15 January 2012

Unpacking

There’s a piece in the Times today that made my blood run cold. Editorial, entitled "Defriending My Rapist". Facebook had suggested that the writer "friend" someone who’d raped her nearly 40 years ago. In and of itself, it’s a strong well-written piece, a horrible story of a past event, brought back to the present by the weird prism of the social network. But the thing is? The reason I sat paralyzed in the living room this morning? I went to high school with her. I grew up in that town. I know the gates to that cemetery – it’s where my grandparents are buried. I may well have known those boys.

I don’t remember her, and her picture in my yearbook didn’t ring any bells. But I know people who know her. And despite the fact that I well understand the reasons - both hers and the editors - for not outing the rapists in the New York Times, I kind of want to know who they are.

What’s gobsmacked me is the little assault on my own innocence. There were rapists in my junior high school, or maybe they were older, in high school. There were 13 year olds drinking rum in the cemetery. Sure, kids smoked - I didn't use the bathroom in high school, ever, because it was a de facto smoking lounge. And I'll never forget the day that the school nurse made an announcement on the P.A. system to the effect that there was a bad batch of Quaaludes around, and if you'd taken any, please report to the nurse's office. But sex and alcohol? Call me sheltered, but no one I knew was having sex, or getting raped, or drinking in cemeteries. How could that be my town? Or do I just not remember? Or was I just living in a parallel utopian universe?

There is darkness everywhere, isn't there?

19 comments:

Jody said...

I'm shivering. That poor girl. It's awful to think of her bearing that alone, and awful to think of the darkness of those boys, and all of it is just horrifying. I hope you are able to move out of the darkness of the story feeling empowered by the knowledge, and that conversation with friends who were there a tha time brings comfort.

flutter said...

it is unfortunately, on every corner, in every shadow. But, we have so much light, don't we? That eventually we can chase away darkness?

MemeGRL said...

I read the same thing and was also stunned though not as personally as you.
Facebook has uncovered many, many things that kids in my high school were doing to which I was completely oblivious at the time. Nothing this dark, but it has really revised my opinion of my town. I marvel at your classmate's bravado in not just shutting down facebook, which would have been my reaction.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What a terrible thing to have happened. I think there are many things going on around us that we just can't imagine.

painted maypole said...

darkness, indeed.

my best friend in HS had been raped at a junior high party. I knew this shortly after we became close friends. It still didn't seem to real to me.

is it the thing they always blame it on, that supposedly indestructable feeling most youth have (you know, "most youth" being those who haven't had to face the darkness head on at some party or in some cemetery?)? is it a blind eye? maybe it's a bit of both.

alejna said...

It is no wonder you are shaken. I feel shaken just having read the piece, and without having any connection to the place.

I know that many kids in my junior high drank, and there were rumors that some kids had had sex. There was definitely bullying, and sometimes even violent hazing. I never learned of anything quite as awful as the story you linked to, but with the Lord of Flies behavior I saw at my school, such things could well have happened.

Sarah said...

Ugh. That's terrible. And yes, darkness everywhere, as my small town has had to learn these past few months.

Mental P Mama said...

Wow. Just. Wow. Glad it is finally out of the shadows...hope it helps others who still live with that horror.

Imperatrix said...

I saw the start of this post in my reader, so I went to the essay first, then came here. I thought the gist of your unpacking was going to be different, and I am glad that I was wrong on that point.

Now, I'm a bit younger than you, and honestly, what is shocking to me isn't that kids are raping/being raped in junior high, but that the drug scene was so quotidian that PA announcements were made and kids would be sent to the nurse for assistance. Holy cow -- THAT is the world that seems so foreign to me.

Dorri Olds said...

Hi All. I'm so touched by the enormous response I've been receiving from that essay! It's overwhelming and wonderful. So many kind people in the world. And thank goodness. the past is in the past!

Emily said...

Wow. To your post and hers.

Jocelyn said...

Sweet mother of...

Reading that must have shaken you, on several levels. But your closing thought is the truest of all. If I cast my mind back through my life, I sometimes can catch a whiff of darkness that I tripped blithely past. And I regret not knowing enough to be compassionate at the time.

Bron said...

Makes me ill to read this. I don't know the author personally but I do know her mother, and knew her father too. Good friends of my parents. But whether or not I know you, Dorri (and I see you've written in here), it's sickening to know this happened to you. Sadly, it's not surprising, though. This happens a lot more than we realize. There was a similar event the year ahead of me in school (same age) and the girl switched schools rather than be with her rapist all day in class.

But thank you for writing your piece, Dorri. And thanks to Maggie for passing it along via your blog.

@maggiedammit said...

Yes. There is darkness everywhere.

We all spout the statistics, but I think deep down somewhere we must not believe them, right? That was kind of the original intent behind Violence UnSilenced, to illustrate the 1 in 4 (or 1 in 3) statistic to bloggers within their community, among people they thought they "knew." Things have changed somewhat as the site was exposed to a wider audience, but that was where I was coming from originally.

The stats are true, and they are people not numbers, and when it hits home like this, yes, it's almost impossible to bear for a while. It's so awful. I'm so sorry for what you are feeling, and I get it. I do.

Thank you so much for writing about this.

snozma said...

Yes, there is darkness everywhere.

I read that story and it hit me like a ton of bricks and it wasn't my town at all. It was very striking but to me, very familiar.

The strange thing is that you know when the boys were doing it they had no idea of the enormity of what they had done.

That's even scarier. Darkness comes so easy to us humans.

Really, be glad you didn't know about anything like this. I grew up with violence. I knew about rape by the time I was 6. I lived in terror and still do. It's just so much better not to know what can happen and what people are capable of during those developmental years.

Patois said...

I lived in a similar town, and I was part of the drinking and drugs (but not sex or rape) crowd. Or at least I didn't think I was part of such a crowd, until one of my friends was raped by a "friend" at the age of 14. She handled it in a way akin to how Dorri did. I only hope that she has come out on the other side as well as Dorri finally appears to have.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I didn't read the article.

I have lived a stable white-bread, middle class, mostly suburban life and I have personally known eight women who have been raped: teens, college students, adults, senior citizens. These are people I know or have known IRL and does not include those I've just met on the Web.

We hold onto the image of "not our town," "not our school," "not our friends," "not our family members" because if we realized how common these sorts of things are, we'd have trouble ever unlocking our doors and leaving the house.

Anonymous said...

Ok so I went to the other junior hs, but there were already kids with alcohol in their Tab cans at school, and lots of pot and definitely some sex. Really Magpie, it was just us chess nerds who didn't. There were pregnant girls in our HS that is for sure. They just left--unlike today.
BUT, I don't remember anyone speaking out about being raped until college. What a sick thing. Dori, I don't think I knew you and I am so sorry.
HSBFF

roadshopper said...

I remember reading that article and realizing I went to the same high school. I too looked her up in the yearbook and do remember her. What bothered me most about the article was the idea that she was kind of set up by 2 girls who must have known what was going on. Maybe I read it wrong but it made me wonder who would do that to another girl. She was on CNN soon after and she looked good and seemed to have done great things with her life. She had many sleepless nights following the rape. I hope the boy who raped her had many sleepless nights after reading the N Y Times or watching CNN.