Have you ever been through an experience that made you feel like trash afterward? You feel like nobody would want you and being tossed away is the inevitable outcome. I absolutely hate to see trash laying on the ground. If I see it, I immediately need to pick it up and dispose of it properly. I'm no eco-warrior, though I do my best. It isn't an environmental issue to me. It took me a long time to realize exactly why garbage on the floor bothered me so much. I recall being brought to tears at a bus stop; the ground and bench so littered with trash. I frantically tried to pick it up. I then found myself clutching garbage in my hands and sobbing uncontrollably at a bus stop, on the ground, like a fucking lunatic. Kneeling on the floor, makeup running down my face, I was crying like I had lost someone close to me. At the time, I didn’t understand why that was happening; but I do now. I did lose someone. Myself.
It took years of being alone with myself, answering really hard questions, and a lot of self-destructive behavior, but I finally admitted it to myself. I knew why trash bothered me so much and why I looked like a nutcase crying over garbage at a bus stop. I was raped. No, not at the bus stop, although maybe that would make more sense to people. I was broken and, once you break, you can never be put back together the same way. One in five women will be raped, or the target of an attempted rape. I am a statistic. So now I cry at trash on the ground and I pull away if my husband touches my neck. I hate wearing jewelry and I always have to wear shirts with a deep scoop cut, because I don’t like things close to my neck. I’m irreparably broken. After years of pain and crying at trash, I am okay with being broken. Maybe I am just not one of those people that ever get to be whole. But I didn’t always feel okay to be broken. I recently read a study describing how victims of sexual assault experience a temporary paralysis that keeps them from fighting back or screaming. What follows is part of my story and my life; and I'm not alone.
It started with a fucking, crunched-up can of Arizona Iced Tea on the ground. I remember the exact moment when I entered that parking garage. I knew where my car was, I was clutching my purse close to me and I normally walked pretty fast. As always, I had pepper spray on my key chain and a stun gun in my purse, just in case. Then, as I turned the corner, I saw it. The Arizona can. I could tell it was empty because it was crunched in the middle. A wet substance covered the ground around the can; so the asshole obviously launched it. The trash can wasn’t far, and I thought to myself, “what kind of a dickhead couldn’t carry his can a couple of more feet to throw it away.” I always wished that wasn’t the last thing that I was thinking about before it happened. I began to make my way through the rows of parked cars, heading toward mine. That's when I saw him. I don’t know if he was hiding or if I just missed him, but either way this was happening and I never saw it coming. He was bigger than me, with a hood on and looking down; I barely caught his face. I froze, hoping to God he was just in a rush to get to where he was going. I pressed myself up against a car to let him pass. Please fucking pass. But he didn’t.
He quickly put his hand on my stomach, pinning me to the car. I reflexively took a swing, and as I did, I dropped my purse. I also left myself open. As I turned to hit him, I was immediately taken down to the ground. That was the only opportunity I had to throw a punch, and I wished I was able to hit him harder. I had already lost. He did it effortlessly. I felt my head hit the pavement and I pulled my hands up toward my face. I don’t know why, but I think it was a natural reaction. I started screaming and kicking, thrusting up and down, and pleading with him to stop. I could feel him on me; his weight was overwhelming. I could feel one of his hands on my neck and I couldn’t move him. Panic sunk in and I began to pull more violently, trying to wiggle down as I could feel myself get weaker. He repeatedly told me to shut up and would squeeze my neck harder. He said it so calmly. Nothing that I was doing was working. I had never lost my voice before, but every word was getting more and more faint and painful, and I was already exhausted. At first, I kept screaming as he tried to take my pants off, but that stopped working as he squeezed harder on my neck. With so little effort, he was in complete control; and he knew it. He wasn’t panicking, or hurried, because he knew I was powerless. I don’t think he ever thought I could get away, but stupidly, I still thought I could.
I remember saying I was sorry, over and over, and begging him to stop. I said no, and even tried telling him I would forgive him if he stopped now. As he let go of my neck, I thought, maybe he would. Hope can be a funny thing like that. Instead, he grabbed me, flipped me over quickly, and I hit the cement even harder. My head was killing me. I started screaming again as he placed his hand over my mouth and pushed the side of my face into the ground. The concrete was cold and I could feel each pebble and imperfection press into my cheek. I began crying uncontrollably and through my tears, I saw my purse. I attempted, for a brief moment, to wiggle toward it, thinking maybe I could reach it; but every time I tried to move, he applied more force on me.
He worked my pants down now and was completely on top of me. I couldn’t even lift my hips off the ground. I had no strength left. His weight was paralyzing. I couldn’t move and I was powerless. In a last second attempt, I remember saying "please, no" over and over again. Each time I pleaded, he just drove my face harder into the concrete. I opened my eyes, and that’s when I caught it. Out of the corner of one eye, the fucking Arizona iced tea. I wish I had the good sense to keep my eyes closed. I went silent as he took full control over me. I was a rag doll and he had accomplished his goal. I was gone. He was able to take everything from me and have full control of me. I had nothing and I was on the ground with trash and that horrible can of iced tea.
I had no voice anymore. All I could do was cry. It was one of those silent, heavy-breathing, ugly cries. The kind of crying that comes from a deep place of pain. The only other time I would cry like this in my life would be at the bus stop months later. As I kept my eyes open, I could feel the tears leave my eyes and land on his hand. My head continued to hit the cold concrete with every push, but I was frozen and I stopped feeling the gravel cut my skin. It didn’t matter. I said no, one last time, through his hand, but then my voice was gone completely. I just laid there, my eyes open, and all I could see was the empty can.
Why I froze, why it happened and why I cry over garbage are all clear to me now, but this conclusion didn’t come easy. Like I said, I am still a broken, wreck at times. I cry for no reason, I keep people from getting too close and physical contact didn’t come easy. It has taken time, a lot of time, to find my voice again. I try not to think about that day and, believe it or not, after some time, things do begin to fade. I don’t remember what the weather was that day, or what shoes I was wearing, but I will always remember laying on the ground with the crunched up Arizona can, among the trash.