By Lyndsay Kirkham, from Gender Focus
Warning: This article deals with sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
I don’t need flowers or a card, I’ve always been a low-maintenance kind of girl.
And I certainly wouldn’t expect you to know that, traditionally, copper is gifted on the anniversary honouring twenty-two years of unity – you didn’t strike me as a particularly sentimental fellow.
But, Kevin, it has been twenty-two years to the day that you, with the painful pressure of your hands on my shoulders and a fumbling persistence, raped me. And, after more than two decades of sharing this exceptional bond – a time that has outlasted every single one of my marriages – it seems only right that we mark this occasion.
How do I adequately honour the stains that you gifted me on September 26, 1993, when, rain soaked and muddied, I was left vomiting and clawing for my clothes? What token of acknowledgement do I bestow upon the man who decided that my resistance and pleas were of less value than the penis he pushed into me? Surely, a bouquet of daisies seems trite in the face of such substance.
What about a watch? I could have it delicately engraved with the date, something you could pass onto the next generation. I desperately want to give you something that illustrates the myriad ways that you broke me on that yawning dark night in a park where, in the morning, young children would have scrambled and giggled while hiding and seeking.
Perhaps something less ostentatious than a timepiece? A tie-clip? An object affirming to others that you are an upstanding individual completely incapable of violently wrestling the virginity from a 15-year old while repeating in her ear “slut”- in case she wondered days, months, or years later if she had done something to provoke such an unwanted event.
Let’s be honest here, there’s nothing I could give you that could effectively collate the impact you’ve had on my life (and on the lives of the people who love[d] me). Nothing that would tie together all of the emotions, lost opportunities, and fear-based decisions that for the last twenty two years were linked in the most inexplicable way to our half-hour together. Nothing.
So, you will have to accept the symbolic offering of my loathing and persistent anger toward you. It will have to suffice: imagine if you will, carefully unwrapping the colossal hatred that surprises even me when I stumble into a remembrance of what we share.
What we share. What you did.
This day, for the last few years, is one I celebrate with cake and expensive tea and hours spent luxuriating in self-care. These are gifts that I give to myself. Gifts that I use to supplicate the fear that still hangs around my shoulders when I find myself alone in a dark city or standing too close to a stranger on the subway. Gifts that I symbolically offer the 15-year-old girl who would struggle for years after you raped her to see her own thighs because of the terrifying remembrances of your hands grabbing and pushing and raking at skin.
You gave me night terrors, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, bruises, lost blood. You fractured, irreparably, my relationship with my mother. Your abuse of my body gave me horrors about birthing my child, and made difficult the physical relationship of breastfeeding an infant, toddler and then a young boy who would struggle to understand why his mother occasionally needed to cease nursing until she stopped crying.
But, the most haunting gift that you gave me was presented only five years ago.
In another park, in another city with my one-year-old snuggled down deeply into his baby carrier where he was happily drooling onto a purple sweet potato puree-stained hoodie. The autumn weather already sharp, I was definitely not wearing a coat; instead, willing Nature to give us a few more weeks at the park, in the leaves, in the place where, so wonderfully, my son was discovering his world.
I am not sure what it was the caused me to look up. Maybe it was the shout of a child. You were already looking, staring, your mouth hanging open in a comical cliched expression of shock. Your daughters, both of them, scampered in their preschool age romps while we both looked at each other, knowing with exacting and painful certainty who stood before us.
I instinctively wrapped myself around my son, protecting him from you. But, it was your two flaxen haired and orange-legging’d daughters that I yearned to protect. From you. From what you were.
I don’t imagine that we will ever again stumble into each other. I frequent parks in Europe these days, having eschewed the parks of Toronto and Windsor for more Baroque jungle gyms. But, every year, I will continue to spend September 26 doing my level best to celebrate the person I have become, despite your violent physical assault on my person. I will keep baking for and nurturing the 15-year-old girl whom you forced into a circumnavigation that she would have really rather avoided.
Happy Anniversary, Kevin. Here’s to another 22 years.