I’m afraid I’m becoming an internet creature, with so many posts in so many days. But still, here I am again, drunk and naked and I should be in bed, and instead, BLOG.
Lately I have been fantasizing about all the things I could have said or done to hurt Gregory in ways in which he would never recover. Which is an impossibility, in some ways. Gregory put up with so much rotten shit from so many rotten people, not because he was good or kind or sweet, but because he was such a fucking cunt. I could say the worst thing ever to him, and he would swallow it, and it would hurt, but nothing would change, because that’s just Gregory. He is forever a pouting beast.
My therapist told me that fantasizing some more acceptable end to a bad memory is a good tactic. Like imagining stabbing my ex-husband in the neck any of the times he broke me down into tears and told me nobody else could ever love somebody as hysterical and ugly as me. That’s all well and good. But I think there’s a line between admitting to, owning, and envisioning the anger and hatred I’ve pent up all these years, and just poking a bad wound. Fucking Gregory.
A minor apology, off-screen here, since I know Uncle Z is maybe reading, and Celena. I meant to get together with you and talk about this before I started posting about it, because I didn’t want you to find out about this on the internet, but the getting together just isn’t happening lately, and the feelings are, so here it is.
I told my bear first. He was the person I trusted the most, and the person I knew I would be the least able to keep it from. I told him and I didn’t tell him, saying briefly what happened, but unable to name it, though the name was obvious. Polar, I told her next, offhand, without using the word that I still couldn’t say. She said, “you know what that is,” and yes, yes I did know, but we went on with our errands quietly, unable to talk about it. What could be done? What could be said? Her husband was Mr. Flint’s best friend, and her husband beat her. What happened to me was terrible. What would happen to her when she went home was worse.
Gregory was the first person I told, using the word. I hadn’t meant to tell him the way I did, but he came over one day and he asked, “How are you?” I was in this new place in my life, my own apartment, no Mr. Flint, no reason to pretend anymore, and I thought, I am going to be honest. For the rest of my life now, I am going to be honest. So Gregory asks me how I am, and I tell him, “Not so good. I’ve been dealing with some shit that’s hard for me to deal with.” Uncharacteristically, he says, “Tell me what. Tell me about it. Talk about it.”
So I tell him.
I tell him, the night I told Mr. Flint I wanted a divorce, he raped me.
And I could’ve screamed. I could’ve fought. I could’ve done a lot of things. All those years that I read about rape, the statistics, the psychology, the case studies, I knew what I should have done. I knew I should have screamed and fought and ran away. I knew I should have called the police.
But I also knew, if I make this worse than what it is, it will be worse than what it is. If I scream, he will cover my mouth. If I fight, he will fight back. If I run, he’ll chase me. And I have never even researched the laws about marital rape in this state. Just look out the window and pretend you’re a tree, and it’ll be over soon.
He even apologized, the next day. “Sorry for last night.” I was too afraid to say what I wanted to say, to open the doors in my mind, where the word “rape” was beating down the house. Instead, very carefully, I asked him what he was sorry for. “Well, you asked me not to,” he said very delicately. “But I did anyway.” I wanted to say, you know what that’s called, right? You know the word for that? But I couldn’t. All I wanted was to get out. I didn’t want to stand up for myself, to be self-righteous, to proclaim my rights and my needs and my boundaries. Those were frivolous concerns for frivolous people. I didn’t have the luxury of my own body. All I had was my life, in a very literal sense. The beating of my heart, continuing for just a little while longer. I just wanted to get an apartment with a key, and Mr. Flint and his “sorry for last night” was my main obstacle.
I tried to explain to Gregory, it wasn’t like what you think it would be. There wasn’t fighting, there wasn’t screaming, but there was a no, there were several no’s, and then there was lying there hoping he wouldn’t hurt me worse than he was. And that doesn’t even cover the years beforehand, the years of saying “yes” because I was too afraid of what saying “no” would do. And having all those fears validated, completely and utterly, only led me to believe that my fears of fighting back were true and real. That my brain stem and the adrenaline it was pumping into my system were right on the money: fight back, and he is going to hurt you. Just like all those years, I knew that saying no didn’t mean we wouldn’t have sex; it only meant he was going to rape me. So I “chose” to have sex instead. Until that night, when it became what it had always been, only before it had had window dressing, and the sanctity of marriage piled on top. Now, it was revenge, and what I owed him, for leaving.
I told Gregory all this, and he was very uncomfortable. Stuttering, nervous, something about, “Well well well you’re a strong person and and and you shouldn’t let this ruin the strong person you are.” Okay, you know, I was hoping for something better, Gregory, but I can deal with this. You don’t know what to say, you don’t know how to act, well, it’s a big thing, I’m not going to hold it against you, not knowing what to do. He immediately changed the subject, and we started talking about some worthless bullshit, the way we’d always done. And I wondered, in the back of my head, is this right? Is this the kind of friendship I want? With somebody who can’t even acknowledge the fact that I just told him I’ve been raped? By somebody he knows? By somebody he hung out with last week? I remembered Gregory telling me about his old girlfriend, who had been raped before she’d had a chance to lose her virginity. Talked about wanting to find the guy and kill him. And while the very nice doormat part of me tried to give him every reasonable doubt, the bitter and all-too-right part of me thought, “If you’d let Gregory fuck you, he’d want to kill Mr. Flint, too.”
Later that night, he was looking at some of my artwork. I’d started a collage, cutting out all the pictures of my life with Mr. Flint and journal entries from the time. Juxtaposing the pictures of me smiling like a doll at my wedding with the journal entry of the same day, “I’m just rotting meat, pretending to be human. Can’t everybody smell me.” I still felt too mute to write anything new, to say what had really happened, so the collage was my medium, and I refused to take it down, no matter who came over, no matter who had to see. Gregory was looking at a picture of me and Mr. Flint, over which I’d posted a quote from my ex-husband: “Why don’t you let me fuck you up the ass? You’re not leaving me until I get every part of you.” And he said, “Flint looks good here. This is a good picture. Sometimes he looks really good.”
Gregory had just blown back into town, staying with his parents. I asked him, so, man, are you going to stay with your parents forever? Are you saving up cash for something? Are you getting a place? And he said, yeah, yeah, I’ve got a place lined up, even a roommate. Oh, that’s cool, man, I said. Who you shacking up with?
Oh, you know. Your ex-husband.
I had this brief flash of white rage. Point blank, white world, white face, white everything. I couldn’t see in front of me. And I thought, I need to tell Gregory, right now, what an asshole he is. No, I can’t. Asshole isn’t the word. There isn’t a word. Monster doesn’t even cover it. And then my doormat said, benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt, talk with him like an adult, let him know he’s hurt your feelings. And the rest of me, the white hot anger, said, fuck that shit. Why should I have to explain that rape is fucked-up? What kind of manchild needs me to hold his hand through that conversation? FUCK GREGORY.
I dunno. I held out hope. I still feel like a fucking retard for it. I didn’t want to believe I had to lose a friend because I’d been raped. And even worse, once upon a time, I loved Gregory. Loved him as well as anybody could, the way I was. He took me out, he bought me drinks, he looked me in the eyes when I spoke, he didn’t interrupt me, sometimes he touched my shoulders. That was more than I was getting from Mr. Flint. So yeah, I loved him. Like a man wandering the desert loves drinking piss. It’ll keep you alive, another day at least. And yet I always knew, just like I did with all the people that were really Mr. Flint’s friends, and not mine, that he was weak, he was a drug addict, he was willing to close his eyes and cover his ears and pretend nothing had happened. Not to accuse him of being Mr. Flint, but if my ex-husband could say and believe, “Because you said no and I did it anyway,” believe the word for that isn’t “rape,” Gregory could do it, too. Gregory could say to himself, she didn’t fight. She didn’t call the police. She just said no. That’s all. That’s not rape. That’s not rape because I can’t handle it if it is. Well, you know, some of us don’t get that luxury in life, any more.
I left him alone, I didn’t call, didn’t write. Finally he facebooked me. Fucking social sites. He says, we used to hang out. We used to be friends. What happened. I told him, you know, man, I told you I was raped, and you told me you were moving in with him. Either you don’t believe me, or you don’t care. I can’t deal with that. I need better people in my life than somebody who doesn’t believe me or doesn’t care. I need friends I don’t have to explain rape to.
Sometimes I wonder if I should post what he said, in the hopes of him finding it someday, or a girlfriend of his, so he can be embarrassed to death. This is only balanced by the fact that I don’t want to read it again. But let me sum it up: “You need to take responsibility for your part in the failure of your relationship,” and, “If it was really rape, you would have called the police. So it wasn’t.”
I don’t know what it is that’s different between Gregory and Mr. Flint. What makes Gregory stick in my craw so much harder. My bear pointed it out one day, that I can expressly say, “I hate Gregory, that motherfucker,” but have been somewhat more reticient about my ex-husband. Leonard Cohen says, admitting hatred is the first step towards healing, for a woman. I think men are more conditioned to hate, consider it a natural force, a basic impulse, while it’s a dirty thing for women to touch, and you can’t start thinking about moving on until you’ve gotten your hands in it. I fucking hate Gregory. I hate him for what he said. I hate him for being such a stereotype, the ubiquitous man in all the rape studies I read, who will call a girl a whore before he calls her a victim. I hate him for having made me care about him for so very little in return, for taking advantage of someone as starved as I was, without ever having the balls to admit that I was being starved. For telling me, “You shouldn’t let it ruin the strong person you are,” when what he really meant was, “Shut up shut up shut up don’t tell me about this don’t talk to me about it don’t talk about your feelings ever again.” I want to hurt Mr. Flint in the most pulp comic book ways, in some death ray machine, a fork to the neck, stuff him in a refrigerator. Gregory, I just want him to hurt. I want him to hurt and distrust and hurt and hurt and hurt. To be betrayed by somebody he loves. To be taken advantage of. To be kicked when he’s down.
And what drives me craziest, that is everything Gregory is. He has always been a doormat, a weak little monster, a blind man with a knife. Everything Gregory has ever done, everything he is, revolves around that fluid-cushioned emptiness where a spine ought to be. And he’ll stay that way. He’ll live, not without misery, not without pain. But he’ll take it all as a matter of course, never realizing what he’s done. Never coming to consciousness. Never being sorry, for anybody but himself.
God, I want him to hurt so badly, hurt down to his core, not the way he’s used to it, not the way he lives day-to-day. And he never will. He never, ever will.
Why am I so much angrier at him than the man who actually raped me?
Before it happened to me, I had all the answers. I always knew what I’d do, how I’d feel, how it would go. I remember yelling self-righteously at Badger when she was raped by her cousin, go to the police, go to the police, and she said, you don’t know how this feels. I don’t care how it feels! I said. Go to the police! I understand how I felt then. I feel bad, for not being better in her hour of need, but I understand and I don’t hold it against myself for being that angry and frightened and worried and needing the world to punish the guy. At least I wasn’t moving in with him. Still and all, now I know. That saying to yourself, I will always fight, I will always go to the police, and I will always write about it, that means nothing. Because there are friends and there are mutual friends and there are family members and there is money and there is time and there is fear and fear and fear, and being alone, and being spit on because nobody wants to believe that somebody they know is a rapist. And there is an entire world that you will lose, with a wrenching pain, with a pointed and calculated blow, if you dare to open your goddamn mouth about it.
What are the statistics these days? Oh, here’s a thing, from here:
Women are 10 times more likely than men to be victims of sexual assault (National Crime Victimization Survey, 1997). A study among college women has shown that 1 out of every 5 college age women report being forced to have sexual intercourse. (1995 National College Health Risk Behavior Survey) 22% of all women say that they have been forced to do sexual things against their will, where only 3% of men admit to ever forcing themselves on a woman. (Laumann, 1994
I mean, yeah, horror, okay, I get it. Look how many women are getting raped. That’s some sad shake-your-head kind of shit. But extend this a little further. 1 in 5 women, and yet only 3% of men will admit to sexual force. You know it’s not those 3% of men doing all the raping. With statistics like 1 in 5, there’s a good chance you know a woman who’s been raped, even if she hasn’t told you. And there’s a good chance, on the flip side, that you know a rapist. If you think, that’s not true, it’s because somebody like me was too scared to tell you. And they’re scared for a good reason. You might not know it yet, but you may be just as liable to tell them it was their fault as you are to support them. Not because it was their fault, or you really believe that, but because that’s easier than accepting some small part of what they are going through, the ways in which their lives have changed, and how very few people they can now trust not to tell them it didn’t happen, and it didn’t matter.
I read a book, many years ago, called Cognitive Processing Therapy for Rape Victims. It was a therapists manual, describing the currently most successful model for treating rape victims and their concurrent symptoms. There were a lot of case studies in it. One woman described her process in therapy as that of recovering minor details. Not because they were vitally important — you don’t necessarily need to remember the detail of every abuse that has ever happened ever in order to cope with the fact of being abused — but because that was her way of blocking the fact of the rape from her mind. She could remember her boyfriend’s friend making passes at her, she could remember him on top of her in the bedroom, but she had blocked out the part in between where he beat and choked her. Because if he hadn’t beat her, it hadn’t really been rape. There could be some plausible explanation. She had wanted it and regretted it later. She had led him on. He didn’t understand. But being beaten sealed the deal. She knew she had consented to sex only because she was afraid he would beat her harder, and that meant it was rape, unequivocally.
I wonder if my focus on Gregory is similar here. I know what Mr. Flint did. I know he raped me. Even though for almost a year I couldn’t even say the word “rape,” I knew, in my mind, that is what he had done. Only when he was safely out of my life, when I did not think he could come back and do it again, could I admit, yes, he raped me. And yet, all those years with Mr. Flint, all those years of saying yes because I was afraid of saying no, all those years of tearing and bleeding and imagining I was somewhere else, something else, those all led me to the inevitable conclusion that the rape would happen someday. It didn’t come as a surprise. The rape was just the culmination of all the other abuse he heaped on me, and while in some ways it was worse, in many ways it was just the same old thing. Yes, my husband treats me like shit. So what’s new? Oh, he’s making it worse. This is my surprised face.
But to admit that I had someone in my life who I cared about deeply, who chose to spend time with my rapist instead of me, who told me I had imagined it, it wasn’t real, it was my fault… that makes it rape more than anything else ever has. Statistics being what they are, I had always in the back of my mind assumed I would be raped someday. It was just a matter of when. In some ways, I was relieved that it had been so non-violent, without leaving lasting permanent damage, like an STD or a pregnancy. But Gregory is the lasting damage. The fact that, for the rest of my life, I have to wonder who I can tell, who I can trust, who will believe me, who will tell me I am lying. I have been able to associate with people I knew I shouldn’t, shady people, dealers, cowards, addicts. Always, I’ve been able to ignore those parts of them that are bad, that make me doubt that the world is worth living in, that people are worth speaking to. And now I can’t. There will be people in my life I won’t tell about this, sure. But there can no longer be people in my life that I don’t tell because I’m not sure of what they will say. I can no longer excuse a person’s underlying misogyny, offhand comments about drunk girls who get what they deserve, ignorant statistic-mongering about false rape accusations. I don’t have a choice in this. I can’t brush it off, laugh, think to myself, what a stupid ignorant person. Instead, I envision what they would say to me, if they knew. And that’s what makes me angriest. Not that I said no to sex, and was forced to have it anyway. That had been happening for years. But that my life has changed irrevocably, that there are jokes I cannot find funny, people I cannot speak to, friends I cannot confide in, and I had no choice in that. For the rest of my life, I have to wonder if somebody will call me a whore because my husband raped me. I have to wonder, and wait, and watch, and protect myself from people I otherwise may have called friends.
That’s what makes it real.