From the moment I was raped the first time when I was 14, I tried very hard to forget what had happened. As I looked out the window of his car while he drove me home, tears streaming down my eyes like the raindrops I was watching fall from the sky, I rewrote what happened in my head and tried to make it something else that made sense to me, but I just couldn’t put it together in a way that worked. Every piece that didn’t fit, I forgot. I thought if I could just forget about it and pretend it never happened then it would just go away. I forgot so hard that whenever a memory broke through, I wrote poems about myself in the third person, as if it had happened to someone else. I forgot the first person I told, the ex-boyfriend who called me a liar and a slut, the person who set me up on that blind date. I kept my mouth shut and forgot. I burned anything that reminded me and killed every brain cell that wouldn’t forget. I also forgot what it was like to be a kid. I forgot everything that had come before. I was not a kid anymore.
A few months later when I was raped the second time, I had almost completely forgotten the first. Forgetting again was a bit harder the second time around when my rapists harassed me and threatened me and told me I was a liar and a slut for months and months and months. They called and showed up at my window in the middle of the night and when I wouldn’t answer the phone or come outside they even rolled my house. But eventually I cleaned up the mess of toilet paper and shaving cream hanging from my trees, picked up the pieces of myself, made some new friends, killed a few more brain cells, and moved on and forgot.
And then a few months later when I was raped the third and final time, it was much easier to forget. The last thing I remembered was being carried upstairs so I could lay down while the room was spinning. And then waking up with a 250 pound guy I barely knew on top of me, and then throwing up in a closet in the middle of the night because he told me it was a bathroom. And then being drug out of the closet and back to the bed. And then waking up in the morning to find the real bathroom, and remembering how to forget. I never told anyone that time, so at least I didn’t have to forget that I wasn’t a liar or a slut.
And then I killed a few more brain cells, forgot as hard as I could, picked up the pieces of myself, changed schools, made some new friends, and moved on and forgot.
And then I forgot for 20 years, with the very brief exception of the year I went away for college where I learned about the dangers of excessive drinking and how to use the buddy system and campus security to make sure I didn’t get date raped at a frat party. But I wasn’t ready to remember just yet so I promptly killed a few more brain cells, called for my safe ride back to the dorm, and forgot again. It was easier that way.
And then a few years ago something happened that triggered something deep and hidden in the darkest part of my brain that made me remember. And then it all came back, washing over me in waves like a giant, destructive tsunami. And then suddenly everything, everywhere reminded me and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t forget again.
It was as if I had been transported 20 years back in time and I remembered everything from those moments I’d fought so hard to forget. Driving home down that long, lonely road that cuts through the park in the rain, passing the suburban Catholic high school they attended, the sound of their football games. On a quiet night sometimes I can hear the marching band floating through the air and I stand frozen in my driveway hearing the drums beating when I get out of my car at night. A New Years Eve party, the fateful kiss at midnight, driving past a house, a street, a building where we used to go. Someone who looks like him, dresses like him, someone with the buzzed short hair of a fresh military recruit, a waterbed, the back seat of a car, a Grateful Dead candle holder, a high school fraternity, on my way to lunch walking past the building that used to be the club where I had been happily dancing with my friends just hours before it happened, a song. Every time I go out to a show and run into someone I once thought was my friend, someone who knew, someone who called me a liar and a slut, someone who was there when they planned it, who knew and let it happen, and the only someone who believed me.
A story in the news. India. Steubenville. Penn State. A fraternity. A football team. A soldier. The entire Republican party. The list goes on and on. And all at once the memories and the pieces of myself were all around me and I forgot the last 20 years instead.
And then three things happened that helped me remember the person I was before, and I started the long process of putting all the pieces of me back together again.
Therapy. Hooping. Love.
For the first time in 20 years, I admitted to myself that forgetting didn’t work and this was something I had no idea how to fix, so I went to a therapist and embarked on a very long journey of healing. This journey will last a lifetime. I will remember more and forget more many times over again. And along the way I will find more pieces of myself and put them back where they belong.
A couple months after I started therapy, I also started hooping. I hooped in my backyard by myself for hours discovering new music and new ways to move and remembering how I used to feel when I danced. How it felt to be a kid again. Sometimes I hooped in silence and sometimes I even hooped to the sound of that stupid marching band. Sometimes I hooped naked under the stars and remembered the beautiful person I was, with this circle of sacred space around me.
And then I remembered everything about the best parts of my life, the last 15 years, and love. My immensely loving and loved husband of 15 years, my 8 year old miracle son, my family, my friends (minus a few, but plus a whole lot more), my life. And more than anything I remembered me. All of me. Before. During. After.
I’ve been on this journey of remembering for almost 3 years now. Each step I take puts me further down this path, picking up pieces of myself and putting them back together, and moving forward with healing, hoops, and love. Memories old and new. Remembering Me.
This year on Valentine’s Day, alongside one billion women around the world, I will honor how far I have come and how much further we all have to go. Remember. Love.
STRIKE | DANCE | RISE | HOOP | LOVE
Rape and sexual violence effects every community in Memphis. Whether you are black or white, rich or poor, female or male, straight or gay, young or old, from East High to Germantown High.
From Memphis to India and every other country across the world. Rise up, dance, and join the revolution!