Over the weekend I was going through my posts, updating the capitalization like a crazy person on some of them and rereading others, and I found this draft from last summer.
In honor of NO MORE Week, I think it’s time to hit publish.
Here’s what I wrote:
Yesterday I took an HIV test. It was negative. But I had to do it.
I left work and drove to Nashville Cares. It was closed for the holidays, so I drove across town to the new Metro Health Center. The leopard-print-clad lady at the desk told me in a bored voice that they’d stopped testing at 1:30pm because they were understaffed. Starting to panic, I anxiously told her I’d been raped five years ago and had never been tested for HIV. She softened a bit, referred me back to Nashville Cares for their free rapid testing, and apologized when I told her they were closed.
So I drove to Walgreens and spent forty dollars on an at-home testing kit. It was all starting to feel pretty comical at this point. I’d talked to four people about needing an HIV test and I could feel their judgment. They were actually pretty nice, so I’m sure their judgment was mostly in my head. I tried to hide the kit upside down while I checked out, behind a lady buying cough drops and in front of a man buying a candy bar. The cashier didn’t flinch while checking me out. That made me feel a little better.
I sat in the car with my mom and swabbed my gums while reading the pamphlet they’d included in the kit. We joked and talked to my aunt on the phone while we sat there in my running sedan for the allotted 20 minutes it took for the testing stick to register positive or negative.
And it was negative.
When I was nineteen, waking up from that night of heavy drinking, trying to piece together what’d happened the night before, I didn’t even think about getting tested. I didn’t think about it when I asked my best friend to get me a morning-after pill because I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t think about it in the week following because I every time I walked into the bathroom I prayed I would have started my period.
And I didn’t think about it in the years following because… well, I just didn’t. I mean, I did. I would think about in passing. But that was always followed by near-crippling anxiety and an attempt to push away those thoughts.
And that’s as far as I got. So here’s what I’d add:
I’m thinking about it now.
Because of the nature of the sexual assault I experienced, and because I was so young/in college/confused/in denial when it happened, of course I didn’t think about getting tested. I had no framework or reference for what to do in that situation. But I had the support I needed to get through it.
To have something gnawing at you, to be afraid that your body might betray you after you’ve already been violated… it made me feel so isolated. My anxiety shot through the roof, and I felt trapped in my mind, and ashamed for waiting so long to get tested. I wasn’t sure I could share what I was going through with anyone. But my mom was there. My husband was there.
God was there.
I know that I’m lucky to have a support system that surrounds me constantly. I also know that not everyone has a support system.
But, in this week of action and beyond, we can support one another.
We can stand together, raise our voices, and scream, “NO MORE.”
No more shame that keeps us silent. No more fear that keeps us from coming forward. No more dealing with this alone. No more sitting in a car, waiting for test results from a rape that happened six years ago.
And no more sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, stalking, and violation.