How the fuck does one write a Me Too story? Or maybe more so, relive the memory in order to share it with others? I say relive because is there really any way to recount what’s possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to you without reliving it? I’ve been watching the Me Too Movement grow in momentum over the last few weeks and it’s truly astonishing to see how many women and men have shared their very personal stories of abuse and sexual assault in all it’s varied, horrifying forms. I’m well aware of the statistics; and of the large number of women who never report, and therefore never become a part of the statistical bigger picture. Facts are: the statistics are much lower than the actual number.
I’m one of those numbers, both the reported and the unreported. How do I tell that story? No one wants the gory details and I don’t have the stomach to put them all on the Internet. But it deserves to be said, doesn’t it? Everyone who’s truly close to me, and even some who aren’t, know my story. I just happen to be one of those people who endured more than their fair share of shit. I fall into a couple different “statistical categories”:
•Child abuse under the age of 12
•Child abuse over the age of 12
•Intimate partner sexual assault/rape
•Sexual assault perpetrated by a stranger
•Child Victim of Physical Abuse
• Victim of Stalking
Grotesque, isn’t it? It seems crazy to me that one person, that I, have endured all of those things. I’m a walking statistic. And part of me, probably the damaged part, wonders how I attracted all of these sick individuals; but really, I didn’t attract most of them. My biological mother did…
I guess this “Me Too Story” starts with when I survived a year of sexual abuse at the hands of my mother’s boyfriend, who is also my little sister’s father. I successfully testified and was cross examined at the tender age of 8, and had that man rightfully convicted of Sexual Battery of a Child Under 12 and Lewd, Lascivious Acts on a Child Under 16. He received two life sentences, without the possibility of parole, and two 30 year sentences, to be served consecutively. That was the only one I reported; but only the first of many. I was 5-6 years old when the crimes were actually being committed, but by the time I testified against him I was already getting the shit kicked out of me by my mother’s new husband. That occurred periodically from the time I was 7-8 until I was 12. I have the scars to prove it. Then on to the next boyfriend, Chris. He was a father type figure on and off for a couple of years until one night, when I was 16, he decided to stick his hands down my pajama pants when he thought I was sleeping. I wasn’t. I blacked out for 30 minutes or so until I came back. I pretended to wake up, asked him for a cigarette to act normal while pretending I didn’t know what had just happened, then walked downstairs and puked my brains out. I remember staring in the bathroom mirror after throwing up and feeling like nothing was real. I had no way out. He had the only phone and it was after 3am. So I just shut down. I was stuck at his house until the next morning when my mom was supposed to be picking myself and my little sister up from “visiting him” after he got home from jail. It was just a bad set up from square one. But I didn’t see it coming. I had no choice but to go back upstairs and crawl back into the bed that myself, him, and my sister were sharing. I couldn’t sleep though, so he asked why. I fed him some bullshit about my “back hurting”. So of course, the sick fuck starts to rub it, but mostly my ass cheeks, while I shut down and completely disassociated from my own body…just like I learned to, at 5 years old. I don’t remember anything else between then and the next day once I was home again. I told my mom what had happened after getting really high and she called him and cussed him out. He proceeded to send me flowers, cards, money, and opiate painkillers “for my back” for the next year. Who sends a 16 year old girl money and flowers and drugs to say sorry? I wasn’t his girlfriend? And the drugs? Yeah, totally normal. A year and a half later my mother started fucking and dating him again. She hid it from me (like that made it any better) until I finally just told her I knew; at which point she said “Is it okay? If it’s not I’ll stop.” That ship sailed when she crawled into bed with him again knowing what he had done. So I plastered on a fake smile and said I didn’t care as long as I was never alone in a room with him again. He was the last one of her boyfriend’s I ever let near me.
But now we have to go a year or two back in time. I was walking to a friend’s house one night when I noticed a guy following me. I thought maybe I was being paranoid, he was just walking the same way as me, right? But I felt it. That gut feeling that tells you something horrible is about to happen. I tried every trick those worthless self defense coaches teach you: “Pretend to be on the phone. Hold your keys in your hand. Make multiple turns to shake them off.” None of it helped. At one point he disappeared. I almost took a breath but I could still feel that something was very wrong. Just then, he popped out of a small alleyway between stores and grabbed me. He was significantly bigger than me. We struggled until he got me on my knees with my hair wrapped up in one of his hands while I tried to wiggle away. As he was undoing his pants and saying some things I’d rather not repeat, I remembered the butterfly knife I always kept in my back pocket. Before I could think about it I grabbed it, opened in, jammed it into the inner thigh of his left leg, twisted, and pulled. He screamed and dropped. I ran. I showed up some unknown amount of time later on a since deceased friend’s doorstep covered in blood and shaking with the knife still in my hand. I don’t know what happened to that man. And I don’t fucking care. I never told a soul other than that dear friend of mine.
That one almost made what happened with Chris worse. With him, I reacted. I defended myself. “Fight or Flight” right? Wrong. There’s a third one: “Freeze”. With that man in the alleyway, I fought. But a bit later, with Chris, I froze. I separated from my body and I just survived. Just like when I was a kid. It took years to not hate myself for freezing. I couldn’t stop the thoughts that said “Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you hit him? Why did you go back upstairs? Why didn’t you get yourself and your sister and run? Why? Why? Why?”
See, I knew it wasn’t my fault. People spent my entire life saying that one sentence: “It isn’t your fault.” But, as it turned out, I wasn’t blaming myself for any of these things happening. I blamed myself for not stopping them.
But this story doesn’t end there. At 18 I met a tattoo artist and we started to date. He told me he was 28. I later found out he was 32. I stupidly stayed anyway. He lied to me, manipulated me, isolated me from every single person I knew and loved, even the ones I lived with. He was a new kind of monster, one I wasn’t as familiar with; and so his games worked better because I didn’t recognize them until it was way too late. It all started innocently enough. He had trust problems. He was insecure about me being around men. He wanted to be involved in everything I did. But it ended in him stalking me relentlessly. I remember trying to break up with him over the phone one night. I did it, hung up, and got in the shower. When I got out and went back to my room every hair on my body was standing on end. I knew he was somewhere near. And then he called me. I answered the phone and he said “Boo”. But I heard it through the phone and… my closet? I crept to the door and opened it. He was standing in my bedroom closet. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed like that in my life. Not before then, and not since. There were two locked doors and a deadbolt between the street he came in off of and my bedroom door. He said how he got in was “his little secret”. He said he wouldn’t leave until I told him I loved him and took him back. I already hadn’t slept in weeks because he would show up and call me and make me talk to him constantly. He was embedded in and in control of every aspect of my life. Thus why I was trying to leave him. That night ended with him on top of me, having sex with me, while I cried. He didn’t care, and all I can remember him saying is “You’re going to tell them I’m your man, right? You’re going to tell them you love me, right? That I’m the only one?” The “them” he spoke of was a group of teenage girls whose belly buttons I was driving to the next town over to pierce the next day. He was absolutely convinced there was going to be guys there and that I was lying to him. So all of this, because I needed to make some money and agreed to pierce a couple of 18 year old girl’s belly buttons. That was one of 4-5 times that he had sex with me after I said no, while I cried the entire time, while I physically shook because my body was so against everything that was happening to it, yet couldn’t make it stop. It took me finally losing my sanity and packing two bags of clothes and a $439 paycheck into my Acura Integra at 4 in the morning, and driving 100mph to Wichita, KS., 1,365 miles from home at 19 years old to get away from him. I eventually came back for the holidays but got stuck when my car started having problems. I had gotten a 3 month break, but he started stalking me again. One morning I found him sleeping in his car out front of my then boyfriend’s house. I lost it. I grabbed a baseball bat, beat the shit out of his car while screaming that he was a rapist at the top of my lungs. Stupid son of a bitch got out of the car. That bat and his body became very close friends. He didn’t stalk me anymore after that.
After him I was pretty fucking damaged. It took me two years to stop having panic attacks every time I heard a car like his or saw someone parked outside of my house. It took even longer to stop sleeping with bats and knives and guns stashed under my pillow and throughout my house. It took me a long time to be able to feel like I could thank the male cashier for ringing me up, or to feel like I was allowed to have any friends, especially male ones. It took me months to speak when in a group of people because I was so used to spending hours fighting after an outing because I told someone I liked their shirt or stood with my hip cocked out to one side. And somehow, in that time after him, I still ended up dating two different people who treated me like property. Men who took “No” and “Not right now” to mean “Try harder” or “Guilt trip me until I give in”. Men who felt it was my duty and responsibility to stop everything I was doing to send them pictures of my body or to talk to them or sleep with them. Men who spoke to me like shit and treated me worse.
I always knew they were wrong.
Yet I kept finding them and making excuses for them because they “just need to see that I’m actually a good woman” or they “have trust issues” or “have potential”. Eventually I learned that it is not my job to pay for the misdeeds of other women and that you can not have a relationship with potential. There were some good people I met, ran away from, or fucked up because I was so fucked up at that time. But it didn’t matter. I was convinced that all men were like that once you really got to know them. That they all wanted something from me and it was up to me to decide whether or not the cost met the benefit. Saying I had trust issues is a gross understatement. I still do. But today I do trust people and some of them are men. One of them in particular is my man and he is a good man. I don’t have to make excuses for him or hide his behavior from the people who love me. There are good people out there.
So, as I read these Me Too stories, I think about all of my own stories, I think about trying to write them down, and I get overwhelmed. I started this piece with no idea of what it was going to turn into and as I type this sentence I wonder if I’m going to post it. There’s things in here that people who love me, people who read this blog, don’t know about. And there’s more than I’ve put in here and more than I will probably ever say out loud. Some things have scarred over, I can talk about them almost like they happened to someone else; but others….well, they still live in my nightmares and crawl up the back of my throat in the form of bile some days. Everything falls into the past eventually, but I’m not sure it all heals. I don’t think I can truly say I’ve “healed” from any of these wounds yet, but I’ve learned to live with them; and on most days they don’t control my thoughts and actions or reactions. I’ll take that. I talk to other people who’ve been there. They tell me how they cope and I tell them what I’ve learned. There’s something powerful about telling someone what is possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to you, and them looking at you and saying “Me too.”
by Ashley King
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