I remember a time when I went to a therapist weekly, to resolve family disparities and inner-struggling, but felt so free to listen to French concert-hall romantic music on my headphones while riding my bicycle at midnight across the Mass Ave bridge in solitude, glancing at the reflection of eternity on the surface of the Charles river. My only warnings came from that therapist: to carry pepper spray and ride under bright lights, and carry my newly-acquired cell-phone, “just in case of emergency.” That quiet and distant ‘emergency’ then, only an abstract threat.
In spite of her threats, Montand's lullaby (above) would score my 3/4 time rhythmic weaving of my front bicycle wheel through the empty streets of Cambridge and over the river- free in heart, free in body, free to embrace to romantic waltz of a nostalgic french love song of a summer's love affair, with nothing but whimsy radiating out from my body as I'd glide through the peaceful calm of night's privacy...
That therapist who later, would question the sexual advances of my professor, a personal friend of hers who she couldn’t conceive as a predator- in spite of how intimately she had come to know ME, on such a personal level.
This reality- carefree midnight bicycle rides to absorb all the romance and freedom in my heart- for only myself, never a threat- now a faraway dream I can’t fathom embarking on, having now been prey to sexual predators.
Oh, how I long for those days. Pigtails, a 1950s red bicycle, Yves Montand on my CD walkman blasting “Trois Petites Notes de Musique;” riding over the river upon vacant bridges when nobody’s watching and the city is silent with sleep.
Now, I don’t leave my house without a taser and check my shoulder every 30 seconds at least- not on a clock, but out of fear that I may be attacked.
This is what rape does.
This, is what being a woman in american rape-culture means, once your veil gets torn off and trodden down into the gutter.
I miss this.
I miss this.
In my 20s, I was a small business owner. I bought the company after many years working for it, and ran it successfully for nearly four years, through the economic collapse. It should have been a dream come true: the ultimate success of and apex to my music career- and it would have been, had my most 'indispensable' employee not also been my rapist, harrasser, stalker.
His first rape of my body occurred one year after I bought the company. After a year of introducing me into his family and establishing himself as "my right hand man" who I could count on, no matter what: "A most trustworthy and dependable employee;" the terror began.
Ultimately I sold the company, moved far, far away, and underwent years of continued therapy. And then at last, I reported him ten weeks ago. I am in the process of writing a memoir about it, and about the process of reporting a rape under our current justice system. It took me eight years to gather the courage to speak out for myself as a whole and worthwhile human being, worthy of justice and agency. It took me eight years to value my body and voice and being, over the fear of backlash from the rapist or his community.
One notable mantra I've repeated to myself in these months of speaking out, is "If Malala Yousafzai can speak out against the taliban, I can speak out against this monster."
It really gave me an added sense of strength I wasn't anticipating.
The following works are the process leading throughout the process of reporting "The puke," (as my mom calls him) to the police detectives. Once they make an arrest and he is charged, I will be able to uncensor parts of the story that might identify him, or name the company (which will add to the sick irony of this whole ordeal, I promise). Until then, I want to share what I can, to help other survivors of sexual assault who are struggling- because I would never have gotten through my own experience without the shared experiences of others before me.
So thank you all, and thank you Malala.
I am an Ardent Feminist Activist artin' things up in the fringes to take down rape culture.