? Was I brave when I stared at it, begging Jesus to help me? Was I brave when his weight pulled off of me and kicked me once for good measure? Was I an inspiration?
For months and for months after that first time, I was broken and hid, struggled with police and with laws trying to prove that what I wear and what I said was not more important than what he did? Was I brave when I explained it to men who shrunk back in their chairs shook their hand and went home, leaving my story in a file, like I never will be able to?
I am done fighting back. This is personal. I fought and I won but what I won was not what I needed. I did not need pity; I have plenty of that. From friends who look at my like I’m eternally broken and fragile, from boys who look at me like I am the fucking devil himself. I do not need attention; my scars are hidden, and when I flinch back at your touch I just say you caught me off guard I don’t say it because my skin has only felt pain.
So I stand. Wipe my eyes and my face, march back into the store, and emerge with bandaids, and gauze, and thread to stitch my mouth closed.– for sticks and stones may break my bones, but the truth would burn like hell.
This battle is personal. This battle is over. I raise a white flag.