From A Survivor By Anika

trigger warning: rape and sexual assault.

to: the man who raped me

from: anika prots

I never picked you up at Jake’s house on August 23, 2012 at around 11:30 pm I never was pushed up against my car by you while you tried to put your lips on my neck while Rob and Pat stumbled down the driveway into the house I never got into the car with you despite how weird that was I never made the two-mile drive to Oberlin Park where we played soccer as kids I never think about how I had to burn the black mini skirt and patterned top I loved either I never feel like a snake is wrapping itself around my throat trying to suck the life out of me when I hear your name I never have to check the door to my apartment 11 times before I fall asleep the nights my roommate isn’t home I never call my brother or my mother or best friend in Arizona when I walk home from night class I never black out on tequila in order to forget that night under the stars where you never took my skirt and lifted it above my waist while I lay motionless with twigs and bugs and grass brushing against my back I never think about how the man in the moon let you become the first man in me I never wondered what it would’ve felt like to let the man in the moon embrace me instead of you I never worried my friends or family while I violently shook for seconds minutes or hours while I couldn’t speak or breathe or see from the tears pouring from eyes I never used sex as a tool to regain control of my body I never left good men in the dust because I never felt your hand on my neck while they touched gently I never left a warm bed with a kind man because I felt rocks in my lungs when he asked me why I turned away I never told a man I thought I could love why I am afraid to sleep alone at night I never forget how to breathe when I see a Marine Corps flag I never noticed the way my stomach drops when I hear crickets in the night I never wrote letters to women who had to courage to stand up to the men who have raped them I never thought I’ll never have children because I don’t want my daughter that doesn’t even exist to be raped like I was I never prayed for death to come and take me in the middle of the night during a dream where I’m 5 in Wilmington North Carolina with sand between my toes body boarding on gentle waves I never had someone hold me and say you are loved you are safe your feelings are valid you are loved you are safe your feelings are valid you are loved you are safe your feelings are valid until the rhythm of my heart’s beating matched the rhythm of her words I never I told your girlfriend who turned into your wife who used to be my friend that you were my first too I never wanted to wait for a man who loved my wit or intelligence or laugh as much as he loved the taste of my skin I never wanted that kind of happiness I never felt like a victim or a broken shell of a person or a waste of flesh once in the last 4 years 7 months and 6 days I never told you the truth and I never lied to myself

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As a survivor in the midst of the #metoo movement it can be difficult to process your thoughts and feelings surrounding your own trauma and that of others. When I was raped people didn’t talk about it. On the rare occasion that someone did talk about it it was to question and place blame on victims. What were you wearing? Did you say no loud enough? Did you try to fight them off? You could ruin someone’s life by reporting this if it isn’t true.

Sometimes I think I made the wrong choice by not reporting. I try to tell myself that I made the best choice I could for a kid who grew up in an instant. Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been easier to press charges in today’s climate. If the #metoo movement started 6 years ago would I have been so afraid? To be honest, I don’t know. I think the #metoo movement has made incredible strides for women and men who are victims of sexual assault. However, I also think it has created an eerie haze of doubt. I wrestle trying to cope with my own trauma when triggers seem to be headline news on the daily. As I struggle with my own trauma, I fight to be understanding of the stories and reports of other’s trauma all around me. And I fear that genuine actions intended with kindness and love from men I respect and care for may be terribly misinterpreted.

At the start of the #metoo movement I felt like my words mattered for the first time in a long time. I felt like I was really being heard. I hope that is still true today. I hope that we don’t get lost in content that acts as triggers to survivors. I hope that we don’t get lost in doubt as survivors come forward to share their truths. I hope that we don’t forget that there are good and kind men in the world too.

I share this poem with the intention that it can serve as an example of how your words can be a tool for healing and empowerment. That regardless of what movement is active or not, that you can feel strength in your words. I know that this poem highlights the hurt and darkness I felt when I was raped, but now I am strong enough to share it. I own what happened to me because I am a survivor. I am strong and worthy and have the power to use my words as a tool for change. So I challenge you to do the same. Realize that your words can lift someone out of dark depths. Know that in times of doubt your words can offer reassurance. Find the strength in being vulnerable and honest with your words. No one can silence you unless you let them.

If you or someone you care about has been raped or sexually assaulted do not be afraid to reach out for professional help. The National Sexual Assault Hotline’s number is 1-800-656-4673 and is available 24/7. Cleveland’s Rape Crisis Center is also available 24/7 at 216-619-6192 or 440-423-2020. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s website also has so many tools and resources for anyone who made need them.

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