I Can't Handle That I Was Raped And It's Haunting Me

I Can't Handle That I Was Raped And It's Haunting Me

Lately, things have been hard.

Lately, things have been hard.

I don't know why or what changed, but I feel like my past is haunting me. Every thought I have goes back to me being raped. It's like no matter how hard I try, I can't let it go.

The odd thing is that I was fine. I didn't feel much about what happened unless it was near the time of year, or something reminded me of him. Maybe I repressed it all this time. Maybe I was in such a denial that it's finally hitting me. I don't know, but it's haunting me. I literally can't stop thinking about it and it follows me, everywhere I go.

I'm not thinking about it in an "oh, that thing that happened once," but rather it creeps into my mind in the most unexpected of moments, forcing all other thoughts from my mind. It takes the happiness away and brings pain. It takes all the good with it's cold, ghostly fingers and only leaves panic in its place.

I'm a pretty private person, so I never really told anyone except my boyfriend, the person I trust the most. Though I told him, I never went into detail (who'd want to hear about that) and I think I need to go into detail. I think it's catching up to me and I can't let it go anymore. I can't tell myself "it's fine, it's over" or "don't think about it, it doesn't bother you" because those lies are what got me to this point and now I need help.

Ignoring what happened no matter how much I want to, isn't the answer. Instead, I need to work through it, even if the first step is telling someone.

I know my fear is that if I say it - out loud - then it really, truly, irrevocably happened. There is no gong back or denial, but rather facing him and admitting that it happened, so that I can finally move away from it.

I can never forget or let it go, but I can learn to handle it better.

That starts with telling someone, from beginning to end, what happened. It also starts with me admitting that I'm not doing well. I'm not handling it well. I began to have bad thoughts again and be self-destructive, but in recognizing that I can stop myself before it gets too far.

It starts with me saying I need help and I'm getting bad again. It's not just thoughts, but touches that are haunting me. I feel it creep up on me like a ghost hell bent on getting its notice. It warps my mind, allowing the coldness to leak into my heart, turning it to ice. It looks me in the eyes as tears stream down my face, silent and haunting.

It's the look in my eyes that I see when looking in the mirror. It's the look of pain and knowledge that you can't escape and wish away. It's the quiet in my mind that allows echoes of the past to move into the forefront. It's my shirt moving over my head, reminding me of him. It's the hands that brush my skin, causing fear to steal my breath and the fear that my own hands are his.

The ghost is me. And I need to deal with it. I need to tell someone and get help so that I can be better again. I want to be better again. And getting better starts with admitting there is a problem.

My name is Cat. I was raped. I'm not handling it well anymore and I need help. I need to get better, even if that means facing the worst thing to ever happen to me.

If you were sexually assaulted or raped and need help, please contact 800.656.HOPE

Cover Image Credit: Zach Guinta / Unsplash

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It's 2018, You Should Know The Difference Between Sex And Gender

I believe that this is the heart of the problem when it comes to gender inequality.

On November 6th, 2017, my professor was discussing a reading the class was assigned the night before. The reading was recounting a sensual experience that two characters (a male and a female) had with each other. The narrator was describing how the female’s genitalia was becoming erect during the experience, as opposed to the male’s, as often described when speaking of erect genitalia.

When my professor was recounting this reading, he started talking about gender when he really should have been using the word ‘sex.’ When he was speaking about how sexual body parts work, and how a female isn’t typically described as her body parts becoming erect, he was using the word ‘gender.’ The gender of an individual does not include body parts.

I believe that this is the heart of the problem when it comes to gender inequality.

People don’t know the difference between the terms ‘gender’ and ‘sex,’ so they interchange them, often using them wrong. More people need to be educated in this area. Sexual body parts determine an individuals sex (either male or female); however, sexual body parts do not determine an individual’s gender. Gender is up to each individual to decide for themselves.

Sex determines if one has either a penis or a vagina, and that’s all there is to it.

Gender is a made-up term used throughout our society in order to group and categorize people. Most people (who are uneducated in or neglect to recognize the difference between sex and gender) often look at an individual and base that person’s gender off their physical appearance. If one has a vagina and breasts, one automatically assumes that person’s gender must be ‘girl,’ which isn’t always the case.

For example, many pregnant people have these parties called “Gender Reveal Parties.” I have no problems with these parties. I think they’re fun, cute, and creative.

However, I do have a problem with the name of the party. How can one possibly know the gender of their baby before that baby has grown and can decide for themselves? As we learned above, determining if an individual has a penis or a vagina determines their sex, and that is all a doctor is doing when they read that sonogram.

A doctor nor a parent nor anyone else for that matter, except for that individual themselves, can determine the gender of another person.

My point is that we, as a society, need to become educated and conscious of the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender.’ We need to use the right term in the right place. Ideally, we need to destroy the word and idea of gender altogether because it really doesn’t matter how an individual identifies themselves as, does it?

But, realistically, that will probably never happen, so the next best thing is to make sure we are always aware of our word choices. For instance, I have come across so many mistakes on legal forms, surveys, paperwork, etc. There is always a section that says ‘gender’ and has (only) two boxes to check: male or female.

This is a typical mistake I am speaking of. That word ‘gender’ should really be ‘sex’ because the form is asking if the person filling out the form is either male or female, which attributes to sex. When I come across those mistakes I either scribble out the word ‘gender’ and replace it with my own handwritten ‘sex,’ or I simply answer the ‘gender’ question with "Why does it matter what gender I am?"

These are the issues that I care about and that shape our community. Many people would probably never pick up on the mistakes those forms have like I do, and that’s where the issue falls. Not a lot of people recognize the difference, but there is one and it needs to be addressed.

I hope that by the end of this article, you, reader, will come away more educated than your neighbor and help stop this discrepancy in gender and help society become more aware of their words and actions.

Cover Image Credit: Michael Prewett

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Fiction On Odyssey: Ready For Pickup

A man finally musters up the courage to break the ice.

This guy was punctual. Obnoxiously punctual. Sotong could set his watch by the time he walked in the door. That is if he actually wore a watch, but watches were annoying and got caught on things or lost or stolen, and what were phones for anyway if not telling accurate time and looking up cat videos and porn?

The bell jingled, and Sotong didn’t even have to look up to know it was him. He had the man’s drink order ready by the time he actually got to the counter.

“One black-” he began.

“Large, no cream, no sugar, shot of espresso.” Sotong finished. “Only iced in the summer, and not too much ice, or you’ll complain that we’re stiffing you out of your coffee.”

The man looked tense, eyes flicking from Sotong to the cup of coffee without picking it up, wallet in his hand, but otherwise frozen.

“I don’t believe I ever used the word “stiffing” when I brought up the amount of ice packed into the cup. Once.”

“Yeah, well, I was paraphrasing.” Sotong snorted. “And once is all it takes. I remember people who complain about my flawless work ethic.”

The man arched an eyebrow in a silent accusation.

“Ok, maybe not flawless.” Sotong shrugged, grinning as if it didn’t matter in the slightest, which, if he was pressed for details, he’d admit outright. “But I make damn good coffee.”

“That is one thing we can agree on.” The man reached out his hand, the exact amount of bills and change already in it. Sotong waved him off.

“On the house.”

The man paused, face more cautious than surprised.

“What have I done to warrant a free coffee?”

“You come here all the time. Might as well reward your patronage. Or something.”

“I’d rather give some form of payment.” He offered the money again, but Sotong ignored it, and leaned against the counter, nudging the drink forward.

“How ‘bout you tell me your name and we call it even.”

“My name?” The man looked taken aback. Sotong counted it as a victory.

“Yeah. We’re not Starbucks so I can’t ask under the pretense of writing on your cup, and I’m curious. So humor me.”

After a pause, the man picked up the coffee and took a sip.

“Hamish.” He replied simply, and walked out.

Sotong’s eyes followed him the whole way.

-------------------------------------

The next day he was back, and Sotong once again had his coffee ready the moment he walked in the door.

“You’re very punctual.” Hamish commented.

“Only because you are.” Sotong retorted. “Though you’re as mysterious as you are timely. And you left yesterday before I got to tell you my name.”

“It’s Sotong.” He replied easily. Sotong’s eyebrows shot up in confusion, and he looked more than a little put out. “It’s on your apron.” Hamish gestured to the brown apron he was wearing with Sotong on a small nametag over his heart.

“Right. Well. For all I know you can’t read.” Sotong replied breezily. “I was trying to be polite.”

“Do you often encounter customers who can’t read?” Hamish challenged, placing the exact amount of bills, and coins, onto the counter, not giving Sotong a chance to refuse him again.

“You’d be surprised.” Sotong grinned. “Plus you’ve got an accent, yeah? Maybe English isn’t your native tongue.”

Hamish stiffened. “Have I given you that impression?” He asked, voice as tense as a bride on her wedding day.

“No.” Sotong felt the need to backtrack. “I was trying to cover my ass because I forgot about my fucking nametag, dude. You speak English fine.”

“Better than you, apparently.” Hamish observed sharply, but his posture relaxed, and Sotong was more than willing to laugh at himself if it meant taking some of the edge out of Hamish’s voice.

“So where are you from?” Sotong asked.

“Scotland.” Hamish replied, a thin trace of pride in his voice.

“No shit?” Sotong grinned. “What brings you stateside?”

“Furthering my education.” Hamish replied vaguely. Sotong counted it as a win. This was the longest he’d ever been in the coffee shop at one time, seeing as he usually grabbed his drink and left.

“That’s why you need the caffeine, huh? To deal with the work?”

“To deal with the people.” Hamish corrected. Sotong laughed, long and loud, and if he wasn’t mistaken, a slight grin appeared on Hamish’s face.

“So, Hamish, you got a last name?” Sotong propped his elbows on the counter, making a show of trailing his eyes down the other’s body. He could tell he’d crossed a line when Hamish’s hinted smile disappeared, and he shifted away as if leaning towards the door.

“Why does it matter? Do you often address people by their last name?”

“Only teachers and my boss.” Sotong tried not to look like he knew he fucked up, which was difficult, given the fact that he was painfully aware that Hamish was seconds from turning on his heel and striding away. “The occasional officer of the law.”

“Do you spend a lot of time around the police?” Hamish asked snidely. Sotong rolled his eyes.

“More than you, I bet.”

“I doubt that.” Hamish replied with a smirk. Strangely, Sotong didn’t like this version of a smile when it appeared on his face. It seemed calculated. Forced. A display of aggression and confidence rather than a reaction to humor or joy.

“And why’s that?” Sotong asked, hoping to keep him just a bit longer, or at least end the conversation on a good note.

“Because I’m in the police academy.” Hamish retorted, and before Sotong could react, he’d gone.

----------------------------------------

The next day, there was a doughnut sitting next to his coffee when he came in. Sotong didn’t look at him, but rather pretended to be busy steaming a whole lot of milk that no one had asked for.

When he heard the door shut, he looked up to see the coffee and doughnut had both disappeared, with the exact amount of bills and coins on the counter, the extra cost of the doughnut already factored in.

------------------------------------------

The next day, his drink wasn’t there on the counter. Sotong wasn’t either.

Hamish was a bit disappointed, stepping into line and thinking to himself that he’d never seen the place so backed up. He noticed a younger and more nervous barista behind the counter, looking pressured and confused.

After a moment he left without ordering.

------------------------------------------

The next day, Sotong was back. There was no line, and his coffee was waiting for him when he arrived. It felt strangely routine.

“No doughnut today?” Hamish asked, sipping his coffee but making no indication that he was going to leave.

“All you cops are the same.” Sotong snorted, wiping down the counter and flashing Hamish a grin. “Nothing on your mind but doughnuts and guns, huh?”

“Was that the reason you gave it to me in the first place? To provoke a reaction? Or prove a stereotype?” The ice had appeared back in Hamish’s voice, and Sotong held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.

“I gave it as an apology, I guess. But you paid for it so I figured that meant you didn’t want the gift.”

Hamish paused, taking another sip of his coffee as he did so, eyes traveling across the counter before he stared outside.

“If I hadn’t wanted it, I would have left it on the counter.” He finally replied quietly. Sotong beamed.

“Well next time I give you a present, don’t pay for it, ok? It sends the wrong message.”

Hamish didn’t reply, eyes flicking back and settling on the other man. Sotong felt awkward.

“See you tomorrow?” Sotong finally asked. Hamish dropped his gaze to the floor and nodded sharply before leaving.

It was only much later that it occurred to Sotong that Hamish might have seen that as a dismissal, rather than the assumption that he was on his way out in the first place.

--------------------------------------------

The next day, Sotong had two coffees, and two pastries waiting for Hamish when he showed up.

“I don’t need that much caffeine.” He commented, just before Sotong came around the counter, untying his apron as he did.

“One of each is for me.” Hamish looked taken aback. Sotong ignored it and went on. “You always seem like you’re in a rush, so I figured I’d force you to slow down and actually taste the coffee for once. I put a lot of work into it. It’s the least you can do.”

Hamish’s eyes slid to the door. Sotong paused, apron draped over one arm. “Unless you got a class to get to on racial profiling or something.” His tone was joking, but when Hamish studied his expression, he saw hesitance there. Vulnerability. It was something he wasn’t used to.

“I can stay for a while.” He mumbled, then caught himself and cleared his throat. “Not too long.” Sotong’s face broke out into a grin.

“Excellent. Sit down, then.”

“Don’t you have to… make coffee?” Hamish asked cautiously as he was steered towards a booth.

“The morning rush is over.” Sotong shrugged. “Plus I own the place, so it’s not like I’ll get fired.”

“You… own the place?” Hamish repeated, sitting down with his coffee and pastry, curiosity piqued.

“Yeah.” Sotong grinned. “What, I don’t look like a guy who owns things?”

“No.” Hamish replied flatly. “Not at all.”

Sotong laughed. “Well, I do. An apartment and a coffee shop and at least three outfits and a bed.” He winked. Hamish felt his cheeks heat up and he quickly took a long drink of coffee to use as an excuse for his reddened cheeks.

Sotong asked a lot of questions, most of which made Hamish uncomfortable, but the man seemed to be genuinely curious rather than probing for weakness or information.

“I would like to be a police chief one day.” Hamish admitted.

“Why?” Sotong scrunched up his face. “The real action is working the beat, yeah?”

“Perhaps.” Hamish nodded. “But with rank comes respect. And I’m more interested in that than “action”.

Sotong snorted. “Respect is overrated. People are gonna disrespect you no matter what. Might as well have some fun and fuck what they think altogether.”

There was a pause as Hamish considered this.

“So am I gonna have to start calling you ‘chief’ soon?”

“No.” Hamish gave one of his small, rare grins. “It will take time to climb the ranks. And even if I manage to become a police chief, the proper term is ‘captain’, not chief.”

“Captain.” Sotong repeated, sitting back and nodding. “It suits you.”

Hamish glanced at his watch, that he actually owned and wore on his wrist, something that Sotong was befuddled and amused by.

“It’s getting late.” He stood. “Thank you for the… company.” He extended his hand to Sotong’s to shake.

“Hang on.” Sotong fumbled around in his apron, laying on the seat beside him, before producing a sharpie with a grin. He stood and grasped Hamish’s hand with his opposite one, turning it palm up and uncapping the sharpie with his mouth. A mixture of surprise and curiosity kept Hamish from yanking his hand away as Sotong scribbled something on it.

“There.” Sotong dropped his hand, recapped the sharpie, and grabbed his apron. “I’ll see you tomorrow. And if you ever want to see me more than once a day… now you can.”

Hamish glanced down at his palm as Sotong went back behind the counter. In messy, looping letters was a phone number, next to a rather large and stylized “S”.

Below it was a heart.

He curled his palm around the number, glance back at Sotong one more time, and left, still smiling.

Cover Image Credit: via Pexels

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