I was raped. I think. No, not raped. Sexually abused. No, not that. Well, yes, that, but that was at home and more subtle than the incident that I’m talking about now. That was subtle abuse. There’s nothing subtle about it. And we are surrounded by it. My early years at home included violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and worst of all, neglect. All of that is part or this story. But the centerpiece of this story is a sexual assault that occurred outside of the home.
Was I raped? It depends on how you define that word. When applied to men it evokes a specific kind of rape: prison rape. Prison rape is a boogey man, a joke, a warning. If you are not enough of a man, this might happen to you. My favorite trope is this: if you rape a child, you deserve to be raped in prison. Don’t pick up the soap, mate. Har har.
Everyone agrees, including the worst gangsters and homicidal maniacs among us, raping children is bad. That’s not true. What we agree on is that anally raping a child with a penis or other object deserves to be punished, if caught. That kind of rape is rape, especially if there is bleeding. The many other ways of violating children are brushed aside, hidden, ignored, denied, and otherwise enabled and perpetuated. How can it be stopped? Unfortunately, a large part of that burden rests on the shoulders of those of us who survived. This is one of my efforts in that regard.
Was I raped? It depends on who you ask.
Mind: “I can’t remember. I can’t be sure. Was it a dream? What’s the difference between memory and a nightmare? Something happened. I blacked out. No, absolutely not. It can’t be true. That would not have been possible. I couldn’t have kept something like that a secret. I must be making it up. I want it to be true so people will feel sorry for me. But if it isn’t true then why should they be sorry for me? It’s gone forever so stop trying to figure it out. It doesn’t matter. Why am I stuck in the past? Why can’t I just let it go, “move on.” That’s not something anyone would forget. I’m definitely making it up. I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It wasn’t as bad as I think. It probably didn’t happen. Just stop fucking thinking about it. It can’t be true if I don’t remember it. If my mind shut down, if I blacked out, was unconscious, then it couldn’t be traumatic because I didn’t experience it. I will never know. I have to know. Let it go. I can’t let it go.”
Body: “Something happened to me. I am not in control of my body. I am not in my body. I feel dizzy. I feel nauseous. I’m shaking. I am afraid. I am afraid all the time. I am going to die. I am going to be killed. I am not safe. Please don’t touch me. Don’t hug me. I can’t sleep. I can’t stay awake. Please love me. Please touch me. Please fill this hole inside of me. Don’t look at me. I am not my body. I hate my body. This is not my body! I can’t look at myself. I can’t look at my penis. I do not have genitals. I am dirty. I need take a shower. I need to clean myself. I do not have an anus. It doesn’t exist. Don’t ever let them see you naked. Sex is not safe. I need sex. I should not have sex. I I should not masturbate. I need to masturbate. Should I cut it off?. I’m exhausted all the time. I just want to sleep. I just want to die. Please don’t love me, I’m not deserving of it. Please don’t touch me. Don’t fucking hug me! Where am I?”
Thích Nhất Hạnh wants me to know my mind and my body are one. That may have been true at one time. Was I pure when born? Was I a baby Buddha? If so, what happened? Did I fall from grace? Was the severing gradual and natural? Could it have resulted from mere neglect? Or was it brutal and violent? Was it a kind of death? Was it an initiation? What even was “it”?
I know this to be true: I am still me but I was never me. I remember me but how could I have been me before I ever had memories?
This is also true: I am defined by what was done to me. I will always be defined by what was done to me. I could not be me, otherwise. I will never not be someone who was raped as a child. Even if I don’t even know if I was raped. (I was.) (It depends.)
If I go a long time without crying my body will find a way. Yogis promote slow breathing based on a belief that we have a finite amount of breaths available to us. By slowing them down we can extend our lives.
I have a certain amount of tears that must be shed before I die. If I don’t shed them, I will never be free. I spent most of my life holding them back. Ashamed of them. So my body finds ways. I cry at the strangest things. I cry when the hero rescues the victim. I cry when I see children holding hands. I cry the most and the deepest, when I see a parent loving their child.
Trigger Warning: A trigger is a part of a gun. Triggers exist to fire the gun. Triggers wouldn’t exist without guns. Knives don’t have triggers but they can kill you just the same. Trigger warning? I don’t need no stinking trigger warning. I have a constitutional right to my Triggers. Don’t Trigger on me.
There has never been a time in my life when I did not consider suicide. I still do. Why do we place an ethical heirarchy on death and why do we put suicide at the bottom? Death of old age is acceptable, excusable, even appreciated. Death while sleeping is ideal. Sudden death better than slow death. Unless too young for it. Death by cancer? Tragic and noble. Death by accident? Injustice. Death by murder? Someone must pay for it. Replace the value. Death is rarely deserving. Unless you deserved it.
The best death? It comes late in life, with enough of a warning that we can prepare for it. So that we can say good bye. Not so long coming that we suffer. Peaceful death. This kind of death is revered. It’s a sweet release.
What is contemplation of suicide if not preparing for the inevitable? What if suicide, and by extension, death, is the most important thing that we can contemplate?
For years, the ringtone on my phone was the song, “Institutionalized,” by the band Suicidal Tendences. It’s an anthem about a young man struggling with mental illness. I didn’t put much thought into choosing it. I had seen them perform it in the 80’s, it’s a great song. The singer is yelling at everyone to just fucking leave him alone in the midst of his mental turmoil and that’s basically how I feel every time my phone rings. The song ends with his parents institutionalizing him for “his own safety.” Same reason I checked myself in a few years ago. Irony is one of my drugs of choice.
We don’t like to talk about these things. Much of what I’m saying is making some of you uncomfortable. Worried about me. Does he really still think about suicide? After all the healing work he’s done? In spite of the wonderful life and family he finally has? He seems so grounded. So… together. Yes, I am and yes, I do. Doesn’t everybody? Don’t you?
A psychic once told me that I was a kamikaze pilot in my previous life. She also said this one, my current life, is my 74th, and that it might be my last. That I was close to completing my work. I knew she was a quack, a grifter, a manipulator, but she had me bawling. Grieving for the sacrifice I had made. Greiving my own death. It wasn’t for the kamikaze pilot.
I did not believe in reincarnation. I do not. Not in the sense of ego identity, anyway. I know we’re made of energy and that energy, like matter, can’t be destroyed. I also know that Eric Benvenue-Jennings has never existed before now and never will again. I don’t know how to reconcile these beliefs with what I am about to tell you.
I was with a girlfriend on a beach on Cape Cod. Long before I met the psychic. I was young. It was a gorgeous cool night with clear skies and multitudes of stars brighter than seemed possible. It had been a romantic evening with some kissing but mostly just being together. I wasn’t in love but I was in peace. At peace. We had settled into a dreamy state of no more talking, just being. As I contemplated the milky way I was suddenly overcome by a feeling. A flash of insight. A memory. I wanted to commit suicide. No, that wasn’t it. It was something else. I had already committed suicide. Many, many times. This was my legacy. My past, my destiny, my future. Forever. Because the simple act of being born is suicide. I realized I was in a cycle. On a wheel. And that the only way off is through. The only way to be free is to live.
Want to know what really happened in that abandoned chicken coop? I died. I wasn’t raped, I was murdered. I have been dead all this time but I forgot. I am The Walking Dead. The Wicker Man. The Sixth Sense. I am Jacob’s Ladder. The Nightmare on Partridge Street.
You don’t understand paranoia if you think it means, “someone is out to get me.” You don’t understand paranoia if you think it means, “they’re all out to get me.” They? Them? They’re puppets. They probably don’t even know that they’re in on it. They aren’t out to get you. They’re just playing a role. They’re just fabric. Pull their thread and they disappear. But wait, what’s that? The thread is still in my hand when they’re gone. Oh, look, there’s another piece of fabric on this thread. Pull it away and there’s always more.
This is paranoia: the entire universe is an illusion. With a purpose. The purpose is you. The purpose is that you must die. Ritualistically, with a knife. You will be sacrificed. There’s no way out. You can run away. You can wake up screaming. You can curl up on the floor in the back of a Volkswagon Beetle muttering to yourself over and over, “there’s no place like home.” But this? All of it? It’s just for you. Let me see your neck.
I’m good, though. I’m ok with it. I don’t take it personally. It just comes with the territory. With being the center of the universe. Because I’m still here. I escaped the knife. No matter how many times The Prince of Darkness comes for me, I always escape. I wake up. Still alive. Once I had that realization, things got better.
The next time I met the P of D I surrendered. I let him put his knife right through me. I woke up smiling. I can do this. I can ride this out. I’m aiming for an ideal death, but I’ll be ok with the bus, if it comes. Because that little kid that died in the chicken coop? He’s back. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.
Responding to a few questions:
1) This is not fiction. This is my life, as I remember it.
2) I have no idea how long this will take or how many episodes there will be. (I prefer ‘episodes’ to chapters because that’s how they are stored in my brain.) All my previous attempts to write this down have failed, so this time I’m winging it. I have no outline, no notes, no timeline, no structure.
3) I expect/hope the pace to be not more than 1 or 2 episodes a week. I’m excited to get this going but I don’t want to overwhelm.
4) For anyone who wants to follow along outside of their email inbox I am going to post these on a blog. I should have that set up soon and will let you know where.
5) I am absolutely open to feedback of any kind. You can comment publicly here on substack or privately by email to email@example.com.
6) All I want to achieve from this is to be seen, to connect, and hopefully to inspire. Through my years of healing I have seen how widespread abuse of this kind is. I use a phrase learned from Andrew Vachss, a lawyer, writer, and soldier in the war against child abuse that describes so many of us. We are Children of the Secret. And we need to know that we are not alone.
Much love and gratitude,