My name is Joy.
I live in Maine.
I've never met an exclamation mark I didn't like.
Sometimes I host impromptu dance-offs in the middle of the street.
Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow me on Twitter, if you're into that sort of thing.
Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its clients.
The sun was bright and cold when I woke up that morning. I’d barely opened my eyes when the weight of the hangover hit me. I gagged as I tried to keep the vomit down and attempted to push back the pulsing pain of my head. I tried to pull my memories from the night before, but it was as if these memories were completely gone, as if someone reached into my mind and ripped them away.
I took a breath. It was Tuesday. Last night I went to a networking event. I had two glasses of wine, maybe three? As I began to wake up, I started to notice more. Bruises on my thighs and arms. A scratch on my face. Marks on my neck. A feeling of breathlessness. The realization that I’d had sex.
For a foolish moment I started to look around for a note or a message from the person who’d occupied my space just hours before. I’d gone 28 years without a one-night stand and didn’t really know what one was supposed to do in these situations. This search was abandoned immediately when the full weight of what happened to me began to sink in. As it hit me, I felt myself fall completely apart.
Paralyzed with the realization, I called my cavalry. Within 20 minutes, Maggie was at my door, ready to take me to the hospital.
I don’t know what exactly I expected from this process, but going through the steps of a rape kit nothing like what I’d seen on SVU. I was ashamed that my only real understanding of a rape kit was something I picked up from a TV show. Nevertheless, I desperately wanted Detective Benson to walk through the door, grab my hand and tell me in that comforting and familiar tone that her name is Olivia and everything would be okay.
A rape kit involves hours of people photographing every bruise and mark, taking samples of this and that, and retelling your story so many times that it stops feeling like something that happened to you, and more like a part of a book you once read. If you file a police report (which I did) you have to tell your story not only to your nurse and doctors, but also to the police officer assigned to you. And you do this all with the understanding that there is only a 6 percent chance that your attacker will ever see the inside of a jail cell. But you do it because it helps you feel like you’re taking action. Doing this made me feel–for the first time all day–that I had power and a say in what was happening to me.
After the kit there were blood tests to see if I had drugs in my system (GHB, check) and pills the size of quarters to help prevent any disease I might have encountered or STD I might have contracted. I left the hospital six and a half hours later dazed, drained and desperate to take a shower.
The next few hours and days all rolled together. I threw myself into the distraction my job gave me. It took a solid two weeks before I began to taste food again. Which didn’t much matter as I vomited every night for three weeks. In the first week I called the police each time someone looked at me the wrong way. I jumped at every shadow and had trouble sleeping in my apartment alone. I attacked the row of scarves in my closet and borrowed a friend’s dog to help me feel comfort in my own home.
You’re supposed to be able to see who your real friends are when tragedy strikes. If that’s the case, I have the best friends and family in the world. My parents, though distraught, were endlessly supportive. Erica flew in from New York. Julia and Selena sent a care package filled with cheese, Jen sent flowers, Destiny and Kate sent me notes that made me cry at their tenderness, Lisa and Caitlin called daily.
What was more touching than the calls and the sentiments was the way my friends opened up to me. My doctor told me that 50 percent of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and through my friends, I saw this first hand. It seemed as if every other person I spoke with had a similar story to tell.
What interested me more than their confessions was who these women had become. While I felt my life was shattered and unfixable, my friends were whole. Some way, somehow, they were able to move past this and become the wives, mothers and friends I cherished. While I jumped at the lightest touch, my survivor friends seemed to embrace the world in ways I couldn’t comprehend.
Those who did not share stories asked the questions I couldn’t answer. “You’re so good, so careful, so strong, so normal, how could this happen to you?” “You don’t deserve this, why would someone target you?” I couldn’t answer their questions because there was no answer. What happened to me happens to millions of other American women. Without cause or provocation. It just happens. And it happens every single day.
As the weeks went on I became obsessed with how stories like mine were covered in the media. It seemed as if the only way a mainstream publication would talk about rape was if a brutalized woman walked into a press room. I began to feel desperate to walk into someone’s newsroom and demand that they listen; force them to see what was happening within our own country, to my friends, to me.
If it were up to me, every other headline would be about what is happening to the women of our country. Every other headline would demand we resolve this crisis. Because that’s what it is. It’s a crisis.
But I can’t do anything like that. And I struggle daily to stifle the screams that long to get out.
In the end, I’ve kept moving. Time, strong friendships and an excellent psychologist helped the process of piecing myself back together. And while I still wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and terror from the nightmare I’ll never remember, like 50 percent of American women, I’m surviving.