Chioma crawled from the alley. Her hands bleeding. Her arms shaking. Her panties torn. Her dress ripped. She collapsed on the sidewalk. The beating he’d given her was too much for her to take.
Chioma sat in the dark. Her hair a mess. The shades drawn. The television was playing, but she wasn’t watching it. It was just sound. She hated living alone. A car outside backfired. She jumped. She jumped a lot lately. Ever since the alley. She chewed her nails and fought her tears.
” You can’t do this to yourself. It’s been two months.” Her mother admonished, raising the shades and opening the curtains. She burrowed under the blanket. “Oh, and girl, you smell. In the shower. Now. Go.” Her mother fussed, pulling her from the couch. “Go.”
“Momma.” She whispered, bursting into tears. Her hands were shaking.
“Stop it. You are strong. You are not a victim. Say it with me. I’m strong. I’m powerful.” Her mother coached. Chioma repeated it, but didn’t believe it. She went into the bathroom and saw herself in the mirror. She punched it and collapsed, crying.”
“Morning, Chioma. It’s mom. Say it with me. I’m powerful. I’m not a victim. I can do anything. He has no power over me.” Her mom told her full of confidence.
Chioma repeated the words, as she did every morning. Her mother insisted. “I’m powerful. I’m not a victim. I can do anything. He has no power over me.” She repeated it several times fully aware it was a lie.
“It happened to me once.” Her mother said, interrupting her chant.
“What?” Megan whispered, confused.
“I was raped. In college. It wasn’t quite as brutal, but I was where you were. My mother made me repeat these words too.” Her mother told her.
“You, momma?” Megan asked in disbelief. Her mother was the strongest woman she knew.
“Yes. The man was a friend of mine. He raped me for over three hours. I was convinced I’d never recover. I just wanted to die. I saw the way other women looked at me. I felt men’s eyes crawling across my skin every time they looked my way. Your grandmother cut through the drama though. She told me that man was the weak one. Him raping me was his way of trying to feel powerful, but it was an illusion. He wasn’t powerful. He had to trick me into his room. He had to beat me to get me to submit. Where was his power? He had none. He was weaker than me. You know why? I survived. He didn’t. He gave in to his weakness. I didn’t. I’m powerful. I’m strong, and so are you. Repeat it. It’s a lie right now. You keep repeating it. Eventually, you will believe the lie, and it will no longer be one. This is how identities are born and that is what strength is. It isn’t a bulging knot of muscle fiber. It’s an identity. It’s you believing that you are strong. Being strong is just that–believing. That and nothing more.” Her mother told her.
“I’m powerful. I’m strong. I am not a victim.” As Chioma recited it this time, she began thinking that maybe it wasn’t a lie after all.
“Hi. I’m Chioma.” Chioma told the woman by way of greeting.
The woman was young and looked up with veiled eyes. One was purple and puffy. “I’m Amaka.” She whispered back.
“I hear some guy thought he could rape you.” Chioma announced.
“He did rape me.” Amaka snapped.
“I believe you. It happened to me once. I suppose you’re going to run off and hide in a darkened room somewhere?” Chioma guessed. Amaka gave her an angry look.
“I did. For four months. I probably would have still been hiding if a woman I respected hadn’t told me the truth about my rapist.” Chioma told her soothingly.
“Your rapist was my rapist.” Chioma told her.
“You knew him?”Amaka asked in surprise.
“No. I knew one like him. A weak man who thought that by penetrating and abusing me, he could control me. Plant fear in my heart and a child in my stomach. It took me four months to realize just how pathetic that man was. He was weak. He gave up. He couldn’t handle it. He came after me because he was weak. I survived. I wasn’t a victim. I was a witness to the moment he broke. I laugh about it now. It seemed so horrible back then. He had stolen my power. That’s what I thought, but then, that woman I mentioned told me a secret.” Chioma told her.
“What secret?” Amaka asked, a plea in her eyes.
“It’s an illusion. I’m powerful. I’m strong. I’m not a victim. His raping me was nothing. It was a few bruises and bad sex. It was my mind he was trying to fuck with. Guess what? He can’t fuck with your mind unless you let him, regardless of how strong he is. It is the only thing he wanted to screw with. For four months, I let him, but as soon as I realized what he was trying to do, I stopped him. My mind is my own. I’m powerful. I’m strong. I’m not a victim.” Chioma declared.
Amaka had a thoughtful look in her eyes.
“Have you been hit before?” Chioma asked.
Amaka nodded. “Yeah. My room mate and I got into a fight. I’ve been in a lot of fights.”
“Did you get bruised?” Chioma asked.
“Yeah.” Amaka replied.
“Did that feel like rape?” Chioma fired back.
“No. It was just a fight.” She told her, realizing the truth. “Like this black eye. It was just a fight.”
“Right. Have you had sex before?” Chioma asked.Amaka nodded. “Have you had bad sex before?” She said, continuing. Amaka nodded, smiling. “Guess what? You just had bad sex again.”Chioma announced.
Amaka was laughing now.
“So, you got in a fight and lost. You had unwilling sex, and it was bad. The only thing he did differently was make you think it was more serious than that. Repeat after me. I’m powerful. I’m strong. I’m not a victim.” Amaka repeated the words.
“They are a lie, until you believe the lie. Then they are the truth.”
Sometimes, a lie told enough times in regards to identity, will be believed and does in fact becomes the truth. Whether a kid pretending to be a cowboy and telling everyone that he is one or a kid telling everyone he’s a cold blooded gangster. Once you become the lie, the lie becomes truth.
I am powerful. I am strong. I am not victim