I’m alone in my car, sitting at a red-light on the way to pick up a friend to get food. “I’m allowed to be angry.” I repeat those five words a few more times, but the numbness doesn’t disappear. It’s as if the more I say it, the more permission I’m giving myself to feel, but I’m simultaneously feeling everything and nothing at once. There’s a lump in my throat, but it’s like I’ve run out of tears. The light turns green. “I’m allowed to be angry.”
I’m allowed to be angry, but there’s so much to be angry about. There are so many people to be angry with. My parents always said it wasn’t good to live with anger built up inside of you. But how do you let it out when it’s so severe you’re numb to it.
I’m at another red light. The lights in this town have never been in sync. I’m angry about that too. There are no cars stopped next to me. I scream and punch the steering wheel. I scream even more. I bang my forehead against the steering wheel and the tears begin to flow. The pain is awakening.
I am angry at what happened. I am angry at myself for freezing. The police will later tell me that my body freezing was my brain’s way of protecting myself from what was happening. I am angry at my brain for trying to protect me. I am angry that my brain knew that was the only way to protect me because the one time I did try and fight back, it didn’t stop him from assaulting me. I am angry that I chilled the fuck out every time he sexually assaulted me and didn’t rape me, because now that he did I can’t excuse it anymore. I am angry that I excused all the other times he assaulted me.
I am angry at him. I am angry that he betrayed the trust I had put in him. I am angry that he was able to do it so many times without me realizing it. I am angry that he chipped away at pieces of me without me noticing. I am angry that in being by his side I lost myself and I’m even angrier that I didn’t even realize it. I am angry that I didn’t trust that feeling I got when I first met him. I am angry at a system that enabled him to be who he was without question regardless of who and how many people that hurt.
I am angry at our shared mutual friends (and myself) for ever once questioning the way he talked about and treated women, as if those women somehow deserved the awful things he said about and did to them. I am angry at our shared mutual friends for being complicit in his abuse by remaining silent. I am angry at them for taking the easy road when I was assaulted by dumping me by the wayside and remaining friends with him. I am angry at them for telling themselves I was lying about what he did to me because that was easier for them than acknowledging that they were friends with a rapist. I am angry at them for not thinking I was worth standing up for.
I am angry at the women he assaulted before me. I am angry that none of them came forward. I am angry that we live in a society where they may not have felt like they could tell the police or their schools about what he did to them. I am angry that they may have suffered in silence, without anyone recognizing it. I am angry that they may not have felt like their experiences were worth coming forward about. I am angry that they may have felt like no one would believe them. I am angry at believing so many of them were ‘crazy’ simply because Chuck* told me they were. I’m angry because maybe if they had come forward, I wouldn’t have ever been put in a position where I would later have the chance to.
I am angry at myself. I am angry that I am angry at the other women he assaulted, as if they’re in any way responsible for what he did to them. I’m angry that I felt too violated at the thought of getting a rape kit so I didn’t and that could’ve made the difference between him being held accountable or not. I am angry that I didn’t get a rape kit because in failing to do so I failed to help any future victim of his, who does get a rape kit, know that I too share her experience and could add credibility to her claims. I am angry that I didn’t confront him about raping me, but I confronted him about yelling at me for telling him he physically hurt me that night. I am angry that he raped me because now I can’t chill the fuck out and my brain is giving me no choice but to face it. I am angry that I stood up for myself and failed, not just myself, but every woman he assaults after me. I am angry I couldn’t stop him from inflicting the pain I feel onto the next girl. I am angry because his decision to rape and assault isn’t my cross to bear, but I live everyday feeling like it is – because I came forward and screamed from the mountain top what it was he did to me… and still, that wasn’t enough to stop him.
I’m at the last red light before my friend’s apartment. I turn the air conditioning up as strong and as cold as it will go. I use the shirt I have on to wipe my face. In seconds, the only evidence on my face is my bloodshot eyes.
I get to her apartment and she gets in the car. “Are you okay?” she says as she looks at me with concern. “Yeah, my contacts are acting up.”