“…and once I woke up, I just felt the overwhelming need to shower, to clean my entire body. I washed myself for hours, scrubbing and crying as the shower head poured. I only got out of the shower once I went through all the hot water, and even then it was pretty hard to turn off the faucet.” I hear another girl, who I knew from high school, speak about the aftermath of her rape. “I stepped out of the shower and refused to look in the mirror. I just picked up my shower caddy and quickly got back to my room. From there I drank anything that could get the taste out of my mouth, so things like hot coffee, tea, anything; and sat on my bed, my comforter covering my shivering body.” The girl, Monica, spoke while staring at the ground in the middle of circle. The other victims in the circle nod sympathetically and then I realize it was my turn.
“Oh, hi, I’m Cassidy,” I begin, shifting my body as I think of what to say. “Well,” I pause, trying to, but not wanting to remember. “It’s kind of a blurred memory because I had been drinking, but from what I recall I met him after my best friend tried to get me to stop drinking that night. None of what happened next was her fault though, she actually ended up saving my life.” I say, assuring Annalise was not to blame for anything. “I ran away from her into the crowd at the club we were in, and there he was, dancing with some of his friends.” I continue, wondering how on earth this guy had friends. “You know; you’d think his friends would’ve stopped him…”
“They may not know, some rapists are masters at hiding who they are,” The group leader says. He was right, his friends probably didn’t know. They seemed like nice people, from what little I can remember.
“Then he looked at me and stop dancing for a second. He walked up and whispered in my ear, something about finding somewhere private to go with me, and I was too drunk to know any better. So I let him take me by the hand and we walked toward the bathrooms.” I explain, suddenly beginning to remember more and more whether I wanted to or not. “He said ‘I want to do so much to you’, and I replied, drunk as ever with ‘Oh really?’, which only escalated his desires…”
“Don’t feel bad Cassidy, just because you were turning him on doesn’t give him the right to take advantage and violate a drunk girl.” The group leader interrupts again, reminding me that it wasn’t my fault.
“Then we walked into the girl’s bathroom, and he lead us, as I tripped over myself, into the first stall. He then started to kiss me, and then…” I pause starting to tear up. “He started with one finger, then two, then three, then four, and then his entire hand,” As I recite every number my voice gets weaker than the number before it. I continue, despite my vulnerability. “by then, the pain was unbearable. He said, ‘That’s what you’ll feel once I’m really inside you,’ and that’s where I told him to stop, though my tears and screams should’ve been enough. He kept going despite my refusal, and I kept screaming. I begged him to get out of me and started punching his chest…”
I feel every eye on me as I finish explaining what I can recall of the actual rape. The rest of it I can’t remember because I was an idiot who was too intoxicated for my own good. With tears now pouring down my face, I explain as best I could what I remember happening next.
“And then there was darkness. Silence. The best and the worst end to the entire thing. It was the best because I finally got a break from seeing his eyes as he thrusted into me, not hearing his barbaric growls as he pleased himself.” I wipe my nose with a Kleenex given to me by Monica, who was the girl who before me, before continuing. “It was the worst though because,” I pause before continuing again. “I thought I was dead.”
The room remains silent as I blow my nose again. Almost everyone else was crying now too.
“I thought that was the way I died,” I say, breaking the silence. “I thought that that animal took not only my body but also my life. I believed that was all I could amount to. I thought heaven and hell were both a lie. There was nothing. Which, I guess, might have been hell. Regardless, it destroyed me. But then I woke up and realized my story wasn’t over, thank God.” I say, not wanting to remember the black out any longer.
“What was it like waking up?” I hear the group leader ask, his voice lighter than before.
“It was beautiful.” I say, now wanting to remember. “I was in a car with that best friend from before. She was talking to me in the backseat of a taxi. We were headed back to her dorm. She thought I was still unconscious, but I woke up just in time to hear the end of her one sided conversation with me.” My smile grows, and I continue. “She said she was sorry and that she loved me, though nothing that had happened was her fault, and that she’d protect me from here on out. She said now she would always give me anything I needed when I needed it, instead of only getting it after the fact. You see, we had talked about how that’s how my life was before then– always getting the attention or acknowledgement I deserved after I deserved it, and she promised to not let that happen again. I surprised her once I felt she was done talking by replying quietly: ‘You’re the only friend I need.’ and we headed up to her room and watched TV and ate ice cream. I showered and then fell asleep in her room.”
I finish and witness the response to my rape’s aftermath as the rest of the circle begins to show signs of hope. I see some people smiling, others nodding with tears and their eyes, and I feel compelled to continue.
“Now, the aftermath of my rape wasn’t nearly as bad as the rest of yours. And I know it may sound shallow and inconsiderate, but trust me when I say this: It does get better. For me, it got better as soon as I woke up afterwards. All of my friends supported me while I was in the hospital getting tested to make sure I was still clean, which I was, and they all vowed to help me once I was ready to try to bring my rapist to justice. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that I am one of the lucky survivors. I know not everyone is as fortunate as me. But I want you all to know that even if it seems like you’re still in that darkness I was stuck in, you’ll make your way out of it somehow as long as you believe you can do it. And, given that I was the last to talk and that I’ve heard each of your stories, I believe you all can. I’m here for all of you, if you need it. My name’s Cassidy, and if you want to talk, just let me know, okay?”
The room then replied with okay’s and thank you’s. One guy even came over and hugged me, his tears drenching my shoulder. The group leader then quieted us down and dismissed the class. As I left the room with several new phone numbers, I met Annalise outside the doors of the revisiting room. (That’s what they called the room everyone circled in to talk about their rapes.) She smiled as she saw me pack the several strips of paper with phone numbers into my purse.
“You seem to be making new friends, I see.” She says, smiling.
“Yep! I just want to be there for everyone like you were there for me. Trust me, it’s hard for some people to find someone willing to listen these days.” I reply as we make our way out of the counseling center. “So what have you been up to?”
“Well Wes, Joslyn, and Brent just got back from the funeral, and holy crap,” Lise begins,
“What? Was it bad? I know Wes was worried about everyone seeing his buzz cut,” I reply as I follow Lise wherever she was headed. “Wait, where are we going?”
“Reed’s room, he supposedly has something to show everyone. Everyone else is headed over there.”
“Oh God,” I reply. “And what about the funeral?”
“Oh yeah!” Lise begins again, bursting with excitement. “So according to Brent, the priest at the funeral was being all homophobic, and you know how Wes has been questioning his sexuality,”
I actually didn’t know that, but I pretended I did so that she would continue. I nod yes as she looks over at me.
“Well, the priest’s address to the congregation was cringe-worthy. You know, cringy in the sort of the-world-is-going-to-shit-because-of-millennials kind of way?” Lise asks, but continues before I can reply. “Well, anyway, Wes’s twin brother, Danny, was watching Wes react as the priest bashed on homosexuals and took the hint that Wes wasn’t crying about their dad anymore- he was crying because he’s gay. Brent was holding his hand the entire time, too. So he stood up and had a little rebuttal, criticizing the priest and defending Wes in a way that didn’t out him to everyone at the funeral.”
We walk into the lobby of Reed’s dorm building as I reply.
“Wow, that’s great! So, Wes is like- open now?” I ask, as if I knew he had anything to be open about before this conversation, as we make our way to the elevator.
“I’d assume so,” Lise replies. “I mean; I haven’t seen him yet since they returned but the little situation at the funeral certainty couldn’t have hurt.” The elevator opens and I watch as I am revealed to the funeral-goers.
“Annalise! Cassidy!” I hear Joslyn shout as we step in. “So does anyone know what this could be about?”
“Reed is unpredictable, you can’t ever be certain with him.” Wes replies as I notice Brent was once again holding his hand. They smile and look at each other while laughing in the aftermath of Wes’s statement.
Yep. Total cringe-worthy.
“Alright alright,” I hear Lise reply. “Where’s Nova?” She asks.
Great, she’s coming to?
“She said she’ll be here soon,” Brent answers. “She was at a study group before this, like we all should be.” He adds.
“Finals aren’t until next week. We can procrastinate for a few more nights. And after all we’ve been through so far,” Lise explains, looking to me and then to Wes. She was referring to our situations. “I think we deserve to have a little fun, yeah?”
“That’s true,” I respond quietly. “They say therapy helps, but just like anything else, one thing can’t solve all of my problems. I’d like to have fun, and you deserve to have fun too.” I say, looking over to Wes. Ever since the night at the club I have been moody, easily annoyed, hurt, and dramatic more than usual. The only thing missing out of my life now was the fun I was having before everything happened, so why not try it? Maybe all I need is to let loose. “We all know Reed is the best to unwind with- he knows glory and gore go hand in hand.”
“What do you mean?” I hear Wes ask as the elevator opens to Reed’s floor.
“We’ve both had our share of gore, don’t you agree? I mean, my rape and your father’s death– now it’s our turn for some glory. It’s what your father would have wanted, right?” I ask.
“Yes, his father would’ve loved that.” Joslyn responds for the first time in a while.
“Exactly! And Reed can help us with the glory part, so let’s go!” I say, my voice becoming casual for the first time since the night at the club. It was refreshing to know I was becoming Cassidy again. “Are you guys ready for another night like the one where Reed got arrested by some higher-then-a-kite cop?!”
“Ah yeah!” Brent shouts out. “Let’s go see what Reed’s surprise is now.”
We hold small conversation but eventually the group collectively silences ourselves as we walk down the hall to Reed’s room. The hall is bare and no one else seems to be on the floor we were on.
Kinda creepy, if I do say so myself.
I notice the door to Reed’s room is cracked and I pause before continuing into his room. Something didn’t feel quite right, and I wasn’t sure it’d be a good idea to go inside. Annalise senses my discomfort and takes the lead into the room. The group is silent as Annalise investigates.
More silence fills the space as we wait for Annalise to say something.
“Reed?” She asks while inching her way into the room. “Reed? Are you in here?” Annalise disappears from our vision, causing me to worry. I cover my mouth as she suddenly screams. “OH MY GOD!” She shouts, causing my heart to skip a beat.
“What the hell is going on?!” I hear Joslyn whisper from behind me.
“Lise!” I shout, running into the room.