1. You are not the only one. There were others. Or there will be. It’s only a matter of time.
2. Find them. It won’t be hard. Three degrees of separation at best.
3. These are your allies. Your new BFFs. They’ll get it even before you finish telling them. Close ranks around each other when you need to.
4. You will lose friends. Sorry. Because someone who says “I really don’t want to choose sides,” just did.
5. Cut ’em loose. I regret not doing this much earlier. Seeing “them” forced me to remember “him” every time, and took me back to the night he raped me at the lake. But I couldn’t keep bringing it up all the time, because they’d use that as an excuse to say I was crazy. Don’t give anyone that much power over you, or your healing.
6. “I can’t believe I just did that.” That’s what he said when I was still pinned to the floor of the car with him on top of me. Damn, he was heavy. But sure, maybe he felt bad. So what. Didn’t stop him from raping someone else.
7. When your therapist asks at your first meeting, “have you ever thought about forgiving him?” NO. NO motherfucker. The answer is NO. Then immediately run for the door. Because if that’s the first go-to question, your therapist is either a rapist, or a rape apologist. Get out before it does more damage.
8. But don’t give up on therapy. I cycled through 4 therapists before finding my life saver – what up Dr. Fowler! You’ll find yours. Give it time.
9. Forgive him if you want, though. And bring it up at therapy if you need to. But do it on your own terms. Personally, I don’t really think about “forgiveness” – it’s just not a thing for me either way. You might be different.
10. Same with naming. Only you will know if and when it’s the right thing, for YOU. If you do it, though, prepare yourself as well as you can for the backlash. You won’t know exactly what form it will take, or what it will cost you. But it will come. It will suck. And you’ll get through it. I promise.
11. Flashbacks. They’ll knock you down. Like, physically, they knock you down. But it’s a flashback, that’s all. OK? Look where you are. Put your hand on the desk. Hard surface, cold to the touch, probably. Look at your shoes. A little scuffed, right? Reach for that book, and leaf through the pages. Hear that soft muffle? Smell your coffee. The steam, it’s warm on your face, right? That’s how you get through a flashback. Which is all it is. And it will pass.
12. They’re like a sucker-punch though, flashbacks – because you don’t always know when they’re going to hit. There was a time as a Law Prof when I was the target of what fancy-thinkers like to call “contra-power harassment” by a group of student I’m pretty sure would have raped me given the chance. They didn’t, but I remember walking into the student lounge one day seeing them circled around the ring leader. One of them spotted me and nodded to the others. One by one they pulled back just enough to let me pass, but close enough to intimidate me. A stronger woman might have just rolled her eyes and kept walking, but I went straight to the bathroom and had a full out panic attack on the floor. Like I said, flashbacks knock you down.
13. That scene in the student lounge was the same thing I happened upon 20 years earlier when I walked into the high school cafeteria the morning after he raped me. He was surrounded by teammates, eager and attentively soaking up the lurid detail. One of them saw me and nodded to the others. One by one they pulled back just enough to let me pass, but close enough to intimidate me. He stepped forward and yelled, “Hey, I had to wash my car. Remember – you got out and puked all over the place. You owe me $2.50.”
14. Those two snapshots in time were close enough to trigger a flashback after 20 years. But they weren’t the same thing. It’s never the same thing. It’s not that place. And it’s not that time. It’s here. It’s now. And it’s different. Remember that. Thank you, Janet Bell, for reminding me.
15. Don’t trouble yourself with thinking you should be where I am now, because it took 25 years for me to get here. Just know that I was once where you are, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes self-loathing, and sometimes dismissing what happened, all the while shaking my head in disbelief at women I thought had found a way to get over being raped. “What the fuck is wrong with them – why aren’t they still mad?!?”
16. My anger has shifted away from the man who raped me, towards the men who are still raping other people, and the sycophants who keep making excuses for them. And I’ve learned that I was wrong about the women who found peace. They didn’t get over it, but they did move through it. You will too. Eventually.
17. He raped you. And that was about him. What happens now is about you.
18. I believe you.
19. We believe you.
20. We believe in you.