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I joke about it. I try to keep it light. I can tell when I mention it that it makes people uncomfortable, and they offer their remorse, their sorrow. It’s not that I don’t mind, I just don’t want it. It’s easier to joke about it, to laugh it off as something that just happened, not something that changed me into who I am. Sometimes, it’s harder to laugh. There are too many broken and damaged parts.

When I was fifteen, something was stolen from me. Something that was mine to keep and give out to whomever I chose. That right was taken away from me in a flurry of rage and hatred by someone I knew long ago. He stole it from me viciously and without remorse.

He raped me.

This shouldn’t have happened to me. I lived on a Marine Corps base. I was a good girl. Things like that don’t happen to girls who go home before their curfew, to girls who are saving themselves, to girls like me. It just doesn’t happen…or so I thought.

He followed me on my walk back home one Saturday night, and I, thinking I was safe, took a short cut through the woods near the train track by my house. He attacked me when we were surrounded by trees, knocking me down into a nearby sandpit, nearly breaking my already weak back in the fall. Held me down. Hit me. Hurt me. He used pressure on the damaged parts to keep me there.

A train passed, and I prayed there were passengers.

I started waving, frantically, trying to scream as he covered my mouth, I could taste the blood he was forcing back in. “Please, God, let someone see me, let someone notice.” We were so close, I could feel the wind rushing past covering my body with cool air on that stale, summer’s night. And then. Black.

Not long after, I woke up. Damaged and broken. My head hurt and was bleeding, my clothes were torn and strewn about. Next to where I laid was a brick splashed with blood. I limped the short distance home as quickly as possible. I was terrified, I had no idea if he was still around, watching me. I didn’t want to take long enough to find out.

My house stood, the only house in the area, the porch light shining a welcoming yellow glow. I tried to run, but was in too much pain. Inside, the lights were off, my parents had gone to bed. I quickly limped to their bedroom, and hidden by the cover of darkness reported I was home and going to take a shower and then bed.

In the shower, I tried to scrub away the pain, scrub away the smell and the shame. I cried. I tried to cry it down the drain. I discovered that pressure on the damage parts relieved stress. I pressed. I contorted my back to make it hurt. I sighed and was reminded I’m still alive, no matter how much of me felt dead.

In between then and now doesn’t matter. He went to jail, but not for my pain. My story was discounted by the charm of the man. I grew up. I learned that the best way to hurt him was to let him know I was stronger than him. I quickly learned to joke and laugh at it, about it. It’s the easiest way to talk about it.

Sometimes, when we’re in bed, my husband will ask me questions, partly out of his own curiosity and to try and help. I laugh, I joke. I speak softly protected by the darkness of our bedroom as he puts pressure on the damage parts to help relieve the pain that stays.

He puts pressure on the damaged parts to remind me I’m still alive.