This poem is the story of a rape. When I was 16, I was raped by a stranger, a radiology technician in a hospital. I wrote this poem long before I could write or speak the actual story; that’s usually how it went in my therapy. I did eventually write my story, though. This is it, with the poem that started it.
This incident of sexual violence was not the first– not by a long shot. My father, who was a surgeon, began molesting me at age three, raping me at six. This rape was just one more experience that convinced me I would never be safe.
I was sixteen years old, 68lbs. pounds, and having chest pains. I was two weeks into my first stay in residential treatment for anorexia. It took a full half-hour to drive from Shades of Hope treatment center to Abilene General Hospital. Another half-hour before I was even taken back. I was hooked up to an EKG and a pulse oxymeter, BP cuff and IV. The counselor who had brought me in left me there by myself, saying that another counselor would come by a later. I was told by a nurse that my heart beat was slightly irregular but that it didn’t look serious. They concluded that I was having a panic attack, and decided that sedation would cure me. The only problem? They dosed me by my age instead of my weight. I may have been sixteen, but I had the body mass of a nine-year-old. I was given two different drugs; Toradol for pain, and Ativan for anxiety. In ridiculous doses.
It only took about fifteen minutes for me to start feeling the medications’ effect. The lights seemed to dim, and I started to get very, very cold. By the time the radiology tech came to take me for my mandatory chest x-ray, I was so dizzy that I couldn’t even sit up. This wasn’t a fun kind of high– it was a frightening one. I had no control over anything and I could barely move and I couldn’t have fought anyone off if I needed to.
And as I turned out, I would need to.
I still don’t know his name. I know he wore brown scrubs. He had dark hair. He was white, or maybe Hispanic. His voice was low and gravely, probably because he was a smoker– I could smell it on him.
I remember the sound of the lock. The door to the radiology area had a lock and I remember the metallic click of it. I was freezing; it was January in north Texas. When I came to the emergency room I was wearing a sweater, a skirt, and tights. They had taken my sweater and given me a gown, but they let me keep my skirt and tights on. I was lying on the gurney under two blankets. He rolled the gurney right up next to the x-ray table, pulled down the blankets, and since I was having trouble moving, helped me slide onto the table. It was terribly cold and hard. I could feel every place where bone met steel. As I was lying there, shivering, it occurred to me that something was wrong. Wasn’t I getting a chest x-ray? I asked, my speech slurred.
You have to be sitting upright for a chest film.
Shhh, he whispered.
I could barely keep my eyes open. Something was wrong. It felt like a kind of drowning; as if these chemicals were holding my head under water, with me struggling and fighting against them, desperately trying not to submit. I had to stay awake.
Something was wrong.
I was so cold, but I could feel his hands; they were warm in contrast. He was lifting my skirt. I tried to move, and found that I couldn’t. He was pulling down my tights. My underwear. I tried to move. To struggle.
He said he needed to remove these things for the procedure. I knew that was bullshit. What the in the hell was going on? Suddenly, I felt his fingers sliding up the inside of my naked thigh.
He leaned in close, and his foul breath invaded my mouth. I’m not going to hurt you, he said. As long as you shut up and don’t move.
It was only then that it struck me what was about to happen. I was in deep, deep shit. Even being as doped up as I was I clearly recall the hideously helpless feeling that hit me then. He was going to rape me.
And I would just have to lie there and take it.
There was no way to fight. Certainly no way to run. I was skeletal, frozen in terror, and drugged within an inch of my life. He was a large man, fully conscious, and I had no doubt would use force in an instant.
The next thing I know he is up on the table, on his knees, straddling me. I turn my head and involuntarily whimper as he unties his scrubs, a sight all too familiar to a little girl that is still so present within.
And the last thing I remember before passing out is him pinning my wrists above my head, almost unnecessarily for I had basically given in.
I didn’t tell anyone this for almost five years. I really didn’t think anyone would believe that something like that could happen. It was too late to do anything about it legally– but I was still able to process it psychologically. I trust my memory of this incident and I understand that I had no choice but to submit, I had no way to fight. There is nothing I have to forgive myself for because I did nothing wrong. I had an expectation of safety in that hospital and HE was the one who violated that.
I was raped. And I am not ashamed
Hear No Evil, See No Evil
Prone to injury and illness
Prone to violent attack
Lying prone on a hard metal table
The cold searing into my back
The man– surely prone to this crime
Whispers his evil plan in my ear
He undresses my paralyzed body
And is thrilled by my increasing fear
Knowing I’m drugged and defenseless
The perfect victim come his way
Just a dumb little pussy, what more could you want?
No witness, a quick, easy lay
Helpless and stranded am I
With no way to run, scream, or fight
God, this can’t be happening
Nothing about this is right
A hospital’s supposed to be safe
I arrived there hurt, in distress
And instead of giving me care
He grabbed the chance to transgress
All I needed was one fucking X-ray
Was that honestly so much to ask?
Just my luck, I run into a rapist
Who can’t perform one simple task
Look at me, lying there, passive
This malnourished skeleton-child
What kind of sick fuck’s attracted to that?
I’ll tell you– a power-starved pedophile
The son of a bitch has got me
And there I’m so cold almost dead
I may have been nearly unconscious
But I could still feel waking dread
I realize then what’s going to happen
And that if I’m going to make it
He’ll go ahead with his plan to rape me
And I’ll just have to lie there and take it
I whimper as he straddles me
And begins to untie his pants
I do my best to just close my eyes
And try to fall into a trance
That picture, untying his scrubs
Is all too familiar to me
My little girl knows it well
I do my best to not let her see
The worst part is coming– he’s on top of me now
And I feel myself slowly descend
All the while wondering if all of this violence
Will ever come to an end
© Sarah Henderson 2008