© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I feel frustrated at the well-intentioned men who are expressing amazement and shock at how many women in their lives were saying “me too.” 

 

I want to hit them over the head with a frying pan and be like, "We've been telling you.  We've all been telling you." 

 

Everyone I know has been screaming about it for years. 

I'm not shocked at how deep it goes, how high up it goes and how wide spread it is. 

Mostly I'm tired. 

I'm exhausted, but I'm ready to burn the house down. 

Like I'm 100% here for that. 

 

It's been really powerful to finally see men facing consequences for decades and patterns of behavior. 

 

I feel nervous about potential backlash.

 And I also feel unsatisfied that, although we are seeing powerful men have to fall on their own fucking sword, we haven't taken steps to change anything systematic or structural about the problem.

 

It's a mixture of frustration, exhaustion and elation.

 

 

*

 

It was in October of 2011.

I had just moved to England for grad school. 

It was about 10 days after I moved. 

And it was sort of during the booze-fueled orientation weeks. 

It was someone who I thought was my friend, who was in both my department and my college.

 

We had all gone out, and I went home with him.

And I passed out.

 

I woke up, and I was on my stomach, and he had taken off my tights and pushed my dress up and was inside of me without a condom. 

 

*

 

And I sort of came to and didn't really know what to do.

I asked him if he was wearing a condom.

He said no, so I told him to stop. 

 

Even in that moment, I remember tempering my own reaction.

I didn't address the actual problem that was occurring. 

Even in that moment, it was like "don't be that girl who rocks the boat." 

Which is deeply shameful to me now.

 

*

 

And I ended up not leaving. 

 

And the next morning I walked home, and I just said, "That's not what happened." 

 

I made a decision that that's not what happened to me. 

 

And that wasn't going to be what happened. 

I told several friends, that I woke up and he was having sex with me. 

I didn't use any words like “rape” or “assault.” 

And I remember most of them responded with some sort of "Me too." 

Like, “That has happened to me too.” 

It was all really compassionate and really understanding, but no one was outraged. 

And I wasn't outraged either. 

 

I sort of tried to reclaim this experience by keeping this man in my life. 

And we continued to be friends. 

I even sort of started to develop feelings for him in this attempt to change that narrative and make that narrative into something else. 

 

And it wasn't until we got into this really big fight a couple of months later, where he ended up yelling at me in the street, that I realized it wasn't the first time that he made me feel unsafe. 

I just felt nauseous about this man and my relationship to him.

 

And it was only during that moment that I was able to name what had happened to myself. 

 

*

 

But I still wasn't angry about it.

 

I started dating someone a week after I named it to myself. 

And I disclosed to him, and he sat up and like got really angry. 

 

Now I really hate when men have that reaction, because it makes me take care of them, and makes it about their feelings.  But in that moment, he was the first person who got angry on my behalf about it, that this was outrageous. 

 

And I was like, "Oh, this is outrageous, and I get to be outraged about what happened." 

 

*

 

I did actually confront him about it. 

 

And he apologized, and sort of rubbed my knee and was like, “I'm sorry, I'm sorry.” 

And I said ok, and I sort of distanced myself from him. 

 

{Not long after, Z was out dancing with her friends, and her assailant showed up.  He told Z he wanted to be friends, and she rejected the offer.  He snapped.}

 

And he goes, "That's not what happened that night." 

 

And I burst into tears and ran out of the club, and my friend followed me and took me home.  And it was the first time I sort of broke down about it. 

I ended up telling a few people in our mutual circle of friends and nothing changed about their relationship to him. 

And it didn't seem to matter that this person that was in both of our lives had done this.

 

It's just so textbook, the permission that men get from their social community. 

There are no consequences. 

There are no social consequences to raping a friend. 

 

So I totally took a step back from that circle of people for the rest of that year. 

 

*

 

I ended up staying in that institution for five more years.

And I never got to leave those spaces that this had happened to me in. 

The next year I lived in the next building. 

And it totally permeated my entire experience. 

 

I've been struggling with intense depression and anxiety. 

 

There were several times I think probably a total of 10 or 11 months over the course of five years that I was completely debilitated and couldn't get out of bed and couldn't work. 

 

It took a severe toll on my life, and that obviously impacted my work. 

 

*

 

I didn't really have sensory triggers. 

They were all kind of cognitive. 

They were all based on articulations of and expressions of macrostructures and individual interactions that would enrage me. 

 

I think what is more recurrent for me is punishing myself for how I reacted and, or how I failed to react.

 

While I can cognitively and intellectually understand what happened, and why I reacted the way that I did, and I was able to understand sometimes surviving and living and continuing to survive is an act of bravery and what you need to do…I can cognitively understand all that but the trauma continues to live on in my body. 

 

My solar plexus, sort of in the bottom of my chest. 

And the top of my stomach, which is where my anxiety sits.  

That's where I feel like the fear or sort of withdrawal or rage.  That's where I feel it.

 

*

 

I still haven't figured out how to access the trauma in my body. 

Typically, if I can cognitively reconcile something and if I can create a narrative about something that makes sense to me, it will soothe my embodied feelings. 

And this is the first time in my life that I have not been able to do that. 

There have been times where I’ve felt like I don't have a body.

So I'm still trying to figure out what is my entry point. 

If my brain can't do it, I don't really know what the answer is to accessing that part of the experience.

My typical coping mechanism has been withdrawing. 

I don't want to talk to anyone.

I don't want to get out of bed.

 

It's like taking a vacation from what's happening. 

But it's like a kind of vacation where you feel like you have to take a vacation after the vacation because it doesn't help me feel better. 

It just sort of delays whatever it is I'm feeling. 

 

 

*

 

One of the things I want to do is figure out how to more productively help restore myself instead of shutting the door on the world.

 

I've had a lot of bad therapists who have made things worse but one amazing therapist at a rape crisis center who had an explicitly feminist sort of framework.  And that was really helpful. 

 

I find being around my women friends is one of the most important things.

Being around really smart, really powerful women is something that feels the most sustaining to me. 

 

*

 

I think what was interesting for me as an academic was to try to observe my own experience from the outside.

It just articulated to me how powerful rape culture is, how diffuse it is, and also how much of it has been internalized by ourselves. 

 

And it was almost surprising to find myself unable to surmount these obstacles, because I work on this. 

And I have all the tools. 

You take away any one of those tools and it becomes even harder. 

 

And I couldn't do it. 

I couldn't report it. 

It would have blown up my life. 

 

And I was not the perfect rape victim. 

I don't fit that narrative.

 

I think I've been surprised at what I say to myself that I don't believe. 

These disconnects have been really surprising. 

Because I don't believe these things that I say to myself. 

And I don't believe them about my friends. 

I don't believe them about anyone, but I still feel them about myself. 

That's thrown the strength of what we're up against into relief in a way that I didn't realize until I experienced it myself.

‚Äč

-Z