Yesterday marked the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. End the Silence Campaign is committed to providing survivors with a place to tell their stories, as well as increase the number of REAL stories told by the people who actually experienced them. A month devoted to awareness about sexual assault is the perfect opportunity for more survivor voices to be heard.
So, in honor of this important month, End the Silence Campaign will be featuring a new writer or artist each day. A new poem, story, or artwork will be published on the site, so stay posted! If you would like your submission to be considered, feel free to submit it online. If your story, poem, or artwork is not featured during SAAM, we will be sure to post it as soon as possible!
Check out our first feature, Kacey Coffin. In her powerful letter to the man who raped her, she writes:
“I wanted to start this by saying dear and your name, but I don’t feel as if you have earned the right to be called by your name. There is a concept of your true name, and to know someone’s true name is to know their soul. You have not earned the right to be called by any name. When you shatter the soul of a child and leave her to put the pieces back together over 22 plus years, you no longer have the right to your own soul…” Read the rest of Kacey’s letter here.
Note from the Author: I wanted to share something I wrote when I returned to the street where I was abducted when I was 12. I was abducted there, raped and beat up in a car someplace I could not see. The man who took me did the same to 16 other girls before he was caught. It was 1976.
I wrote this as my personal declaration when I went back two years ago. I wrote it in yellow chalk on the sidewalk so it would be there forever. When rain erased it, I know part penetrated the earth and made its home there.
I did not come here
so you could tear off a piece of my life
beat the warmth from the smile on my face
still, then silence my voice
I came back to find and embrace
the beauty strength and grace
that is all my own
And to declare:
That I can warm the world
when I smile with my whole body
And I am learning to speak
from my heart without saying a word
I did not come here
so you could tear off a piece of my life
I came to sample the taste of freedom
and know how it feels to be whole
Visit Lin’s blog to see more of her writing: www.dealingwithhealing.blogspot.com
When I was sixteen
I used to lie on my back
Under the sunflowers quilted together
Sanctuary with the lights out
It was then only me, Fiona, and the knowing
Calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion
Singing along with a sullen girl
Just like me in those times
But she was brave enough to write about her rape.
Most do not
And when I was raped months later
After falling deep into her world
I knew then that I had been changed
Made into one of them
Those who understood
Because all who remain have no choice
But to group together and hold tight
To stand strong enough
In the face of so much ignorance.
The first time I was raped everything blurred blessfully
Drugged out of my skin
So high that I watched my best friend
As he pulled the tampon out before he plunged inside
I felt nothing.
Hooked up to an IV pumping saline into my veins
Icing my bruised swollen and cut up lips
Still I felt oddly numb and removed.
Only days later did the nausea come
Flashbacks hit me like windstorms without warning
I could taste his perspiring salty skin
Glandular balls in my mouth
The fat of his stomach pressing
Kept pressing and pushing me down
All of this real like it was happening all over again.
Just memories though
Come and go and now mostly gone
As I moved on
Became a leading activist in the fight
For freedom from violation
Never faltering from my quest for five years
Because you see
Lightning does strike twice for some
And the second time hurts more
Cuts much deeper
So here is my story.
Walking into your house was surreal
I should have been scared
But I wasn’t
The moon and sky came in close
Into the kitchen that was once there and whole
Fascinating me with its emptiness
But I have always been stupid like that
Paralyzed by beauty that is still and simple.
I could not have known then
That what I felt looking up
Up and out through the wood beams
That what I felt was not just admiration
Or an acknowledgement of architecture progressing
But a warning
Because the house was once lovely and humble
And now broken apart organ by organ
Only to be put back together again
Remodeled like Frankenstein’s monster
Reeking of falsified power
The only way some men know how to show prowess
Solely because they can
Again and again; over and over.
After the quick tour of the ruins
You showed me to your bedroom
Offered me a drink
When I had only wanted the guest bedroom
The haven you promised
Somewhere to sleep off my inebriation unfettered
And now I wonder if there ever was such a place.
Comedy on TV
I sat awkwardly at the foot of your bed
Not sure what I was doing there
Because I thought we were friends
But you were acting so suddenly strange
Mute and blind to me
So I nervously sipped
Coke mixed with a foreign rum
Tasted like Costa Rica
It’s not strong stuff, Rach. Don’t worry.
Minutes passed and I felt the lethargy fall
Felt my body fall next
Fall right next to you
And I tried so hard to keep my eyes open.
The lights blinked off
Shivering so I mumbled for a blanket
Curiously cold on this late summer night
You pulled the covers closer
Wrapping black muscled arms encircling
Maybe you meant to comfort me
But all I felt were chains
Thickening and tightening
Holding me in place too close
And like an animal you rubbed against me
My back was to your front
And I could feel your cock hard against my thighs
Yes, the inevitable was coming
‘Cause I was too listless to stop it.
In some quick few motions
You got up
Walked to the dresser
Pulled something out of the top drawer
Put it on
And pulled down my jeans as you climbed on top
My mind was not working fast enough
I was missing things
Moments out of sequence and order
You never asked me
If I liked you
If I wanted to
How we got to this place
Where you are on top of me
Fucking the hell out of me
When we have never even kissed.
I was shocked and still half dressed
Because all you needed off was gone
You turned me over
My cunt not enough
And before I could cry out
To say I had never done this before
You were in
Doing that hateful thing
In my whole life
Sexual and otherwise
I never once thought about it
Never had any desire to try
YOU DID NOT ASK
YOU TOOK AWAY MY CHOICE!
It was in
Too long and too much girth for the act
Attached to a six-foot-four long body
Entirely composed of muscle and lean fat
A machine of a man
To ensure there would be no escape
From the in, out, and the endless pain
And soon I could not control my sobbing
Begging you to stop
Choking out no! over and over and again
But you kept at it
Pushed my face down hard into the pillow
Pinned my wrists
As I write this I look down
There are bruises now
Like hospital bracelets.
Turned me over
Fucking me from the front again
I am really crying now
Until you covered my mouth
Panicked as you whispered close to my face
Quiet, my dad is sleeping!
I wonder now
Maybe you thought I was moaning
Crying out in ecstacic pleasure
As you proceeded to tear up my insides
Move your cock around greedily
Forceful circular motions
Stretching out whatever virginal tightness I had left there.
I lost count
How many times you flipped me over
Back to front to back and then again
All I could think of was disease
Bacterial infections and viruses
You were likely bestowing upon me
And how you were so lucky
Covered and protected
And only open exposed vulnerability for me.
Fast so fast and hard
One God damn thrust after another
I gave up fighting
Turned my face away along with my thoughts
Even the voice inside my head
To let this end soon
Let me survive
Keep my intestines in place
And let me run
But as I lay as still as I possibly could
Showing you only my wet cheeks
You must have known the power you had
With my tears dripping
Pools in the palms of your hands.
You sped up
And when I played the logic card
Last desperate attempt
When I told you we had to stop
That I could not keep going
That my body was dying and drying up
You started to moan
Just one more minute, Baby!
I wanted to kill you
And I didn’t think I had one more minute to give
So you gave one last push towards the abyss
Either came or gave up trying.
I watched the condom peel off
Land on the bed
Followed by a towel you threw in my direction
Clean up crew.
I carefully watched you walk away
Made sure you were out of sight
Then stared at the sheets
Tried to wrap up the blood, sweat, tears, and shit left behind
You walked back in
I hurried up with shaky limbs
Zipping my jeans
Thinking of the condom
If it stayed on the whole time
I asked and you said it did
That answer was the last thingI would ever need from you
From then until death do us part.
I practically ran for the door
But you followed after me
As the pain between my legs raged
And you hugged me
Told me how to find my way home
Please, yes, home.
Once inside my car I lost it
Tore rubber and tore out of there
As the sobs racked my body
Chills crawled all over me
With no regard for the fact I had to drive
So I got lost three times
Took an hour to get back
Long minutes of the burning swelling and spreading
Up and throughout
Until my entire lower half throbbed as one.
In my bathroom
Blood began to seep out
From a place where no life flows
From a place where only unwanted
Unnecessary things left the body
And I was thankful
Because my body knew you were not welcome
Your time inside was coming to an end.
The water raining down in the shower stung
But I would have cleansed myself in acid
If it meant purity would follow
And I sucked in a deep breath
Blew out a sigh of relief
While watching your noxious remnants swirl down the drain.
Examination and cleaning commenced
My fragile vaginal lining was scared and scarred shut
And I tried to coax open
The spaces you nearly destroyed
But soap and water did little good to soothe
Too many little cuts and swollen tissue patches
Red and angry like cancerous lungs.
So I stood under the showerhead
Until I felt sure
Your strong sweat stench was banished from every pore.
I slept as best I could
But every few hours I woke
For urges not normally present
Back and forth I padded across the hall
Bedroom to bathroom
It hurt to walk
To use my body
But I had to because it would not stop
So much blood
Did not stop for twenty-four hours
And now, two days later
I still bleed sometimes
It still hurts to move
And the cuts and swelling yet wound.
So here it is
Six years after the first rape
The only rape I thought
Sullen Girl by Fiona Apple plays loudly
Writing in my bedroom
On a different quilt
In a different time
With too much just the same
But unlike the first time
I don’t want to avenge my crime
Don’t want love and support
Don’t want to be the martyr and fight
As always before
I only want to bury
Bury any knowledge of you
In my life or in this world
This will be a secret I hold
Not to protect you or even myself
But to protect the loved
The ones I will not endanger
With your heinous act and this wretched story
My pain is my own
And need not darken any other door
You may lay claim to my waking thoughts
But it ends there
Because no part of you will reach out
To touch the ones that matter
Like the little earthquake that ate up your poor little house
This was also a man-made mock natural disaster
Used to service empty needs and a weak ego
To tear down and cover up
In the name of triumph
Give me life
Give me pain
Give me my self again
Let it break
Let it bleed
Let it wash away
And let me go.
Girlie, Hootie, Oogy, Squak. They sure did have a lot of nicknames for me. My mama and daddy gave me the name Girlie. They said I was their cute little girlie. They called me Girlie for a long time until my friends decided to change it. We were playing stickball outside and I had to pee. I tried to cross my legs and hold it but couldn’t. I put my hand down there to try and hold it back, but that didn’t work either. Soon, as the warm, wet pee ran down my legs, laughter flooded the playground.
“Look, she peed all over herself!”
Soon, everyone in the playground was calling me ‘Hootie pee-er’. I don’t know why, but for days after, they called me Hootie pee-er. Soon they dropped ‘pee-er’ and simply called me Hootie. I wouldn’t have minded being called Hootie if it hadn’t reminded me of that embarrassing day. At least it was better than Girlie. Mama said that it was better too.
“You don’t want no boys calling you Girlie, they be thinkin’ you their property or somethin’,” she said.
“I ain’t no one’s property,” I yelled back at her.
“From now on, you will tell people to call you by your given name, hear?”
“Yes mama, I hear.”
My mama was right. Why shouldn’t people call me by my real name? I thought it was a nice name. On that day, I decided to tell everyone to call me Olivia. It would be hard to tell people not to call me Hootie, but mama said I should and that was what I was going to do.
That’s where they got Oogy and Squak. See, my teachers had even taken to callin’ me Hootie. In every class, I had to tell people to call me Olivia. In math class, Miss Peterson called on me to answer a question. She called me Hootie.
“Miss Peterson,” I said, “ I would like for you to call me Olivia.”
The class thought that this was the funniest thing they had ever heard. They began laughing and hollering,
“Hootie doesn’t want to be called Hootie, she wants to be called Olivia! Ha!”
“Miss Peterson, I would like you to call me Olivia,” Brad Stevens cooed.
“She said her name is Olivia, Oogy Olivia!”
That’s where Oogy came from. It only lasted the day though because after school, the whole class was waiting for me outside.
“Hey, Olivia, Why you got to tell the teacher you didn’t like your nickname,” someone yelled.
“I want to be called by my given name; my mama told me to.” I was frightened of giving them any other words to give me a nickname for.
“What are you gonna do if we don’t stop calling you Oogy, tell your mama?” someone yelled back at me.
“If you tell your mama, we’ll call you Squak! What do you think of that?” Brad Stevens asked.
“I told you to call me Olivia. If you don’t I’ll tell my mama and she’ll make you!”
I ran home crying, knowing that they would never call me by my real name. I didn’t dare tell my mama what had happened.
On the way to school the next day, I walked slower, trying to imagine what nicknames they would come up with that day. Would it be Hootie, Oogy, or Squak? Whatever it would be, I would still tell them to call me Olivia.
The first person I saw when I got to school was Brad. He looked me square in the eye and said, “Hi there, Oogy!”
I walked past him, quietly correcting him. “Olivia,” I said.
He just ignored me. The second person from my class called me Squak. I corrected her, too.
“Olivia,” I said again, only louder.
I said my name more times in that day than I ever said it in my entire life. Even Miss Peterson still called me Hootie. Each time I would correct them. “Olivia,” I would say.
That was the longest day of my life. Not one person called me by my real name. I was beginning to get mad. Each time I said “Olivia,” I got louder and louder and angrier and angrier. By the time I left school that day, I was ready to explode. What was so hard about calling me by my real name?
Outside of school, a gang of kids was waiting for me.
“Hey Squak! Come here,” Brad yelled to me.
“My name’s not Squak, it’s Olivia,” I yelled back, continuing on my way.
I knew that if I got near enough to him I probably would have hit him so I just kept walking. I made it about half a block when I felt a hand around my arm. Whoever it was, they were alone because I saw all of the other kids leaving the schoolyard. I never felt so alone in my life.
“Hey Nigger, I told you to come over,” Brad said.
He kept talking, but I stopped hearing him. What was a Nigger? They had never called me that before. I would have to ask my mama what it meant.
“Why didn’t you come when I told you to, Nigger?”
There was that word again. I wanted to ask him what it meant but didn’t want him to call me Dummy or some other nickname so I just kept quiet. He was squeezing my arm tighter and dragging me with him.
“My dad says that niggers are here to serve us white folks. I think it’s time you started serving me.”
I closed my eyes, waiting for what he would do next. I could hear him doing something but I was too scared to open my eyes. After he was done, he told me to get down onto my knees. I did what he said, afraid of what he’d do to me. I kept my eyes shut.
“Open your mouth,” he yelled.
“Why?” I asked, not knowing what he was going to do.
“Just do it, Nigger! It’s about time you served me like my dad says you’re supposed to.”
When I opened my mouth, he put something inside it that felt like a banana with the skin still on it. It smelled funny and it hurt when he pushed it back into my throat. It almost made me throw up. He started moving it back and forth in my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. I opened my eyes and saw what it was that was in my mouth. I felt sick to my stomach. I really don’t know what I did after that; all I know is that Brad was crying and holding his peep. At least it wasn’t in my mouth anymore; it tasted awful. I figured that I bit him because I saw that it was all red and bleeding. It must have really hurt him because he couldn’t even speak. He just stood there with his pants around his ankles and tears running down his face. He must have been embarrassed because he pulled up his pants and ran all the way home. I stayed there, not sure if it was over. I tried to spit out the dirty taste in my mouth as I got up. I was pretty sure that I knew what Brad meant by ‘Nigger’.
I made my way home slowly, thinking of what had happened. I vowed to myself that from that day forward, no one would ever make me feel that way again.
People will call me by my given name, Olivia.
To those who begin sentences with the words
“The problem with feminists…”
And proceed to attack my most deeply held beliefs
To those who have the nerve to tell me
That the most terrifying situation of my life
Was all about my selfish personal convenience
To those who equate the fear, the helplessness and the pain
With cold-hearted murder,
And speak of “viability” and the soul
To those who presume to lecture me
About the sacred blessing and responsibility of child-bearing
And would reduce me to nothing more than an incubator
To those who accuse me
Of continuing the cycle of violence that first began with an attack on me
By making the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make
To those who remind me that I am an adopted child
A supposed refugee from the anti-child world of choice
With the charge of returning the favor
To those who say I’ve committed abortion
Not had one
And believe I’ve no right to decide what I do with my body
Fuck you and your opinions
I have no interest
In your hypothetical scenarios
I am not some case study for you to test your theories
I will not debate the philosophical and moral possibilities
Nor entertain the idea that you can possibly understand “where I’m coming from”
I will not explain myself
At least not any more
I’m done talking about it