Yesterday, I was on the college campus, cutting across the quad to get to the library when I saw something that struck me as odd: a clothing line strung up between trees with t-shirts of various colors hand-decorated by students. I paused, taking the sight in, and as I approached the clothing line, I could hear the ominous sound of a gong being struck every few seconds, in addition a whistle being blown, and a bell tolling. I paused, the spring wind tousling my hair, and listened. When I approached the community organizers, I saw what was being represented. It was a display of t-shirts decorated by women I went to school with, saw on campus, and knew who had been effected by violence against women. The gong was struck every ten seconds as a reminder of women being battered, and the whistle symbolized rape every one to minutes. The bell rang out as a reminder of women being murdered. It was powerful. The sights of the shirts of various colors represented to what degree and how violence was a tool used against her. I stood there, fighting back tears in the beautiful spring morning, knowing how women’s lives, my own life, had been shattered by violence, by rape.
I discussed it with my fiance last night, and today, I am decorating my shirt. I remember writing of my rape, “is it possible to consent against your will?” the day after it happened. I remember scrubbing my body over and over again and sobbing in the shower that day. I remember whenever he looked at me afterwards, he had a lascivious smile on his face. He reminded me of a big, bad wolf with sunken-in cheeks and hair that looked like hardened toothbrush bristles. I remember not wanting to leave my dorm room because he would sometimes be on my floor, and one time, he watched me leave the shower in my towel, and I felt so exposed, I was shaking by the time I returned to my room. I would leave my dorm once a week to stock up on microwavable foods so I wouldn’t have to risk going to the cafeteria and see him there, scarfing down food like nothing happened. I stopped going to classes. I barely ate my gummy macaroni and cheese. Food tasted like rubber. Life was not worth living.
I remember the man who beat me. His “swirly eyes”. The way he could charm anybody, and how he took the me I worked so hard to recover. The me who was strong, independent, feisty, and shattered her the first time he pushed her down a flight of stairs. We had fought on the staircase, and he shoved me down the stairs. At the bottom of the staircase the entire time we lived there, there was a dent in the drywall in the shape of my curled-up body, but he somehow convinced me I tripped and fell backwards. I believed his lies. I swallowed his untruths. He convinced me it was my fault every time he punched me in the back of the head. He made me believe I was to blame for when he choked me and said awful things because he had told me to stop. He had told me to stop saying the things I was saying. I still remember how it felt blacking out the night he choked me. I still remember waking up to police sirens and him running down the flight of stairs. I remember him holding a razor blade to my throat and cutting it. I remember him smearing the blood on the door. So I “wouldn’t forget”. I remember the lies. The night we were supposed to go to a hotel for our anniversary, but he shared the hotel room with another girl, another needle, and by the time I got there, he passed out the bed, snoring and exhausted. I still remember him flipping tables and chairs in anger. I still remembering hiding in the bathroom, terrified of his anger. I still remember how it felt when he kicked me as hard as he could in the stomach and how scared I was that I would lose the baby or do permanent damage to him. I remember the drive to the hospital. I did not sleep for one minute, and when I went home and changed into my work clothes the next day, I was so scared all day of losing my baby, of going home, of his anger. The red flags were there, but I was constantly adjusting them for him.
I’ll never forget. The days get better. The memories disintegrate and aren’t as noisy rattling around in my brain, but I’ll never forget.