In the video I’m wearing three scarves. One around my waist as a bright, electric blue belt that cuts neatly through my white, A-line dress.
One around my pony tail, a vibrant purple that was supposed to be the “in” color that season. Maybe even the next season. I think I was trying to be ahead of the trends. I don’t really remember why I picked it.
Can’t we just say I liked it? Isn’t that enough?
And, finally, one around my neck, a red scarf the color of pinched skin and flushed fever. The color of arousal.
The color of pain.
When I got dressed that morning I didn’t know. Couldn’t know.
I had no idea three fashion accessories would be used to tie me up so a group of “friends” could assault me. It was as impossible as thinking that my morning coffee mug would be used to bash in my skull, or that my purse would be used to choke me. That just doesn’t happen. Shouldn’t happen.
Boring objects in our lives should not be used to hurt us.
But those scarves burned. They bound me. They held me in place.
They gagged me.
Those objects of beauty became instruments of torture.
I don’t blame the scarves. They’re just pieces of cloth.
The men who used them are the ones I hold responsible.
And the man who did nothing to stop what happened was the worst of all.
Here’s some basic arithmetic:
What do you think hurt me the most? The scarves? The hot, swollen, unlubricated flesh that violated me like I was just a fold of meat to jack off into? The wrenched shoulders and torn ACL from being trussed and tied up like something in a bad porno? The broken cheekbone from being raped from behind so hard my face smashed into the coffee table leg more times than the ER doctor could document?
Or knowing that my boyfriend—my best friend—just sat there on the couch and watched?
I don’t really have it in me to pick which was worse. They’re all the worst.
How do I know any of this?
The video, of course. You’ve seen it. I know you have.
Everyone has seen it.
Hell, people in Inuit villages in East Greenland have seen it. I know this because of the emails. The Tweets. The Facebook posts. The Snapchat and Instagram and even Pinterest pins that mock me tirelessly although I don’t have those accounts.
Even now, four years later. It persists.
Pain never dies.
Neither does online shaming.
Then there are the dick pics. Oh, God, the endless dick pics. When you’re a senator’s daughter and you get drugged and gang raped on live, streaming television and the taped video is later broadcast on every legitimate media web page and pirate torrent site on the planet, you tend to draw out the crazies.
The ones who think sending you a picture of their naked, erect little sausage is like bringing candy and flowers on a date. Like that picture will make you sleep with them. Become their girlfriend.
Become their property.
It seems half the world thinks I “deserved” it. That I got too drunk and passed out and got “what was coming.” Um…what was coming was the three men who drugged me. Set up a camera. Created an online channel.
And told the world to watch.
How many people get to watch a live deflowering?
And how many people get to later watch themselves being, as one of the guys referred to it, “devirginized.”
That’s right. Not only was I violated by three frat guys I considered friends, but they took my virginity, too.
They took so much from me that night, four years ago.
Four years is a long time.
But time’s up for those men.
Time is finally on my side.
“Ms. Bosworth?” The voice that interrupts my thoughts is within feet of my position in front of the wide picture window. I’m gazing out at the manicured gardens that roll out like airbrushed Thomas Kincade paintings.
I turn to see the “activities director,” Stacia, looking at me with cold concern. They’re all cold here, smooth and efficient but really unemotional. “Activities director” is what this mental hospital calls a therapist. I’ve spent four years living here at the Island Meditation and Serenity Center.
Now it’s time to leave the Island, go home, and face real life.
“Yes, Stacia?” I ask, pretending to be serene. I smooth a hand across the back of my long, straightened hair. Today is all about keeping up appearances. Nice hair, make up, fashionable clothes, and a pleasant look. My heart feels like a jackhammer and my skin wants to run away. I make myself smile. It perks me up a little.
“Your helicopter is here. Senator Bosworth sends his regrets that he cannot be here at the Island for this homecoming,” she replies. “But he will see you when you land in mainland California, back home.”
What’s home? I’ve spent nearly one fifth of my life here, on this island off the coast of Southern California. I came here at nineteen and I’m leaving just weeks shy of my twenty-third birthday.
Home is just this place where all the fear and mess is. And my dad, Senator Harwell Bosworth, is waiting for me there. He must be back in his state, working on a campaign. He’s two years away from running for re-election for a third term as one of the two senators from California. Big state. Big ambitions.
And I’m a big old mess for poor Daddy.
My “incident” happened one week before he ran for re-election last time. I have no idea if it helped him or hurt him. All I know is that he won the election back then. For four years, I’ve been sheltered from the news. Every movement, every web search, every phone call and text I make is monitored by staff here.
I need to ask Daddy whether my scandal gave him more points in the election. Did he get the sympathy vote?
I glance nervously at Stacia, as if she can read my thoughts. If I were to say that aloud I would be accused of being negative. Of dwelling on pessimistic “ideations.”
I would have time added to my stay here.
One thing you learn fast when you’re in a mental hospital: lie. Lie a lot. No one wants you to tell the truth.
Least of all you. Telling yourself the truth takes a kind of raw courage. Few people have it. You have to be willing to look deep into your own soul and see all your flaws. All your darkness.
All your own evil.
I give her a sad sort of smile. That’s normal, right? For a daughter to be happy to leave but a little bit sad her dad can’t come. “I understand,” I say. “He’s a busy man, and I wouldn’t want to interrupt his work. He loves me, and he’ll see me when I get back.”
She nods, smiling. The smile doesn’t reach her eyes. It never does with any of the staff here on the Island. I can see her checking off something on a list in her head. I said the right words. I kept her from stopping me. I really will go home today.
I pretended well.
See? I can fake being a human being.
Just long enough to get home.