Why this Todd Akin thing has me so worked up.

Warning: What follows is graphic and could retraumatize some readers. I apologize for not using this disclaimer in the first place.

Like some of the women I know, I’ve been raped. If Todd Akin or Paul Ryan (or lots and lots of other white men in charge) had their way, a pregnancy incurred from my rape wouldn’t have qualified for a “forcible rape” abortion.

I wasn’t jumped.

I wasn’t raped by strangers.

I wasn’t raped at gunpoint.

Here’s what happened to me:

It was summer. I was 15 years old. I’d had a few drinks with a male friend earlier in the evening, walking around drinking vodka and casually flirting. We weren’t a couple. We were friends. I liked him, but I didn’t think there was any way he’d like me.

The drinking was nothing out of the ordinary. I always drank vodka and, if anything, it was being consumed slower than usual.

At any rate, by the time a familiar truck approached us, I was already fairly drunk.

The driver of the truck was a “friend” from school. I didn’t particularly care for him. He was demeaning to women and always in a bad mood. But our circles interlocked like a stoner Venn diagram, so it seems he was often around.

He offered us a ride. My friend said sure, and I was alright with it as long as people I liked and trusted were around.

I don’t exactly know what happened after that except for bits and pieces. I don’t remember whether I had more to drink or different alcohol. I don’t remember if I willingly took any other drugs.

Here’s what I remember:

I remember riding around in the bed of the truck with my friend and a couple other guys. I remember feeling sleepy. I remember trying so hard to keep up with the conversation and to keep my eyes open.

I remember opening my eyes and 4 or 5 guys looking down at me while I was lying in the bed of the truck. My shirt was up. I pulled down my shirt, or at least tried to.

I remember the wind blowing my hair and trying to stop my prone body from sliding around in the bed of the truck whenever the driver hit the brakes.

I remember being told to get out of the truck. I remember the driver yelling at me to wake up and get out of the truck. That he would come back for me. He said something about not having enough room in the truck or something incomprehensible.

I remember the driver starting to drive away with me stumbling after his truck. My friend was yelling at me to get in, that he’d find a way to get me home. But I couldn’t do it.

I remember realizing where I was – at my very good friend’s condo. I banged on the  front door and the patio door for what felt like a long time (but probably wasn’t) before I remembered that she and her mom were out of state.

I remember deciding to “sleep it off” on her patio.

I remember hearing the phrase “sloppy seconds.”

I remember waking up to my clothes being removed.

I remember saying no and stop and don’t and swearing at one of the guys from the truck.

I remember him telling me to be quiet and shushing me.

I remember telling him I was going to pee on him.

I remember him stopping. He went away.

I remember crawling to the grass and (pretending to?) pee.

I remember crawling to my clothes and grabbing them and starting to crawl to the other side of the building.

I wasn’t trying to be sneaky. I couldn’t stand up for very long.

I remember them telling me that I had to have sex with them or that they wouldn’t take me home.

I remember thinking that if I could just get someone to see me (we were at a condominium complex! Why wasn’t anyone helping me?) that I could get help.

I remember saying one word: condoms.

I don’t remember leaving my friend’s condo. I don’t remember getting into the truck.

I remember sitting in a Walgreens parking lot while the driver and the other guy argued over who should go steal condoms.

The other guy went inside.

The driver and I sat silently. It felt like forever. I was in the backseat so I couldn’t get away.

The driver parked the car far away from the door and other cars.

I remember trying to plan and scheme to get away from them. But I was so tired. And my body felt like dead weight.

The driver started talking. He was talking about the feelings he had for my friend who was out of town. I remember trying to connect with him over that because maybe then he wouldn’t fuck me against my will.

The other guy came back and got into the truck. He didn’t have condoms. The driver was pissed.

I insisted on condoms.

The driver drove to a grocery store. This time there was no negotiating. He told the other guy to go inside and get condoms.

This parking lot was even emptier. And I had no idea what time it was.

Suddenly, my hair was being yanked and the driver was forcing his penis into my mouth. He called me a bitch and told me to suck his cock.

I sat there for a moment, trying not to throw up because I didn’t know what would happen if I did.

He relaxed. He let go of my hair.

I opened my mouth a little wider and he said “Yeah,” and then I bit his penis as hard as I could with it jammed into my throat.

He yelled out in pain and then he punched me, once in the side of the head and twice in the arm. I jumped away and reached for the passenger door. He dove across the seat and locked the door. He grabbed the armrest/handle and laughed.

I sat back. We waited. He called me a cunt and a bitch and laughed. He called me stupid.

The other guy showed up. He didn’t have condoms.

I asked them to just take me home. I told them that I really didn’t want to get pregnant. I told them that they didn’t really want to do this. I asked the driver about my friend, the one he liked.

Silence.

The driver started driving.

He drove in circles. He kept the truck moving, obviously trying to avoid stopping. He turned the music up. He and the other guy whispered.

I felt so fucking trapped and helpless and I still wasn’t in control of my body.

He drove to a different set of condos, these right by my house. They didn’t know what I knew: that right across the parking lot was some grass, and right beyond the grass was a creek. And on the other side of that creek was my backyard.

The driver told me not to fucking move. He and the passenger got out of the truck. The passenger stood by my door.

We waited.

The driver walked to a nearby condo and knocked on the door. He stood at the door and talked, asking whoever was at the door if he could use a room or his basement.

I remember feeling sudden dread. I didn’t know who he was talking to. I just knew that going inside anywhere with them would be horrible.

The driver came back to the truck. The passenger walked around to the driver side of the truck. They were maybe 10 feet away, talking. They were bickering. The guy wouldn’t let us come inside. I slowly leaned forward and opened the truck door. I slid out of the truck and duck-walked to the rear bumper. Then I made a break for it.

Except I couldn’t run. I stumbled toward the grass – I could see my kitchen light across the creek, across my yard! – and they grabbed me.

They shoved me back into the truck and got in.

The driver presented me with two options:

  1. Have sex with one of them, my choice who. In exchange, I get to go home.
  2. Don’t have sex with either of them. In exchange, I get dropped off in North St. Louis. (Even now I’d be scared, but mid-90s North St. Louis was so much more dangerous; it’s all they talked about on the news.)

Basically, my choices were horrible. But option 1 presented me – if they kept their words – with a certain outcome: home. Option 2 presented me with lots of uncertainty, including possible fates worse than the one I was currently facing.

The driver told me to think it over and he turned up the music.

I was 15. I was drunk. I was possibly drugged. I was less than a football field away from my house. I had no money, no ID. It was the middle of the night. No one was around. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

So I sat quietly for a long time. I pretended to pass out, hoping they would just drop me at home.

The passenger woke me up.

I was told to choose. Now.

I “chose” option 1.

And I “chose” the driver for two reasons:

  1. He was physically much smaller than the passenger. (The passenger, though only 17, was over 6 feet tall and very muscular. He was also black, which I thought might mean he’d have a huge penis and that he’d hurt me.)
  2. I knew he was a virgin and thus, I expected it to be over quicker.

The driver was so excited. The passenger was disappointed. The driver told the passenger to take a walk.

The driver told me to take off my pants and shirt.

He told me to lie back on the seat, which was really like two bucket seats with a cupholder console in the center, digging into my lower back.

He told me to be very still.

He was smiling.

He smiled the whole time.

Then, when he was done, once he’d ejaculated the foulest looking and smelling semen all over my stomach, he told me he’d kill me if I got any jizz on his truck seats.

At least I was less likely to get pregnant.

He threw my underwear at me and told me to clean up.

He smiled like he’d just accomplished something he’d worked quite hard for.

He called to the passenger while I got dressed.

And then he drove me, but not to my house.

I don’t want anyone to see us together, he said. And I understood that he didn’t want any witnesses.

He turned his headlights off when he turned onto my street. He drove me to the very end of the street, which was quite long. The passenger said nothing as he got out of the truck and pulled his seat forward to let me out.

I stumbled home, somehow. It took a long time, much longer than the 5 minutes it should’ve taken. I don’t remember thinking about anything.

I didn’t have house keys. They’d been lost when my clothes were removed at my friend’s condo. I had to ring the bell and wake my mom. She didn’t wake up to the bell for some reason, so I pounded on the siding until she opened the door. We didn’t say anything to each other – it was just like that then, sometimes – and I showered for a very long time. I remember that I threw away my underwear, which I’d used to clean off my stomach. I remember going to bed.

I remember that I didn’t sleep.

—-

I’ve felt sick to my stomach the whole time I’ve been writing this.

It has been 16 years since that night.

I was so concerned about getting pregnant that night because I’d already been pregnant and had a miscarriage that year. I got pregnant the second time I had sex. Another pregnancy was not something I wanted on top of what I was about to go through that night.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and wondering why I didn’t make different choices. I’ve wondered about my choices that night as well. I honestly did the best I could in my condition. If I had been myself, and not horribly drunk/out-of-it/possibly drugged, I might have taken my chances and let them drop me off in North St. Louis. I would’ve had my faculties and my body would’ve responded when I tried to do simple things like stand or walk.

But I wasn’t myself. As the night went on, my mind became sharper, but my body was not responsive. I felt like I was in quicksand.

Also, I was 15. And I was outnumbered. And I’d been threatened and punched and forced to fellate an angry, disgusting man.

I was so close to home.

I chose surviving over fighting when it became evident that I couldn’t physically fight.

It has taken a long time to deal with this.

The immediate impact was the loss of my best friends, neither of whom believed me. There were also lots of rumors spread about me that next year at school. Yes, I had to attend school with these people.

A few years after high school, I was riding in a friend’s car and we were suddenly driving next to the driver from that night. I became extremely anxious and told my friend. She quickly turned onto a different road before he saw me.

A year ago, Facebook suggested that I “friend” the passenger from that night. I blocked him from being able to see my profile. I blocked the driver, whose face I really wish I hadn’t had to see again, and I blocked all the guys from that crew of friends who may have seen me that night and done nothing to help me.

I already had trust issues stemming from the abandonment of my father, but this certainly exacerbated things. I generally think men (all people, really) are liars, but I have worked very hard on that because I like a lot of men and it’s not right to unfairly label anyone because of bad experiences with a few.

Which is why it’s hard to hear things like “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” and know that these lawmakers would consider what I experienced to be… less than legitimate.

I truly understand the anti-choice position. I also completely disagree with it. I don’t want any person or entity forcing me to do anything with my body. Some of us will never own property or lots of money*. But we all have the rights to our own thoughts and feelings and bodies. If I ever have sons, I won’t circumcise them. I would never alter my daughter’s body without her permission – including piercing her ears. It’s her body. It doesn’t belong to me or anyone else.

You either believe that people have autonomy or you don’t. It’s not “you have autonomy until your circumstances butt up against what I believe” or “you can only have complete autonomy if you meet my requirements.” That’s not autonomy.

I will always fight for autonomy. I will always donate money to Planned Parenthood. I will always talk about this. I don’t care if you’re uncomfortable. In fact, I’m glad you are. No one should be comfortable with rape and coercion and violence. No one should be comfortable with the idea that an entire gender cannot make their own decisions regarding their bodies, including deciding whether or not their rape was legitimate.

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