Rape is a hate crime. Rape is an eviction of the agency and being of the other. Rape is an attempt to permanently confiscate the power, desire and trust of the other, to destroy her capacity to bond with other people, to feel comfort with others or in herself. The rapist burns the exceptional nature of himself into the disposable victim. He steals her life. I have felt evicted from my own skin, shrinking in fear from memories, disgusted by desires, turned out from the world and disallowed from living.
I have procrastinated writing this for 3.5 years. In its current acute form, I have procrastinated for weeks. I have been extremely triggered by the Jian Gomeshi accounts. The lawyer who tells the story of having been manually penetrated painfully and forcefully moved me to a particularly long stretch of crying.
I was handled and consumed not as a person but as a resource. I have felt my body tensing and crouching; my muscles constricted and retracted, turning painfully in on themselves. How is it not clear that gendered forms of assault prove that the man-woman relationship is an echo of the colonial encounter?
3 years ago, I attended my father’s funeral with my boyfriend at the time who was a Quebecois bass player named Jean-Yves Theriault. Coming off a tour with his band Voivod, he was on a massive ego trip. He strongly reminded me of a dog in a junkyard who searches continually for signs that he is being worshipped. We had almost broken up at that point. On tour he had expressed desires I found frightening if not revolting. He contained them by saying they were only fantasies he would never enact, and I need not be made nervous by them. He convinced me to let him join me in NYC for my father’s wake, in part as an attempt to stay together.
During that weekend, Theriault decided that he did not want to be there at the funeral or in NY and that his attendance should be looked at by me as a favor. He held court with my family carefully explaining to them how famous he was. When they were not around, he verbally abused me.
Several hours after the funeral, we went back to the hotel room. He took a shower. From there he yelled at me aggressively, something like 5 times, commanding me to get in with him. Each time he called me in he seemed angrier. Feeling destroyed and disoriented as a result of my father’s death and the wake that day, I got into the shower to avoid further damage. As soon as I got in Theriault attacked me by violently and painfully thrusting two fingers back and forth multiple times between vagina and anus. He did this knowing that I had refused to “mix” sides in the past, in a fear of debalancing PH and contracting severe candida – an ongoing problem for me which we had discussed many times. He did this knowing I despised sex in the shower because I have multiple spinal fusions and find the standing up position exhausting and painful. He approached me without affection and without permission after many conversations about how sex for me was about emotions and affection rather than mechanics. His tone and attitude were violent, cruel and frightening. I was in shock. When he patted my ass in much the same way as the rapist in the film Irreversible, a film he had forcefully recommended as his favorite film weeks earlier, I understood that he was intentionally trying to give himself the rape experience. Despite the fact that my body had been closed to him the entire time, he had his penis in his hand and was trying to fit it into my anus.
I got out of the shower first and got into bed. He got into bed a few minutes later and resumed verbally abusing me. I wept all night while he slept.
He had at another time, 3 months earlier, refused to stop anal sex when I had asked him to because it was hurting me. As a response, I decided to take an aid from the bdsm community, despite the fact that we were not having that kind of relationship, and I asked for a safe word. He refused to give me one. He acted like my request was a joke. I implored him for at least 6 hours. Just as daylight was breaking and I was beyond exhausted and getting ready to kick him out of my apartment and never speak to him again he said “Of course! Did you ever doubt it? If you say stop, I’ll stop.” That kept me in a relationship with him. I thought I had won a battle.
My regret that I did not leave then is overwhelming. Still that occurrence 3 months earlier did not leave me to expect what would happen on the night of the funeral.
After the wake in NY, I wrote excuses for him. I tried to ignore and forget what happened for several days, until I no longer could. He seemed to enjoy having pumped me full of toxic rage, and watching it twist in me while he continued to do and say things to test my breaking point. I went out of my way to imagine that what happened was a misunderstanding, a nervous breakdown he was having around death and loss. I tasked myself with a number of sympathetic scenarios. It took me months to face what happened, and finally confront him.
When I did send him that email, he dismissed it and tried to say I was lying, until I recalled the details to him. He sent me a 1 sentence apology.
My situation is not exactly like the victims of Gomeshi. Gomeshi probably never had a loving or affectionate sexual encounter in his life. Unlike Gomeshi, Theriault decides which women are whores or one night stands, and which are girlfriends. Before me he had long monogamous relationships with women. Before he went on tour, he was capable of affection. He still spoke with contempt of the (sometimes very young) women he had screwed, describing them as groupies. He spoke with pride about how badly he treated them, as if it confirmed how desirable he was. He tried to enlist me to speak badly of them, holding as bait the status that I was above these other women. I sometimes wonder if my refusal to accept the role of making fun of “fat” or “ugly” women was part of what destabilized my position with him. I speculate that while he was on tour and being worshipped, he decided to change my status from girlfriend to disposable object which, in and of itself, would have been unpleasant enough. But in order to make this transition, he needed to demonstrate his contempt to me with violence.
I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD. I had always considered myself a strong and resistant person. But truly the phoenix is a myth. The durable woman is a lie. These constructs are like machines placed in us so that we keep deluding ourselves about what we can or should be able to handle. We are encouraged to confuse feeling desirable with feeling durable so that narcissistic abusers retain a supply of punching bags.
I have been asked if naming the rapist publicly will help my state of mind. I think of how triggered I have felt talking to a lawyer or a therapist about it, and how those efforts made me have to re-live the events and made me feel worse. Even being in those offices made me feel terrified that I was imprisoned in a realm where broken people try to fix life, and that I would never return to inhabit a life I was trying to live. Even though my concept of “life” is more complicated that I am making it out be here, trauma brings its own vision.
I answered the question like this: it’s not just that silence protects abusers. By staying silent I would feel like I was passing to other women the one who had inflicted my suffering, and in doing so I would be continuing to spread trauma and fear. I cannot continue to accept the unacceptable or live in a state of inertia. And although it is terrifying to think about going public with details that feel private to my body and life and also traumatic, it has to happen. By not naming the person who did this, I am still protecting him. I don’t want to live in shame or hiding. I want to live with the freedom to speak the truth when and where it can heal or make an offering to others. I want the barriers of the one who tried to control and implant his nightmare into me out of my path. If there are any consequences for him, those are for him to deal with. I hope others will have enough inner stability to come forward with their own stories so that we can create a common space and not cower in fear and shame. I believe that coming forward offers perpetrators the ability to grow by facing the consequences of their actions, and gives them a gift far more valuable than whatever prestigious lies they cling to.
For those who want to support and respect my wishes, the ease of my professional lives and so on, I would prefer to remain anonymous for whatever conversation follows from here. But I am doing nothing to conceal my identity or make it difficult to discover. I am prepared to meet whatever will follow for making these events transparent.
I don’t want a special, safe place to talk about rape: a therapist’s couch, a lawyer’s office, a support group, with my best friends. I want to talk about it when and where I need to and give all the detail I need to. I want all of us to be able to do that – because the spaces we traverse should not feel borrowed from people who own them. These spaces should be ours for the time we inhabit them just as much. If it is permissible to broadcast naked women’s bodies via jokes, descriptions of desires, advertising and songs and media about sex and women in public space without consequence – to broadcast the interior life of intimacy made commodity for a public, then we should be equally at liberty to broadcast whatever we need to about our traumatic experiences. So many public spaces already put women’s insides on display. I feel far more “safe” talking about rape than I do talking about sex at this point.
We live in a society where Black people are reasonably afraid to walk down the street. The same cops that gun down and also verbally and physically abuse and harass Native- and African Americans also rape women, don’t bother sending rape kits to labs, don’t give justice to women, and continue violence against victims. Women of color, transgendered and queer women are much more vulnerable to police violence than straight white women. And that list should include recently immigrated and undocumented people and those who are physically and/or mentally disabled. I could (and probably should) go on. But the issues are not limited to the police. The question is about who we can trust and who has liberty throughout the social world: in intimate and daily life. I request that we think about the police “within” the self and the entire structure. I feel that even in the best case scenarios of successful achievements of resistance and social change, the current white/alpha/male monopoly on justice and liberty are likely to continue to return if all of these layers do not get thought about together.