They Are Best Friends

photo by Meaghan Harris

photo by Meaghan Harris

By Janet Derks

Shame. Boy could I tell you stories. But I’ll just go with the first time I remember felling shame. Of course as a child when you do something bad and are reprimanded you feel ashamed. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the kind of shame that changes who you are. It changes who you’ll be. It changes who you’ll like, who you’ll love, how you look at your parents. How you look at men. How you view yourself.

Not just a girl anymore. Now you’re a tramp. A slutty bitch who nobody likes.

Rape. That’s what I’m talking about. Rape and shame. They are best friends. They live together and feed off of each other. If you’ve been raped you’ve felt shame like nobody could ever have made you understand before. He took me from my dad. I was 13 and my dad was my bud. But I was growing up and wanted to go out more with my friends. He just wanted to protect me but he didn’t know how. What he DID know was that boys couldn’t he trusted. He knew If I was left alone with one he’d take away my innocence. He knew. But he couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t stop it and he couldn’t deal with how I changed. I just wanted my dad. And he just wanted his little girl. But she was gone. This guy. He raped me at a party. He was dirty. Greasy from working on cars or something. He was gross. And he fucked me. On a cold concrete basement floor. I was 13. He was a couple years older. He told me to be quiet. I cried but I did it quietly. Quiet. Shame. Don’t tell. Shame. It’s our secret. Shame. Shame. Shame. I went home and told my sister. And then life went on. But I changed. I changed my clothes. I put on makeup. I flaunted my body to men. My dad got mad at me every day. He told me I should be ashamed. He didn’t know it but he was telling me that I should be ashamed of being raped and the chain reaction that follows. The dominoes. Everyone looking at you. Everyone judging. You should be ashamed. Everyone knows what a slut you are. It’s your own fault. You should’ve listened. You should’ve stayed home like you were told. You should never have trusted that guy. You should be ashamed. But the human reaction to my shame? Wow. People looked at me. Different people started liking me. I changed my friends. I rebelled. I got laid. A lot. By strangers. Lots of them. And boy was I ashamed. Every day. But then I’d do it again. Funny how that goes. You go get fucked MORE to try to relieve the shame that came from getting fucked. So stupid! Shameful, really. And still, just a child. Spinning in a world so unfamiliar. So scary and full of tears and sadness. Why? Why’d that guy have to take my innocence and turn it into self hatred?? Well it’s been exactly 40 years since that fateful night when I was 13 and I still feel the shame. Was my skirt too short? Of course it was my fault. I’ve been through years of therapy and still I feel it.

Intellectually I know I’m not to blame but part of me still hates myself for letting it happen. Shame. Blame. I should write a song.

But it would suck and make you cry. So I won’t. This is my first of many experiences that caused me to feel shame and although I know so many other women and men have felt it, it’s feels so very personal. Like nobody else could possibly feel the same way. Shame is a brutal thing. It eats you alive every day and turns you into something you aren’t. Something you hate. Something you don’t wanna be. Its something to avoid. More than even rape. The feelings that try to end you after. That’s what you have to avoid. The shame. My archenemy.

Emily Dickinson