coming out: an open letter to my fellow silence breakers

Baili

I never particularly enjoyed New Year’s Eve. Between the hassle of making plans, paying exorbitant cover on whatever venue you stand in line at, and stressing over not having a New Year’s kiss [insert eye roll emoji] it never seems to be worth the trouble.

As we near the big day where we get drunk and naively pray that the subsequent year will bring us newfound prospects and renewed faith in humankind, I sat back on the couch in my therapist’s office and inhaled the scent of green tea before telling her what I am about to tell you.

Both 2013 and my nerves were at their final moments when I walked down the stairs at a party to find my then-boyfriend weeping on a couch. Confused, and admittedly feigning concern, I approached him slowly. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“I..” he choked, “I just don’t think we should be together anymore.”

And that was it. It had been a long time coming, and though perhaps the moment wasn’t as auspicious as one could have hoped a breakup would be, I nevertheless felt compelled to leave the party and get some space.

I slipped on my coat and left the party quietly. I told nobody.

The ice on the ground was getting harder and harder to negotiate with in high heels and I had nowhere to go. My now ex-boyfriend had my car keys in his apartment, and I wasn’t even about to try to drive in the weather that late at night. I just wanted to be warm and away from the crowds of people. It was then that I texted “him.”

“He” was a friend with whom I had a strange history with. Though we had never dated, to his dismay, we had been quite close throughout school. The timing was never right, and he had issues he needed to work out. He was notorious for drinking heavily and becoming, though largely inadvertently, violent when he had one too many. Several broken chairs, holes in walls, and shattered bottles will attest.

But he was close, and I needed the comfort of a close friend. We went back to his house.

Less than one hour later, I was barefoot in the parking lot of my vacated sorority house, wearing nothing but my coat, and hugging the utility pole just to stay vertical. I called a friend in absolute hysterics, who promised she and her boyfriend were leaving the party and were on their way in a taxi. The last thing I heard before climbing into the car was a complete stranger in the distance, who yelled “where ya going so fast, baby?”

My story doesn’t end here, but my public narrative does. The reason being that, while it is highly triggering not just for myself but for others, it isn’t important to know the details. I was raped that night, and that’s that.

Typing it out so plainly has my heart racing. Everyone who follows my writing already knows it happened. There’s just something so ominous about saying it so definitively. The word itself, rape, sounds particularly sinister. It is a word as ugly as its meaning.

And here I am, sitting alone at a computer in the comfort of my own space, speaking to you. If this is how it feels to “come out” as a survivor, I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to be one of Time Magazine‘s People of the Year.

These people had to do what I’m doing now, only their audience was much larger, and much more brutal.

There seems to be a large amount of skepticism in regards to survivors’ experiences, both high and low-profile. I often hear people say through grimacing faces, “she’s probably just trying to get his money” or “they’re just trying to get attention.” Now honestly… you have to understand that this is the kind of attention that nobody, literally fucking nobody, wants. Exposing ones self to the world within such a traumatic context is terrifying.

But here we are. We’re speaking loudly and plainly. Not for money, not for attention, but for humankind.

As I have continued my writing, I’ve been blessed not only with the support I never believed I would attain, but also with the many brave people who have reached out to me to share their own similar experiences. As survivors of something so internally damaging, our natural instincts are to disassociate, hide, and bury. While the events that led to the recent worldwide discussion of sexual assault are far from acceptable, I have never felt closer to my fellow humans.

Through the ugliness that has tried so hard to shade my life, health, and sanity, I have found a purpose.

I want you– my sister in suffering, my forlorn friend, whoever you are–to someday feel strong enough to tell your story. I want you to know that there is someone out there who believes you unconditionally.

You have seen things that most people cannot imagine. You have knowledge that can only be acquired by experiencing trauma for yourself. You have resilience that the majority of the world envies. I am sorry for what happened to you. It is not right, and it is not fair.

Please understand that, in that moment when your power was stripped from you, it grew back tenfold.

The discussion cannot stop. I now open the floor to you.

 

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