My ancestors have asked for this piece to be written as a part of my commitment to creating healing through justice for myself. You can read Part I: No Healing Without Justice for more context.
Thirteen years and two months after it happens, I tell my mother I was raped. I was raped by the man who was at that time my beloved husband of nine years. I was raped in Pacifica, California. I was raped in the apartment I shared with him. I was raped in our bed.
I don’t share the blow-by-blow with my mom since we’re trying to work out our own relationship and I’m not sure it would be helpful. I just want her to know it happened. But I find that I do need to share the details, both for my own healing, and because my ancestors want me to write about spousal rape, and bring awareness to it through the sharing of my story.
When I tell my mom, the first thing she says is, “I’m a little foggy on the timeline, when did this happen?” and since I knew she would ask this, I’ve already worked it out. May, 2005.
I remember, just after it happened, writing a cryptic message in my poetry notebook. I’ve gone back that entry to verify the date.
It reads: “Katharsis” scrawled in huge letters across the page, thrice. Scribbled below that: “Kali, my place of power, anger, strength, clarity, edge.”
The day after I’m raped, I lay all day in my 11-month-old daughter’s bed. I do not want to be in the bed where the rape happened. I am in shock. I cannot believe this person who I love has committed this act of violence against me. What shock means is a coldness, an emptiness that now it is hard to recall, but at the time I know nothing will ever be the same again.
I have no idea how I will continue in my marriage, with my still-nursing baby, and my two-year-old son. I have absolutely no idea what to do. I’ve just moved to California about 9 months before, and I don’t know anyone to turn to. I’m 34, and in the process of building my business, but not yet financially solvent. It never crosses my mind to go to the police, or to call my family for support. The shame is staggering, and I know I have to figure out a way to survive.
Later that same night, I’m standing in the dark in the living room that looks out over the Pacific Ocean. Everyone has gone to sleep, it must be 2 or 3 in the morning. I cannot sleep. I’m just standing there, the most profoundly confused I have ever felt. There is nothing in the world that makes sense at that moment.
Which is when I meet Kali, really for the first time.
I didn’t call it rape for a while. How could I have been raped? I have never heard the term “spousal rape.” I don’t even know it’s a thing.
How could the person with whom I had shared so much of my life, so many good times and adventures, force sex on me after I said no?
I’m tell my therapist about it. I tell her, “Yes, that happened, but I don’t want to think of myself as a victim of rape, so I don’t call it that.” Her response is, “What do you lose by not naming it what it is?” I start calling it rape.
While I’m standing there in the dark that night, I have a sense of a presence that comes to me. A presence that I later define as “Kali.” A voice sort of, that speaks without words. A knowing. It tells me it’s crucial to take back my power. There is an assumed “or else.”
I feel directed by this force to go to the end table, take out my hand weight, the ones I’ve been carrying on my walks along the beach to build muscle. But that night, they are to serve a different purpose.
I feel directed to go to our bedroom, turn on the light, pull back the sheets, and slam the hand weight into my rapist’s genitals.
This is what I do. I turn on the light, and he wakes. He asks what in the hell I am doing. I tell him, “I am going to slam this hand weight into your penis.” He asks if that will make me feel better and I say that it indeed will. Then I hit him between his legs.
I turn, and walk out. We never speak of it again. Survival look like living with him for another 25 months, before I finally figure out a way to leave him. I don’t love him for any of those months.
When we are in divorce court, there is a question on a form “Was there any interpersonal violence?” and I remember my hand shaking as I check “No.” I feel afraid of what would happen if I say yes, and what would happen if he tells someone I hit him with a hand weight. Would I lose my kids?
At the time, I feel incredible shame about both the rape, and my violent response.
And something else, a pride and rightousness in knowing that I didn’t let it slide.
I extracted a vigilante’s vengeance on this motherfucker of a rapist.
One year after I leave that marriage, I meet the person who will become my best friend. When I tell him of this violence I have committed and how ashamed I am, he gently says, “Pavini, we all have that part inside of us. You did what you had to do to maintain your dignity. It’s okay” and I feel such love and welcome. The terrible shame about my violence starts to abate.
I don’t condone violence. I don’t think it typically solves any issues we may have. But in that moment, it was the option that I chose and I don’t regret it. It was a shitty situation, and to be honest, I think he got off easy. Truly, I’m grateful for that voice I heard. I am grateful for my fierce protection of my self.
I didn’t want to write about this. When my ancestors asked for it, I procrastinated for months. But I offer this story now, in service of our greater healing. I’m grateful for this platform. The public witness is so helpful. Thanks to all for the love, encouragement and support. I won’t stop until we’re all free.