Because we’re afraid we won’t be believed.
Because we’re afraid we’ll get in trouble.
Because we feel like we caused it.
Because we know you’ll think we caused it.
Because our abuser/rapist is too often a “nice man” with “good morals.”
Because he still lives in the same city and could find me.
Because his friends and family could find me.
Because the system is rigged for the abuser, especially if he’s a powerful white male.
Because we’re already dealing with enough shame and know this will bring more.
Because we don’t want anyone else poking and prodding our body on top of what has already been poked, prodded, ripped, violated.
Because we feel like we could have stopped it if we were smarter, faster, stronger, wiser. I was five and six years old when my assault happened. I still felt like I should have known better.
Because we have such strange memories of what did happen: Sounds could be muted. Images don’t come in order. We forget how we got to the specific room, street, bar, car. We only know we were trapped there and had to escape our body for a while. We remember that much.
Because we don’t want to lose our friends and family. Because we’ve seen it happen.
Because outing our abuser might also be outing our family.
Because we’re told it’s “too much” for people to take in.
Because we convince ourselves it only happened to us. He wouldn’t hurt others.
Because we don’t want to be “that girl.”
But we are “that girl.”
We are the time travelers, the story keepers.
We are the memories you tried to bury.
We are the past you want to forget.
We are stronger than you can imagine.
And we are the ones who will save the future, not ruin it.
Nancy Hightower has been published in Joyland, Sundog Lit, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Entropy, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post. She is currently working on a memoir about growing up in the Evangelical South and teaches at Hunter College.