© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

The path to physical abuse was very clear now, looking back. 

This would have escalated. 

There’s no reason to think it would not have escalated. 

The power dynamics in that relationship were so deeply flawed that there’s no way it wouldn’t have escalated. 

And if it had escalated, I don’t know— It’s like one of those headline relationships.  

Someone ends up in the news because they were either beaten, arrested or killed. 

 

After I moved out of that house, no one told him where I lived.

 

*

 

It made me very defensive and wary of that ever happening again which probably made me more guarded and more aggressive about it than was ever necessary.  Becoming very caustic and very dismissive and very difficult to—like I was so concerned with protecting myself that I couldn’t have an emotional, intimate connection. 

 

Fortunately, the person I was with immediately after was very understanding and compassionate and gave me the space to heal and allowed me the time to come to terms with what happened. 

 

But it took me a long time to call that an assault. 

 

I am in therapy. 

I have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 

It’s impossible to know if that disorder is in any way linked to what’s happened to me.

The Weinstein stuff has been surprisingly difficult for me. 

It’s not even necessarily triggering.  It’s just like a constant reminder that this is something that exists that we have to be afraid of that is relentless and insidious in our culture. 

And even as we’re slowly watching this structure topple, the constant reminder that the structure is there I think has been difficult in ways that I haven’t really acknowledged.

 

I don’t think we’ve quite understood what sexual obligation is and how consent does or does not fit into that. 

 

*

I’ve been extremely lucky to surround myself with women who are just as badass, just as strong, and have been through similar things—who know what I’m talking about in that sort of deep tribal way that you know and protect each other and look out for each other. 

 

And I’m also lucky to be surrounded by men who are actively trying to understand and actively seek out ways that they can be protective and be compassionate and improve their own behavior.

 

I think community has been huge.

 

*

 

{A works in New York as a director, actor, and writer in the theater.}

 

I was in a rehearsal room where we were talking about sexual assault. 

And at one point someone said, “If you’ve ever been assaulted raise your hand.” 

And every single woman put their hand up. 

And I think that was one of the first times I ever owned what happened to me.

And the men in the room were shocked. 

Like more shocked than they had any business being. 

But that kind of ownership of what happened I think has allowed me now to be aware of it and to not allow it to happen again.

 

I’m very uninterested in stigma. 

I’m very uninterested in not talking about things, because it doesn’t help anyone and because if you can’t articulate something you can’t recover from it I’ve found. 

 

Continuing to be surrounded by people who I know have my back, that are in my corner, is very important. 

People that I can talk things out with. 

People that I can go to when I’m like, “I’ve been feeling disrespected.  I don’t know what to do.”  And those people can be like “Fuck that guy.  Cut it off.  Be done with it.” 

And I’m like, oh right.  Oh, you’re right, that is an option.

I’ve only recently in the last year started dating. 

I was in that relationship for three years, and then I was in another relationship for three years, over the course of four years.

It’s been a long time since I navigated the world of having sex with people that I’m not in a relationship with. 

And it’s like the second I feel disrespected, the second I feel unhappy with what’s happening, the second I’m not comfortable, it’s done. 

And I have no problem putting my foot down and standing up for myself. 

 

Because I’ve been there, and I’ve seen what that’s done to me, and I’ve seen how awful it is, and I don’t ever want to go back there. 

 

So I’m reclaiming my space. 

I’m taking back my power. 

This is not a thing.

There’s no obligation here on my part to fulfill this act. 

If I’m not happy with what’s happening, I’m done.

 

-A

In college you don’t call it a drinking problem.  Someone just, you know, goes hard.

 

{The day before spring break of her sophomore year, A slept at her boyfriend’s apartment. 

He drank a bottle of Mad Dog, a flavored wine with alcohol content between 13 and 18 percent. 

Then he got into a fight with his father and punched the wall.}

 

The hole was probably the size of a person’s head.  He’d ripped out the plaster.

 

*

 

I should have left, but that never seemed to be an option. 

Because if I had left it would have started a fight, and I didn’t want a fight.

 

{A said she was sober, because she had to leave early the next day. 

But her boyfriend was black-out drunk. 

She said she doubts he remembers the night at all.}

 

And he basically just decided we were going to have sex. 

I never said no, because I realized at the time if I said no and he did it anyway, that would be rape.  But if I never said no then it wasn’t rape. 

 

And I remember lying there, being like, “I feel like trash.”  Like, I never felt so used.  Ever.

 

But it didn’t matter.  It was too late, and I couldn’t stop him. 

 

It was just, “This is happening.”  And it happened, and I couldn’t understand why I was so upset.

 

{This was not the first time A’s boyfriend had sex with her against her will.}

 

But that was the first time I was like, “Oh wow.  I wasn’t even here.”  It didn’t matter who—like I was literally just a receptacle.  I do have a very clear memory of just lying there and being like, “Eventually it will be over.” 

 

*

 

And I didn’t leave. 

I don’t know why I didn’t leave. 

I had a car there. 

I could have left. 

I just didn’t.

 

And we never ever talked about it ever again.