© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I was 13. 

It was 1973 or 1974. 

 

I met this girl in school, and she had so much confidence. 

I saw how boys looked at her, and I wanted a boyfriend. 

We got to be friends. 

One night she said, “Do you want to come hang out with us? We're going to the cemetery.  We hang out and play music.  It will be fun.”

 

I was such a good girl from an upper middle class family, and these kids were wild.

A couple were 15. 

And one of those was my friend. 

My friend Willie.

 

We passed around some joints. 

It wasn't a lot. 

There was Pink Floyd on the boom box and Led Zeppelin. 

I was a little high, and smoking cigarettes, and chug-a-lugging.

I felt cool.

 

She'd walked away with her boyfriend Bobby.

And then I look around and the other girls are gone. 

And I felt like such a loser.

I'm standing there not knowing what to do with my hands. 

And my friend Willie said, “Hey come here.” 

And I was so happy to be noticed. 

 

He clamped his hand over my mouth. 

He threw me down and he pinned me with his knee. 

 

*

 

And at first I thought, “What is this, a joke?" 

 

These other guys come out from behind this big oak tree. 

And there was no one around. 

Us and the dead people.

 

And I fought like hell. 

I was a gymnast. 

I was strong. 

But these were guys. 

 

They took turns. 

 

I had no idea what people could do to each other.

Somebody forced their penis in my mouth.

I was choking and crying. 

I felt like I couldn't breathe. 

And somebody said, “Hey man watch out she might bite your dick off.”

And they were laughing. 

*

 

I couldn't move at all. 

They had my legs spread eagled. 

I had one sneaker on, one sneaker off.

I floated up to the trees, and I looked down at these boys pinning this girl. 

At one point they let me up.

I started running around in a circle screaming, “No, no, no.” 

I think it was Joey who said, "Let's split.  This chick is nuts." 

 

I started screaming for my friend. 

She and her boyfriend come running over. 

She looked annoyed with me like I couldn't hold my liquor. 

I told her what happened. 

 

*

 

Her boyfriend carried me out of the cemetery. 

I slept at her home. 

She brought me a wool blanket and put it over me. 

I remember it itching, but I wanted the blanket.

 

In the morning I thought, “If I tell my mother she's going to march me to the police station, and it's probably going to be a male cop.  He's going to ask me to talk about my vagina.” 

 

And I thought about my father

My father was a WWII army captain and he had some very macho stories.  

I thought, “He's going to kill them. 

And if he kills them he'll go to jail. 

And it will be my fault that I broke up my whole family. 

So I can't tell him.”

 

I thought if I don't tell anyone I can forget. 

It was magical thinking of a child.

 

*

 

I found out later that those kids had broken homes.

And that doesn't excuse it. 

What they did to me was terrifying. 

But as an adult you think back and you think they were kids too. 

 

It's very hard to get to a place in your mind where you can think about it and detach. 

My gut feeling is, “You ruined my fucking life.”

 

 

I found that when I drank and drugged I could forget at least for that night.

I became a stone cold drug addict. 

And it just escalated. 

 

I tried heroin. 

I started shooting cocaine. 

I got hepatitis C. 

I'm lucky I didn't get AIDS.

 

*

 

And it affected everything in my life. 

I had so much rage at men in my teens, 20's. 

They were all kind of interchangeable really. 

I would get so high when I would pick somebody up. 

 

I hate the word promiscuous, because I don't think there's an equivalent for guys. 

So I was a swinging bachelorette.

I would often have a few boyfriends and I would dump one and it would give me a rush. 

I lumped all guys together as horrible people. 

My feeling was, I'm going to be the heart breaker. 

 

My sponsor in AA has been incredible. 

She said that a lot of times when choice is taken away, we come out of that wanting to be the one who decides. 

 

I picked the most damaged people. 

My sponsor has said water seeks its own level. 

 

That's been the hardest thing in my life:  romantic relationships.

 

*

 

I did have nine years with Steve who I loved. 

He had AIDS, I had hepatitis C. 

We could kill each other. 

But I just adored him. 

I met him in AA. 

 

That was the first time I loved somebody as much as they loved me right back. 

After 9 years together, he had been diagnosed with throat cancer.  

So he started the radiation but he couldn't stand the claustrophobia.

The doctor said, “I can give you a Xanax.” 

We were both scared because he was an ex heroin addict. 

He talked to his sponsor and I talked to my sponsor in AA.

And they thought if it's doctor prescribed, if it's one Xanax to get him to do this radiation that’s going to save his life, then get him to do it. 

 

So he took the Xanax. 

He did the radiation. 

 

He went to the drug store that day and got Percocet and then he got Vicodin. 

And pretty soon he got heroin. 

He never got sober again, and our marriage ended.

It was in that rehab that I finally told about the rape. 

It was fueling my addiction.

I was 26 years old. 

 

Mary my counselor, she had us do an exercise. 

She said, “I want you to write a list of bad things that happened when you were drunk or high on drugs.” 

She said to write 5. 

I wrote 10 without even thinking.

 

*

 

I always drew and I always wrote.

I think that was my salvation. 

I think it saved my sanity. 

I sold 51 paintings. 

 

I have a big box of journals and sketch books.

 

*

 

The first assignment in an essay writing class was to write about the most embarrassing thing that happened to you. 

I wrote about trying to kill myself. 

People ask me, “Why would you want to kill yourself?” 

And to me that's like asking, “Why are you 5' 2"?”

That's who I am.

 

I think it was 2009 when I started writing about the rape.

 

Facebook wrote to me and was like, “Hey, you might want to be friends with--and that was the guy whose name I remembered his first name and last initial.”

 

{Dorri wrote an essay based on this social media encounter with her rapist.}

 

*

 

I don't think I could publish it when my father was alive. 

My father would have blamed himself I think. 

I couldn't bear to break his heart. 

 

In January of 2012, the New York Times was going to publish it.

So I was going to tell my mother. 

And she cried. 

She said, “I wish you could have come to me.” 

I said, “I didn't have the words.”

 

It became required reading in a victimology class at CUNY's John JAY College of Criminal Justice. 

So every semester I go and I talk to the students. 

 

*

 

Way before #metoo, I started writing a memoir, and I started getting things published. 

I was published in Marie Claire, in Woman's Day. 

I started writing regularly for this addiction and recovery website.

 

{Dorri pitched her book at the American Society of Journalists and Authors.}

 

And then this literary agent said, “I love this idea, but what do you think about telling many women's stories?  Real people.” 

So I started doing that.

 

And a friend said, "Why don't you make it part stories and part self-help?"

 

I interviewed 14 rape survivors. 

I interviewed experts who help women with rape trauma.

Each chapter is a story of a different kind of rape.

After each story there's a workbook exercise. 

 

What I want is for women to accept what happened, not condone it. 

They have every right to be enraged. 

But what do you do with that? 

 

Telling helps, but also saying, “I'm a survivor and I'm going to get better.  And it's not going to hold me back from my dreams.” 

-Dorri