From the time I was old enough for anyone to listen, I’ve felt an insatiable drive to lend my voice where there wasn’t one. I’ve felt like a warrior, screaming among the crowded streets of an underdeveloped world to all the people walking about, ignoring the mute. It was an obsession, seemingly from the outside and its motivation wasn’t conscious. Revered by some, annoying to others. For me, it was community service. A “do-good” service that felt instinctive.
Baylor University has recently been in the news concerning their unjust treatment of sexual assault victims. The kids were upstairs playing, my husband was at work, and I was downstairs reading the accounts that made the world stop for so many women, girls really. After I was finished, I began to sob … uncontrollably sobbing. Shoulder jerking, heart paining, breath raping, snot string sobbing.
It was at this exact moment I realized the birth of my voice. The voice I lent to so many others was fueled because I didn’t have one for myself. My voice wasn’t some divine soul driven instinct. It was about empowerment, control, and self-worth.
I was 14. I went with my cousin to a high school party at an apartment clubhouse. They had Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. I don’t remember how much I drank, but I remember I blacked out. Before we even left, I was in the bathroom paying homage to the porcelain God. I remember a friend, although I don’t remember who, was holding my hair, but at some point she tired of this ridiculous scene and rejoined the party. She probably stayed longer than I would’ve.
Someone knocked on the closed bathroom door. I was too drunk to give consent of passage, but they walked in. It was a boy in a grade above me. I didn’t know him but I knew who he was and I still know his name. He laughed at me and I can’t say that I blame him. I can’t remember if he shut the door, but what happened next is a burned scar time will never forget. He started taking off my pants. This was no easy feat because, after all, it was 1990 and the eighties style of painted on acid washed pants were still all the rage at my school, not to mention I was bent over a toilet barfing. I can still hear the echo of my voice in the porcelain bowl. “Stop.” “Don’t.” I started to cry. It wasn’t a ferocious cry. It wasn’t a cry fueled of anger. It was a cry of defeat. Loud enough for him to hear, quiet enough for no one else to come. I stared into the toilet the whole time. An occasional tear would ripple the waste water my head had become intimate with. He left and I didn’t even pull up my pants.
This story remained unspoken to anyone, lofting in the back of my hidden memories, until the night I read all those rape accounts at Baylor. My husband came home from work and found me. Eyes swollen. Memories streaked across my face. A lifetime ago. So, at our family table, where my kids share their school day stories, I shared the dirty secret I had hidden for over 26 years from myself. A girl who didn’t have the courage to have a voice for herself spent the next two decades lending her voice to others, and now I know why. Thank you Baylor survivors. I am forever indebted.