My dreams are haunted by that night. More so in Autumn since it was a crisp fall night nearly 20 years ago when it happened.*
It took my friend, Michelle,** and I fifteen minutes to walk to her boyfriend's house from the place where I was living. My parents in Minnesota had sent me here, to Oregon, to live since they didn't know how to handle their "troubled" daughter. Back then, there weren't as many resources available to help teenage girls with depression.
Everyone was drinking when we arrived. We joined them around the bonfire and someone handed me a bottle of AfterShock. I loved the cinnamon liquor and half the bottle was gone before I realized I was slur-my-words drunk. The world around me was spinning as I mumbled something to my friend about going to lie down for a while. I stumbled into the house and fell onto one of the couches barely able to pull the blanket over my body before I passed out.
I have no idea how long I was out, but I woke up shivering. My blanket was gone and I'd sobered up to a slight buzz. Light and shadow played tricks with my vision as if I were looking through a broken kaleidoscope; everything shifting and changing though nothing came into clear view. Someone was in the room with me, but it took a while for my eyes to finally focus on who had woken me.
Zack, one of my closest friends since moving to Oregon, was standing over me holding my blanket. He leaned down and kissed me. I was taken by surprise since there had never been anything romantic between us. Especially since I was dating one of his best friends.
He tried to kiss me again and I pushed him away.
I told him to stop. I thought it was all just some stupid prank, but it wasn't funny. He didn't stop trying to kiss me and then he had his hands on my breasts. I pushed him away, again, harder this time. He told me how he had wanted to be with me from the moment we first met and that he knew I felt the same way.
I realized he wasn't joking with me.
Again, I told him to stop. I told him he was a friend, nothing more; that I never intended to lead him to believe otherwise. He got angry and I tried pushing him away, again, but I was no match for the sixty pounds he had on me. There was a void of emotion in his eyes.
As terror set in, I tried to scream for help. Immediately, he covered my mouth with one of his hands while his other hand tried to undo the buttons on my shirt. I bit his hand and screamed again, but the music outside was so loud no one could hear me. He lashed out with a backhand to my face. My lip split and blood filled my mouth.
He said nothing to me as he covered my mouth with his hand. He gave up on trying to undo the buttons on my shirt, so he ripped it open and grabbed the front clasp of my bra tearing that away, too. I was crying then, my nose was stuffed up and I couldn't breathe. Black spots started to appear in my vision and I felt dizzy.
Taking his hand away from my mouth, Zach fumbled with the buttons on my jeans. I felt myself beginning to pass out. There was no chance of yelling for help as I sucked in as much air as I could; willing myself to stay conscience. He had my jeans undone and pulled them off. When he began to unbutton his pants I saw my opportunity. I kicked him as hard as I could and knocked him off balance. I was up and off the couch, but before I could gain my footing he knocked me to the floor.
He stood over me and suddenly my side was on fire with a white hot, explosive pain. Still in his steel toe boots, Zack kicked me again and this time, I felt and heard it; the sound of my ribs breaking. I thought I was going to throw up.
Then, he raped me.
Afterward, he put his clothes in order and walked out of the room. Before he left, he turned and said a single word.
The floor was cold as I lay naked; shivering. A high-pitched keening sound, like that of a wounded animal filled my ears. I wished someone would put the poor thing out of its misery. Then, I realized the sound was coming from me. I was the wounded animal. Numb. In shock.
Carefully, I sat up and stood. Every movement I mad set my ribs on fire. I gathered my clothes and bag, walked into the bathroom and locked the door. I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the face looking back at me. Makeup smeared my eyes as tears continued to run down my cheeks. My eyes were dark and vacant. My swollen lower lip slowly oozed blood. I could already see a deep bruise blossoming over my ribs. Blood streaked my thighs.
I needed to calm down and make a plan, so I got into the shower, turned the water on as hot as I could bear and sat on the floor of the shower stall. While I watched my blood circle down the drain, I knew what I needed to do though I stayed in the shower until the water started running lukewarm. Stay quiet and act as if nothing had happened. That's what I would do. I tried not to aggravate my ribs as I got out of the shower. It was impossible. Even breathing set them ablaze.
I dried off and looked in the mirror; taking inventory. There was makeup in my bag. Thankfully, my lip had stopped bleeding. With concealer and lip gloss it would just look puffy. If anyone asked, I would say I tripped and accidentally bit my lower lip. Easing into my jeans I remembered my shirt and bra were a total loss, so I slipped into a bedroom and took a long sleeve t-shirt. I walked into the kitchen and buried my ruined shirt and bra in the garbage can. There was a block of knives on the counter. I took one and slipped it into my bag without a thought.
My hoodie was in the foyer and as I went to retrieve it I realized I couldn't stand up straight; it was simply too painful. I was pretty sure that I needed to see a doctor about my ribs, but that would generate questions I didn't want to answer. Seeing a doctor would only complicate my situation in a way I simply couldn't risk.
I assessed myself in the mirror before going outside. I looked almost exactly the same as I did when we came to the party. By the light of the bonfire, no one would see any difference. There really wasn't much to see, anyway, now that I had my clothes on. The real change was the one taking root inside my mind.
Hunched over like an old woman, I walked outside to find everyone was drunk. Zach was sitting with the guys who were laughing at a joke someone told. I wanted to take the knife from my bag and jam it into Zach’s eye. Instead, I found Christina and told her it was time for us to go. There was no way I was leaving her alone with these people and I needed to lean on her during the walk home.
It took us a half an hour longer than usual, but we finally made it home. Christina was going to have to sleep it off here at my house. I tried to sleep, but my ribs throbbed and burned. Every time I closed my eyes I could feel Zach's cold, clammy hands on my body.
Slowly, I walked back upstairs to the cabinet in the kitchen where the medications were kept. As quietly as I could, I snuck a sleeping pill. Then, in the back corner of the cabinet, I found an expired bottle of pain medication and realized I'd found my solution to avoid a visit to the doctor. No one would notice the bottle was missing.
I carefully navigated the stairs and double checked the sliding glass door in my room to ensure it was locked. As I started to feel drowsy, I took the knife from my bag and slipped it under my pillow.
In Part 2 of this series, you will hear from Teressa (pronounced Tressa) as she shares how rape has impacted her life. That in breaking the silence she has found the strength to reclaim her life.
*Originally written by Teressa for a class, this story has been revised and edited to fit this blog.
**All names, besides Teressa's, have been changed.