Let me start this off by first saying: I love Philly. I moved here last fall and am in awe of the creative vibe. There are truly some talented artists, musicians, writers and poets in this city. I attended a few poetry slams and an event at the Philadelphia Museum where I tried my hand at origami and painted a very elementary picture of a house.
But this past weekend, I checked my Facebook events and noticed Michael Broussard’s play, Ask A Sex Abuse Survivor, was playing in three hours. It was time to make a decision: do I lounge in the bed all day watching my third Game of Thrones marathon or do I venture outside? This past week, my depression had hit pretty heavily so I turned to the perfect distraction – GOT.
This time, though, I decided to get out of bed and go somewhere.
When the GPS indicated that the Adrienne Theater is on Sansom Street, I almost walked back in the house. I hate driving in downtown Philly. But I fought the urge and made my way to the theater. And as luck would have it, I found a parking space just yards from the theater!
As soon as I walked in, I knew I was late. But to make matters worse, I opened the stage door! I shut it quickly as the audience laughed and Michael directed me to the correct door.
Fortunately, I hadn’t missed much. His play is set up where he interacts with the audience, does a scene and breaks again to interact with the audience. I sat down just as he began the opening scene.
Michael described the boy he used to be before the abuse: fun-loving, trusting, innocent. And like most kids, he loved to dance, play outside and crack jokes. He also loved meeting new people and spending time with family, but this was all before the abuse. Like most victims, there’s a distinct disconnect between the person we were before we were raped and the person we become after the incident.
Michael is about ten years older than I and even he hasn’t managed to merge the two. I read once that we’re not supposed to think of the person before the abuse in the third person, but I tell you, it felt right when he referred to the old him in that way.
I don’t want to give the entire play away, but I will tell you that it’s a must-see for survivors. I already knew I wasn’t alone, but upon discovering his coping mechanisms were the same as mine…his pain was the same as mine, it shook me to know that someone else suffered the same as I and is standing before me whole. It can be done.
Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) counselors were sitting in the audience. If someone rushed out of the theater crying or in a panic, they were there to follow them out and speak with them. Throughout the entire play, I thought it was going to be me. I couldn’t stop crying. I was having flashbacks and being triggered and trying to be strong all in the same moment. I kept staring at the door…I didn’t want to punk out and run. I wanted to hear his story.
And finally…it was over. I made it through. After speaking briefly with Michael, we took a picture and he asked me something that had been on my mind since I relocated to Philadelphia, “have you been back to the place where you were sexually abused?”
I’m crying as I write this…
I haven’t returned although something in me knows that I need to go back. I was first raped at five in Washington, DC. but the bulk of the abuse occurred in Princeton, NJ, less than one hour’s drive from my new town. To be honest, I didn’t even have the courage to cross the NJ state line and planned to never do so. I felt if I did I would be abused all over again. But, during the last two months, circumstances outside of my control led me over the bridge several times and each time I visited, my anxiety attacks lessened.
But to return to Redding Circle, I don’t know…
Before heading home, I stopped at the corner bar for a glass of wine. I needed to erase those thoughts. I didn’t want to drive home with tear-flooded eyes.
Plus, I needed to get back to my Game of Thrones marathon.