Content warning: The following story contains references to a survivor's experiences with rape, sexual violence, and the PTSD thereafter, which may be triggering for some readers.
"He Made Me," Azure
When I was born, my parents lived in a bus. We lived in the bus until I was about 5. When we moved into a house my father started sexually abusing me. I don’t remember it very well, but I have PTSD flash backs of it. My parents got divorced in 1999.
When I was 14 I was raped. He was my boyfriend, it was March 21, 2009. For years I repressed the memories, and I didn’t realize that he penetrated me. I thought he just assaulted me. I was convinced. I thought that I fought him off. I didn’t. When I started college, in Fall of 2013, I took a Gender and Women’s Studies weekend class, about sexuality power and relationships. I got to know a girl who ended up being one of my best friends.
Together we faced trauma, and dealt with PTSD, and how to handle it. When I had sex for the first time she was the person I told. When I was worried about become infertile, I asked her. When I didn’t know where my clitoris was, or how to masturbate, I asked her. She helped me become a feminist, she helped me become an activist. She had her own host of issues to deal with, in addition to over-coming her trauma.
When I was nineteen I started dating a boy. It was November First, 2014. He seemed perfect to me. He was nice, he liked my family. He loved my sisters. He helped me make all of the choices in my life. He picked out what I should wear, he picked out what I should eat, he packed my back pack and picked my classes. I didn’t have any control. I thought that this was normal, you see. The girl I met in the weekend class didn’t say it wasn't normal. She loved him, too. We were the best of friends. When my boyfriend and I started having sex he confided in me that he liked BDSM. He wanted to be dominated.
I was uncomfortable, I didn’t want to be in control. I didn’t know how. The idea made me anxious and have panic attacks. He made me. He forced me to be in control. He made me lock him in a closet and leave him there for half an hour. I came back into our room and I had to spank him. I have never been so uncomfortable.
Every time we did this, which was often, I felt dirty. I didn’t want to do it. I thought it was worth it to make my partner happy. He would send me links to things to read, so I could help him climax better. He loved sex. We had it often. I didn't love the sex. I don’t think I ever had an orgasm in the two and a half years we were together.
Flash forward to March Third, 2017. He dumped me. Out of the blue. We were about to sign a lease. We were going to have an off campus apartment. We were going to get married one day. I went into a deep spiral of depression. I seriously considered killing myself. I thought about it. I had an xacto blade, and a box cutter, in my hand. I thought about it. I almost did it.
Sunday, March 12, he told me he never wanted to communicate with me ever again. Up until that point I would have taken him back. I would have dated him again. Now, it’s been six weeks when I wrote this, I don’t know if I could say no if he texted me. I don’t trust myself.
A few weeks later I realized, and other people pointed out to me, that it was an abusive relationship. He made me feel stupid, and wouldn’t let me do things. I cut people out of my life. He told me I wasn’t a real woman because I was missing an ovary, which I had to have removed due to a giant cyst. He told me that I wasn’t smart enough because I went to a public high school, and I go to a public college.
He destroyed me. I don’t know how to eat. I haven’t had eating disorder problems like this since I was in high school. I realized that he’d been sexually and emotionally abusing me. I don’t know how to have sex with anyone, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an orgasm. I don't think I have.
I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully. I barely know how to live alone. I had to rehome my guinea pigs because they were ours. All of my friends were our friends. The girl I met in the weekend class? Who I’d been friends with since my freshman year? She stopped talking to me. She cut me out of her life completely. In the past month I lost my partner, the first person I had sex with after I was raped, two of what I thought would be my forever friends, a few of my other friends. I barely know how to keep surviving.
In the past month I have wanted to kill myself. I have woken up and not known what to do next because I haven’t made my own choices. I’ve shunned people. I got a cat, and I started making art again.
The only way I have survived is the knowledge that I can’t create anything, I can’t do yoga if I die. If I kill myself. I haven’t recovered. I don’t know when I will, to be honest. I am trying. Everyday, I have to remind myself that I need to survive.
About the art:
I thought that Azure's story was written very poetically, especially the last lines. They stuck with me long after reading their story. I used their flowers, narcissus (meaning self love) and the iris (meaning messenger) in a lithographic print series.
I felt that the repetitive action of print making echoed their final lines, "Everyday, I have to remind myself that I need to survive." I feel that, for myself, that mantra is inspiring. I wanted to cover that mantra in flowers, since it is worth celebrating.