I was raped a few years ago. I had liked and trusted the guy. It had started out as a completely consensual encounter. But at some point, after he had me alone, he began to hurt me. When I asked him to stop, he continued. He got off on my pain and terror. He was bigger, he was stronger. The humiliation and horror stay with me to this day.
I could not admit what happened. Forget admitting it to others, I could not admit it to myself.
I denied that anything criminal had taken place. He “loves” me, I said. Things went “a little out of control.” He “cared” about my career, so it was fine. Sure, some parts of what happened had been “confusing” – but we all have those confusing nights, don’t we? We remained friends, or sort of friends. One time, I tried asking him why he did what he did. He coolly told me that he could’ve done worse.
If you knew this man, you would know him as intelligent, talented, popular. You would know his politics to be “correct.” You would know him to be brave. You would likely defend him. Not me. God, to this day, I still can’t imagine anyone defending me.
The experience changed me. It killed me, in a way. I still freeze up sometimes when I’m alone with a male friend. “Could he also…?”
After all, I was a feminist. I was already a vocal survivor of sexual abuse. I *knew my shit*. It hadn’t saved me.
Eventually, I began to admit the disastrous impact this incident had on my life. The evil of it, transmuting itself. I can’t say I’m healed. But at least I get it now. I know.
What I go back to is the girl I saw in the mirror on the morning after. I saw her bruises and saw the blood. Although my mind had already switched into denial mode – and would remain in denial mode for years – my reflection fought that narrative hard. I knew in that moment that if I went to the police they’d have a hard time turning me away.
I didn’t go. It would only destroy my reputation and turn everyone against me.
Neither did I want to destroy him. I didn’t want to hurt the people who were close to him. Looking back on it, I know I may have given him the chance to hurt others. I live with that too.
This isn’t a comment on the Pavlensky case. And it is a comment on the Pavlensky case.
You think you know someone. There are moments when I no longer know if I know anyone.
This is what violence does.
I originally posted a slightly different version of this text on Facebook as a response to all of the people who said that a great artist like Pyotr Pavlensky, who stands accused of sexually assaulting (and stabbing) a friend and colleague of mine from Moscow’s Teatr.doc, could not have possibly done what he did. Although I am naturally biased in this matter, this is not a comment on Pavlensky’s guilt or innocence. It’s a comment on the fact that we never really know what a person is capable of behind closed doors.