The thing about rape is that when it happens to you, you really don’t know what to expect. There’s no book out there called “What To Expect When You’ve Been Raped.” Not all people like to talk about rape. I know this because after I was raped all I wanted to talk about was rape.
Three things I was clear about after it happened were:
#1 I didn’t want to be afraid of sex.
#2 I was going to battle shame by speaking openly about sexual assault.
#3 I was going to do whatever it takes to heal myself.
I found that these three resolutions put some people off, and on the other hand it brought me closer to a lot of others. In speaking openly about rape, I’d found that half the people I’d shared my experience with had been affected by sexual assault and in opening myself to alternative methods of healing, I discovered my personal power and freedom from a broken spirit.
I’d been living in New York less than a year when it happened. At the time, I was sharing a bed in a codependent shoebox in south Park Slope and working weekends as a karaoke DJ in midtown Manhattan. One night, I finished my set with the company of a lone patron who proceeded to drug my drink and take me to his home and rape me.
I regained consciousness at various moments, paralyzed and silently screaming as he forced himself in my anus. I awoke the next morning in his home. I shuffled back into my clothes, traumatized. I hovered through the bright streets of Manhattan and found myself at the Guitar Center. I was beat up and bruised, terrorized and in shock. I picked up a hot pink electric guitar and bought it without thinking. This was my control. THIS is how I would take care of myself.
I took the guitar home and scrawled an obscenity on its face with a black Sharpie. I let the guitar and myself have a good wail and then I called the police.
The police came, an ambulance came and I was transported to Bellevue Hospital. I took a full variety of pills and shots that included the Morning After Pill and a bone-throbbing “AIDS Shot” to the thigh. I plucked my pubic hair and handed my body over the to medical staff. The detectives came, and I stated my case.
After all that, I was free to hobble home and pick up my remaining medication at my local pharmacy. I was without health insurance, and I was making less than a thousand dollars a month. The pharmacist typed the cost of my medication on a calculator, and it was over two thousand dollars. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and pleaded, “I was raped.”
Because of my lack of health care and sufficient funds, I was forced to forgo my medication and put my health in great risk. I was bitter and deeply depressed and returned home feeling abandoned by the system.
Overnight, my life turned into a debilitating state of paranoia and fear. I couldn’t go out in public without hyperventilating and crying. I became reclusive and so shell shocked that I stopped speaking. The disappearance of my short term memory became the catalyst for more and more panic attacks.
I had no family. I'd been legally disowned years earlier when I’d revealed that I was molested by a family member. I was unemployed and without any income. I couldn’t function. I hated myself. I hated my lot in life. My only way of coping at that point was to sit in the shower and contemplate slitting my wrists.
I returned to the hospital for weekly STD tests and meetings with a state issued social worker. I developed a habit of jogging to my meetings as to ensure that I would actually go. We never talked about the attack or my feelings. We focused on goal setting which included auditioning for the part of Jessie Spano in "Bayside! The Musical!"
I don’t know what it was about auditioning for the part, but for some reason I naturally dove into my healing experience.
I researched my symptoms and came to the conclusion that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Having a name for the state of trauma gave me a direction and intention with coping with my life.
I had frequent meetings with the detective handling my case which often triggered the panic attacks so I began using marijuana as a method of calming myself. My days became cathartic puff clouds of jogging and writing music.
I worked gigs as a fully dressed and paranoid go-go dancer. These gigs never went anywhere as I was a bitter girl with a chip on her shoulder and became combatant with any man who tried to touch me. My saving grace was getting the call that I was cast as Jessie.
I knew that I had emotional issues to work through, and I knew that I had a dependency on pot to curb the panic attacks so I began my New York theatre career by being forthright with my directors about the rape. Little did I know the cathartic opportunity that awaited me playing pill popper Jessie Spano.
My role onstage was basically one big panic attack, and I got to channel a huge portion of that paranoia into making fun of myself each night. I’d been worried my whole life of being crazy and it turned out that diving into the crazy actually worked. It was my calling, my bliss and the snowball that became the avalanche of my alternative and artistic healing experience.
I had the freedom onstage to do whatever I wanted to express myself and from there I had the notion to capture it on camera at home. I filmed myself talking to the camera, panic attack and all, calling out to anyone who’d been raped and revealing myself on YouTube. It became a series of journaling and an incredibly effective method of speech therapy. Speaking openly about it in my daily environment I soon discovered more and more women who’d also been raped.
I confronted fears of vanity and thus retaught myself how to smile by taking photo portraits of myself at various stages throughout my recovery. I dove into alternative medicine and healing arts like "The Artist's Way" and the writing practice of Morning Pages and found myself a blossoming poet and enjoyed hours of unbridled subconscious drawing.
Sexuality was still a big part left untouched up until that point.
Sex became a challenge to overcome instead of an act of love, connection and enjoyment.
I couldn’t come. I was afraid of even feeling my sexuality.
I was fighting with a fear that my looks or sexual energy brought that assault into my life.
When I was cast as Nomi in "Showgirls the Musical," it coincided with my second year of therapy and through playing the hot, young drifter/hooker lead, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of emotional intelligence and the choice of a victim perspective.
One night, alone in my shoebox, I filmed myself dancing. I grew up a modern dancer and this was the first time I let myself express that sorrow I’d been harboring in my body.
Words helped, jogging helped, singing, writing, pot and everything under the moon… but nothing released that sorrow like letting my body feel it with dance. After the sorrow the dances became sexual, and I would notice how I would fight off those feelings. I would stop and censor myself as if someone was watching. The improvised dances became an addiction and in an act of bravery I posted them on Youtube and created a series of dance blogs entitled "Mindful Movement."
From my personal exploration with dance I developed a deep fascination with sex/taboos and took a keen interest in pushing my boundaries and deprogramming ineffective societal constructs, a sex-positive approach that includes everything from to masturbating to polyamory.
My rapist was arrested and after a meeting with the ADA working as my prosecutor, I was told my case was being dropped due to red tape between districts and ultimately, the lonely businessman who raped me was set free.
In my personal and professional raped person opinion: Life goes on and you live everyday healing.
It’s been almost two years, and I now have a really great life and in a supportive, stable and very loving home with my partner.
I’m learning each day that we are all on this planet to love. It doesn’t get easier than kindness. I’ve experienced a lifetime of physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse. Part of the pain has come from living in a society based on puritanical values in regards to sex.
Nowadays I'm naked almost every night on stage when I portray Nomi Malone. I realize she may be a victim -- and a very cartoonish one at that.
But I never will be again.