© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

It was in October, and it was a really cold day. 

I remember my dad had bought me this humongous winter jacket that I felt ridiculous in. I looked like the Michelin Man. 

 

And I remember standing on line, waiting to go outside with the lunch aid.

She had just counted us all up. 

The janitor passed by, and he had a garbage can that he was pushing. 

And he said from behind me, "Move it, big butt." 

 

And I was eight.

And I looked at him, and I was like, "No." 

Because I felt something inside of me. 

I knew that was wrong for him to say that to me. 

And he said, "Ok, then come with me."

*

 

And at that point I thought he was taking me to the principal or my teacher. 

And as I watched my class walk outside, he took me to an empty hallway and into a room. 

 

Remember back in elementary school the doors only had the really narrow windows? 

The window was covered in art projects. 

And the interior windows from the classroom were facing the courtyard. 

They weren't facing an outside place. 

 

He took me in and closed the door and told me to take off my jacket. 

And I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't do anything about it. 

*

 

From there he proceeded to make me touch him, to make me put my mouth on him.

He inserted himself in me and touched me vaginally, anally. 

I was leaned over the radiator at one point just feeling the heat against my stomach and just being so frozen and totally paralyzed. 

 

I remember I was bleeding. 

I was in a ton of pain. 

 

He timed it perfectly.

And at the end he told me, as he was pulling up his pants and getting himself back together, that if I told anybody that he would kill me and my family and anybody that I cared about. 

 

And so I pulled up my pants.

I cleaned up myself as best I could.

He opened the door as everybody came in from recess.

And I just kind of went back into the line and went back to my classroom. 

 

I remember getting home that day and finding a black garbage bag and throwing away my underwear and my jeans, because they were bloodstained, and putting it in the outside garbage can so that nobody could know.

I went to the nurse every morning for the rest of the year.

My teacher happened to be a male teacher. 

He was this tall flamboyant guy with a beard, and clearly he was really invested in his students.

 

I remember one time he came down and came into the back room of the nurse's office and was like, "I just want you back in class.  I want you to feel safe." 

 

Obviously he didn't know what had happened.

But I was just terrified in his presence. 

 

My mom, when I was seven, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. 

So while all that was happening, this stuff was happening with me. 

 

The rest of elementary school I managed, but then getting to middle school, I rarely showed up to class. 

I was terrified to be in a classroom. 

The fear of stepping in a classroom and not being able to leave. 

 

*

 

I remember the first time I cut myself just feeling so overwhelmed with pain and needing it to release in some way.  I started cutting myself with like a pin, just scratching myself, and then it got worse and worse and worse.

 

I think it was 7th grade.

I remember a teacher saw the cuts on my arms and sent me to the guidance office. 

And I started going there regularly and seeing the social worker. 

And one day the social worker just asked me, "Have you ever been molested?" 

And I remember saying yes and having to tell my parents and having to go to the police. 

 

At that point I was still so afraid of what was going to happen to me and my family. 

Because I didn't know where this man was and what he was capable of. 

So I just said that he had touched me and that was it. 

That's what I reported to the police, and to this day that's what my dad thinks happened.

I couldn't make a full ID. 

But I remember them saying that he was either out of state or dead from the IDs that I did make.  I remember being angry about that. 

 

*

 

I found some relief in talking about it. 

But even though it was good that the social worker approached me, I think it was hard to feel like I had control over what I was saying and how I was saying it. 

Since then I am pretty open about it with people I'm close to. 

I'd rather be talking about it than not.

I think initially I used sex as a way to connect to people.

That was the first thing I knew how to be vulnerable with.

I like to be the one in control and the one who's initiating things. 

 

And I've gotten myself...I even hear myself with that narrative…but I've gotten myself into situations that have been out of control or things have been done to me when there was no consent. 

 

I still have the narrative of, "What did I do to make these things happen?" 

And I don't think that about other people. 

It's just that's something that I think about myself.  

 

*

 

I have a five-year-old daughter. 

This year is the first year that she's in school, in public school, in kindergarten. 

It scares me. 

Up until I was raped I loved school. 

And she loves school. 

And you think of school as a safe place.  

And that was not the case for me.  

 

I want to know that she's safe and it's hard to feel confident in that. 

And I don't want to project that fear onto her or to give her that fear. 

But I want to give her a voice and protect her and to give her the ability to protect herself. 

And that's hard when she's five. 

 

We talk about body safety, and we talk about stranger danger and things like that. 

We tell her to trust herself and to know who to trust and that can also be hard. 

Because the people I thought I could trust I couldn't. 

 

She's a happy healthy kid, and I want it to stay that way for as long as it can.

I'm at a much better place about what happened when I was 8, but I've had things happen in recent years that are really very much in my face.

 

I'm bipolar, and I have my ups and downs.  And last year I went away to Vermont for treatment at an outpatient treatment program that was wonderful.  

 

I had rented an Airbnb off of the campus, because I didn't want to stay in a residential living situation. 

There was one guy that I became really close with. 

And I helped him find a place to live.

 

My girlfriend was living on Long Island where I'm from, and she would come to see me every couple of weeks. 

She, from the get-go, was very wary of this guy. 

But she's always that way about anybody new. 

 

He raped me, and I was clear, and I said no, I don't know how many times. 

And I tried to push him off me. 

This was really the first time that I physically fought back from something that has happened to me. 

 

And afterwards he convinced me that I had wanted it and that I cheated on my girlfriend. 

And that became what it felt like.

I didn't tell anybody. 

Because I thought I had done something wrong.

 

Eventually, when I did tell my girlfriend, she didn't react well.  Because I had lied initially. 

 

She's now my ex, but we went to therapy together.

I remember the therapist asking me all these very prying questions about like, “Well did he have a weapon?  Why didn't you just get up and leave?  Why didn't you report it?”  

 

And my girlfriend was saying, “Yeah, if you had reported it, I could have helped you,” and creating this narrative that it was my responsibility to stop it to fix it, when I already had all this guilt and had to continually—have to continually remind myself that it wasn't my fault.

 

*

 

My whole life people have told me that I trust too much, and I keep hearing that. 

And I don't want to stop trusting people. 

I do believe that people are inherently good.  

I also want to protect myself. 

So where does that line get drawn?

My mom always told me it’s my biggest strength and weakness, because you just don't know. 

 

My favorite author is Sheryl Strayed.

She'd been life changing for me, absolutely life changing.  

She has turned her shame into bravery. 

One of the quotes in her book is, “Vulnerability is strength.” 

And that's something that that trust issue comes down to.  

I recognize that I can use my vulnerability as strength for other people to do good.

 

We have strength that we don't even know about until we have to call upon it. 

 

-Casey