instructions

get rid of all the wine in your house. The wine, the Prosecco, the champagne, all of it. You don’t need to drink about this anymore. You don't need to just keep numbing it. I know you thought it would help, but it never did and it never does and it probably never will, for you. Not for something this big.

And I know you usually like to keep the really hard stuff to yourself, because you feel like you can be a burden and that you should be able to handle these things on your own, but what’s actually true is that you need love and support more than you need to fake being strong. Has anything good come from that either? (Answer: no.)

Take a half day off work. Go for a drive. You just need a minute. You have to tell your mom. It’ll break her heart, but you have to tell her. Tell her that you have to write about it and she’ll say, “I know” and “I love you.”

Tell your tribe. Tell them you need to stop drinking because you don’t make good decisions when you do, and it’s not a good coping mechanism anyway. You’ll need a lot of love and help from them and they’ll be happy to give it. You love them so well and it’s time to let them in on this. You’ve been off lately—distant, emotionless, distracted, detached. Just off. And it’s okay, but it’s because you’ve been trying to carry this alone. (You know better.) They are strong, wonderful people, and they don’t want you to carry this alone one day longer, dear. You have a really good tribe. Remember that.

You mostly need to tell them because they will tell you the truth. You haven’t been able to do that for yourself.

They will say:
It was not your fault.
It was not your fault.
It was not your fault.

It wasn’t your fault and it wasn’t because of your illness. There are things about your illness that you need to be careful about, like the drinking. And the dancing. And the flirting. The dancing isn’t bad; just when you combine it with the other two.

But all the drinking and dancing and flirting in the world do not justify what he did to you.

Do you hear me?

In no way was it your fault.
In what universe, sweet girl, was this your fault?

You drank a bottle of Chandon. You were having a manic cycle. That’s okay. That wasn’t your fault either. But you’re supposed to pay attention.

You remember dancing. Apparently that’s where you met him – on the dance floor, but you don’t remember that part. You do remember the girl in the red dress helping you into his car. You hated it. She probably thought the two of you were together. You wanted to say something, anything, but you couldn’t make words come out of your mouth. So you remember getting out of the car, or rather, being put in the car, and then you remember getting out of the car. You didn’t know where you were. You remember falling. You remember you were wearing your too-tall Ivanka Trump gold sparkly heels. You still have the scar on your arm from where the chain of your Chanel bag rubbed your skin off as you fell to the sidewalk. You remember stumbling into an apartment. There was another man laying on the couch, watching TV. “Nice,” he said. You remember being led into a bedroom. You still couldn’t make words happen.

You remember most of what happened next, but not everything. When you came to, you were naked. You had been wearing Spanx and you remember thinking that you couldn’t possibly have gotten them off on your own in the state you were in. You remember that he was on top of you. You wanted to cry. You remember that he used a condom. You remember rolling over and looking at your phone. Your heart and head were pounding. It was 4:00 in the morning.

When he woke up later, he said, “You were moaning. You liked it. Don’t worry.”

Amy came to get you. You sent her your location and she came to pick you up in her gold BMW. You apologized for disappearing. You felt guilty, ashamed, like you needed to hide.

You drove back to your house in your gold sparkly Ralph Lauren gown, sparkly heels in the passenger seat, Chanel bag in the floor.

You stayed in bed for a solid 48 hours. You didn’t go to work on Monday.

You’ll repress it for a few months.

You will go on lots of dates with lots of men. You will drink a lot, you will dance a lot, and you will flirt a lot. You’re just trying to wash away that one memory. You weren’t a bad person. You were just doing the best you could.

“This happened because that man is a rapist. There is no other reason,” Kaitlin will say on the phone, all the way from Baltimore, when you come back to life after those months are over. It will make Jeremy unspeakably angry. You don’t tell him the guy’s name because Jeremy is very into assault weapons.

You and the girls hit up a wine bar. The waiter keeps refilling your glass. It is a Tuesday night. Ruben picks you up from downtown in his black Jeep to make sure you are safe. He is a good man. He calls you the next day to check on you and you tell him about That Thing That Happened That One Night in January. He won’t know what to say, but in a good way. He tells you to let him know whenever you need to talk about it. He calls you again, a few hours later.

Katelyn and Katy will tell you that they are worried about you because of your Snap story, so you tell them, too. They will make you tell Laura. She will call you immediately after you tell her and say that she loves you.

Have coffee with Amy. This will be hard. She feels responsible and you need to let her know that you love her and you have so much peace. You will hold hands and promise to walk through this together.

You will be tempted to believe that it was your fault. For months, in your silence, you will be tempted. You will feel guilty. You sit with white, hot loneliness. You will finally get closer to God. You will talk to Maggie like she can hear you. She can. You will teach yourself how to pray honestly again, sometimes with gasps and tears.

Here’s the thing. There may be people in the world who do think it was your fault, because of the drinking, and the dancing, and the flirting. There may be people who make you feel guilty when you speak it into the light. You can say, “thank you for sharing.”

Try not to worry about what other people will think.
Apply that to everything you do for the rest of your life, okay?

Because you have to speak it into the light so it can lose its power over you. That is how darkness works with you. You always try to hold it in to protect other people, but they can handle it. They love you.  They want to speak truth to you.

That you are loved.
That it was not your fault, it was not your fault, it was not your fault.

You will walk differently in the light. Plan a trip to Bali. Go find yourself again, the you who lives in the light and refuses to hang on to the darkness any longer.

You lost your favorite earrings that night. They were from BaubleBar. You got them from Nordstrom. They were sparkly, like the shoes and the dress. You bought them to wear to the party on the Yorktown in Charleston for New Years Eve. You thought about asking him for them back, but you block him from any communication instead. You look at the BaubleBar website every day for a while and do not see them.

You wear the sparkly Ivanka Trump heels again. Her father is running for President.

It really wasn’t your fault, okay? What did that one professor tell you in grad school? “If you keep speaking it, it loses its power.”

And slowly, but surely, it is.

People will need to grieve, because they love you. Let them. It will break their hearts, one at a time. This is as much about them as it is about you. They are your tribe, after all.

You look at your phone.
It is 4:00 in the morning.
You are free, sweet one.

Read the second part of this story here: you think you know what you'd say to your rapist

If this is a spot of trouble for you, please reach out. I can connect you with beautiful supports, whether you are local to Greenville or otherwise. One of them is my practice -- we specialize in helping people walk through trauma. Contact me (helloamandaphillips@gmail.com) for more info, or hit up Julie Valentine Center or Safe Homes Rape Crisis. You don't have to keep it a secret.