In an ongoing emotional waterfall, Meggie Royer responds to sexual violence with a stream of consciousness. She drops us into the days after surviving intimate partner sexual violence and introduces us to the endless and overwhelming list of small things that need to change or be accomplished in order for her to feel safe. These moments stretch and expand over large swaths of time, washing over the reader to illustrate all the aspects of one’s life that add up to overwhelm, that merge into an event separating before and after. She tells us clearly: there is no going back to before.
After my rape, I did everything I could to erase all remnants of my rapist’s presence. I unfriended and blocked him on Facebook. I blocked him on Gmail. I blocked him on Moodle. I got rid of all his clothes I borrowed. I got rid of every gift he ever gave me. I shredded any photos of us. I blocked his number. Deleted all his texts and emails. I deleted all my parents’ emails on their account and mine that mentioned him. I removed any gifts I’d bought him from my order history on Amazon and Etsy. I removed all photos of him from my Facebook. I blocked his friends’ Facebooks and his family members’ Facebooks. I blocked his Instagram and his family members’ and friends’ Instagrams. I stopped eating at restaurants we used to frequent. I never rewatched any movies we saw together. I blocked every single Facebook account that I could find with his name even though I knew they weren’t him. I didn’t set foot on his street for years. I stopped drinking the flavors of alcohol we drank together. I didn’t go anywhere near his old dorm until I had to. I untagged his name from all my Tumblr posts. I stopped watching all the shows we watched together (to this day my heart drops when I hear of the shows Archer or Game of Thrones). I went to therapy. I went to inpatient treatment. I went on meds. I went to the hospital. I avoided any college events he might attend. I avoided the academic buildings he might have classes in. I dyed my hair. I got piercings. I lost weight. I got rid of the birthday and Christmas gifts from his mother. I threw away the ticket stubs from the movies we went to; I threw away the receipts from any events, concerts, or restaurants we visited. I threw away the clothes he bought for me and the jewelry I bought when we went shopping. I threw away the clothes I wore when I stayed over at his home during winter break. I stopped listening to the musicians he introduced me to. I didn’t talk about it. I reported him to my college. I thought about a restraining order. I blocked the anonymous friends of his who sent me Tumblr messages. I met with my college every time his friends contacted me. I asked my college to warn me whenever he would be on campus after he graduated. I stayed inside my dark bedroom for the three hours he was on campus for that class after he graduated. I wrote about it. I didn’t write about it. I started a journal for survivors. I got a job educating others about rape. I reported other rapists. I avoided the tours he led on campus when I worked during the summer. I didn’t say his name. I had a friend who was dating someone with his name and I said “__’s boyfriend” instead. If I saw his name in books or journals I called the character “the asshole” instead. I tried to stop liking the breed of dogs he owned. I closed my eyes every time my parents had to drive through his hometown. I clenched my fists until we passed through into the next town. I stopped expressing affection. I lost trust, or chose to put it away. I asked a friend who made rape jokes if he had ever raped anyone. He hadn’t. But I stayed scared anyway. I blocked his friends’ numbers. I stopped listening to my favorite song because he used to play it on the jukebox. I stopped asking for waffle fries in the dining center because he used to order them too. I unmatched strangers on Tinder who looked too much like him. I swiped left if they had his name. I didn’t eat. I joined an online support group. I donated money to RAINN. I read about the rape kit backlog. I took a different route home. I wrote a book about it. I kept screenshots of his confession in a folder just in case. I avoided vanilla candles because he had one in his room. I took down the posters he gave me. I joined in on jokes about how boys who watch Fight Club are shitty people. I stayed inside during college orientation. I blocked his fellow orientation leader on Facebook. I stopped talking about orientation. I thought about calling the police. I took sleeping pills to avoid lying awake for too long thinking about it. I went on too many walks. I slept when I wasn’t in class. I cried when I wasn’t in class. I left class when the professors mentioned rape or sex. I asked for academic accommodations. I took time off work. I said things were fine. I smiled through it. I blocked his friends on LinkedIn. I blocked his family members on LinkedIn. I blocked him on Twitter. I blocked his exes on Facebook. I warned one of his new girlfriends. I blocked the one after that. I started hating Jenny Holzer because her work was written on sculptures in the garden he took us to for orientation. I missed Jenny Holzer. I kept hating her. I didn’t go back to the sculpture garden. I stopped eating dinosaur chicken nuggets because he used to make them for me. I followed every date rape story in the news. I left movies or the room during rape scenes on TV or in movies. I learned what trigger warnings were. I started using them. I started asking for them. I told my blog readers not to ask me about rape. I convinced myself he could never touch me again. I didn’t go to winter ball because he assaulted me the night before. I asked a friend to spend the night the day before I reported him.
Afterwards, I forgot there was even a “before” all this.
Meggie Royer is a Midwestern writer, domestic violence advocate, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Persephone’s Daughters, a literary and arts journal for abuse survivors. She has won numerous awards for her work and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She thinks there is nothing better in this world than a finished poem.