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Mental Health

Burying Trauma While it Still Has a Pulse

To this day, only a few close friends know about this night. I didn’t tell my family, not even my mom. I don’t think I could stand to see her reaction if I had, but sometimes I wonder what it would be. She was dealing with enough at this time; the thought of giving her this information felt like a cruel addition. 

It was someone I knew – as it often is. Someone I thought I liked. His name is Chris. That’s his real name, and it’s the only real name I’ll use in this entire collection of stories, whatever it is. I feel like name changes in stories can come from a place of A) wanting to protect someone, B) out somebody, or C) hype them up. All dependent on your subject matter. In this case, it’s option B. Hell; I might even come back to edit in his last name and city. You can look him up on Facebook and slide into the DMs. I’ll think about it. 

I liked Chris. So obviously, as an immature and inexperienced 18-year-old, I was thrilled when he invited me to his house party. My best friend at the time, Shelby, was my wing woman. At this point, she and I had been best friends for several years. We were always getting into situations that – at the time felt wild and rebellious, but in hindsight were pretty innocent – compared to kids today and their TikTok. I spent the entire week thinking about my outfit – as I said, we didn’t have TikTok or Instagram for outfit inspo, so we had to use our own natural and questionable sense of style. I decided on jeans and a tank top low cut and tight enough to push what little breast tissue I had up and out. That’s always the goal, right? Up and out!

Shelby met me at a subway station that was near Chris’s place. It was an apartment building above a fragrance shop. All of these fragrances, and I still couldn’t smell the danger. 

It was near our high school, so I was familiar with the area. In fact, I walked by all the time. I still walk by all the time.

The “party” was just Chris, and his friend Tom… Tom is also his friend’s real name because fuck those guys. 

For once in my young adult life, I was not drunk that night. I had one Coors Light. So at most, I was hydrated. I didn’t care that it was only Chris and Tom or that we had been invited to a fake party. I had only gone to see Chris anyway. He asked me if I wanted to see the rooftop, so I said yes. Shelby and Tom stayed behind, chatting. They had already met several times before and got along, so leaving them felt fine. He led me up a narrow stairway to the roof. I can still remember the sound of the rickety screen door opening up to the rooftop and slamming shut, bouncing a couple of times against the doorframe. I’ll admit, the roof was cool. It was flat, there was a couch and a small table, and white string lights lining the whole area. It actually would have been pretty romantic if it weren’t for all the rape. 

When he first kissed me, I was into it. Even getting pushed down onto the couch, I was into. But I wasn’t into anything beyond that, and I told Chris I wasn’t into anything beyond that, as my body tensed up and became clearly much less into it. 

Another sound that will live rent-free in my brain forever is the crinkling of a condom being opened. That is the one saving grace of this story – he did use a condom. Shoutout to Chris; safety first. 

I knew what the sound was as soon as I heard it, so I immediately told him,

“I don’t want to do that.”

He didn’t say anything back and continued to kiss me. I assumed he accepted my request, and kissing was all we were doing now. I always assume people are well-intentioned, innocent until proven guilty. I assume that everyone means well, that everyone is honest, that friends want to protect you, that people care about each other, and so on. But that isn’t always the case. And my rosey glasses have gotten me into some situations. I still trust people – I just remember to look for the blind spots now. 

Chris very quickly progressed to a point where I was pinned to the couch and pulled my jeans clean off. Again, I asked him to stop, still naive and not considering the unimaginable as a possible outcome. 

 

We all learned that no means no, right? Surely he had learned this as well. He would never… 

 

I was small and had not yet seen the inside of a weight room. So I only had the minimal muscle to push him by his shoulders, freeing my arm enough to give him a punch in the jaw. 

It wasn’t enough. 

I can still pinpoint the moment, and the feeling behind the moment, of realizing that there was no confusion here. I know I’m quiet, but the possibility that he couldn’t hear me was illogical. He could hear me well and clear. My lips not even two inches from his ear, and yelling words like “Stop,” “No,” and “Get the fuck off me.” 

Pretty hard to misinterpret. He was choosing to ignore me and was going to continue ignoring me. Even with the knowledge that our friends were just downstairs and the street was just a few yards away, I was still scared to try calling out from the pinned position I was in already. He would be able to clamp down on my throat in a second. Terrified, and knowing it was almost over through anyway, I just cried through it. 

 

He freed me the moment it was over, completely casual and unconcerned. I put my pants on and ran downstairs to ask Shelby to leave with me right away. Through tears, I told her everything that had just happened. And her response was the reason I would never speak about it again. 

 

“Kate… what do you expect, you’ve been leading him all week. You’ve been acting confusing. You came to his party and told him you like him.”

You did, you said, you, you, you. 

I don’t think we spoke about it again after that. The worst part is that I believed her. I felt bad for Chris, the rapist. Then I felt ashamed of myself for confusing him. 

Had Shelby’s reaction been different, had she have turned to me and said, 

“Holy shit, Kate. That’s not okay. That was rape. You need to tell someone right now; he can’t get away with this,” 

I believe the immediate outcome would have been very different. But it isn’t Shelby’s fault I went quiet. Ultimately, we are all responsible for how we react to events and situations.

But god damn – friends have an impact. 

This was before the #MeToo movement. It was a time where women weren’t believed. These kinds of cases get dragged out in court, your name is strewn everywhere, it’s a permanent public scar – and you just may end up getting labeled a liar. It could be career-ruining. I wasn’t ready for that. I was ashamed. Ashamed of feeling weak. I felt like there must have been something I could have done differently. I could have fought harder, yelled louder, explained to Shelby better, etc. 

So I chose to bask in denial, to not talk about it or think about it. I went on living as if it never happened. Humour became a defense mechanism.

I remember any time I heard about this happening to a woman and fantasizing about what I would do if I were ever in that situation. 

“I’d castrate the motherfucker,” I would think. “I’d cut off his balls and mail them to his mother.”

“I would never let him walk.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned many times over in life, it’s that nobody really knows what they would never do until they are in that situation.

 

Because my trauma never manifested itself in the form of any sexual issues, I believed I came out of the experience completely unscathed. I didn’t yet realize that body issues, abandonment, control, losing it anytime I felt unheard, an inferiority complex, could be traced back to that. 

 

What did bubble to the surface was an intensified eating disorder. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that many eating issues are mental health issues. Sure, it may be triggered by a desire to be physically thin, but at its core, it’s mental and about control. In my case, I had experienced an event where I didn’t have control over what was happening to my own body. Or my mother’s, who was dying of lung cancer before my eyes in parallel to all of this. 

The response was to take control back in one way that I could – through what went into it. I pushed this to the absolute brink. Nobody knew how bad it truly was. I pushed it until my reproductive system shut down, I started losing memory function, and I nearly had a heart attack. I became so used to it that deprivation became a habit. It felt normal to me. I really believed I was being healthy. Becoming emaciated was almost like proof that I could take back control of my own body in a competition against no one. 

 

It was the wonder if I would ever have kids in the future that ultimately turned that ship around. So, shout out to my kid, who saved my life before even existing. 

I also couldn’t stand the idea of being taken out by my own misinformed and reckless decisions and something so preventable. So, shout out to my ego. 

In a way, I’m grateful for all of that. Finally working through it has brought so much awareness to the ways that dealing with it has manifested in my life. The more open I become about it, the further away it gets. I have a greater appreciation for understanding nutrition and general wellness – physical and mental. Topics I’ve studied intensely for several years now and never tire of. It’s also given a strong lens for raising my daughter to have a healthy relationship with food, food neutrality (so not categorizing what’s “good” and “bad”),  body image, and instilling an ability to talk openly. Oh, and karate. She’s definitely taking fucking karate. 

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by katbowz

I'm a writer from Toronto, Canada. Marketing by day, fiction and poetry by night... And sometimes also by day, on slow ones.

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