Last night I had the honor of performing an original piece at the Memphis Monologues fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, an event where local women share stories about their experience as women, in the style of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. This is my story. Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.
My rapist was 19, the older friend of a boy my own age who wasn’t old enough to drive.
My rapist was 15 and friends with my boyfriend who was pledging a high school fraternity with him.
My rapist was 19 and had recently joined the Marines.
My rapist probably doesn’t even know he’s my rapist. I have to own my rapist like I own my hula hoop studio, or my house, or my car. Every time I share my own story and use the words “my rapist” I wonder if my rapist has to own what he did too. I doubt he’s ever said “My victim was a 14 year old girl on a date with my friend.”
I was raped three times so I have a lot of my rapists to keep track of. A lot of “my rapist” to own and to claim. A lot of my rapists to search for on Facebook and make sure they don’t live some where I might accidentally cross paths.
A lot of identities to protect. A lot of names to never say when I share my story because someone might know who I was talking about. I wonder why I’m protecting their identities. I wonder why I have to own what they did. I wonder why my rapist never has to own it himself.
My rapist. My rapist. My rapist. They might need better names, like a My Little Pony only something more fitting.
Names will not be changed in these stories. Identities will not be protected. They are not innocent and I have nothing to hide anymore.
Let’s call this rapist Chris, because that was his name. Chris was 19 and he had a car and his own house. Chris drove me and his friend Harper to a movie on a blind date. I was 14 and Harper held my hand and we ate popcorn. After the movie Harper kissed me and invited me to Chris’s house to hang out for a bit, and when we got there Chris offered to give me a tour. On the bedroom part of the tour, Chris pinned me down on his waterbed and raped me. Harper was in the den on the couch. He never even looked up or said goodbye when I left. Chris gave me a ride home. It was raining and I was crying and when he dropped me off he wrote his phone number on a matchbook and said we should do it again sometime.
I was late for my period after that so my friend Jason friend took me with his girlfriend to Planned Parenthood for pregnancy and STD tests. Turns out I wasn’t pregnant and didn’t have anything more than a yeast infection, but I got a rainbow assortment of condoms in a paper lunch sack and got on the pill just in case it ever happened again. Jason’s girlfriend never actually took her pills and got pregnant a few months later.
My ex-boyfriend Jay set me up on that blind date. Jay was the first boy I ever had sex with. Turns out Jay had another girlfriend at the time.
Jay set me up.
The next day when Jay asked me how my date with Harper went, he called me a liar and a slut and asked me how I could do that to Harper when I was supposed to be on a date with him. Turns out Chris and Harper had a few dates like this with other girls before.
Harper set me up.
That was the first time I was raped.
Now let’s call this next rapist Cary, because that was his name. Cary was 15 and I was 14 and we’d been friends for a couple years. Cary was buddies with my boyfriend Jeremy who was grounded that night. Cary and Jeremy were pledging a high school fraternity together. Lee was the pledge master and also a friend of ours.
I went dancing at Mongo’s with Cary and Lee earlier that night. Dancing helped me forget what happened with Chris a few months before. Drugs also helped me forget, so I took acid for the first time that night and Cary and Lee gave me a pitcher of beer. After I drank some they told me they had peed in it. I didn’t really like beer anyways and I’d had enough dancing with assholes so I went home to stare at the pretty colors on my walls and listen to Pink Floyd.
Cary and Lee came to my house a few hours later banging on my window and told me to come outside or they would wake up my mom. Lee threatened if I didn’t have sex with Cary he would beat up Jeremy and Cary and probably me too and then none of them could join the fraternity. Lee played football and was really scary and had a tendency to be a sadistic asshole and I was on acid so I believed he was capable of all that and more.
Cary used a condom while he raped me because he’d heard from Jay that I was a slut and he didn’t want any diseases. I was so dry the condom broke off inside me and I had to dig out bits of bright orange Planned Parenthood condom from my vagina in my bathroom while I was tripping.
Never spend time in a bathroom when you’re tripping. There are spiders everywhere.
Jeremy and I broke up shortly thereafter. It made it really hard to date when I didn’t want to be around his friends but at least he believed me and he didn’t call me a liar or a slut, even though Cary and Lee and Jay did. Cary and Lee rolled my house and vandalized my sister’s car to get back at me for breaking up with Jeremy.
That was the second time I was raped.
Now let’s call this next rapist Billy, because that was his name. Billy was 19 and he was from Arizona and had just finished boot camp for the Marines. His cousin was a friend of mine but I’ve since forgot her name. I blocked out a lot of things about that night. She was house sitting for a family friend and threw a New Years Eve party at their house.
Billy could buy alcohol for the party because he had a military ID. I was 15 and by then I had done considerably more drugs to forget. I had a lot more I needed to forget.
I drank a lot of champagne that night, which it turned out Billy had put Everclear in. Billy gave me some weed and when the clock turned midnight he kissed me. The room was spinning and I was about to pass out so Billy carried me upstairs and laid me down on a bed and raped me all night while I was in and out of consciousness. The moments when I blacked out saved me. The moments I woke up I still remember. In the middle of the night when I got up to puke Billy told me the closet was a bathroom and I threw up all over the homeowner’s shoes. In the morning I found the real bathroom.
Billy got my address from his cousin and wrote me letters while he was deployed in Germany. He thought I was his girlfriend and wrote me for months until I asked his cousin to make him stop.
That was the third and last time I was raped. I never told anyone what happened that time. I couldn’t stand to be called a liar and a slut again.
After the first time I was raped, I learned to keep these stories to myself. I never told the police. I never told my best friends. I never even told my parents. Many years later I told my husband but it wasn’t something we talked about unless we had to fast forward a rape scene in a movie. I owned these stories in silence.
A couple years ago I learned what happens when you hide a part of yourself from yourself, so I finally told my stories to a therapist too. I was inspired by reading other women’s stories and by the One Billion Rising movement and I decided it was time to stop being silent so others would know their stories are true and they are not alone. 22 years later I “came out” publicly as a survivor. My parents, along with my friends and coworkers, learned I was raped by reading an editorial I wrote about it in the newspaper.
And then other women and men started breaking their silence and sharing their stories with me too. Mostly in private, so now I own their secrets along with my own.
These stories have since become a part of my public identity now, in much the same way that hula hooping has. Rape is part of my identity, but it is not what defines me.
There is more to me than rape and hula hoops.
I’m a 38 year old woman and I’ve also survived cancer and two lung surgeries. I have a husband of 17 years and a 10 year old son and a year ago I finally quit my career in corporate America and opened my own business, of course a hula hoop studio.
I like rainbows and unicorns and glitter and cat videos. I like to dance naked in the moonlight. I like to play with fire. I like to write poetry. I like to read stories about people, real and fictional. I like to lose myself in a relaxing bath. I like to find myself in an ancient temple in Bali. I like to spin in circles and dance and laugh and play.
None of these things define me. These are only parts of me. Let’s call me Chloe, because that’s my name.