Until the Violence Stops, I Shall Raise My Voice

Hope like dew.

Today I’m going to tell a story, gentle viewers. It’s a story with a lot of feelings behind it, wrapped up in it, entwined in it. Some of those feelings are harsh like needles on very cold skin. Some of those feelings are like knowing you’re alone and unsafe in the dark. Some are relief like water. Others are hot like pain.

I promise you two things if you stay with me.

I promise you honesty. I will be candid. I will be open. I will paint a blurry watercolor and not a pen and ink to spare you details. But you will be among the first to hear this story.

I promise you hope. While this story starts on the outskirts of darkness and wades in, it also wades back out into the light.

I promise you honesty, and I promise you hope. If you take my hand, I will tell you a story.

My story.

This story doesn’t begin with a once upon a time, nor does it end with a happily ever after. It’s in no way a fairy tale, and that is okay. It shouldn’t be a fairy tale. It simply is. A tale.

They say it’s almost always someone you know. We humans fear strangers like we fear the night, but for me it happened in the broad light of day under a hot southern sun, and it was someone I knew.

The asphalt caught my shirt and jeans as I sat on the ground to end things with him. He lay next to me, puppy dog eyes full of knowing. Knowing that his words affected me. Knowing that I flinched from him already. He told me his earlier words were my fault. He accused me of lying with a smile on his face and  the whisper of a wagging finger behind his gaze. I had never lied to him. I told him it was over, and I meant it.

For a long time I thought what he did was my fault because I thought I owed him the courtesy of telling him face-to-face when he had already brutally destroyed my trust in him.

I told him it was over, and he tried to kiss me. I said no. Over and over I said no. I pushed him away. I repeated that tiny syllable. I said it louder. And finally I froze. I went somewhere else. And when I came back, it was over. In a tiny voice I told him I hadn’t wanted that.

And he told me I should have stopped him.

You know what I’m talking about, gentle viewers. You know what happened. You know what it was he blamed me for. I’m sorry if it causes you distress. But I promised you honesty, and I promised you hope. You have the first, and the second is coming.

Months went by before I could say the word. Three months passed before I had the strength to cut him from my life. Still he followed. He called. He asked to see me. He pried into my friendships and asked me about any dates. Seven months went by before he tracked me down at work and called me there. Seven hours went by after that before I called him and told him never to contact me again. Six months later, he tried to message me on Facebook.

Somewhere in that span of time, I admitted to myself what he had done to me. I said the word in my head, a tiny tendril of thought, a wisp of smoke in a darkened room. I said the word rape, and it sounded raw in my mind. I spoke to a few trusted friends. And when I did, some dam burst.

I wasn’t alone.

By everything sacred and warm, I wasn’t alone. Women I loved. Women I knew  and knew well. I hadn’t known that we shared that word. I hadn’t known. With one story we were suddenly bound tighter. Bound in silence and grief. I had always judged women who didn’t report their rape. I had thought insidious damning thoughts, wondering how things would get better if women didn’t tell. Until it happened to me. And now I know why they don’t break their silence.

Here are reasons, and some of them are mine.

He was a friend. He was well-known. Everyone loved him. He was charming. He was kind. No one would believe me. I had no proof. He was my husband. He was a cop. He was a marine. He was a fellow soldier. He was drunk. I was drunk. I’d slept with him before. I’m a man. It wouldn’t even go to trial. He didn’t leave a mark. He used a condom. He used his hand. He didn’t hear me say no. He’d say I was lying. No one would believe me. She was a woman. He was a politician. He was married. He had a gun. He told me he’d kill me if I told anyone. He said I had it coming. He said it was my fault. I believed it was my fault. 

Most rapists are never convicted. I think the number stands around 2%.

Something happened that day. It dropped a thick dark sludge into a pure place of my soul. It cut a ragged swatch from my confidence, from my self-respect. It made me feel weak and lesser and small. Those words, “You should have stopped me” ran on repeat in my mind. Could I have fought harder? Could I have kicked and screamed? Yes. I could have.

But no one would have heard me, and he could have hurt me worse. He was 6’3″ and over 250. I weighed half as much.

When I met my husband, the first few days of our acquaintance showed me something vital, something that began to slowly patch the rift in my honor and dignity. It was a simple, simple thing.

I set a boundary. He honored it.

That is hope. That is light and warmth and hope. That is what makes love happen, for it is the foundation of trust. It took the words of friends and family and the fledgling hope built by the man who would become my husband to show me that my boundaries are valid. That when I say no, that means more than “no further,” it means “back off.”

I shared my story with you today because in the three and a half years since I was raped, I have heard over a score of stories from women I love. I’ve heard even more from women I don’t know — but with whom I share that raw and frightening word.

I thank you humbly and from my heart for listening to my story.

There is a woman named Eve Ensler. Years ago, before I joined this community of survivors, I knew of her. She wrote The Vagina Monologues. She is a survivor of abuse and of virulent cancer. And she started a movement called V-Day that has raised over $85 million to stop violence against women and girls.

For the next week, I have dedicated my voice and my blog to sharing her vision. I promised you hope, gentle viewers, and I shall deliver. I will take you on a journey of hope and inspiration. A journey of renewal and vitality. I will tell you the stories of the women who have shaped our world and who have shaped my life. I truly hope you will join me.

Women are beautiful inside and out. Women are kind. Women are strong. Women are fighters. Women survive. Women overcome. Women have the power to defeat their pasts.

I hope you agree.

I hope you’ll share this week with me.

As always, I invite discussion. How have you seen women overcome tragedy (not necessarily sexual violence)? How have the women in your life shown you their strength? Their hope? Their ability to survive? 

If you tell me about one of your heroes, I will include her in Thursday’s blog about the women who have inspired me. 


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on February 7, 2012, in life intervention, V-Day 2012 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. You’re amazing for sharing this with the world and for being a voice behind women who can not, will not, or feel they should not voice their own feelings, or don’t have the words yet to do so. I think what you’re doing is a beautiful thing and I’m going to get as many people that I know to see this blog, this week for that reason.

    I know some beautiful, strong, driven women who have experienced similar situations and have gone through similar emotions and I think this is something that needs to be shared. Everyone should always remember that they’re never alone.

    You’re beautiful, and this is beautiful.

  2. Some of those reasons are mine as well… “He’s my husband”… (Well, he WAS, at the time.) But I didn’t have the “he-didn’t-leave-a-mark” reason–and still, I wore turtlenecks to work for a week to hide the choking-bruises. I used to wonder why smart, empowered women “allowed” men to get away with behavior like this, but now I know. Can’t say I understand WHY, even now, but… I’m a smart, educated, strong woman–and yet I hid those bruises and didn’t say a word for years. I didn’t even leave him until a year after that. Rape is a soul-corroding experience… Thank you, Emmie, for shining a light in a dark place that has affected so many of us.

    • I think most of us stay silent because we know too well how people are treated when they come forward. Rape is the only crime where the victims are asked to explain themselves. You’d never hear someone tell a mugging victim, “Well, maybe if you hadn’t been wearing that Rolex, you wouldn’t have been mugged. You were walking by yourself to your car after work? You had it coming. Having that watch on is just asking for trouble.” And you would NEVER have a jury throw out a violent mugging case because of what the victim was wearing, whereas that happens all too often in rape trials. Or an assault case where a friend beat the crap out of another friend — you wouldn’t hear “Well, you’d hung out with him before. You’d been friends for years, so clearly he couldn’t have broken your jaw.” And yet.

      I didn’t report it because he was a cop. It’d be laughed out of the initial hearing and never go to trial. Plus, I had zero evidence, zero case, zero hope of any kind of successful retaliation whatsoever. He also had a concealed carry permit and owned more guns than an arsenal. I was (and still am) terrified of him. Thank god he lives in another state.

      All darkness is only an absence of light, and for too many women and men, this subject is kept in the darkest hole of the heart.

  3. Dear Emmie, I hope you realize the power of your words. I hope you realize the depths you are able to plumb with your ability to articulate pain as well as beauty. I hope you realize you have a very special talent that will allow you to make many meaningful contributions to readers and to life. I hope you realize you have already begun to do so. Write on!

  4. This is such a powerful, thought-provoking, inspiring post. I cannot imagine the courage it took to share your experience, but I admire you all the more for it.

    I hope it will encourage women who have suffered in silence to take heart and control again. The actions of others against us do not and should not define us.

    • “The actions of others against us do not and should not define us.”

      I would get that tattooed on my forehead if I thought it would help me internalize it.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I can’t say much except yes. I’ve been there and the words weren’t enough.

  6. the urban misanthropist

    Outstanding, Emmie, and beautifully articulated. Very well done indeed.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story, Emmie. Very powerful, very moving, very courageous. I work with kids and mothers (mostly) who have been subjected to extreme violence as well as verbal and emotional abuse. My mother and her sisters were tormented and abused their whole childhood by my grandfather. My own 2 girls have their own extensive trauma histories warranting their removal from their birth parents and placement in our (adoptive) home. I am surrounded by the atrocities of violence against women and children on a daily basis and am always amazed and inspired by their courage, resilience and perseverence. On the behalf of all of these survivors, I thank you for speaking up, speaking out and encouraging others to do the same. You and all of these women and children are my heroes.

  8. Brilliant. Such an gorgeously composed and thoroughly unforgettable post. I can’t help but believe that any comment I might think to add would thoroughly fall short. But this is amazing–you are amazing. Surely this is the bravest, most honest post I’ve ever read. Not only are you an inspiration, Emmie, but those who have left their own very moving comments here are remarkable. Truly my heart is full …

  9. Emmie, you are so brave for being so open and sharing your experience with others. I know this post touches so many people, myself included. Thank you for sharing.

  10. “Women have the power to defeat their pasts.” I love this line! The truth is that fear holds so many women back — fear from all kinds of things including sexual traumas. But we don’t have to live in the fear. Thank you for sharing and writing this, for encouraging us to share and become stronger.

  11. I’ve got to say that you are a lot braver and stronger for being able to share this than a lot of us are. Thank you for that.

  12. Thank you for sharing this, for being so brave, and for raising awareness! I think there are many people who have either experienced something similar, or have a friend or relative who had to suffer it, and thus many can relate to this story. It’s very touching.

    • I think it’s safe to say given the statistics that every human being knows someone who has been through it, whether they are aware of their friends’ experiences or if they remain in ignorance. I think if everyone who had experienced sexual violence wore a red band on their foreheads for a day, the world might fall to its knees in shock.

  13. A subject that leaves most speechless. Thank you for your voice and trust. The women I know who survived sexual assault and other types of violence initially blamed themselves and slowly became stronger as they found people they could trust to talk about their feelings and anger. And then they became thrivers who found their voice and helped others.
    I also know some women who unfortunately remained in a damaged emotional space. Your posts will touch some of them and for that I’m grateful.

  14. Kourtney Heintz

    Emmie your words are so powerful. I am in awe of your strength in talking about something so painful. You are a brave strong lady and I am so happy to know you. 🙂

  15. Emmie and Kana, you are both very brave in sharing such a painful and personal part of your lives with us. Emmie this is a truly courageous post. You are a powerful voice and you have touched my heart.

    • Thank you so much, Tracey.

      I wish such things weren’t a reality, but they are. If I had all the moniez, I would give heaps to the V-Day cause. As it is, I have my blog and my words, so that’ll have to do until I topple the bestseller lists with mah books. 🙂

      • Your words are powerful, may they reach the peeps with the moniez! And for us less moniezed people, we’ll help spread the message. Look forward to seeing you top that bestseller list!

  16. Emmie. I hope and I’m sure you understand when I say I’m not going to tell you everything. But, Because of how very important this topic is, and because you have told me – told the world – your story, I will tell you a little of mine.

    My hero? My mother.

    My father used to abuse my mother badly. I was just a child, I had no real idea what was going on. But, I remember the arguments turning physical. I remember my mother standing between us, taking blows meant for me so I wouldn’t have to suffer. Now that I’m older, I feel guilty she had to do that for me. A part of me feels it’s my fault, even though I was just a kid.
    Then, when I was seven, something else happened – I was molested by my father.

    He told me to keep quiet. He told me never to tell anyone. He told me if I did, he would kill me. But hey – I told anyway. And no one believed me.

    No one besides my mother. Everyone else said I was making things up, that I had seen it in a movie or read it in a book, that it was my imagination. But she believed me. If nothing more, that makes her a hero in my book.

    But there is more. Mum finally stood up for us. She stood up for herself, for all the abuse – physical, sexual and psychological- she had received, and for me. And for me. She endured numerous court battles over custody, and stood strong in the face of a torrent of lies – she was accused of being an alcoholic, a prostitute, a drug addict – anything to discredit her, and me. Anything to keep a lid on what happened.

    But she refused to submit, and she stood in the face of it all, determined to protect me, my brothers and herself. And that’s exactly what she has been doing for 11 years. It is still going on. We still face harassment and court battles from my father and his side of the family. Mum still stands strongly, proudly defending herself and us. But, she doesn’t have to do it alone anymore. I’m old enough to help, to fight for myself, for us, and that’s exactly what I intend to do – for as long as it takes to finally get some peace.

    You want my hero? My Mother is the only hero I’ll ever need. It would have been easy for her to not believe me. It would have been easy, simple. She could have turned her head the other way. But she didn’t.

    It would have been easy for her to submit, to let my father take custody. To let him control our lives. But she didn’t.

    I know this post is, primarily, about women. And, I know I’m not a woman. But I thought I’d share anyway because, well, my mother is the strongest woman I’ve ever known.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Ben. While this week is focused on V-Day (which by proxy is about women), I am very cognizant of the fact that men have shared these experiences as well, and I wanted to thank you for adding your story and your words to the discussion here. Your words and input are very welcome.

      My mother is my hero in a lot of ways as well. My family is also no stranger to abuse. What you said about everyone trying to discredit you — that is something that happens far too often. My theory is that people are so vehemently uncomfortable with the topics of abuse, molestation, and rape, that they try to rationalize them away and find someone to blame. Often that scapegoat becomes the victim (Well, you shouldn’t have been wearing that…parents wouldn’t do that to their children…so-and-so is a family friend, and I know he/she’d never hurt a child…he’s your spouse, and your spouse has a right to sex). Believe me, I’ve heard all of those.

      When I was a kid, I spent the night at a house where we used to live (we’d rented a room there). That room had since been rented out to the owner’s friend. That night, I woke up in her 4-year-old’s room to see this guy laying next to my cot. He tried (and failed) to molest me. My mother saved me from that by teaching me as a young, young child that my body was mine and that no one had a right to touch me if I didn’t want them to. I lied to him and said I had to go to the bathroom, and when I came back, I told him to leave. When he left, I found the little 4-year-old awake — she’d seen everything. I wish I could believe he’d never touched her, but I’d be naive if I believed that. My moms believed me, but the house owner? The one whose daughter’s room was right next to his? She thought I was lying. And the man continued to live there for six months.

  17. I don’t have a story of my own to tell, but for you and for everyone in the comments who shared theirs, thank you. You are all courageous people and it’s an honor to read what you’ve written.

  18. Emmie, what a powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing it to help others. I’ve worked with families and children for 20 years and have seen so much violence against women and children. I’ve seen many women who were unable to overcome what that did to them. But I’ve seen others who have become stronger and have become a light through the darkness for others. I’m glad you found your way to the latter. I think the one thing that binds all victims of violence (men, women or children) to silence at some point or another is shame. But the victim should feel no shame. They’ve done nothing wrong. I have a few links for assistance in my blog post about domestic violence if anyone needs them: http://rhondahopkins.com/2012/01/09/domestic-violence-are-you-safe-at-home/

    • Thank you, Rhonda! My mother worked for a women’s counseling center for a very long time, and I grew up knowing a lot of women who had survived horrible domestic violence. It’s all too prevalent, and I think you’re right — shame begets silence.

  19. What can I add after your powerful revelation in such a touching, moving way–and all the comments that followed? You are a very brave woman to speak up for justice and for women. For all the reasons given for why women remain silent, there must be hundreds more. You have a wonderful voice–keep writing, keep making a difference with your pen.

  20. Rebecca Goldson

    Every time I think I couldn’t be prouder to be your mom, you do something like write this amazing post. Em, you are a light in my life and in the world. Don’t ever stop following you heart, Love.

  21. Hugggggs to you, Emmie. Thank you for your honesty. You made it through, and you’re here to inspire and help other women. You’re amazing.

  22. wow I don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to share something like this. Or word it such an honest way.

  23. Thank you, Emmie, for sharing this heartbreaking, yet hopeful post. I look forward to having your courage someday to share my own experiences. You are amazing. *hugs* ~Deb

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