I Couldn’t Shower Today
“Everything will be okay.”
These are words I’ve heard day in and day out as I’ve grown up. I grew up in an extremely German household where we trusted God so much that everything was always “okay,” even when it wasn’t. And then someone told me that I don’t always have to be the strong one, that I don’t have to be okay all the time, that true strength is found in admitting that we can’t do it alone.
A few weeks ago, I was sexually assaulted by a friend I invested a lot of time and care into. Sexual assault is the most violating experience I could’ve never imagined myself going through; but the post traumatic stress, the anxiety, the pain I experienced afterwards was even more impactful. Breathing life into my bones and worth into my veins, I’m accepting my story and declaring my humanity in this beautiful mess. I’m learning what it truly means to be free and above.
I wrote these words to show you how deeply sexual assault can affect someone, how something as mundane and normal as showering can be so greatly affected by another person’s choice to violate someone. I wrote this to give words to the pain that is suffocating to so many. I wrote this to remind you that your story isn’t over, that he has no power over you, that there is hope even in the darkest times. I wrote this to remind you that pain demands to be felt, that strength is never determined by the amount of time it takes to accomplish something, that rest is productive, that it’s okay to not be okay.
Hi, my name is Kate and this is my story.
I couldn’t shower today.
Or the day before.
Orrrrrr the day before.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
‘Nasty, Kate. Clean yourself up.’
But if you could see the bruises on my body,
The black and blue and green
Running up my legs like his fingers did,
Like his mouth did…
See, you hate hearing about it too.
Imagine seeing it.
Looking down at your naked body and
Seeing the bruises
That remind you only of where he touched you
And where you wanted him to leave you alone.
And then you get under the hot water
And you close your eyes
But all you can feel
Is his hot breath between your thighs;
And your body tense up at the feeling of his tongue
On the bare skin underneath your shorts;
And the tears streaming down your face
As you beg him to stop,
To let you go,
To get the hell out of the home you invited him into.
So you blare some of your favorite music
To drown out the thoughts that are drowning you
The way raging rivers never could.
There’s nothing that would bring more joy
Than hearing John tell you
“Your body is a wonderland.”
But all you can hear
Is his voice
Screaming at you.
“You disrespectful bitch.
Who do you think you are
Inviting me over,
Cooking meals for me
And not letting me have your body too.”
As if your only job was to let him have all of you.
As if you were only his toy to play with.
As if cooking intricate meals was good,
But your body was the only delicacy you have to offer.
He gives no care to the delicacy of your heart;
Delicate blood running through delicate veins.
There are good sounds too.
The sound of the door shutting behind him
As he finally leaves you alone.
The sound of your puppy,
Your best friend crying for you
As your anxiety escalates
And your tears turn to sobs.
You hear the sound of dial tone after dial tone,
Voicemail box after voicemail box.
You hear a friend’s voice,
“Call the cops, I’m going back to bed.”
You hear yourself trying to calm your anger,
Because the only thing you have in that moment
Is yourself, anyway.
You open your mouth to sing along,
But you can’t even think up words to sing.
The only memory you have is
The words you have mustered up
Time and time again;
The memory of what he did to you,
Down to the very last detail.
So you tell the story
Again and again,
Like you did to the policeman,
Then to your therapist,
Then to your advocate
At the Abused Adult Resource Center
You almost felt pressured to go to.
You tell it just as you wrote it,
Time and time again,
And just like you’re writing it now.
The details never change.
He pinned you down.
He tore your bra so he could
Fondle your breasts like
You were a prostitute.
You told him to get out.
He got angry.
He tossed things across the room,
Made a mess out of your home,
Threw a burning candle,
But no amount of wax could ever outdo
The mess that was created in your heart.
You tell yourself the story over and over again.
You’ll finally be comfortable with it.
You’ll finally be able to tell the story
Without anxiety building up
Inside your chest.
You’ll be able to shower again.
I couldn’t shower today.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to shower,
To clean myself up.
Maybe tomorrow I won’t have to look at my bruises,
Or feel his touch
Or hear his voice.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be okay.
But today, I’m not.
And I’m okay with that.
Instgram & Twitter: @KateHeld