November 10, 2016. I’ve reported my rapist to the police, and I am in complete limbo. I can’t focus at all at work or on anything at all. I step away from my computer because I’m not able to get anything done, and I hand write the following poem in a notebook.
Since I wrote this I have learned a lot. Many of these things that “no one taught me,” are things I still don’t know, because rape puts survivors in an impossible situation, both during and after the assault. I don’t believe these things can be taught, even having lived them, yet somehow, it seems society expects us to know, to respond “properly” to rape in a way that makes it fit the legal definition, to accept this reality as if it isn’t one of the hardest things we will ever do, and then report it right away with plenty of evidence that we should have known to identify and preserve. I share this now in the hope of shedding light on what this experience is really like, how agonizing life can become, and how compounded this pain is by the lack of understanding from those around us. I hope by reading it, more people will be able to understand and learn to react better when they hear stories like this — that you will stop expecting victims, people whose lives are suddenly disrupted, to have the perfect reaction to something they never imagined they would go through.
* * *
No one ever taught me how to make the call to the police to report a non-emergency. How do I begin my sentence?
No one ever taught me what to say to the crisis hotline when they ask what they can do for me.
No one ever taught me what I’d need after I’ve been raped.
No one ever taught me how to give consent,
or no one ever taught me how to not give it. No one taught me how to not be asked.
No one ever taught me how to know I really was raped.
No one taught me to know what it feels like to be raped.
No one ever taught me how to feel raped.
No one taught me what to do if I’m raped.
No one taught me how to tell if my friend is a rapist.
No one taught me that if my friend is making jokes where he hits me or violates me that I don’t have to agree it’s funny.
No one taught me how to react when I’m forced by someone else to keep my own secret.
No one taught me how to know if I’m ready to have sex.
No one taught me it’s okay if I am.
No one taught me it’s okay if I’m not.
But they taught me how to use a condom
and they made sex fun to talk about
and I learned from TV that the only people who ever don’t want sex as a teenager are people who are Christian and don’t believe in sex before marriage,
and those kids eventually have sex, too.
I learned that the only people who would ever try to have sex with me would be my boyfriend or my crush. Or maybe some obvious creep who’s been obsessed for years and I would laugh him off.
No one taught me that my anger after I’m raped might be misdirected.
No one taught me how to love myself or even that I should, especially before I let someone see me naked.
No one taught me how to tell my friend raped me
or how to tell my friend he raped me.
No one taught me how to ask my rapist to use protection.
No one taught me how to tell my rapist no the next time.
No one taught me how to stop trusting my friend if he rapes me.
No one taught me how to stop trusting my rapist if he seems like he’s changed back into my friend.
No one taught me how to not believe my friend’s perfect apology or how to tell it isn’t true.
No one taught me how to tell my parents I was raped.
No one taught me how to tell my coworkers I’m not doing great because I’m realizing I was raped.
No one taught me how to know it wasn’t as simple as I felt like I was raped —
no one ever said you shouldn’t feel raped if you weren’t raped, that you wouldn’t.
No one taught me how to tell my place of work I’m reporting my rape.
No one ever taught me if I can use sick days to go to my rapist’s trial if it goes that far.
No one ever told me that when my rapist confesses that he raped me that I should get it in writing.
No one taught me how to be self-assured of my rape.
No one taught me how to handle [redacted].
No one ever told me how to accept my friend who raped me is a rapist.
No one taught me how to believe I’ve been lied to for eight years.
No one told me how to know anything after spending so long not knowing anything.
No one taught me how to replace the memories of lies with memories of truths.
No one taught me how to be patient while I wait to hear if the prosecutors will move forward.
(Excerpt from The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz)