It’s been awhile

It’s been awhile since I talked about myself on here. I know some of you don’t like it when I do, but some of you do, and the others can skip this entry if they like.

I’m up for jury duty this week. They’re selecting a jury for a criminal trial and I’m in the pool; selection starts tomorrow. This will be the first time I’ve ever been considered for jury duty. Until it’s over for me, I’m staying at my mom’s, which cuts my courthouse commute time to 20 minutes, down from like 50 minutes if I was with Michael. I’m writing this on my cell phone. While I’m at my mom’s there is of course no Orville and therefore there will be no Charley Project updates, alas.

Michael has a new job that he likes so far. He’s working long hours but making more money. We hope to be able to return to Poland, perhaps as soon as next summer, or maybe the summer after that.

I was rereading some of my old blog entries and the comments, from the time when I was raped. It’s striking to me how many if not most people would rather never speak to someone again than apologize to them.

The very first person to accuse me of making up the story of my attack was someone whom I thought of as a friend. We’d emailed each other many times and she was a regular blog commenter. Just two or three days after I blogged about the rape she wrote me to say she knew I was lying. I was extremely upset. I offered to show her a copy of the police report (weeks before I made the same offer to any interested parties on my blog). In fact I was unwilling to wait for a copy of the report to be mailed to me and paid something like $60 to take a taxi across town to pick one up on-site before I left Virginia. She refused to look at it. Then she accused me openly on my blog, telling me she respected my Charley Project work but I should be ashamed of myself for making up the story.

In the eight years since, there’s a good chance this woman has come to realize that I wasn’t lying. I think the strongest evidence in my favor is the article I found about Rollo’s arrest for raping another woman four months after me, a crime that corresponded to my own in almost every particular: he was homeless, he was black and a foreign national, met her on the bus (dunno if it was the same bus as me but it stopped at the same park-and-ride), offered to walk with her through that same patch of woods, and jumped her just like he’d jumped me. All of this was reported in the article about his arrest, months after I shared the details about my own victimization on my blog.

The only real difference between the two attacks was the choice of victim. I was a stranger. But in the October attack, he was stupid enough to go after someone he knew slightly, and so he was identified immediately and arrested. Thank goodness.

Yet my former friend — and for that matter all of my other accusers — never apologized for misjudging me and asked for forgiveness. It’s kind of sad because I had liked being friends with her. I don’t know why a person would decide it’s better to just avoid me for the rest of our lives than admit they made a mistake.

Although I think about Rollo every day still, the attack doesn’t usually affect me emotionally anymore. Sometimes it does — seeing the movie The Accused (an excellent film btw, I highly recommend it) had me sobbing and hyperventilating — but only rarely. I used to have intense violent fantasies about what I wanted to do to Rollo. Now I’m no longer even angry with him; in fact I basically don’t feel any more emotion towards him than I would towards a rapist whom I read about in the news, who had nothing to do with me. Is that forgiveness? I don’t know.

It used to be that every June, for pretty much the entire month, my head would be filled with blood-soaked thoughts, those aforementioned violent fantasies. It bothered me intensely. But those thoughts are no more. This past June 16, the eighth anniversary of the rape, I nearly forgot entirely. It wasn’t until like 8:30 p.m. that I had a sudden moment: “Hey, today’s the anniversary. I was with him right now, this very moment, eight years ago. Huh.” Then I just went back to what I was doing.

For me, that’s recovery.

In other news: the article they interviewed me for in June is still stuck in editorial limbo. Nothing to do but wait. I am sure the two reporters are just as anxious as I am for it to come out, cause I think they’re freelancers and won’t get paid till then.

I’m glad they interviewed me in June and not July. By July I had gained 15 pounds very quickly, for no. hecking. reason. The shirt I wore on the day I was filmed no longer fits; in fact half or more of my wardrobe no longer fits. I can’t figure out what happened; I’m neither eating more nor exercising less than before. Most of it is in my stomach and Michael’s dad momentarily suspected I was pregnant. (I know I am not.) I’m not fat, I’m not overweight or even close, but now I weigh more than I ever have in my life.

There’s another reason I’m glad the interview happened in June: in late July, two tiny scratches, one on my cheek and one on my chin, got infected with horrendous results. This was even after I had put Betadine on them — the very first time Betadine has failed me!

The chin scratch turned into a crater an inch across, weeping pus, and the cheek one became a rock-hard abscess the size of an egg. Like an idiot I broke open the abscess myself to try to drain it, and at first nothing came out at all, but a few hours later yellowish goop started leaking out of the hole I made and the non-abscessed part of my cheek turned bright pink and started swelling up really bad.

I called my doctor’s office and explained the situation and the receptionist was like, “She can see you August 9.” Which was like twelve or thirteen days out.

“Um, this is a really bad infection,” I said. “I can’t wait that long. I really need to see her sooner.”

“Well, do you want the August 9 appointment or not?”

“No.”

I called a dermatologist and, by some miracle, got a next-morning appointment. I think there must have been a cancellation or something. He looked at my face, winced, had the nurse take samples from both wounds with Q-tips and diagnosed a probable staph infection.

I walked away with antibiotic pills, an antibiotic gel, and advice to not mess with breaks in the skin anymore, particularly if they’re infected. Oh, and a bill for $70. My insurance doesn’t cover dermatologist visits.

Fortunately everything healed up just fine and without even any scars, but for like a week and a half I didn’t want to go out cause I looked so gross. Thank goodness for modern medicine — in another era, or in part of the world, the infection might have eaten my face away.

Speaking of my skin, I’m trying a new cream for my melasma now. It’s called Meladerm. You apply it twice a day, preferably in conjunction with an exfoliating lotion and a strong sunscreen. Meladerm is cheap ($50; many melasma treatments cost hundreds) and very highly rated. It is supposed to start making a difference within weeks, with full results within a few months.

It also comes with a money-back guarantee if you don’t see any difference within 30 days of purchase, but I can’t take advantage of that. I bought the Meladerm just before the nightmare skin infection, see, and I couldn’t start to use it till the sores had fully healed. I started the treatment I think 13 days ago. It makes my face feel a little numb right after I put it on but that’s the only side effect.

Thank goodness for modern medicine. Without those antibiotics that infection might have eaten my face away or something. Or at least left highly visible scarring.

Can’t think of much else to say here. I’m reading a book called The Day Will Pass Away: The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard: 1935-1936. The introduction says it’s a very important historical document, as there’s basically nothing else like it that has survived. We don’t even know how this diary survived; the author, one Ivan Chistyakov, was killed while serving in the Red Army in 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, and the only info we have on his life comes from the diary itself. It was anonymously donated to a Moscow historical archive in the eighties.

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26 thoughts on “It’s been awhile

  1. Sheri September 18, 2017 / 8:48 am

    I know it must be hard to think of this way, and it’s kind of cliché, but any “friend” who would accuse you of lying about a rape, just days after the incident, without any concrete evidence that you really were lying, was never your friend. If that hadn’t happened, eventually he/she would have betrayed you in some other way. And it doesn’t surprise me that the person never took ownership or apologized, since there’s obviously a lack of empathy on their part to start with. Just sayin’

    • Dawn October 7, 2017 / 9:23 pm

      I’m so sorry you had someone you considered a friend say you were lying about being raped. I understand too well how that feels and it’s worse when it’s someone you think of as a friend. Everyone wonders why victims don’t come forward? It takes courage.

  2. Sara Williams September 18, 2017 / 11:32 am

    Meaghan,
    I think of you often, and of course follow you regularly on the Charley Project. It sucks that a “friend” would do that to you. Did she know that you are bipolar? Some people, as you well know, assume a lot of things about people that suffer from bipolar. They often accusing us of lying, or exaggerating things. It’s sad that her ego wouldn’t allow her to admit her mistake and apologize; her loss, not yours.
    Call your doctor about the weight gain. Have you increased the dosage of one of your meds, or decreased the dosage? A 20mg change can make me gain 15 pounds, usually in the stomach, and makes my face look puffy. You already know all this, just reinterating.
    Have fun at jury duty! Take care! And I hope you get back to Poland soon.
    Sara 🙂

    • Meaghan September 18, 2017 / 8:22 pm

      No she didn’t know I was bipolar; even I didn’t know that yet. Like a lot of bipolar people I was misdiagnosed at first (with severe depression) and I wasn’t diagnosed correctly for another three-ish years.

      I’m seeing my psychiatrist Thursday. Since he increased one of my medications late last year my weight has been in a pretty clear upward trajectory (as shown by a handy computer graph my family doctor showed me) and I’m going to see if I can convince him to decrease the dose. Regardless of the general upward trend, whole “gaining 15 in under a month” was a bit of a shock and it’s impacting my self esteem — as well as my budget, having to gradually replace my entire wardrobe.

    • Mia September 18, 2017 / 11:26 pm

      I agree about the weight gain. I am on 20 mg Lexapro and have steadily seen an increase in the size of my stomach and the shape of my face.

  3. beckey September 18, 2017 / 12:42 pm

    It’s mind-boggling to me that someone would accuse you of lying at all (let alone a supposed friend). I mean do they think rapes don’t happen? Especially a Charley fan should know that these unsolved crimes are just crazy common. Anyway, I am sorry that whole mess happened to you.

    • Meaghan September 18, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      For what it’s worth I think she genuinely thought I was lying. My assault was, after all, not recorded on the police department’s incident reports. (See comment below.) That must have looked a bit odd.

      The only response I can make to that is the incident reports overview claimed NO INCIDENTS AT ALL happened on that particular day, which is unlikely in a town that size, and something which I knew for a fact to be untrue. I know they arrested a guy for weed possession. The real reason they arrested him was he vaguely resembled my description of the rapist and was in the same area where it happened shortly after it happened, and when he realized the cops were giving him side-eye, he tried to run away. So they chased after him, caught him, searched him, found the weed, placed him under arrest, and then had me take a look and see if I could identify him.

      I immediately said was he definitely not the man who raped me — he was much taller for one thing. You’d think his arrest would have shown up in the incident reports. But if you went by just that document, nothing at all happened that day in Reston, VA, a city of nearly 60,000.

      Anyway, I think she saw my rape complaint wasn’t on the incident reports, jumped to conclusions, and got tunnel vision and after that nothing I did could convince her of my honesty.

      • Janny September 19, 2017 / 11:44 pm

        A friend has your back at all times, or they are not really a true friend. Just like a spouse should have your back at all times. I’m meaning in public, and then they are, or should be, open to discussing the situation and their opinions in private as mature adults. So sorry someone would outright call you a liar without having the facts. It’s hard when you’re subjected to such a terrifying experience and those that should be there for you aren’t. You’re very nice I can tell, as I am hearing you make all those excuses for her and trying to justify her actions. Too bad she can’t face you and apologize and ask for forgiveness for being so selfish. But some people are too prideful – so so sad.

  4. passerby September 18, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Thank you for mentioning that book. It is, I believe, the second by a non-zek Gulag resident that has been published in English, after “Gulag Boss” by Fyodor Mochulsky about five years back. You might find it interesting if you like this one.

    • Meaghan September 18, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation! I had never heard of that book.

      My gulag guard has some wonderfully written parts in his diary; I don’t know if he was educated or just really talented or what, but there are passages that are so striking in their beauty that I make a note of the page number so I can reread them and maybe copy them down later. I can post a paragraph or two on here if you like, so you can see what I mean.

  5. Ivana September 18, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Anyone who accuses a raped woman of lying without having a very strong evidence, is a f*kin idiot and a horrible person. Let alone she did it publicly, on the internet. You are lucky that she is not your “friend” any more.

  6. Nance Hogan September 18, 2017 / 1:33 pm

    I can’t help but wonder, what on earth would make your “friend” think you were not telling the truth about your rape ?…. (a perfect example of adding insult to injury, ) …. did this happen to her and no one believed it?

    • Meaghan September 18, 2017 / 1:42 pm

      There were basically two reasons:
      1) Fairfax county police website had a list of “incident reports” where my attack wasn’t mentioned; in fact they claimed no “incidents” at all happened that day. This is why I got, and offered to show people, a copy of my police report to support my story.
      2) She thought I was too “streetwise” to have been lured into a dangerous situation like that, and that I wasn’t acting traumatized enough after.

  7. jillski2014 September 18, 2017 / 8:06 pm

    I listened to an interesting “This American Life” episode where a woman was raped and her friend didn’t believe her because she didn’t act traumatized enough. The friend expressed doubts to the police who ran with it and accused the woman of lying. They threatened to jail her if she did not retract it. She was afraid, retracted it and when it hit the news you can imagine what happened. People yelling at her, attacks in social media, etc. Eventually after a few more attacks the rapist was caught and the truth came out. He has taken pictures of his victims, blindfolded and he had one of the original woman. The friend apologized but still seemed to victim-blame by saying her friend hadn’t acted upset enough.
    Good luck with jury duty. I had that once and found it fascinating. I had a very interesting case though.

      • Christy September 19, 2017 / 7:12 pm

        Yes, that’s the one that was featured on This American Life. Just awful. Not only was she forced to retract her (absolutely true) story, but she was forced to pay a fine of $500. This American Life had an interview with, I think, the police chief who now admits that his department had it totally wrong. They are sorry, but sometimes sorry is not enough.

        I’m so sorry that you were raped, and so sorry that your “friend” felt the need to investigate your story (WTF, aren’t there SOME THINGS we can take on face value when we hear them from a friend without looking for online verification?) and I’m so sorry she felt she was able to judge what happened to you by your demeanor. How ignorant.

  8. Deb September 18, 2017 / 11:17 pm

    As far as the weight thing, I know that when I hit my early 30s, weight became much easier to gain and much more difficult to lose. My metabolism just seemed to slow down, fairly suddenly. Mine is also in the stomach area.

  9. Kat September 19, 2017 / 1:42 pm

    Leaving aside all the other stuff for the moment, I have two words…Sherri Papini. There’s tons of internet armchairs out there who doubt her, as well. It is apparently a national phenomenon. In this day and age it just goes to show no matter what you do you are bound to be criticized by someone. I’m not trying to start a debate about her case or what all, just saying. And comment number one and on are correct. Anyone that would know you and doubt you and then run you down? Not a friend. Not even a human capable of compassion.

  10. M. September 19, 2017 / 2:45 pm

    Everyone else has summarized my thoughts on your “friend” in a much more polite way than I would have. I am really sorry you had to experience that.

    I just added the book you’re reading to my Amazon wish list. Have you ever read Intimacy and Terror? It’s a collection of journals written by ordinary people in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. I found it quite moving. https://www.amazon.com/Intimacy-Terror-Soviet-Diaries-1930s/dp/1565843983/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505846486&sr=8-1&keywords=Intimacy+and+terror

  11. laurenthian September 20, 2017 / 1:01 am

    I am glad you are doing well, considering. And I like your personal posts: at the very least, they add context to the site.

    • Meaghan September 22, 2017 / 10:39 pm

      I didn’t consciously reference Staind, no, but I do like that song a lot. Maybe it was my unconscious mind at work.

      I’d never heard of that guy before. Obviously he’s not on my website.

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