My Casual Relationship With Rape

Originally written for herHABITAT in Spring 2016.

Although it’s not the most digestible piece to read, it is significant. Talking about these things and being able to choose how I frame them is important. It’s not meant to be a sob story – and it isn’t a sob story.

It’s a piece on personal power and how we choose to show up in the framework of our own experiences. We get to choose, over time, what and who and how we want to be. I choose to be a person that empowers others with my voice. Who lets you know you don’t have to stay silent, nor do you have to speak up either. I want to be a beacon for the choice everyone has in themselves to decide what is right for them – not dictate their actions based on masses and media.

These days, I don’t think too much about these experiences. At one time they were consuming. I was defined by them. Now this piece serves as a reminder for those times as well as this time, right now, where I am empowered by all of my choices – including the choice to publish this.

TW for sexual assault.


I was 15 the first time I was sexually assaulted.

I had a no-hook up rule for anyone in my school and I held to it well. I never dated anyone I went to high school with, only kissed one of my peers, and generally kept my sexual relations well out of the city. I didn’t want drama or awkwardness. Yes I had a lot of crushes and people I wanted to kiss and people I wanted to want to kiss me but that never manifested.

I like things simple. And the simple truth is that I was forced to give a blow-job to someone who’s name I had just learned when I was originally trying to keep my friend from the embarrassment of hooking up with him when it was rumoured he had a girlfriend. It’s pretty simple that everyone had known what I did when I walked back to my friend group with tights ripped at the knees, and also at the crotch where he tried to penetrate me multiple times in a fucking parking lot.

I went back to my friends house that night, a bunch of girls piled into a living room on a fold out and cried. Not one single person took me seriously that night, no one believed me when I had told them what happened. I was drunk and emotional and had seemed really eager! I think I ended up making the journey back home that took over an hour that night even though it was well past midnight.

Turns out I was right to not want to hook-up with anyone I went to high school with. For weeks after his friends – that I had never spoken to before in my life – called his name after me every time they saw me walking down the hall. The girl that he had been rumoured to be dating and assured me he wasn’t called me a slut and I failed math that year after feeling too threatened and depressed to go to school.

But this was not a hook-up. This was sexual assault. And they thought it was funny. It wasn’t serious –  like my casual relationship with rape that was fast blossoming.

About a year later I was drinking in my best friends basement. I had had a weird year with newly formed phobias like thunder and lightning, and being touched – specifically picked up. Whether it was my mom, my grandparents, or my friends that I had hugged 100 times and trusted completely. We were with her boyfriend of the time, his best friend, and a few other guys.

We played drinking games, and were probably all more drunk than we should have been, and the room was a mess of intoxicated, hormonal, teenagers. My best friend and her boyfriend went upstairs and she whispered to me that the bathroom was the best place to go before departing. When you’re 16 hooking up with your best friends boyfriends best friend seems to make sense regardless of anything. It’s romantic. Like a movie. And so we made-out furiously and I climbed on top of him and we did end up fucking in the shower. Which was painful I soon learned and I asked him to stop. And he asked me to give him a blow-job to which said no to because I was still traumatized by gravel in my knees and names echoing after me in stairwells. After he begged me and pushed me down I complied reluctantly and stopped 30 seconds later because I couldn’t breathe.

I told him I was tired and drunk and just wanted to go to sleep, and if he wanted he could cuddle. I went to her sisters bedroom. I looked for the comfiest, unsexy clothing I could find and won with track pants and a hoodie. Not long after he crawled into bed and spooned me hard. Which turned into grinding. Which turned into him sliding down the track pants and trying to penetrate me once again because he “couldn’t sleep if he had blue balls and it was too painful” but shoving his penis into me dry and bareback wasn’t in so many more ways – especially for me.

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I spent from 3AM until 5AM sitting in her driveway crying. And when I was sure everyone was asleep I crawled back into her basement and slept until they all came down in the morning. When he left he looked me straight in the eye and said “well, it was nice meeting you” and gave me a sheepish smile. He had no fucking idea what he had done, and truthfully it took me a couple of years to understand that what he did was rape. It was all very casual.

When I was 18 I was in BC. It was my first time travelling. My first time doing something that felt good for me. The end of high school was a mess, I had gotten out of a toxic (but well-meaning) and dependant relationship and I was trying to learn about what I wanted from life; what I could give back; what made me who I am. I spent 2 weeks in a small town with one of the people in my life that I’m closest to and we went rafting, hiking, ate SO much food, dressed up as men and got incredibly fucked-up at a town gender bender party. We had a fantastic time if you sans the hangovers.

One of these days we went on a hike with a guy who was pretty new to town. This transitioned into plans to see a waterfall with his best friend, followed by a truly fancy dinner which we were all under dressed for and ended up costing us all more than 100$ each. We drank too much wine, drove back to the town we were staying in, grabbed a bottle of gin and rounded up some more locals. We drank gin and juice from the bottles by a pond and laughed and told sad stories and bonded. We were all becoming close in that way that drunken people do. The way any people do when they open up.

We wandered back to one of the shared houses the guys were living in and after puking in the toilet realized I was too drunk. It happens. They put me in bed and since it took 5 minutes to walk anywhere in town the person I was with asked if it was cool if I stayed? Truth be told the five minutes seemed harder intoxicated than hung-over.

“Take care of her!”
“Sexually?”
“No!”

It was all a joke. Until I woke up naked next to a guy I barely knew and had no recollection of how I had gotten there or what had happened. He went down on me that morning and we “fucked” – in other words I lay there in still-drunken disbelief of what was happening while he went in and out of me.

Not all rape is violent. You don’t always know when it’s happening. It’s hard to wrap you head around. You do not feel like a changed person all at once. Your world doesn’t always shatter. Sometimes it splinters and you slowly pull out the pieces – sometimes waiting while your skin pushes it back to the surface. You try and rid yourself of it, and sometimes it takes a while for it to be apparent what exactly that means.

I got up and went home and told my friend what had happened. I made her come back with me to ask if he had used protection – which he hadn’t. I asked him why he thought it was okay and he said he didn’t know. He had woken me up and I seemed “down for it.” And when I told him I was black out drunk, that I didn’t remember anything, he looked shocked but it didn’t register with him that he had raped me. Just that maybe I wasn’t on the pill (but that was okay too because he remembered to pull out, obviously).

I felt a deep, unshakeable shame. A few years later when I found out my friend and my rapist were dating I felt it again. Every time I see a picture of their serious relationship I remember the casual time I was raped, the time that she said “well it wasn’t that bad” while trying to reassure me about the lack of violence. When I was asked to support the union, I felt shame. When trying to understand the logic of just how exactly the fuck that even started up, I feel shame. Maybe for not understanding? Maybe for trusting her so much? For not being mad even if I’m not accepting? I don’t know.

I’m 20 now. No person will ever touch me without my consent. I will no longer feel shame because of boys who forced me to my knees, or who apparently didn’t force me at all. It’s pretty simple – rape is rape. It’s changed me, I’ve grown from it. I wouldn’t say it’s made me a better person, or that it had to happen for me to learn vital life lessons.

There is nothing to justify these experiences happening, and I’ve made a commitment to knowing that everyones voices, everyones experiences are heard; are made to feel valid; are reassured that rape is not casual – it is serious – and that they have a right to the freedom of speech when they felt the freedom of their body was taken from them.

– Forest Greenwell

PDA

This piece was first published on herHABITAT and then featured in the Fear issue of Feels Zine.


You are twenty.

You pay your own bills, “fill” your own fridge. You work a mediocre job that some days when you think about it you feel grateful, and others you feel like you need a life raft.

You have “goals”. You write, you read, you try to educate yourself on the world and how you fit into it, how to understand it.

There are days that are effortless. The ambition and productivity comes naturally. You scribble in your agenda and the inside of your wrist all that you’ve accomplished that day, your to-do list and activities for the next, who you need to call. You think “I am basically invincible. Things are not perfect but everything is temporary and I will always be okay”.

You get home. You’ve just had a the perfect Autumn Sunday – a movie, a drizzly bike ride, mediocre food. Spent 3 hours in bed touching and talking and not moving more than fingers across backs. You departed; finally, dutifully.

Once home you notice the dishes in the sink that you forgot about, the clothes on your bed that you left in a pile when you rushed out the door accepting you wouldn’t look perfect and that was better than being late.

You sigh; take off your pants, say “fuck it, tomorrow” to the dishes, scoop the clothes onto a chair while stepping on something sharp. There is a stale corn chip on your floor, but you don’t remember eating them in here. A little blip makes itself visible in your mind, the radar of recognition, though it’s too faint to see what it is.

Curling up on your bed with the last 15% of your laptop battery you check all that you’ve missed – the Facebook comments, the posts you want to share; the word docs still open from all the notes everyone was drunkenly writing last night as a gaggle of friends had professed their deepest selves reciting poetry, singing, swigging from full bottles because they “did not need glasses to define “full” or “empty”” for them.

You wander, in fatigue and pleasantness from the day. There is a pang in your stomach that was once hunger maybe, but is now nausea. You haven’t noticed it’s been nearly 5 hours since your last meal, but it’s the end of the night. You’ll get a snack in a minute (when you can pull yourself from the glowing grip of your screen.)

You think about this feeling in your stomach. Another blip appears. You scroll, lazily. You think about writing. Another blip. You think about tomorrow, all that you’ve promised yourself you would do: bank, run, get -blip- keys, do dishes, finish laundry. You think about what you said to your mom yesterday when you were angry. Blip blip. You think about the email you sent her. You close your Facebook tab. Blip.

You close your eyes, your stomach saying “so what now?”. You think about work in a couple days; Do you remember how to close? Will it be busy? Blip. You don’t want to go. Blip. You think about your anxiety -blip- and how it has hindered you in the past. “But tomorrow I will be okay. And the day after that as well.” Another promise to yourself. Blip blip.

You start to jiggle your leg, but it’s awkward so you rub your feet together. Compulsively. They are cold, you do this when you’re trying to fall asleep. Blip..

You start to think of all the things you would rather be doing. Blip. You think, with guilt about the dishes in the sink and the stories still open in the dock on your computer, refusing to close them because it feels the same as defeat even though you won’t touch them with intention for another few weeks. Blip. The clutter on your home screen drives you crazy, but you refuse to close the tabs. Blip. It’s not that late, you could probably get in a load of laundry and then shower.  Then you can get the dishes done too. Blip. Maybe even a quick sweep. Blip blip.

You notice you’ve started to flex your fingers, that your body is covered in goosebumps. You put on sweatpants and a knit sweater and start walking back and forth across your room -blip- picking up discarded articles of clothing, hanging them up and folding them or putting them in the laundry. Blip. You’ve started the rhythmic counting in your head that you picked up in fourth grade when you started percussion. One, two, blip, four, blip, two, three, four, one, blip, three, four…

You whip your head around. What did you just hear? Was that the front door closing? Is someone home? You realize it was nothing and become aware of the heavy beating in your chest, your shallow breathing. Blip. (Were you doing this before?) It was probably nothing you reassure yourself -blip-, as you pick little pieces of chip and paper off the ground that have collected there since last night. Blip.

You start to think about the untidiness of your apartment. Blip. The untidiness of your life. When was the last time you worked out? Is anxiety considered a disability? Blip, blip. Can you apply for anxiety disability? Blip. You tell yourself you’re not disabled. You’re having a bad day (bad night at least). It’s been a long month. You just need a good cry, you hold too much in. Blip.

So you let yourself cry. It starts off like a tap that hasn’t been used in a while, spitting out water. Your breathing gets faster again, and a sob builds up in your body as you curl yourself up into a ball. You tell yourself to let it all out and the water turns from cold to hot.

You start to feel dizzy. The weight of exhaustion on you now. You want to stop crying. Your hands are shaking, your nose is running, there’s a wet spot that takes up most of your pillow: saliva, snot, and tears. You get up to walk it off, to signal to your body that it is time to stop. (blip, blip, blip)

This is when you start to hyperventilate. The shudders that rock your body as you try to steady your breathing come in shorter spurts. It feels like your body is being buried under 10 feet of sand and you have an oxygen tank that will only last ten minutes to dig yourself out. You grasp at your arms, a weak attempt at hugging yourself. Or pinching yourself. Something. Your fingers stiffen, and your goose bump covered body is sweating profusely but you don’t feel anything. You can’t think anymore.

You convince yourself that you’re a burden; that no one can help you. They’re going to think you’re doing it for attention. No one calls someone when they’re having a real panic attack. They won’t be able to help you anyway – you’ll always have panic attacks and there’s nothing you can do about it. Just let it go, get up and move on. You thought yourself into this so it’s not even real. These small, mean thoughts circle themselves around your brain. With the rest of the sane energy you have you bat them away. You try to call your mom – no answer. You call her boyfriend – no answer. You call your best friend – no answer. They don’t want to talk to you, they have more important things to be doing. You know you do not have what you need to calm down, and you know they won’t either, but someone needs to know that if you don’t start breathing properly in the next 5 minutes you might not make it. If you don’t hear a voice that isn’t your own, you might not make it.

You stop trying to reassure yourself, stop trying to help and the only thought is “I’m going to die if I don’t start breathing”  – but it isn’t even a conscious thought so much as a fact that you’ve come to understand in that moment. You curl into a ball on the ground, rocking yourself back and forth. Drooling onto your knees, fingers clenched into tight fists at the side of your head. You try to yell but choke; your frustration and fear is paramount.

You start crying so hard that you almost gag, and you know you would vomit on yourself because you can’t move to make it to the bathroom, or even the garbage pail across the room.

Your phone starts buzzing. You can barely move an arm to hit the answer button, and you cannot muster a “hello”. Your best friend is on the other side “Hello?! Forest? Are you okay?!” and you sob pitifully and spit onto your screen, managing to moan out a “No”. The next 10 minutes consist of you regaining and losing your breath, and you’ve heard “it’s going to be okay” at least 20 times. When you can finally muster “I’ll be okay”, barely audible through the congestion and sharp intakes and rushing in your ears. You end the call when you realize you can think again.

You whimper, your breathing shudders as you try to gain control again. Your body feels like it is filled with the sand you were being buried under. You peel yourself away from the floor after a year; hanging head, breathing deep, flexing fingers. Hair sticking to your face, sweater sticking to your back.

You laugh sadly and looking the mirror in the bathroom at your red, puffy eyes and face. At the sticky smears of salt water and saliva, the two solid streams of snot that grace your cupids bow and crystallize on your upper lip. It is the face of an oncoming head ache that contradicts the almost-euphoria of being able to breathe again. You think “I hate public displays of anxiety”.

The Habits of Fear of Success

I feel like I’m constantly sabotaging myself. In small ways. In big ways. In ways that I am not even aware of until it has eroded my confidence, psyche, energy.

I want so badly to fulfill my dreams that it sometimes seems easier if I’m the one who causes them ruin. It seems more likely that I would be the one to let myself down so I do.

In small ways. In big ways. In ways that I am now all too aware of.

Self-Sabotage

This looks like so many things. Spending outside of my budget, not sending in my manuscript, staying in bed too late. Asking the world for days to make art just to find myself cleaning my apartment when I am gifted with them. Making up excuses for each and every one of these instances. Finding myself more lost than ever while on the outside my life looks like I’m getting everything I ask for, yet on the inside I feel more confused the more I achieve. I feel more far away the better things seem.

Is it me distancing myself from my accomplishments? Is my inner self so used to waiting for the shoe to drop that I can’t relax until I cut the laces? I have watched myself succeed; I have watched as I haul myself to the new heights that every venture has brought me too. I have watched myself try to bury myself under these successes.

You know that feeling when you know something is bad for you, and you do it anyway just to keep proving it is bad for you? Whether it be fiending for social media likes, smoking too much weed, eating gluten, not calling your friends back… I feel like that’s where I’m at.

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