TRIGGER WARNING: rape
This morning (9/29/14) woke up around 4 a.m. and scrolled through my various social networking timelines until my friend’s Instagram post with a screenshot of Sophia Katz’s story caught my eye. As I read it, my heart dropped into my stomach. I want to thank Sophia for being brave enough to tell her story, and to the friend who reposted Sophia’s piece with added commentary detailing her own experience - both so closely resembled my own that reading their accounts made my skin crawl. Without their bravery and candor I might never have found the courage to come forward with my own story and accept the reality of what happened to me.
On the night of April 17, 2014, Stephen Tully Dierks invited me along to a poetry reading that I hadn’t planned on attending. I agreed to tag along when I realized many of my friends were also going to be there. Since almost everyone present was drinking, Stephen asked if I wanted anything before going to a neighborhood bodega to pick up alcohol. I asked for a mangorita which he brought back along with his beer just in time for the reading to start. Stephen was attentive and affectionate, barely leaving my side the entire night. We chatted intermittently about the reading, about what was going on in our lives, about mutual friends.
After the reading, several of my friends decided to go across the street to a nondescript Brooklyn bar. I was nervous about being carded since I was only 18 and don’t carry a fake ID, but nothing happened when we walked in. Almost instantly Stephen and I were somehow separated from the rest of my friends. I walked over to a barstool at a table in a far corner and sat down. Stephen asked if I wanted anything to drink. I asked for a margarita, and he went to the bar to order. I began to feel slightly anxious, but told myself to calm down, that everything was going to be fine. Prior to the reading I hadn’t eaten anything throughout the day. It slowly dawned on me how intoxicated I’d become in such a short time. I told Stephen I’d be right back and stood and went to the bathroom and texted my friend Wynn that I was too drunk and very alone. I kneeled in front of the toilet and shoved my fingers down my throat in an attempt to force myself to vomit and purge some of the alcohol out of my body. When I was done I sat on the floor and leaned my forehead against the cool porcelain and let my eyes flutter shut.
I gradually became aware of the sound of fists pounding on the wooden door - a line of people waiting for the toilet had formed in the time it took me to get myself together. I stood up slowly, splashed my face, and stumbled out. When I got back to the table Stephen looked up from his phone and I can only assume my intoxication was very visible. He leaned over to put his mouth against my ear.
I nodded. We exited the bar and I began to walk toward the subway. Instead of letting me go or even walking with me to the train, Stephen insisted that I was too intoxicated to get back to Alphabet City by myself, and stepped to the curb to hail a cab. He directed the driver to his apartment, and once there, guided me up the stairs and into his bedroom.
Completely exhausted, I sat on the edge of his bed and kicked my shoes off and curled up in a ball as far from where I anticipated he would lay as possible. I left my jacket on in the hopes that it would send a clear message that I wasn’t uncomfortable removing any of my clothing in his presence at all, but he asked me over and over if he could take it and hang it up for me. Eventually, I agreed just so he would stop talking. I sat up, wiggled out of it, and handed it to him. He hung it up and I curled back into a ball and shut my eyes, hoping more than anything that he would go to sleep and leave me alone.
He didn’t. Stephen kicked off his shoes, lowered himself onto his bed and crawled over to me. He began caressing my arm and pressed his mouth against mine with feverish urgency. I protested, but it imediately became clear that my attempts were futile. I lay still and stared at the ceiling as he groped and fondled me. Eventually, as Sophia did in her story, I began to do things that I thought would make him finish faster. He used my body off and on all night until he fell asleep. I willed the sun to rise faster. After a few hours that felt more like an eternity, he told me that he had to go to work. I nodded, and he kissed me one more time before getting up to go shower. As soon as I heard the water running I gathered all my things as fast as I could and left his apartment.
My mouth was swollen and raw from where his facial hair had rubbed against it. There was dried cum on my sleeve. I went to a bodega and bought two muffins and a bottle of water. I walked to the train and unwrapped one of the muffins and bit into it. I tasted nothing. I felt nothing.
I didn’t know how to process what had happened, so I coped by lying to myself and to everyone else. When my friends expressed their concern I told them that everything was fine, that we hooked up, that it was whatever. I never fully believed that but I managed to convince myself and everyone else that I did. I began to avoid Stephen both online and in person, but after some time I convinced myself that what had happened was an isolated incident of misunderstanding. Months passed and it blew over. I rebuilt a friendship with Stephen on the pretense that everything was okay. Out of sight, out of mind.
In the course of the 12 hours since I found out about the existence of Sophia’s piece my life feels like it’s been turned on its head. Instead of worrying about the mountains of homework my professors have been steadily piling on week after week, or where my friends and I will bicker over going out to eat tonight, I’m grappling with crushing fear and anxiety. Stephen took so much from me and I will be damned if I’m complicit in letting him take anything from anyone else.