It’s a Friday night. I’m doing my best to relax, have some fun with friends. I’ve worn my good socks and I’ve got a solo cup of punch. My shoes are off and I’m settling into the vibes of the party. Maybe finals aren’t so bad after all. The sound of laughter and throwbacks always gives me hope.
There is a sudden sense of slipping when I hear the name of my rapist. I’m perched on the arm of a couch near a conversation about clowns, I think, but everything is going really surreal and I’m swimming in colors because fight or flight has seized my muscles and even if I focus really hard, I can’t tell if I’m shaking somewhere or if the walls are threatening to explode.
I try to take a deep breath like the air is not poisoned with my rapist’s name; a gulp of punch calms me better. I’m mapping escape routes (door, bathroom with lock, balcony) all the while listening to the conversation with my rapist’s name. It lasts probably three minutes but it seems like an internalized, agonizing decade. I learn that my rapist can’t make it and I’m trying to find the relief in that through frayed nerves and fire ants.
Time passes, I suppose, as people move about the room and the punch has been remade and the general party rumble has gotten louder. I chat casually to those around me and try to smile when someone makes a joke. I can’t quite. I’ve been jostled out of the party and I don’t know how to get back. My rapist’s name a scratched record on repeat. I’m trying to remember to breathe and I start typing a poem into my phone when a friend taps me on the shoulder and says “I heard you.”
“I heard you.”
They’d seen me speak in a place where I could speak about my sexual assault, and gently reminded me with a smile. Finding an ally in the collegiate trenches of violence and silence lifts my burden and brings bliss. We toast to survival. The walls still their tremors and my lungs feel full of life.
After a long, well earned party, I find myself still smiling in bed. I really can’t get past it. To think that all that screaming and pleading into the void made its way back to me, here, in my time of need.
There is a wholeness in being heard.
The writer of this article has elected to remain anonymous.