I hate that word. I won’t say that it happened to me. When I was 20, I admitted it to a few people because I didn’t know what it meant. Now I only confess it after two bottles of wine and a lot of whiskey. None of you get control over who I am now. But somehow you have it. No matter how hard I fight it. I have become obsessed with control. But not because of you. It can never be because of you.
I looked up the definition of it once. If I couldn’t say what it meant to me, I wanted to know what it meant to the rest of the world. It means what you think it means, and it also means to enact destruction or to spoil. Destruction and spoil remind me of war and looting. Someone breaks everything and then takes what they want and leaves the rest for the victims. Is this a war? That seems extreme but even in my own mind, it is hard to ignore the war I wage constantly because of it. But I am not a victim. I fought in this war, too. I, too, take what I want. And I want control. I want to win.
A long time ago when I decided to write, I read something that Anne Lamott said, “You own everything that happened to you. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” And that’s the only reason I write about you now. Not because of it but because you should have behaved better.
I don’t remember most of the names of the men I have willingly given myself to. I used to keep a list in my purse, but it was stolen out of my car. I didn’t put any of you on that list though because I can never forget your names. DustinShaunPaul.
A police report will document the incident and take the first steps towards filing criminal charges. When you call the police to the make the report a patrol officer will meet with you at a location that you choose and take the report. The officer will ask you detailed questions about the incident and gather information about any witnesses and the perpetrator. The process may end here if you do not want to go further.
I do not like the word and I will not use it here because it has too much weight. It says too much. It says things about me that I cannot admit. Not to you. Not to me. Not to anyone. It makes me a victim. And I will not be that either. I will not say it no matter how many people tell me to take back the night. Or that it was not my fault. Or that no means no. Or that consent is sexy. Or that slut shaming is wrong. I will not say it because those things cannot apply to me. I decide now. I decide who and what affects me. Right? Can you at least let me do that?
I never said yes. I forget this sometimes because you convinced me to forget. As powerful as I am now, in and out of the bedroom, I believe power comes from manipulating and winning. It only makes sense to me that I was in control. But sometimes I remember there is never a time, has never been a time when I wanted you to do what you did.
I don’t want to go further. I want the process to end. But I don’t remember being that 20-year-old girl before any of you, until I read what she used to write.
I’m so excited about having a boyfriend. Whether it’s him or someone completely different, I’m just thrilled about what all I’m going to get to experience. He’s the first boy I ever felt completely at ease with, not trying to impress him, just being me. And oddly enough I think he liked me. He liked laying on the roof with me and making up star names. He liked picking up my phrases and laughing at them with me. I liked it when he looked so deep in my eyes that it hurts. When I feel like I’m the only girl in the room. I like when he looks at me for approval after something funny happens. I like when he watches me laugh. I just like him. I like that I don’t have to deal with crap first.—20 years old.
I wish she didn’t have to deal with the crap. I would control that if I could. She used to believe in true love. She believed in forever. She believed in sex being in the confines of marriage. She believed in so much more. She didn’t know anything about control or why she would want it. But now I can only dictate the future, not the past. That’s why I hate writing about you. DustinShaunPaul.
DustinShaunPaul. You are the one I avoid talking about at all costs. Your sins are much more severe and much harder to speak of. You came at a perfect unfortunate sequence to seduce me. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t know of the two that came before you. I didn’t tell you. So it’s not your fault. It’s mine. But you took me. You liked my smile. You liked my body. You even told me you loved me once with a tongue heavy with whiskey. You showed me how to do all of the dirty things I love doing now. I didn’t want to take you in my mouth that first time in the back seat of your car, but you told me I would like it. I had never done it before but I didn’t tell you that. And you were right. I learned to love the sense of control. I controlled you. It’s easier to remember you with fondness because I can appreciate the things I learned.
But you stole more from me than any of the others. You stole my thoughts. You would never date me. You would fuck me. You would sleep with me only after I had slept with someone else because you didn’t want to be my first. You would come and go as you pleased. You would bang on my door until I opened it. You would cry on my lap and tell me about your mom. You would have phone-sex with me when we lived apart. You would sneak into bathrooms with me. You would lock office doors with me. You would date other people. You would meet other people’s families. You would answer other people’s calls. You would marry other people. But you would never see me. You would never let me believe I was good enough.
The report goes to the police unit in the precinct where the assault occurred. A detective who specializes in these cases will be assigned and will usually call you within a few days to ask more questions and discuss the case. The detective will investigate the incident by gathering evidence, and interviewing witnesses and the alleged perpetrator. The information will be compiled and given to the County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
DustinShaunPaul. I was old enough to say no. I’d said no before. To plenty of people. I was drunk. But you were my best friend for four years. You picked me up from the bar. You were safe. You told me to sleep in your bed, you’d sleep on the couch. I had worn my glasses that night instead of my contacts. I’m legally blind. I took them off to sleep.
But you didn’t sleep on the couch. You climbed into bed with me and pulled up my black dress. I didn’t hear you come in. I was asleep. I couldn’t see when you pulled my face closer to yours and started kissing me in the pitch black unfamiliar room. I didn’t know it was you. I said your name to make sure it was you. And you said, yes? But you were already inside me. I asked what you were doing, but it was hard to ask as you grabbed my hair and pulled my head firmer. You kept kissing me. My champagne and vodka addled mind tried to make sense of what was happening. I pulled away, I panicked. Wait.
What are we doing?
I need my glasses.
I need my glasses.
I can’t see anything.
I didn’t understand. You pulled out and stood up and turned on the lights. I found my glasses. I finally breathed.
You turned the lights back off. You tried to pick up where you left off. But I asked questions.
Do you want this?
Are you drunk?
What are you doing up here?
You stopped then. I didn’t say yes. I wouldn’t have remembered that you had been inside me the next day except that I texted Shelton at 3:05 am that I think I had sex with you. I would’ve ignored the fact that my body felt like someone had been there and convinced myself it was a dream. Because you were my friend. And I trusted you. And I could say no. But I did.
You stole my idea of friendship. The bare framework I had left of one. You spoiled my taste of what being drunk and alone with a male friend means. I can no longer drink with you. I can no longer talk to you about my problems. I can no longer trust a guy friend when I am drunk. I can no longer talk to anyone about what happens when I drink because I still can’t see when it’s dark. I always sleep in my contacts now. And I take cabs home.
The prosecuting attorney assigned to your case will review the information and determine if there is enough evidence to move forward and officially charge the perpetrator with a crime. The prosecuting attorney decides if there is enough evidence to prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. If the attorney does not think there is strong evidence, the case will not go forward. This does not mean that the assault did not occur – you still have other options. You may want to consider filing a civil law suit.
DustinShaunPaul. You stole my first kiss. I was drunk on sake and high on the idea of finding true love. You were my best friend’s boyfriend. You were 30. I was 20. I was moving. You said I needed to get it over with. You said that Lauren wouldn’t mind. You said all of these things and before I could decide if you were right, you took it. And you kept taking it. Sitting in my 1994 Isuzu Trooper, you parted my virgin lips and shoved your tongue down my throat. You pushed yourself over the console into the driver’s seat with me. You said a better angle would make me like it more. You lost your glasses in my car that night. I lost my hope of having a true love that would give me my first taste of love and lust.
Six months later, DustinShaunPaul, you took more. This time I was drunk on watermelon vodka and boxed wine, sleeping on your couch without pants on. You assured me Lauren didn’t mind and that I wanted it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want you. You stunk. You were heavy. You pinned me down and peeled off the tattered quilt I had wrapped myself in. I tried to say no. I did say no. But I couldn’t find any words in my mouth strong enough to make you stop. I couldn’t move you. I could only regret not wearing pants when you pushed yourself inside of me. When you were finished you went upstairs and crawled into bed with my best friend. I put my pants back on and covered myself with the tatters. I didn’t want you to have the last thing I had been saving for someone else. But you took it. I left in the morning before you or Lauren were awake. I scribbled on a paper towel that I had to get back to Nashville. I didn’t.
I sat in my car and cried. I cried for six more months. But I didn’t tell you that. I didn’t tell anyone that. I couldn’t. You don’t get to control my tears. You don’t get to take anything more from me. I always wear pants to bed now.
I told Lauren six months after I quit crying. And you told her I was crazy. That I had seduced you. Somehow she believed you. You told all of our friends, and everyone believed I was a drunk slut. I kept my mouth shut and buried the idea that people were good. That I was good. And that the truth is good. I forgot that and began to believe that I can count on no one and that I was a slut. You stole my ideals from me.
And then again I saw you when I was with my mom three years later, you strutted over to say hello. And I obliged, gave you a friendly hug and introduced you to my mom. Because what the fuck else was I supposed to do? Cause a scene? Tell my mom that you had stolen it from me and made me the calloused promiscuous believer in sex and not love that sat in front of her today? No. I quit crying years ago. I am an adult now. I responded as adults do. I controlled the situation. And then I found out that across the Internet you laughed about “how could you hug someone that supposedly ______ you?”.
I wouldn’t have known if my friends hadn’t told me about it. It was hard for me to believe. But again, you reminded me that I could never trust anyone. You stole my truth. Again. You made me believe that the truth doesn’t matter. Even to friends. You stole them all from me. I could never tell anyone again.
If the victim wants to report to police but not prosecute, many police departments will accommodate this choice, and most allow victims to file incident reports without pressure to go further. There are many reasons to file such reports-even when the victim is not ready to proceed with an immediate criminal investigation-such as qualifying for victim compensation or establishing a record.
But who’s record would I be establishing? I am the only common denominator. That’s why I do not like writing about you. Any of you. I write you innocently enough into one of my stories because you were there, and then all of a sudden you’re everywhere. You show up in my dreams, everyone I see looks like you on the street corner. When I told you I wanted you to get out of my life, I meant it. No matter how many times my friend Shelton tells me how emotionally abusive you were. Or how you completely shifted my perspective about love and dating too young, it’s been so long that I forget.
So you fuck some more.
And this is how you play the game.
It’s easy to learn the rules and easier to lose.
Rule 1: win.
don’t get attached.don’t exchange numbers.don’t expect a call.don’t text first or last.don’t drunk text.don’t send pictures.don’t expect an answer.don’t analyze answers.don’t cuddle.don’t care.don’t make love.don’t say no.don’t lose.don’t be desperate.don’t chase.don’t cry. don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.don’t.
Rule 1: WIN.—22 years old.
She’s the one that survived. You made me believe that it’s all a game. I believe that everything can be controlled. Everything can be won. I take what I want. When I speak of love I speak of sex. I don’t believe in love. I don’t believe in vulnerability. I don’t believe in monogamy. I don’t want to have sex with the same someone for the rest of my life because I know they won’t want to have sex with me forever. I don’t want to exchange numbers with anyone. I don’t want to lose. I think that hugging is more intimate than sex. I only want to control who comes and goes in my life. In my body.
But can both versions of me exist somewhere? Can the me before you still be the me after you? Because that’s the kind of control I am really searching for. I’m not a sob story. I’m not a woman of my generation saying something important about the word I won’t say. I won’t say it wasn’t my fault. I won’t say that each of you did it. Because I’m not destructed or spoiled. I refute it. Because that gives you too much power. I decide what does and doesn’t affect me. I win this war. But you won’t stop showing up. In my thoughts. In my dreams. In all the new men I meet. But never in the words I say out loud.
Except sometimes when I’m talking to Shelton until four in the morning. Drinking a magnum of wine alone, she knows why I’m crying. And from the other end of the telephone, she tells me it’s ok. And I sit on my cold kitchen tiles and I cry. And she tells me it’s not my fault. And that you took it from me. That you keep taking it from me. And that she would kill all of you if she weren’t morally opposed to the death penalty. And I am a sob story. But not because of you. Not because of any of you.
I control who is in my life. I decide who destructs and spoils my life. Who affects my past and my future. None of you. That’s why I won’t say it. I’m trying to end the process, but I’m not sure I know how. Does anyone know how? A mediocre television show told me, “Ignoring it gives it too much power. Pretty soon all you can remember is the thing you were trying to forget.” But this police report will not absolve you or me of guilt. Prosecution will not earn back my ability to say no. There is no justice in war. So if I write you into my pages and quit ignoring what happened, will you lose your power? Because I want to be hopeful again. I want to actually have control rather than just say it over. And over. And over again, longing to find it’s meaning but losing it at the exact same moment.
The process may end here if you do not want to go further.
Cassandra Morrison is a MFA candidate in creative non-fiction at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. She is working on a book of hybrid fiction and non-fiction that discusses culture and the social neuroses that are products of cultural observation. She is from the south, gets lost frequently and is wholly unprepared for cold weather.
One thought on “The Process May End Here if You Don’t Want to Go Further, by Cassandra Morrison”
I was eighteen and he was twenty one. Our stories are pretty similar, shockingly similar. No one believed me until he was kicked out of the Peace Corps. Thank you for putting into words things that I have felt for over a decade but haven’t been able to articulate.