Today is well on its way as being the day my facial muscles cramp from an overload of smiling. I’M JUST SO HAPPY! LIKE WRITE-IN-ALL-CAPS-SO-I’M-YELLING-THROUGH-THE-INTERNET-AT-YOU HAPPY!
The rain is falling, the cats are being extra adorable, I have an unprecedented amount of ice tea in my house, and most importantly, after two years of roadblocks and late nights, I can finally announce Voices Story Project has published its first story.
During my senior year of college, I set out with the desire to record stories of sexual violence for counseling and educational materials for students at UC Irvine. As someone who has had this epidemic change the course of their life, it always seemed crazy to me whenever someone would ask me, “Oh, is that really an issue?” So instead at scoffing at people’s ignorance, I decided to set out to battle the violence in the best way I knew how: With my pen and recorder.
It has taken a long time to get to this point, and with one published piece, I am even more determined to catch up on past interviews and start brainstorming the project’s future. A big thank you needs to go out to Zabie Khorakiwala for helping me make Voices a reality and to Howard for being my rock through all the late hours and doubts and delays that have accompanied this project.
But mostly, I need to thank Victoria. You continue to inspire me everyday with your passion for life, and I will always be thankful and honored that you decided to share your story with me. While your story will undoubtedly provide comfort and inspiration for many survivors, I hope you always know, it has changed my life for the better as well. So keep dancing girl, the world is better for it.
And without further delay, I present:
The crowd quiets as Victoria steps onto the outdoor stage at Take Back the Night. It’s dark now, making it impossible for her to distinguish any familiar faces in the audience.
As is her ritual before any performance, Victoria takes a moment to close her eyes. She lowers her head and begins to shift from one foot to another. Left, right, left. Looking up, she smiles to her performance partner, and together, they begin telling their stories.
I am a woman.
I am a poet –
I am a delicate,
dancing dreamer –
Two years ago, Victoria hadn’t wanted things with K to go that far. In fact, the only thing she had wanted that night was to sleep in K’s spare bed before making the long walk back to her apartment on the hill.
The night started like any other summer kickback. Victoria made her way down to VDC Norte to meet up with her close friends Nick and his new roommate Pierre for a small party with friends. With a couple drinking games under their belt, the group had decided to check out the jacuzzi. Prior to this, Victoria hadn’t taken much notice to K. But as the night wore on, she quickly became acquainted with Pierre’s former roommate. It seemed the more she rebuffed his advances, the more he attempted to get her attention; until finally, on their walk back to the party, he leaned in and kissed her.
“I don’t want a girlfriend,” he said after pulling away.
I didn’t say that, Victoria thought, I didn’t ask for that, but okay.
Looking back later, that was the first red flag.
I am a hopeless romantic,
a runaway raindrop –
a smile from a stranger –
I am beautiful.
I am unbreakable.
After their walk back to the apartment, Victoria realized Pierre’s couch was already spoken for, leaving her nowhere to crash for the night.
“I live in this building on the upper floor and my roommate isn’t moved in. I have an extra bed, come stay,” K said to her. Victoria looked around the room for her friend’s seal of approval, trusting that they would speak up if there was anything to be concerned about.
Months later, Pierre would tell Victoria he’d heard that K had a history of questionable behavior with women, but in that moment, Pierre simply nodded that everything was fine and sent her on her way.