Growing Magnolias

“I don’t need a national study to prove to me that I have experienced sexual violence at a higher rate that my white friends. I don’t need a research paper to verify the effects that intimate power dynamics have on women of color. I don’t need an academic study to prove that my PTSD and anxiety are valid responses to my traumas. I don’t need any of this because I have lived through it.”


Ting Ting Shi, She/Hers

**Content Warning: Sexual assault, racist language


Flowers (or, A Beginner’s Guide to Surviving Sexual Assault) by Daniel Garcia


1.

On the days where you feel

more victim than survivor,

remember that this was not your fault.

There is no blueprint for dealing with trauma,

so know that whatever you are feeling

is valid. With that said,


November 28, 2018. Bar night. Ninth week. I went out with friends, celebrating the near-end of my first quarter at UChicago. I think we pre-gamed in my dorm room, stumbling across the Quad, moving as fast as we could because it was freezing and we weren’t wearing enough. I don’t remember entering the fraternity house. But, I remember being in the basement, dancing. I remember taking another shot with my friend, of some unknown liquor, served from the bar. I remember being in a corner of the room, dancing on some guy and making out with him. I don’t remember where my friends went. I don’t remember getting invited to his room or walking up the stairs to his room. My memory flashes from being on the crowded dance floor to lying naked on his bed, a mattress on the floor. I don’t remember taking my clothes off. I don’t remember being able to move much except to look out the window. I don’t remember saying “yes” or anything for that matter. I remember bits and pieces of what happens next. His lips on my neck. Being unable to breathe. Laying there for what seemed like hours. Blood. There was blood everywhere; on my legs, staining his bedsheets, on his fingers. It looked like he killed me, my dark blood staining his white skin. And, that night, in a way, he did.


I don’t remember saying “yes” or anything for that matter.

I don’t remember leaving the house or walking home, but I somehow made it back to my dorm room. I woke up to bruises covering my neck and my underwear dried with my blood. I couldn’t recall what happened.


2.

You will be revictimized.

You won’t deserve it, you’ll never ask for it,

there’ll never be a reason for it,

but it will happen, and yes,

I use these phrases for a reason,

because sometimes, what they say

will take you back to that place again,

that place of shame, and pain,

and whatever synonym for murder

that you can come up with;

they will fight for the rights to your trauma,

as if you need protecting from the body

they’re trying to take from you,

which is to say,

they will tell you it’s not your fault in one breath,

then turn and ask why you didn’t report in the next.

Remember, they did not dig this grave for you.

They are only dressing it with flowers.


The week following was a haze. I remember telling my closest friends and anyone who accidentally walked into my panic attacks and decided to stay. Some knew what to say, most didn’t and stayed silent.


I’ve only ever regretted telling one person. My now ex-best friend. We were both young, and I don’t think she knew how to handle what I told her. Regardless, the tenth week bar night was the week after. I didn’t want to go. I knew that I would see him there and I wasn’t ready.


I’m still not ready.


Despite my hesitations, she pushed me to go, to have one last rally before winter break. I didn’t know how to talk about what happened or what I was going through and I still couldn’t say “no.”


So I went back to a place I felt was easy: I got drunk.


It was just the two of us entering the house that night. The moment I walked through the door, it was as if I was being violated again. The room was packed with people, the air was hot and humid, and I couldn’t breathe again. She pulled me to the basement and I could feel my stomach churning, my heart beating faster, and my throat tightening. And I saw him.


The moment I walked through the door, it was as if I was being violated again.

I was terrified that he would touch me, let alone come near me and I needed to leave. I remember interrupting my friend’s make out session to tell her that I had to go. I guess maybe she was too drunk to realize the urgency. I remember sprinting up the stairs, shoving past people as I tried to escape what had happened a week earlier. I collapsed on the floor, unable to slow my breathing. My body ached and my vision was blurry. I was having a panic attack on the floor of a fraternity. A sober monitor brought me into a back room and I