Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Lifetime Sentence

Twenty-eight years ago I was raped. That may seem like a long time ago, a lifetime perhaps. But it's not. It's not when you are inundated with news articles and social media posts about rape. It's not when twenty-eight years later we are still trying to figure out a way to blame women for being raped. It's not when we discuss how a young rapist shouldn't have his life ruined because of "twenty minutes of action." That twenty minutes will echo and reverberate through that young woman's life. It will echo in her memory twenty-eight years from now, when you and I have forgotten this particular news story. Twenty-eight years from now when that young rapist has a career, a family and an entire life that has enabled him to forget the twenty minutes that he preyed on an unconscious woman behind a dumpster—she will not be so fortunate. That twenty minutes will resonate every time that she is in a situation where it feels as though something is being done to her against her will. It will resonate and come roaring back at the most unexpected moments. In meetings at work. In conversations with friends. In disagreements with her husband. When dressing her six-year-old daughter and she is suddenly seized by the fear that someday, someone will seize upon her daughter's unconscious person and violate her in a way that will haunt her and stalk her and prey upon her for the rest of her life. Her precious daughter. Her precious, fragile body. Her wiggly, joyful person. How could somebody do that to her? To me? To you? To any of us? No, twenty-eight years is not a lifetime ago because it comes roaring back to me all the time, at unexpected moments. I am seized by a fear so visceral I feel it in my guts. My hands shake as I reach for the Xanax that will calm me and help me to not cry, or scream or run. But twenty-eight years is a lifetime. It is a lifetime sentence. One that I pay every day and one that my rapist will never know.