color key — violet: spirituality; red: assault; green: self-relfection. the contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.
cw: spirituality and assault. I grew up in a Christian church. On top of my education being intertwined with the bible and its teachings, I grew up in the humid cathedral that is the south. Even if you weren’t going to church you were somehow inherently Christian, and taught to say ‘bless your heart,’ by the young age of three. As a young woman of this tradition, I was taught to seek a man who pursued both me and this faith-based lifestyle.
Damn, was he dripping with it. He held leadership positions in service organizations on my college campus, took part in outreach for the homeless, and was studying ministry. He never went anywhere without his bible—a small, beat-up, worn-out thing. It was branded with the vague impression of his hand on the cover. He went everywhere with his journal, which was filled with scriptural snippets, song lyrics, prayers. ‘Lord, I need you’ was his favorite.
We met in a whirlwind and became friends during a time of stress for the both of us. I felt lucky that this Godly man wanted to spend time with me. I felt proud when he accompanied me to church and wanted to introduce me to his close friends. Even though he wanted to keep our relationship a secret, it felt exciting and real. He told me he loved me by typing it into the notes on my phone. In the 3am glare of diner neon, I felt chosen. I felt like I was on the edge of something important as we drove for hours, singing loudly, going nowhere.
And we were indeed that—going nowhere. I began to realize this one night when he continued to flit about my room after I told him he needed to leave.
He lit candles and put a record on, "Come on! Just relax," he told me. This man made me feel important. He made me feel like I was closer to that Godly life I was reaching for. I should just relax.
Heard from him, in the same tone as his prayers and that same, ‘Lord, I need you,” was, "It would feel better for me if you took your pants off.”
“I don’t want to.” He wasn’t happy. I felt like I had disappointed him and made him angry. He snapped at me to just take him home then. My stomach dropped at the thought of this well-respected man on my campus telling people bad things about me. What if he tells people I’m a bad Christian? What if he talks about me like the other girls? Crazy and obsessed. I felt nauseated.
The next morning I felt sick to my stomach and dirty. He looked over at me with a huge grin saying, “I had this crazy dream last night.” How could I have lowered myself to this kind of treatment? Eyes glazed over, that night I posed a question.
"Am I supposed to just pretend like this never happened?" I asked with genuine curiosity.
"Well, I videoed everything we did," his reply.
I remembered how he always had his phone out and was taking Snapchats of me half-naked and yeah, why wouldn't he save those to his phone? Well, I videoed everything we did.
"I put a little camera right over there," he continued, pointing to a corner of my bedroom. I videoed everything we did.
I’m still sick when I smell the candle he lit to persuade me to calm down, a scent that has been stolen from me. I cringe when I hear that record, one that’d previously crooned me to sleep throughout college. I videoed everything we did. To this day I still do not know if this man has video of me. I don’t know if he took advantage of me while I was sleeping. These are questions I have to force out of my head while I’m trying to sleep at night or trying to be intimate with someone else, wondering if I can trust anyone anymore.
I cried. I grieved because I was angry. Because when I reported it, I wasn’t taken seriously. Because I was made to feel like a slut by people who were meant to be my protectors. Because someone had used a faith that was once my lifeline as a way to manipulate me into taking my clothes off. Because for every me there are three more women who didn’t have the energy to speak up. More than he had broken me, my heart broke for them.
As with every story, this is a small piece. There are other men. Other horrible things that have been said to me. Parts of my mental health journey that I’d one day like to address here. Ways that I’ve been discriminated against for simply being female. And let me also say this: though I mention the subject of spirituality here does not mean that this outlet shares those beliefs, nor is it restricted to them. Those are my stories, my experiences—yours are different. I implore and welcome you to use this platform to share your own experiences; and those aren't limited to harassment or abuse. I welcome your thoughts because, together, we can redefine the way we talk about what’s happened to us. What we have survived. To create awareness of such things is the only way to make them stop. Together, we can wring the cloths of silence and fear.
I like to think of it like this: I have stepped into the light of justice. No one could give me the strength to put one foot in front of the other, and no one could give me the light. No one but me.
Welcome to Midnight Woman. It’s for you.