Pain. I never understood anything other than physical pain until I was hurt so deeply that it vibrated through my whole body. I had been lost for a couple years, not physically lost, but I didn’t feel like I belonged where I was. I was a teenager, so luckily I had my friends to keep me distracted, but it’s the quiet moments in the dark when you’re alone that the emptiness really seems to set in. I was a typical teenage girl, questioned everything my parents said and swore they were the meanest. I thought bad things only happened to bad people and I took a person at their word. I remember the way the air smelled on the day my heart was broken for the first time. And I don’t mean broken because I split with a boyfriend or had a friend stop talking to me or lost a pet, I believe it was the pure shock of learning how evil a stranger can be that did it. You hear people say if a girl dresses a certain way, or acts a certain way or says a certain thing that she’s deserving of rape, “I’m sure she wanted it” they say. But, I didn’t dress a certain way, act a certain way or say a certain thing. I was just….me. I’ve thought about that moment since it happened, trying to figure out if I did something wrong, but I know I didn’t. He did. He said everything a young, chubby teenage girl needs to hear. He put the feelings of worthlessness out of my head and made me believe what he said was true. “You’re beautiful.” “You’re so amazing.” “I can see myself falling for you.” And my favorite…”Cori, I’d never hurt you.” We had a blanket down in the bed of his truck, smoking a joint and listening to Pink Floyd. This was 1997 so the “country” was a 15 minute ride out US 40, and it seemed like a different universe. The stars would shine so bright, the moon lit up the sky, there were no sirens, no noise at all really. There was no pressure of a relationship or anything, he told me that he totally respected my decision to abstain from sex. HA!! Young and stupidly blind. I was making some joke about how I was an astronomy expert (I was not) and I would rattle off these ridiculous names, trying to pass them off as fact. We laughed so hard, I’m fucking funny guys….and we were high. And then he stopped laughing, of course it took me a second to look over at him to see if something was wrong and he had this look, a look I didn’t know, because truthfully I didn’t know him well. I asked “What? You didn’t like the name of my star?”, chuckling. And he said “Cori, I do like you and I’m so sorry for what I’m going to do.” Somehow I knew exactly what he meant, even though I’d never been intimate with anyone, I knew that my life was about to become a sad country song. At one point, after what seemed like hours, I looked up to the sky, through my eyes pouring out waterfalls and I saw those silly stars that we had just talked about. It was a very odd moment, because I got a slight smile on my face due to thinking about us, the “stoners”, and those stars; I heard this voice, likely a hallucination, say “Look…even when you feel like time has stopped, the stars keep sparkling just so you know you’re alive”. Wow. How goddamn powerful is that?! And since it was MY hallucination and probably an extension of MY own mind, I’m pretty sure that means I’m a powerful soul. I thought the smirk was slight or maybe all in mind until I heard him say “I thought you were a virgin, bitch? It’s ok… you got another hole that bleeds…”
That……that moment is when my heart shattered. It stopped. It died. The betrayal, the rape, the feel of your rapist’s sweat dripping on your face, the pain of a metal truck bed pushing against your bones, the blame you put on yourself for making a bad decision….none of that broke my heart. I just kept repeating in my head “Tell him. Fix this now!”. I cried to him, begged…I told him about how my hymen was damaged as a child when I fell in a water meter at my cousin’s house, that I hadn’t lied, that I never lie. He briefly paused and I felt this sense of relief. And then he said “Well now you’ll have two stories to tell.”

I told no one that story. I tried…but what could I say? I knew I wasn’t the first girl to be raped, I wouldn’t be the last, so why risk being known as “that girl”? High School is hard enough on its own.

It is amazing what holding a secret that damaging will do to a woman.

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