ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women and non-binary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The series runs every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.
Reporting My Rape
I’m on Centre Street surrounded by stone city government buildings. The sun is casting shadows on the steps of the building before me. School kids pass by me, young teenagers in streetwear and plaid skirts. They’re laughing, messing around. Maintenance workers walk in and out of the building. Two women smoke on the steps. Breathe, I think to myself. In turn, I inhale so deeply it hurts. I blink back the sun a few times and walk up the steps on tiptoes. The door opens to a large lobby with security stationed all over. I approach the front desk and tell the officer who’s staring at his clipboard that I have an 11:30 a.m. appointment in room 580. He looks up from his sheet at me with furrowed brows.
“580? Special Victims Bureau?”
I breathe evenly. “Yes, that’s right.”
It took nine years to get here, but I am at the DA’s office reporting what he did to me. It took nine years and Christine Blasey Ford making a statement against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for what he did to her. Her example gave me the courage necessary to call this in about a week ago. Now, I am here to tell my story. That’s what I keep telling myself when my nerves start to flare.
You’re just telling your story, Anita. No need to worry.
When Dr. Ford gave her statement, I kept thinking, Will that be me one day? My rapist, an old boyfriend, always had political aspirations. After some digging, I learned that he was working in government. This fact itched under my skin for weeks. People like him keep getting away with things like this because people like me are too scared to speak up. Like a ticket caught in the wind, this thought flit across my mind again and again. I considered reporting him but wanted to give it a couple months to make sure I wasn’t acting on a news-fueled whim. During those months, Brett Kavanaugh got confirmed and I gathered evidence, spoke to lawyers, and did a whole lot of thinking on whether this was a path I wanted to go down.
There were real reasons not to report it. There was the potential that he could retaliate somehow, which I won’t deny worried me quite a bit. He could show up at my door unannounced. He could also follow through on the threat he made to me nine years ago when he said that if I were to report him, he would tell the world I was a cutter (which I was at the time) and everyone would think I was unstable and wouldn’t believe me. While it may not play out like that today, this threat reminds me that he could slander my name, potentially using my past with depression against me. The most glaring reason not to report him was that doing so would be a disruption to my life that would likely cause undue anxiety, all of which was entirely in my control to avoid.
It had already been a rough year. I saw the end of a relationship. I saw my father withering away with alcoholism. I was weary. And stagnant. Feeling out of sorts and unsure of my decision, I went to an astrologer for some guidance.
“Why?” a friend had asked incredulously.
“Turn to the stars when you’ve sapped all your lawyers, I guess.”
The astrologer mentioned three major transits in my chart, but the one that stood out to me was Pluto, God of the underworld, the planet of death and rebirth, leaving my twelfth house and entering my first—the house of the self. Pluto transiting the first house has been called the opportunity of a lifetime transit. It’s described as a time when an individual has their most personal power, so one should not waste it. It is a period of significant transformation. While it may bring great strife and pain, it can also bring radical change and empowerment. It depends on how you use it.
When I told the astrologer what I was thinking of doing, she nodded and smiled.
“Yes Anita, it feels karmic.”
So here I am at the DA’s office, acting on my opportunity for radical change and empowerment. Between Christine Blasey Ford and Pluto, this seemed to be a time when the world would be sympathetic to my cause, primed, ready to hear and accept my voice. This would be my moment to break from who I have always been. I feel it in my insides, which are stirring, restless, eager for defiance. Always having shied away from conflict, today I look it in the eyes. Always having been a deeply private person, holding secrets closely, today I lay it all bare.
I pass security and head towards the elevators. One of the officers I walk by blatantly looks at my legs. I immediately feel self-conscious and become paranoid that my dress is too short. I am wearing a black, collared, knee-length dress with tights and a yellow cardigan. It had taken me a long while to figure out what to wear that day. I had texted my friend, “What does one wear when reporting a rape?” It was meant to be funny but also a legitimate question. I told her how I was tempted to wear a red dress in attempt of some symbolic gesture.
“Don’t do that,” she responded. “You don’t know who you’re meeting with.”
Two minutes later, she texted again.
“Okay, wear something red secretly then.”
I sent her a happy hands smile emoji and pulled on some red underwear.
I skirt past the leery officer’s gaze and get on the elevator with a few others. I push the button for floor five and immediately wonder if the other people in the elevator know where I’m going. When I walk off and head towards the SVB, a pretty female officer posted at the corner stops me.
“Where are you going, sweetheart?”
“Room 580,” I reply.
“Oh, you’re going the right way then. Just wait for them to see you and they’ll buzz you in”
She shoots me a big, warm smile. I feel like she knows what I’m about to do.
When I enter the SVB, the receptionist has me sign in and lets me know that the Assistant District Attorney will come and get me when she’s ready. I nod and take a seat in the waiting area. It’s January but there is a large artificial Christmas tree to my right. On the far side of the room is a children’s play area. I am pleased to see a picture of Babar the elephant on the wall. I collect elephant figurines that I line along my bookshelf at home, so I take it as a good sign. There’s also a Spiderman decal on the window, a stuffed toy rocking horse, and a small boy of three-ish talking to himself. It all feels a little too whimsical for the moment so I concentrate on fiddling with my fingers instead.
I fiddle for a half hour until a well-dressed pregnant woman with shoulder-length dark hair walks in. She introduces herself, smiling, but her blue eyes are cutting and study me carefully. She seems nice enough but in a “don’t think I take any bullshit” kind of way. She introduces me to the other ADA that will be joining us, a young Indian woman. She walks us back to her office. It is fairly nondescript, no pictures of kids or family or anything, cramped, files everywhere. I guess that’s to be expected though; it is the New York City DA’s office.
She sits me down and asks me to tell her a little about myself. I tell her about my job, where I went to school, and that I live alone in Manhattan, hoping it all makes me sound a little more credible. To my chagrin, she doesn’t really react except for seeming moderately impressed when she learned my job involves numbers. Lawyers always seem to hate numbers.
She continues on to say she knows the broad strokes of my story from the call I placed to the hotline, so we can go ahead and jump right in. She asks me to tell her about the relationship with my rapist—how and when we met, how I would characterize it, and how it ended. I give her some details but find myself struggling to describe the entirety of it. The other ADA scribbles down notes in blue ink.
“What was the nature of the relationship?”
“It was… intense,” I said.
“I guess we were super into each other? He came on very strong, especially considering I was seventeen when we met and he was seven years older.”
I tell her how it was an isolating relationship. How I lost friends during it. How I lost confidence. How no one in my life seemed to like him. How my sister described him as arrogant and controlling. How he had always been possessive.
“I think in hindsight there were a lot of red flags that I didn’t really identify until years later.”
As I continue to recount the details of the relationship, I realize that everything I am saying is negative. All of it is true but it also all sounds like it’s made to fit some abuser profile. How much of this was the reality of the relationship and how much of it is the filter I’ve put on the relationship since he raped me?
“Still though,” I feel the need to caveat, “it was a consensual relationship.”
She asks for specifics about how he had found out about my cheating on him. I tell her how he hacked into my email account and read all the messages between me and the other man, the one I loved with the deep dimples. How he sounded deranged on the phone when I called him because he had locked me out of my account. How he blackmailed me with old sex videos he had taken of us and said he would send them to my very conservative Indian parents if I didn’t come over right away. How I wish I’d known then that my parents would still love me if he had. But I didn’t. And so I gave it all up and went to his apartment that morning.
I choke up when I tell them about him answering the door and me following him back to his room. I remember the stones in my stomach, the contraction in my chest, the inability to fully breathe in, knowing something bad was about to happen but being unsure of what it was going to be. My voice gets thick and hoarse. My eyes well with tears that I quickly wipe away before they hit my cheeks. I push through the lump and crackle in my throat and by the time I start to tell the actual rape, my voice is steady and clear.
I tell them how I begged him to not send the videos, and how he replied, “You don’t want me to send them? Then show me how sorry you are.”
I tell them how he proceeded to rape me from every possible orifice.
I tell them how my face was pressed against red fleece. How I was screaming as my skin tore but the sound was stifled by his hand over my mouth. How he gripped the back of my head to keep me from withdrawing as I gagged on my own menstruation blood, which coated him. How he came all over me and how I cried the whole time.
I tell them how he said afterwards, “Thanks for the sex. I’m going to send those videos to your parents anyway.”
I don’t tell them how a part of me died inside when he said that. That it had all been for nothing. Instead I tell them how I wanted to respond, “But you just raped me,” but was too scared of what he would do if I said it.
I tell them how I bled in the days that followed. I had never had anal sex before.
I am detailed in my account so the ADA doesn’t have many follow-up questions. We proceed to talk evidence—what I have, what I don’t have, what they can help me get. We talk through next steps, logistics and timing. She says the investigation will probably take two months. Then she says, “There’s one more thing.”
I already know what she is going to ask.
“What are you hoping to get out of all of this?”
She explains how everyone has their own reason—some women just want to get it off their chest, some want to create a record in case anyone else reports their culprit going forward, some really want their rapist to go to jail. She raises her eyebrows and looks at me expectantly with those ice eyes.
“What do you want?”
I’d known they would ask this question but I hadn’t prepared an answer. I let my eyes rest on the nearest stack of folders and try for a second to make out the label on the top. I know I don’t have much evidence. It’s not nothing, but I also know it’s not enough. So I did go into this eyes wide open, knowing there’s a strong likelihood the DA’s office wouldn’t prosecute the case.
“I guess it’s about creating a record at least? In case it happens to anyone else…,” my voice trails off.
I am dissatisfied with my response. I don’t know if it’s the truth.
At the end, both women give me their business cards and the ADA who took the notes walks me out. I give Babar a final look as I walk past. He peers back at me with his dot eyes. As I walk towards the elevators, I look for the pretty officer with the big, warm smile. I want to smile back at her, show her that I did it and that I was okay. But she wasn’t at her post. I walk into the elevator and out of the building by myself.
I start walking up to the Canal Street 6 train. On my way, as I debate whether I want to pick up some pan-fried pork dumplings, I suddenly remember a friend mentioning that she got her aura read in Chinatown. Could be fun, I think. And then I’ll have a keepsake from the day. I look up aura readings in NYC and find a shop nearby. As I enter, there is a smiling bespectacled Asian woman standing behind a clear counter full of crystals. I gesture towards the “$30 Read Your Aura” ad on the wall. The woman nods enthusiastically and has me sit on a stool and place my hands on sensors to either side of me. She then photographs me with some kind of tricked-out Polaroid. She flaps the picture to dry and then carefully pulls back the film to reveal that the photograph is multi-colored.
“Ohhh! Rainbow! Beautiful!”
The woman pulls out a chakra chart to show me what each color represents. I could see six out of seven colors on my photograph. “You’re an interesting person!” she exclaims. She points to the bottom right corner. “This is you in the recent past. Deep blue. You haven’t been doing much,” she said. “Just thinking a lot. You’re thinking and overthinking and in here.” She taps her head. Then she points to another area where the colors are a pale rainbow of light blue, purple, red, orange, and green. “This is now. You are lighter now. Not thinking so much. Burden has been lifted. You’re feeling freer and full of new ideas. But you’re still a little worried.”
I look at her some combination of startled and amused and say, “That sounds about right.”
The woman goes on to mention something about being thin-skinned, being too focused on finding a relationship and how I should exercise more. But, that seems neither here nor there. She dates the photograph and puts it in an envelope that I take home. Although the woman’s words resonate with what I’m supposed to be feeling, I am more depleted than anything. Back at my apartment, I stare at the Blind Minotaur Picasso print on my wall for several hours, after which I collapse on my bed and fall into a heavy and dreamless sleep.
When I wake in the early morning, I feel differently. I make some coffee and sit down to write in my journal. I had heard it once before, what the aura woman said, that I was thin-skinned. I mistook the meaning then for weak when it really meant permeable, empathic, deeply affected by my surroundings. Today, I feel permeable, but it’s like all I am taking in is the beauty of the day. It is gray outside, but it is bright. My apartment is a little cluttered but feels cozy and warm. My coffee tastes nuttier and these lines I write in my journal have meaning. As I continue to reflect and write on the day before, I am overcome with extreme pride. Waves of it, that wash over me and fill my chest to the point that I’m crying onto the page. My aura photograph is placed alongside my notebook. I look at the pale rainbow and smile through my tears. It took a night, but I guess my emotions caught up to my chakras.
It takes Pluto transiting the first house to make you speak up. It takes red underwear to make you feel bold and confident. It takes a stranger’s big, warm smile to feel reassured. It takes Babar the elephant to make you brave before telling your story. It takes an aura photograph to know that you’re lighter now. I searched for or created these signs that pushed me to report my rape because it was my true will. They’re all symbols that I gave meaning to.
And so was reporting what he’d done.
After nine years, my folder of evidence is slim. This could all easily go nowhere—someone else may never report him, he may never run for public office, he may never be vetted, the record I’ve created may never be seen again. But reporting the rape, at the very least, it was symbolic. Yes, I have done my part in case anyone else ever speaks up about him. And yes, admittedly, I feel schadenfreude at the thought of him sweating through an investigation. But I’ve more or less let go of the outcome here. Just by reporting him, I took my power back. Despite its potential futility, I gave meaning to the gesture. Its potential futility doesn’t make it any less real or impactful. I spoke my truth and stood up for myself in a way I never have before. It is significant. And I know that I will always look back on January 4, 2019 as one of my bravest days.
Christine Blasey Ford is a hero in what she has done for women, and in what she has done for me. She gave me the strength and the will to radically break free from my rapist’s influence. It was a construct in my life for nine years—his power over me, the fear he made me feel in the face of his threats. It existed once. I’ve since burned it down. I’m not scared anymore. And my God, what lightness I feel now.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus original series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women and non-binary people that engages with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We believe that while this subject matter is especially timely now, it is also timeless. We want to make sure that this conversation doesn’t stop—not until our laws and societal norms reflect real change. You can submit to ENOUGH here.
Many names appearing in these stories have been changed.
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