When I walk down the street, I wonder how many women I pass have clipped wings. How many of these beautiful faces I encounter have forgotten what it's like to soar, to be free. I decide each time the thought crosses my mind—too many.
I know what a woman can feel like when the ability to move is taken away—taken away by a grip her memory waves like a white flag. A grip so thick with hate it reminds her over and over again what it means to lose control. Every moment that passes fills her hollowed out body with the anxiety that her own grip will never be strong enough again. She knows how much control is worth. So she constructs walls—builds them to hide behind in isolation. She molds moats out of the tears that stain her pillows. Now, she is safe. Her mother always warned her: safety first.
She teaches herself to transform, from a girl with an open heart into one who's seamed shut. With her innocence brutally stolen, she becomes a human shield. She teaches herself a lot of things: that it was her fault, that trust is make–believe, that self–defense tutorials on YouTube are a proper use of her time, that avoiding eye contact with men in the gym is necessary, that crossing the street just to avoid the man walking towards her is normal.
But he teaches her to embrace her sexual power again. The boy she falls in love with after being assaulted teaches her demolition. She learns that breaking her walls is a difficult process, but a possible one. Learning to love sex again after being sexually assaulted is possible. Nobody has ever taught her that.
When she sees this boy in her arms, the one she finally lets in, she has every right to reject her desires. Her body has conditioned itself to reject sexual contact in all forms, but her heart wants to be as physically close to this boy's heartbeat as possible. There’s a test she can use, so she uses it. She’s not the type of girl to wear her pain on her sleeve, but she decides to tell him she was assaulted. He is the chosen one she tells her story to. He doesn’t run away. He holds her tighter.
That is when she knows it is okay. He is safe.
At three a.m. on a Saturday morning, she learns that two people can mold into a puzzle that doesn’t complicate anything. She realizes he’s the missing piece she lost in a car that night months before. Sex makes the best feeling she’s ever had before seem dull. She knows storms well because her rapist turned her into one, but this connection she’s feeling now is electric. For the first time, she learns sex is not a chore to keep him. She knows her body is a temple. It’s building beautiful things between them. She sees in his eyes how she glows for the first time—in a long time. He plants galaxies in the lining of her stomach, and each pulse takes her to another millennium. She feels as if she never wants to come back down to earth again.
She will cry again, and he might be a trigger without realizing. She may have sex dozens of times before the flashback comes. But it will come. She’ll feel defeated again. Shiver and think, damn, not this shit again. Each time it happens she’ll become more frustrated.
Forgetting should be easy, but it’s not.
She’s not the same girl that got raped anymore. She knows that. He knows that too. He’ll see the pain on her face and immediately feel the guilt she dreads for him to feel, because none of this is his fault. She doesn’t want her pain to fill his heart, when all he does is fill hers with bliss. But this time when the tears flow, she’s surprised. Instead of saying, “You’re going to have to suck it up and spread your legs,” like her rapist had, he says, “It’s okay, we will just lay, we will just breathe.” He will hold her with a grip she’ll never want to forget. Through this recurring panic, she will learn that safety is this new set of bones, the space she fills on his collarbones. She will learn that safety beyond her walls is possible.
If she knew after being sexually assaulted that learning to love sex again was possible, she may have saved herself the pain. But nobody taught her that, because nobody likes to speak about assault. Nobody likes to hear these stories. Maybe if we start listening closer, they will no longer have to be told.