this is the final section a short story. you can read it from the beginning, in it’s entirety, at this link: annie’s story
So Janie took no action when it came to Annie. She did use her research connections at the newspaper to discover that Annie’s father had recently died, of cancer. Her older brother died three years prior in a drunken car accident. Annie had not been listed as a “survivor” on either brief obituary but her mother was mentioned in both. Janie took this as evidence that Annie had moved on, that she no longer wished to be connected with that part of her life. Understanding this and respecting it, Janie did not investigate further.
She did continue to think of Annie. And Janie absolutely continued to think of and call herself a feminist. It was such a small thing, she thought, and yet she had had occasion to defend the choice more frequently than one might imagine in this day and age. Janie did fund raising work for the local domestic violence shelter and she often shared her own story with the young women who volunteered along side her. Janie never felt compelled to share Annie’s story, but she did think of it often and felt it was an integral part of her “feminist identity”. Feminism was also an important part of how Janie raised her daughter and she had no doubts, made no bones, about it.
What bothered Janie most about Annie’s story over the years though, was a sense that the story, that its tragic truth, was somehow squandered. Her sense of indignance and pure disgust over the fact that despite all the clear signs of abuse, the indications that there was something very seriously wrong, no-one ever managed to get any help for Annie. Instead Annie suffered double for acts that had nothing to do with her, acts done to her that she had no control over. It all happened so close, so close and under all their very noses. That they had all noticed so many of the symptoms and yet nothing was ever done to stop it, to help Annie. This made Janie’s stomach roll. This made Janie feel a twinge of pressure to tell the story.
Whenever Janie had that thought, though, she only felt worse. How could one tell such a story, how can one tell any story of rape from within a “rape culture” without coming off as… fucking tantalizing or at least sensational. It seemed impossible to find a way to be unforgivingly, brutally raw and graphic without running a nearly sure risk of coming across as provocative in some way. To spell things out seemed exploitative, to merely point to horrors without depicting them felt like innuendo.
Janie thought about it, off and on, over the course of the next ten more years. She kept up an interest in new women authors and read some feminist works but did not do an exhaustive study or become an expert on past or current gender theory. She took her daughter to rape and physical assault defense classes and she spoke out in favor of women’s rights often. She still identified, personally and publicly, as a feminist. No qualifications, not as a “bad feminist” or a “neo feminist” or a “cis feminist”. She was obviously a civil rights advocate as well as a staunch believer in all rights queer and trans. In her mind, these causes aligned well and well worth any trouble. She guessed that made her an intersectional feminist. She wasn’t entirely sure.
Janie did not know if she would ever tell Annie’s story. But if she did, there were some things she knew for sure. She would not make the villian - the rapist - a poor man, not a brown man, not a suffering victimized uneducated man of any kind. No. If she ever told Annie’s story it would be clear who the criminal was. It would be clear that a rich, white, educated, working man had taken advantage of every bit of power and privilege at his disposal to meet his own selfish needs at the expense of the innocent.
Janie also knew that if she did tell Annie’s story, there would be no scenes of defiance and tension between Annie and her father, no titillating confrontations spelled out in sweat and spitty resistance. No almost physical descriptions of the temperature in the room or the pleased look on the man’s face. Janie knew that if she ever told Annie’s story she would not use the phrase “soiled herself”. No if she told Annie’s story there would be piss and its rank smell and the consequences suffered would be made uglier than seemed possible in their realness.
If Annie’s story was to be told it should be set right there in America, in glorious old middle class America where fancy and convenient appliances are king and children’s hearts and bodies get broken and left so inadequately attended. Janie knew for certain that if she told Annie’s story it would not be offset or interspersed with chapters that depicted anyone’s romantic “fairy tale” life. If Annie’s tale were to be told there would be no euphemistic phrases like “injuries that required reconstructive surgery”. If Annie’s tale was to be told it would be told as the tale of a tragic fistula. Because that is exactly the tragic tale it was. Nothing else. No redeeming it, no making it fit for the best seller list.
In the end, Janie never did feel like she had any answers, nothing that solved any of it. All she had was the story and the truest way she knew how to tell it.