TW: This piece deals with suicide and rape.
All Souls Day
My rapist died earlier this year. I still recall the night I found out: my boyfriend sitting me down, telling me that he had died. And it was suicide. The next few words that left my boyfriend’s mouth were a blur from that point on. The only thing I could feel was the rush of blood to my head. Was it my fault? Did I push him to this point?
My rapist used to be a friend, a partner. He was someone I did trust. I met him at a very vulnerable time in my life—something I had always used to shield him from the effects of his actions. It was a time where a lot of things in my life were changing rapidly, and he was one of the people who were there for better or for worse. We shared spaces in our politics; we shared friends; we shared a community.
Through a friend, I confronted him about the assault. I wrote him a letter outlining how I remember our relationship and how irreparably damaged I came out of it. How I understood that his rape was not a one-time, isolated incident but a culmination of the power he had over me.
At that point in time, I wanted to move on. I wanted to say fuck you and get on with my life. But I also wanted him to be better. Not anymore for me, but for the politics that we both are committed to. For the world that I know, we both wanted. I still believed in his capacity to change, even if the letter was the last form of communication I will ever have with him. I wanted him to hold him accountable because I still believed he could.
The blow of his death came very slowly. At first, I was flippant—finally. He’s gone. But that short-lived victory never felt right. When it all started to sink in, the more hurt I was from his decision to end everything. I can’t explain how painful it is for me, as the person he has hurt the most, to allow him to be accountable only for him to throw it all away. When I confronted him, I gave him options to explore joining communities. To seek help—because I know he was already hurting from a lot of other things. When I wrote the letter, I was angry. But I understood that holding him accountable is not the same act as condemning him. Holding him accountable was to give him an opportunity to receive and accept care. I wanted my last act towards him to be one of care.
When news of his death spread, I expected the eulogies. I expected the tributes. I understood that not everyone knew about the assault. That didn’t cushion the pain of seeing people who knew about the assault sing praises for him. I know he was loved deeply by the people around him. And how deeply he was still loved by the people who believed my story. But I still can’t get over the pain and the betrayal I felt seeing everyone laud him for being a “working-class hero” when he has hurt me so deeply. There are activists who live their entire lives without raping someone. It was at this point where I felt erased by people who I know also cared for me. The only thing I wanted from the people who believed me was to remember him, fully—real and flawed and capable of inflicting harm. Maybe I would have felt less crazy about what happened to me if that was the case.
I remember one night, when he was still around, and I was with a mutual friend of his. He asked me why I am still so terribly avoidant of his presence after he had gone back to Manila. Something came over me and said loudly when everyone could hear me among the bar noise: He raped me. How am I not supposed to be affected?
I really do feel an immense form of guilt from all of this. I know, it’s not my fault. But why do I still cry? Would his existence today make a difference? Should I have stayed silent? I admit I still don’t know the answer to these questions. For now, I let these questions settle, and hopefully, the answers would find me.
On some days when the pain is unbearable, I still wish that he’s still here. Not for his sake, but for mine. All I wanted from all of this was peace, and I am absurdly far from all of that. In fact, now that he’s gone, he is also everywhere. He haunts me, almost every day. I wish I never had to think about my rape every day. I wish I could forget for a while that Terrible Things Happened to me. I wish I could stop myself from thinking that he’s dead because of me. I am angry that I get the short end of things, once again; left to pick up the pieces of what he left me. Out of all the pain he has caused me, this, I think, is the most senseless one.
It’s jarring to think I may never “get over” this or that I will always carry this with me. I am learning to live with all of this, especially with the help of a community that makes my rage and my pain visible and real. I don’t have much platitudes to end this on, but all I know is that I will outlive this.
i’s piece is part of a series of stories from survivors and advocates being published by Time’s Up Ateneo for its second anniversary, with the theme “From Complicity to Care” and the goal of promoting more caring communities for survivors and advocates. Our call for stories is open until October 31, 2021.
Our complete line-up of activities for our anniversary month can be found here.