The Unedited Truth About My Rape Victim Disguise

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There’s a rash on my neck.

At least, my hungover eyes see something askew in this riggity mirror. A splotchy redness is everywhere. Did I catch a deadly rash my first night in Portugal? I just know it’s contagious. I clench the sink, a lump is in my throat. I remember pounding on my hotel room door, waking up with no underwear, confused, but then, a moment of clarity. It’s no portuguese chicken pox, but equally unwanted hickeys. Then I vomit. I get vomit on gym shorts that don’t belong to me. I try to vomit the thought, the memory away, but instead, I’m slipping in vomit on the floor of a foreign bathroom.

“Ashley, we have to go! Dr. Thomas is going to kill us if we’re late for breakfast,” my roommate Sarah shouts, as she pounds on the bathroom door.

I frantically try to cover up my first ever hickeys with drug store foundation. They’re too dense, there’s too many, and my hands are too shaky. Giving up, I grab a scarf and wrap it around my neck. I throw on some sunglasses and put my hood up.

I call it my rape victim disguise.

I come out of the bathroom. “You don’t wanna go in there,” I warn Sarah, as I grab my luggage.

“Too much to drink last night, huh?”

“Do you remember much from last night?” I cautiously ask her.

She laughs, “Just that it was a crazy night!” I’m hesitant to reveal too much to Sarah. I did just meet her for the first time yesterday on our flight across the world.

I feel heavy eyes on me during breakfast from my classmates, probably judging my peculiar outfit. Then I see him smugly sipping a cappuccino, like it’s a lazy Sunday morning. I have a brief moment of bravado, as I put down my baguette. It’s not like I was hungry.

“Fuck you. Don’t ever talk to me again! Fuck you,” I yell at him, but it comes out like a whisper.

“I’m going to need my gym shorts back.”

Is this where I say I’m going to need my pride back? Is there where I say I’m going to need my sense of safety and security back? Is this where I say I’m going to need my happy go-lucky self back?

But instead, I say, “Fuck off.”

I sit by myself on a tour bus filled with my university classmates. This is a trip of a lifetime, a spring break adventure to Portugal. The excitement on the bus is palpable.

“Did you know Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe? It’s older than London and Rome,” our tour guide informs us.

“Did you know I was raped last night? I was violated by someone sitting two seats behind me right now!” I want to shout, but instead, I find myself thankful for the historic architecture, so maybe no one notices the girl crying behind her sunglasses.

I never thought I’d be the type of girl to get raped and not report it. I’m a strong woman, I can face the backlash head on, but I already knew I would never speak of this and a piece of me, the naive hunk of spirit, died with that realization. Who do you tell 5,000 miles from home? My professor? And ruin the trip for everyone? I would get home in 10 days, but who would believe me then? What evidence do I have that I wasn’t a drunk girl with morning regret?

I bit my bottom lip until it bled. The copper taste reminded me I was still alive.

Our bus came to a halting stop at Torre de Belem. The tour guide had us all huddle around, but I wasn’t listening to him. Half of my mind was racing, the other half numb, like a baby bird with a broken wind desperately trying to fly. Then I heard the tour guide shout, “Jeez, are those hickeys?” I grasp at my scarf. The wind had blown the scarf away from neck exposing my shame. My stomach turns, I can feel the vomit start to rise, and I want to scream, but I’m a lady, so I just sheepishly smile.

“Well, someone had some fun last night!”, he exclaims.

My classmates laugh in unison.

Someone had some fun last night, but I died. I died last night. TC mark

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