The Mourning After: A Poem about Date Rape, by Melissa Rose and Michael Ting

Poem by Melissa Rose and Michael Ting
Reflection by Melissa Rose

Female Voice
Male Voice
Female and Male Together

I don’t remember how I got home last night
I woke up hungover
Last night was a blur
Drank too much
Head still pounding I take a shower
Removing
The smell of her sweet perfume
Washing away the evidence
Aspirin won’t remedy
This emptiness
This grin
I want this stench off me
Scrub off stains left by red hands
Never feel clean
This morning I don’t recognize my reflection
I’m glowing
Hope nobody notices
I don’t want to explain what I don’t want to remember
I was watching her dance all night
I don’t even remember seeing him
She turned my way and gave me this look you only see in the movies
The room was spinning
She grabbed my arm
Intoxicated I lost my ability to stand
I swept her off her feet like Prince Charming
I started to feel sick
She said “take me to bed”, so of course I obliged
What happened next is so hard to remember
A nightmare I relive every time I sleep on my side
A drunken hook up at a house party
I couldn’t believe she wanted me it all happened so fast
In the darkness
Half conscious
So wasted
Fumbling with
Bra straps
Zippers
Belt buckles
Pants pulled to my ankles
Unfamiliar hands invading me from behind
Plucking clothes off like flower petals
She loves me, she loves me not
I wonder what makes a corpse look sexy
She looked like Sleeping Beauty
My stiff body reacts like rigor mortis
She want me to do all the work and I’m ready for the challenge
Cold
Uninviting
Begging
She wants it so bad
Too drunk to move
To drunk to ask
Stop
Words muffled by the silence of ecstasy
No
Don’t
Stop
We slip into bliss
Blacking out
Into full body relief
He’s taken everything from me
I’m giving her all that I have
Struggling
Shhh….I hold her still
He holds me down
I make a canvas of her
Painting my passion across her hollow frame
I’m crying
She’s moaning
Muffled by pillows
She might love me….I can hear her heart beat
This experience is out of body
Helplessness burned so hard into memory
When it’s over I feel kind of bad…I don’t even remember her name
Assault changes everything
Women can get the wrong idea about these type of things
My body is no longer mine but a possession
It was a one night stand at the end of one of those long work weeks…
Should I have expected it?
…And some girls you’re only meant to have incredible chemistry with once
I thought all rapes were committed in dark alleys by strangers
I had been in a dry spell
Can I admit what happened?
She came at the perfect one…no pun intended
He punched a hole in me
I came, I saw, I conquered
A temple desecrated
A few moments of feeling loved followed by
the comforting monotony of being single again
Trying to forget.
Afraid to tell anyone for fear they will say
I asked for it
We danced a long dance
Like a physical contract
Does this “nice guy” realize the damage he’s done?
I just hope she doesn’t bad mouth me for not calling
Ignorance is no excuse for violation
My dignity was destroyed in a single act of dominance
Hey! That is bullshit!
He kidnapped beauty as a trophy of conquest
I never took anything! You gave it to me!
Lacerated vaginal tissue
I thought you liked it rough!
Violent examples of power hidden under blankets of darkness
You raped me!
Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong!
And I know what the definition
Of rape is.

I was raped by a close friend when I was 19 years old. The next day I confronted my rapist and asked him why he did it. He acted shocked by my anger. Confused at the fact that having sex with a passed out drunk person could never be considered consensual. He shrugged his shoulders and said “I’m sorry” like a child who doesn’t believe their own apology. Like it was my fault. Like I was over reacting. I spoke to a friend later that day and told her what had happened. She also told me it was my fault. That I had flirted with him before, and kissed him once, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he would be “confused.” My unconscious body was an invitation. In the following months, I thought about what had happened, and how both my rapist and my friend had reacted, telling myself that they were right, that maybe what had happened to me, was my fault after all. When I told another friend about my experience a few months later, he was enraged that I had experienced this. All of a sudden it became clear to me that what had happened was wrong. That I had undoubtedly been raped. Saying it aloud felt like a release, a validation.

I chose to write “The Mourning After” as a way to process my experience. I sank into a depression following the assault and needed to feel heard and have my story told as a way to “let go” of the pain I felt. A part of this “letting go” process was not only to tell my story as it happened to me, but to create a way to empathize with what my rapist felt; confused by that “grey area” unknowing consent we teach young men and women. We assume rape only looks a certain way, but in reality, it takes many forms. In my story, the woman (me) experienced a rape clearly and accurately, the man (my rapist) did not experience it that way. It was just another opportunity to have sex….no big deal. Does that mean the woman was not raped? My rapist literally felt like he had done nothing wrong. Does that mean he did not rape me? Creating a culture of consent rather than one of rape is what this poem is asking the audience to do. To make it clear what rape is. Most rapes are committed by people the victim knows. Partners or friends or family members who use that relationship as justification. Who use trust as a way to wield power over another.

This poem asks the audience to examine how they view situations like this. To dispel the myth of the “she cried rape” theory, and instead look at the situation from both points of view and two individuals in the same situation have very different experiences. We teach men to not ask for consent and assume that everything is “ok” instead of teaching them to ASK if everything is ok. We blame women for “putting themselves in that situation” instead of trying to teach men not to rape. I have performed this piece with several male poets taking on the “rapist” role. Every time a new performer takes on the piece, he re-writes the male character, keeping the mentality in mind, and bringing an authentic male perception to the situation. The performance itself is what really makes this piece powerful. The audience is viewing a rape as it is happening. In all its pain and raw emotion. The female and her suffering is matched by the likeability and blasé attitude of the male character. You want to believe both of the characters, but you don’t want to have to choose sides.

When it is performed live, this piece brings up many different emotions, thoughts, and reactions. I’ve had audiences side with the rapist on some occasions, and I think this poem is a great conversation starter when it comes to how we talk about sexual assault in our communities, and who we “believe:” the victim or the perpetrator. What is most striking about this piece is the audience’s participation. It asks the question: Who do you believe in this scenario? Two people are involved in an event and have two very different experiences, and some of the audience might actually believe the man over the woman as this is an example of rape culture in its purest form. I have had audience members who are rape survivors triggered by the male character. Other audiences are triggered by the positive reaction some people have to the male character. Those who laugh and applaud his perspective, not understanding, much as the character does not understand, that what he is doing is rape. I have been told that this poem actually promotes rape culture. That the likability of the man makes him too human to hate and therefore audiences cannot believe the victim. In these instances, I find it important to note that this poem brings the real life way we view rape to light. This is NOT a poem that promotes rape culture. At its core, it is an anti-rape piece. It is a poem that shows the audience what rape culture is, and their participation in it. In “real life” we (society) often do blame the victim. We often do believe the perpetrator (or at the very least defend them). In “real life” rapists hardly ever are charged with a crime and the victim is the one who is criticized for their actions–what they wore, how promiscuous they are, and whether or not they “asked for it.”

I’ve performed this piece at anti-rape rallies and events as a cathartic healing event for a community of survivors to collectively share their experiences and uplift those stories. I’ve had women tell me that they don’t believe the male character could exist. That there is no way anyone could not know they are raping someone. I’ve had other women tell me they have been in the exact same situation and it is so healing for them to hear their story being told on stage. So often, rape survivors are pressured to be silent about their experiences, even though statistically 25% of women are survivors. Performing this piece isn’t always easy because it is a literal and raw description of my own personal rape, and performing it makes me relive that experience, however, this piece is so important to perform because it is bigger than my experience. It is a piece about how we treat rape and what rape culture is in the United States. Writing this poem and performing it makes my experience something that can change how other people understand rape culture and what we need to change to make sure situations like mine stop happening. How we can raise our sons to understand what consent is. How we can support our daughters when they tell us THIS happened to THEM, instead of trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. The stories of survivors of sexual assault are all valid, my own included. I stand by this poem not only because it is my story, but because it is a poem that can encourage others to look at their own perceptions. To ask themselves: is that “nice guy” I know capable of rape? Is that girl who “cried rape” actually telling the truth? To examine how they perceive rape and its definition, and ultimately to create a world in which poems about rape don’t need to be written.

Melissa Rose is a spoken word poet from Eugene, Oregon. She has performed her poems all over the United States and Germany and was a featured performer at the 2010 German National Poetry Slam. She is currently the Executive Director of S.I.R.E.N. a non profit organization that empowers teen girls through spoken word.

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