Put away your story. Carefully. Snugly. Don’t tell your family; don’t tell the world. Someday, tell a therapist. Someday, tell your writer’s group. But not yet.
Remember, he told you he was trained to kill. He is probably still trained to kill. Silence is the win/sort-of-win solution.
Utilize distraction: Convert your “assault” story into a divorce story. Instead of facing the truth with your husband, fall in love with a different man than the rapist or the husband. Push your husband away; watch him cheat on you with another. Anything but face the rape story.
Explain the darkest facts to no one. Hide the bloodied facts not even your therapist knows, the facts your writer’s group has surely never heard because, not even pen and paper know.
Tell yourself this: it’s not as if your entire life’s story rides on this one beastly incident wrapped inside a dark, agonizing year. Look at all the good that, nevertheless, came after all that dreadful. Don’t risk the good to expose the dreadful.
You went to law school. Refresh your knowledge of the Rules of Evidence. It all comes down to evidence. You are certain he gathered contemporaneous evidence to cover up his crimes, but it took years for you to realize how his every action smacked of a deliberate, calculating mind.
You didn’t gather evidence. You gathered scars, on the inside—where no one can see.
Review your dusty law books. Libel requires injury to reputation. Libel puts the burden of proof on the plaintiff, the one alleging libel. Truth is a defense. Truth is a defense to libel. Truth, said the judge, is more difficult to prove than you might think.
Do the math. Rape equals power, not love.
R = P, ≠ L.
For so long, you tried to turn the assault story into a love story, before it became: a lust story, a sex story, an infidelity story, an asshole story, a deranged psychopath story. You did what you needed to survive; but now you know.
R = P, never L.
Wait a little longer. If others come forward, then you can tell your rape story. Others’ stories means not just your story against his, means corroboration, means you weren’t imagining it all, means they might believe you, means that son of a bitch did this to others, means sexual predator, means cold and calculating criminal, means—perhaps—you won’t be persecuted for his deeds.
Acknowledge it. When you—after so many years—need to ease the pain, acknowledge that he is the reason you divorced, he is the reason you moved from the town and house you loved, he is the reason you quit the career you’d come upon after years of education. Acknowledge that he irrevocably altered your path, like a dam on a river.
Acknowledge it. Not love, power. Not love, control.
Wipe away your tears, again. Dye your hair a new color, again. Alter your diet, again. Change your career, again. Move to a different house, again.
Draw the circle of your life ever smaller. Break bread with silence. Drown your voice in the wine. Put away your rape story, again.
© Heidi Fettig Parton
[This piece was selected by Dan Malakin]