Christina Minnish has spent 15 years dealing with the aftermath of her own sexual assault. Now she’s ready to end her silence, using her voice to help others who can't use theirs.
Adjusting to a new normal has meant carrying the memory of being raped in the dirty stairwell of a dance club with her, replaying the visions in her mind with every trigger. And the triggers were everywhere. The birth of her children. Homecoming. The month of October. Each mention of rape or sexual assault on the evening news. She was cautious about sharing her story, in part out of shame and in part out of fear. Fear of the reaction. Fear of the unknown. This is that story.
It was a warm May afternoon. The kids were seated behind me in our family van. I was flipping through the radio stations while driving home from the carpool line at their elementary school.
My third-grade daughter’s voice disrupts the normalcy.
"Mommy, what is r-a-p-e?"
In an instant, I am back in time, reliving a nightmare that doesn’t go away when I wake up.
I was a spectator to my rape.
My body was exposed. I knew that.
There was unbearable pain.I knew that, too.
It was as if I was there experiencing it all, but also as if I was watching from above.That’s how I survived. I think.
How far did he go? Too far.
Those details are foggy. I was a virgin.
How long did it last? I’ll never know for sure, but a friend has said I was missing for hours. I was in and out of consciousness. Flashes of lucid horror, one after another. I remember the songs changing, and then the music stopped. The club was closed. We were the only ones left.
Three things remain clear:
His hands pinning my motionless body to the dirty stairwell floor,
The feel of the cold, hard concrete pressed uncomfortably against the small of my back,
And his face.
The rapist is anonymous to me. We could have passed on the street. Strangers. Yet, he forced us to share the most intimate of acts. Except it wasn’t intimate at all. A few dances, too many drinks, and, without warning, there is the feeling of the concrete pressing against my back and his hand pinning my arms over my head. No recollection of the in between, just him on top of me groping me and raping me in the dirty, empty stairwell.
Salty tears stream down my face. I hear myself whisper, “Please stop.” But, there is no stopping. He is in control. I must find a way to survive.
People think they know how they would react in this situation. I was one of those people once, but that night I was paralyzed. Even if I could have unfrozen myself long enough to scream, no one would have heard. Music was blaring, people were dancing, drinking and thinking only happy thoughts. We were miles away from life.
Fighting was not an option.
I blame myself for being so drunk, but I never could have fought him. He was much too strong, and needed only one hand to pin my wrists above my head.
His head was shaved, close to completely bald. He had a strong face, with a chiseled jaw line. He smelled like sweat, beer and cigarette smoke. The rhythmic bass sounds of club music drowned out my pleading requests to stop. I whispered and cried, but was helpless. At some point, he told me I liked it. He told me,
“You want this.”
Finally, a club employee came around the corner and startled my attacker; he yanked up his pants and scurried off into the night. The employee doubled back around the corner and waited for me to dress myself and leave. When I passed him, he never said a word. Why didn't I?