I used to keep a box on the floor of my closet. A lime green cardboard box contained every piece of paper collected during the legal process after my rape. Inside that box was my story: a Michael Jackson CD that was still covered in black finger print dust, printouts of his confession, copies of my medical documents. Every single thing that confirmed I was raped was inside that box. When my world would start to spin, I’d take it out of the closet. I’d lay out every document to settle my spinning heart. If I could see it, if I could read it, if it was in front of me in black and white, I could then fall asleep at night.
When I meet Cole’s dad, I made him read all of it. I wanted to make sure he believed me. It was my box of truth, and I needed him to see it.
When we moved to Alabama, that box was placed in my car. I couldn’t risk it being lost by the movers. It was my truth, and I needed to protect it. I repeated the same pattern when I moved to Tennessee.
One day, as I was packing my belongs to move to a tiny apartment of my own, I came face to face with that box again. I was so sick of carrying it. I was done with the box. I was done carrying it inside of me. On the verge of divorce, I didn’t want to sit down with another person to share my box of truth. Instead of packing it, I took it in the backyard and burned it.
I was done. That chapter was over. I promised to rid myself of it all. I promised myself I’d quit living inside that story.
A few years later with the box turned to ashes, I was moving again. This time I was moving back to my hometown. I was moving back to the town where my rapist lived. I was moving back to the community that felt unsafe and scary.
I didn’t want to move. I was scared. I didn’t want to face the faces of my past. I didn’t want to cross paths with the anger I felt lived in this town. I moved anyways. I needed my family. My son needed his grandparents. We desperately needed support.
It had been nine years since the day I was raped. It had been eight years since the court system failed me. Certainly people matured and moved on.
Two weeks after I moved home, I realized that some people never mature and move on. After a long night of waiting tables, I stopped at 7-11 to buy milk for Cole. He would need it for his breakfast. I grabbed the milk, turned around, and came face to face with two girls from high school.
Are you Kristy Larson?
You’re the one who accused (insert name) of rape?
Insert long rant of name calling and physical assertiveness.
A police officer showed up. He was her boyfriend.
When is this ever going to go away! I don’t want to live this story anymore. I left crying and trembling and screaming.
A few weeks later, I meet Christian. Where was my box of truth? Those girls made it clear that I’d never be able to move on. I would need to share this story with everyone I ever met. I’d never be able to be just Kristy.
One night before we headed out to a concert, I sat beside Christian. I started to tell him my story. He needed to know it in case any of those drama-driven, gossip-hungry teenagers showed up again. I would not let them define me. I would not let them scare me.
Christian stopped me after I said the words I was raped. He hugged me. He told me he didn’t care. He didn’t want to know the details. He couldn’t hear the details. His heart couldn’t hear the details. He held me, and he told me he’d take care of me.
Christian and I saw one of those girls that night. Fortunately she stayed quiet, but sadly that night in 7-11 isn’t the only reminder of my rape I’ve experienced since moving back to my hometown. I’ve heard whispers between friends. That’s Kristy Larson while touring homes at homearama. I’ve been met by glares while grocery shopping. A person changed aisles while shopping at target.
While they haven’t matured or moved on, I certainly have. It’s been a long time since I needed to pull the box of truth out of my closet. It’s been a long time since I needed to see it in black and white. When I met Christian, I didn’t need that box of truth. I didn’t need papers to validate my story. He believed me, and more importantly I BELIEVED ME.
Another article about the Stanford rapist filled my Facebook newsfeed last night. A statement was released by the lawyer of his victim.
“I remain anonymous, yes to protect my identity. But it is also a statement, that all of these people are fighting for someone they don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t need labels, categories, to prove I am worthy of respect, to prove that I should be listened to. I am coming out to you as simply a woman wanting to be heard. Yes there is plenty more I’d like to tell you about me. For now, I am every woman.”
I applaud this woman, and I hope she remains anonymous. While there are millions of people just like me who want to celebrate her, support her, and thank her, there will always be a handful of people who thrive on anger.
Their words hurt. Their actions are loud. Sometimes it takes eighteen years to hear the kindness. Sometimes it takes eighteen years to make the decision to no longer participate in the drama of something that happened to me when I was eighteen.
The first eighteen years of my life I was naive. I had no fear. I was shy, awkward, and kind. The last eighteen years I’ve spent living inside a story. It’s followed me like a shadow. No longer naive, I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid to be strong. Staring down the next eighteen years of my life, I have a very simple intention.
I plan on celebrating the fact that I am unbreakable. I plan on raising boys who are strong, kind and good.
My story now belongs to you. It belongs to the people who need to find their strength. It belongs to those who are hurt and feeling broken.
I promise you we are all unbreakable.