Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Anniversary--Six Years Is a Long Time.

A lot has changed since September 2003: I've graduated from Cornell, started medical school, had a job in the interim, had several relationships.
Since then I've become fluent in German, lost 60 pounds, competed in road races, had essays published in several anthologies.
Since then I've become an Anglican, become an activist, marched in a gay pride parade, have grown more comfortable being 'out' about both my spirituality and my sexual orientation. Yes, a lot has changed.

Six years ago today I was raped by a stranger. It was violent. It was terrifying. It was painful. I was injured both physically and emotionally. "Why talk about it?" I can hear people asking. "Keep that stuff to yourself. It's too dark, too personal. No one wants to know. It makes us uncomfortable." Even the word itself--rape--makes people wince; its single syllable falls like a blow. 'Sexual assault' is gentler; it spreads the impact over multiple words. It is less explosive, less primal. This is precisely why I make the effort (though it is still difficult for me) to call what happened to me rape.

It makes me uncomfortable too, but I don't have the luxury of expunging it from my memory and living free of any consequences. I cannot forget. And as long as women are being victimized--as long as I know my sisters are being hurt and humiliated and then, on top of that, shamed into silence--it is my intent to prevent anyone from forgetting it. I don't think people ignore issues like rape out of callousness (though perhaps some do); it is rather a need to protect their delicate human hearts. It is frightening to witness another person's pain, especially a pain of this intensity. It is uncomfortable to face injustice and violence--to know, not at a superficial level but to acknowledge in a way that can only produce horror, that there are human beings who intentionally hurt other human beings to gratify their own drives.

Tonight I went for a run in the park. I misjudged the sunset and ended up halfway through my run with almost no daylight left. The rape happened under similar circumstances. I was freaking slightly. It felt like a fairy tale, where someone is always warned at the beginning, "Don't touch the pumpkin," or "Stay away from this room at midnight," and at the end of the story finds themselves doing precisely what they were told not to, and thus bringing disaster upon themselves. I peered through the darkness, checking every tree for figures, running along the road (where the lights are). By the time I crossed Kingshighway, though, a peculiar joy was running through my veins. The moon was a waxing gibbous; waxing moons are auspicious, and I could practically feel her beaming down at me as I ran the last few blocks home, my footfalls and heartbeat synchronized with my breathing and the drone of cicadas, like a symphony of flesh. I have made it through six years. Not without pain or injury; not without bouts of choking sadness or ragged anxiety, but also not without hope.
Tonight is also the feast of St. Michael and All Angels. As autumn descends, as the days shorten, everyone gets caught up in the universal drama of dark vs. light. It's a constant struggle. That's the point. Who will win is not a foregone conclusion. But then that's what hope is about.

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