Things I Have Already Said, And Will Probably Have to Say Again

I have written about what happened to me my senior summer in multiple ways, the most recent time was in the anthology THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, which was released this year.

 

It was a party. I was not drunk. I didn’t drink in high school. I liked to brag that I was “weird enough without drinking.”

This is a weird thing to brag about, honestly.

 

The young man who assaulted me had mono. As I started college, I came down with mono. The Epstein-Barr virus that causes mono attacked my brain and gave me seizures and some cognitive degradation. That’s how I have epilepsy. Every time I have a seizure, I know that it’s a horrible, tangible legacy that my assailant left me for the rest of my life.

 

Also, yes, I used to be smarter. It’s hard not being as smart as I once was. It’s impacted my confidence and belief in my abilities.

 

And as the country listens to Professor Christine Blassey Ford’s testimony about her high school assault, I realize how incredibly lucky I was in the years after my own assault.

 

Yes, I lost IQ points.

 

Yes, I still occasionally have seizures.

 

No. I didn’t tell my family.

 

No. I didn’t tell most of my high school friends.

 

But I had people who believed me.

 

But I did tell the people in college that I trusted. Some of them were wonderful. Some? Not so much.  One guy insisted that we should have sex so I wouldn’t ever find sex scary. His drunken insistence was pretty overwhelming and not helpful at all. One guy eventually wrote about my assault in his memoir, not using my name, and making it into a bonding moment with his adopted brother who offered (I guess) to go beat my assailant up.

 

A couple years later, my boyfriend insisted that we help inform other woman about date rape. So, we enlisted real Maine judges, real Maine lawyers, classmates to play the roles of the rapist, witnesses, and had a trial in front of an auditorium full of students and people from Lewiston, Maine. It made the news.

 

I played the victim. He thought it would be empowering.

 

We didn’t have scripts. We had a set of facts and we had to present them according to our characters’ point of view.

 

And telling a story that was basically my own, but not my own, so that the process of the legal system could be shown and explained to other women and men who might someday need to report their own rapes? It was so hard. And I was hiding behind the façade that I was acting.

 

So, every tweak and twist of Professor Ford’s voice, every tremor and pause, both breaks my heart, and makes me ill with compassion, but also – it also makes me so amazed by how brave she’s being as she says things that she remembers, things like “indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two.”

 

“You’ve never forgotten the laughter? You’ve never forgotten them laughing at you,” Senator Patrick Leahy said.

You don’t forget things like that.

I can’t forget Anita Hill’s testimony about sexual harassment from (now) Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. I saw how she was treated.

I remember.

Patrick Leahy was on the committee when Anita Hill testified back in 1991. He is on the committee now. Senators Hatch and Grassley were also on both committees.

Speaking truth matters. Surviving matters. Taking care of each other matters.

 

I’m in an organization that has a membership of about 35 women. Of those women, I know at least seven of them have been molested or sexually assaulted. These are leaders of the community. These are kind women who devote their lives to their community and family. And I know of seven of them who have openly stated that they’ve been hurt.

There are probably more.

 

And here’s the thing: What could they have become, what could they be doing, if they didn’t have to deal with that baggage?

 

What would this country be, this world be, if the borders of women’s bodies were respected? If they weren’t hurt by sexual assaults and have to deal with the trauma of that for so long? And it obviously isn’t just straight women, it’s non-binary people, it’s gay people, it’s men. What would we all be if we didn’t have to be derailed by violence? What would we all be if we didn’t have other people constantly doubt and deny our pain?

 

Spoiler alert: We’d be even more awesome.

 

That’s what our country needs to work towards. We need to work towards kindness, respect. We need to work towards caring about each other.

 

 

 

 

Things We Haven’t Said

I don’t usually write about the bad things that have happened to me.

That’s a choice I deliberately make that has nothing to do with other writers and their choices. It’s just about me.

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I don’t usually write about the bad things that have happened to me because I don’t want them to define me. I want people to meet me, Carrie Jones, and not think about my past, or things I’ve battled. I want them to just see me. I don’t like pity. I really don’t like stigma. I like to just be my goofy, quirky, flawed self.

And tonight I don’t get to do that.

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That’s because I made a choice to be a part of THINGS I HAVEN’T SAID, an anthology for teens about surviving sexual assault. I made a similar choice when I edited DEAR BULLY and wrote about being bullied for my voice. That bullying is part of the reason I get so stressed about our podcast. I still have people mock my voice. Adults.

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But both of those times, I made the choice that makes me uncomfortable because I believed it was for the better good. I made those choices because stories of surviving and eventually thriving need to be out there. My sexual assault gave me mono. The Epstein Barr virus that causes mono attacked my brain causing cognitive degeneration and seizures. I live with the knowledge that I used to be smarter, more articulate, with a better memory. I live with the knowledge that this changed because of what someone did to me.

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And I thrive.

It resurfaces. There is still frustration and annoyance and pain.

But I thrive.

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I even get hugged.

And that’s why when someone like Erin asks me to help kids by sharing my story? I do it. Even though I don’t want the labels, or to be defined by the things that were done to me. I want to be defined by the things I do, the choices I make, the stories I write.

There’s power in that.

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But anyway, THINGS I HAVEN’T SAID is out now. I’ll be in Exeter, NH tonight at Water Stone Book Store at 7 p.m. as part of a panel. I’ve never been so afraid of being part of a panel before. Ever. But the proceeds of books sales go to HAVEN, that serves women, men and children affected by domestic and sexual violence and tries to prevent violence.

That’s a big deal. Come hang out. Help me be brave.

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Things We Haven’t Said – Things I Haven’t Said Either

There are a lot of things I haven’t said in my life.

That’s true for almost everyone, I think.

I’ve been tweeting a lot of pictures of my animals and trying to be motivating and uplifting and let people tell their stories. All stories matter. Yours matters. If there is anything I could do in this weird world, I wish I could convince everyone that their stories matter, that other people matter, that we all matter.

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YOU MATTER! 

I’m in a new anthology that’s coming out and it was hard for me to write the piece that I donated.  I’m not used to writing being hard. I’m used to writing being easy, being an escape from the bad things, a place where I can make my own world and control what happens in that world in a way that I can’t control what happens in my own.

But sometimes you have to write the hard things even when you don’t want to.

This was one of those times.

All net proceeds from Things We Haven’t Said will be donated to support survivor services.

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“This book will save hearts.
This book will save minds.
This book will save lives.”
–A.S. King, author of Still Life with Tornado and I Crawl Through It

“Powerful, important and timely, this is a collection of voices that tell, in their own words, what it means to be a survivor–a message of hope and healing that belongs on every young person’s bookshelf.”
–Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go

“Challenging, heartbreaking and ultimately healing…a beautiful firsthand account from rape survivors about the impact of sexual assault on their lives.”
–Christa Desir, author of Fault Line, Bleed Like Me, and Other Broken Things

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This is me before the thing that I hadn’t said happened. This was my boyfriend, Joe. He’s a good human.  Remember how I blogged about when I got epilepsy. This is how I got epilepsy. 

Silence is a powerful thing. And breaking silence, around heavily stigmatized issues such as sexual violence, can sometimes seem impossible, especially for those who find themselves on the inside. This is particularly true for young people. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out  features a lot of talented contributors,  and is literally giving voice to those who need help speaking up and getting help. The book — made up of essays, poems, letters, vignettes, interviews, and concrete information — breaks the silence and verbalizes the experiences of these victims and, in doing so, creates a chorus of hope for children and young adults who have experienced similar abuse.

The book comes out Feb. 6. You can preorder it here or anywhere.

Writing Prompt: 

What haven’t you said? What are you afraid to say?

Random Other Writing and Work News:

I handed back my first three packets to my students at the Writing Barn today and I am so amazed by them and how awesome they are. They are gifts to this world.

I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be on my website. What do you like about podcasts? What do you hate? I’ll try not to do the hate things.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

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RAINN is an organization that helps survivors of sexual violence if you need help and you want to start looking for resources.