Due to the sensitive nature of this article, the author (a current student at Holliston High School) will remain anonymous.
“Humor helps trauma, I just want to know that you’re laughing with me. I can joke about it, because it is mine to joke about – similar to how my bruises are mine to poke at and yours to keep away from.” — Belissa Escobodo
I learned this the hard way. When tragedy strikes, the last place one would think to find solace is at school. But, lucky for me, I found everything I needed in Holliston High while I completed my senior project.
After having been sexually assaulted in July of 2014, senior year didn’t feel as exciting anymore. I just wanted to stay in bed for the year and not leave my house, in fear of having to see my attacker. But second term, when my senior project came around, I decided to face this situation head on.
Originally, I had intended to write a short book of poetry and a few spoken words, backed with original compositions. However, I realized during the writing process that I had bitten off more than I could chew. So, I dropped the musical portion and decided to focus on the literary aspect, with my short book, titled “A Bouquet of Proses”, and just one spoken word.
According to senior project and internship coordinator Ms. Sue Stone, I was one of roughly 20% of this year’s senior class who chose to do a senior project.
“It’s a different kind of learning,” Ms. Stone explained while summing up the perks of completing a project. “Students have the freedom to pursue a passion that they can’t find in a typical learning environment.”
She was right; I learned so much about myself in the writing process, particularly my spoken word.
Titled “Rape Joke,” I bring to light the people of the community who think they are helping survivors like myself, when in reality they are not, and might even be making the situation worse. From men who write poetry for rape victims, to feminists who feel entitled to the stories of those who have been raped, to events like Slut Walk – an annual public gathering to protest against rape and assault – I gave my opinion, given my experience, in a whirlwind of blatant sarcasm, and brash imagery.
“I thought you were a master of your trade,” Ms. Stone told me, looking back on my final presentation of my project. “It looked like you’d been doing it for years…. The way you humanized what could be considered a statistic and stereotype of a rape victim was brilliant, and you made a fairly valid political statement.”
Through nerves and all the stress that this project put on me, I became very vulnerable in front of Ms. Stone, as well as my mentor and good friend, Mr. Doug Calais. He has assisted me with my work since I met him in freshman year, but nothing to this magnitude.
“I thought it was appropriate, honest, well deserved, maybe about time,” Mr. Calais said to me in terms of my spoken word. Unlike Ms. Stone, he had all the background knowledge of what occurred before I began the process. However, he had no idea what he was in for.
“I only got a couple snip-its before I heard the final product, and I would say I was quite impressed because you did not let on anything as to what I was going to hear.”
In terms of a strategy, he “had no clue what to do.” With a laugh, he said, “I was going to be here, I was going to check in every now and again, you were doing your own thing.” This is partially due to the fact that I dropped the musical portion of the project that I had originally planned to do.
“I felt like I had less to offer because, you know, I could give you direction if you were doing something musical. And what you did, I had very little input on.” Which, in this case, might have been for the better – especially for my spoken word. I dove deeper into the dark place I was in, and I don’t think I could have done as well as I did with anyone hovering over me for 77 minutes each day.
Along with Mr. Calais and Ms. Stone, my therapist Dr. Doris Forteith had a huge impact as to how I handled this project, and the event itself.
“When I got your email (explaining the situation), I felt like I just wanted to cry,” she said to me the first session we had after my attack. She explained to me that she felt very maternal toward me at that point, and she told me that, “this will stick with you forever.”
The word “forever” came up a lot in the following weeks, as I festered in the fact that this actually happened and that I would see my attacker’s face forever. Forever. That was a horrific thought.
“You just looked so tired and drained for a while after that,” she told me. “Like you hadn’t slept for weeks.”
She wasn’t wrong. I had stopped taking care of myself, and I fell into a dark place that I couldn’t bring myself to dig myself out of. I felt I was in over my head, and though I accepted the fact that it happened, I couldn’t deal with it. But after weeks of talking through my feelings and thoughts, I gathered my anger and depression and threw it into a notebook and that’s all she wrote, or in this case, all I wrote.
After the presentation, I showed Dr. Forteith a video that Mr. Calais had taken of the spoken part, and she was not surprised that I said what I said, but it still hit her like a bus.
While in the process of drafting my work, Mr. Calais would occasionally read bits and pieces, pat me on the back and say, “Go get ‘em, girl” with a smile. It was this attitude, the notion that I could put uncensored thoughts into words without boundaries, that pushed me through this difficult recount of the lowest point of my life so far.
The fact that these adults wanted to listen to what I had to say about it, rather than draw conclusions about how I felt, was very empowering and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to come to terms with my sexual assault while maintaining my day to day routine at school.