Mary Pember: Sharing a story of trauma known to Indian women
"Beginning my story is like gutting a deer carcass, and so I plunge my knife deep. Opening the body, I see the rapes lodged there in the gore where they have always been, waiting for me.

I have been raped several times, all before the age of sixteen. I have to pause for some time to enumerate them. I am able to remember seven rapes. Six assailants were white; one was African American. A white neighbor boy also repeatedly sexually molested me beginning at the age of four.

My introduction to intercourse consisted of rape at the age of thirteen at a drunken house party in the small Wisconsin town of my youth. There were quite a number of older white boys and young men at the party who made much of my being American Indian. “Oh, hey, she’s Indian, you know,” someone said. Several men laughed loudly at the remark; it seemed to be an enormously funny secretly shared joke. It was only later that I came to know the punch line. For the white men of my town, Indian women were sexually available and could be raped with impunity.

New to drinking, I got drunk quickly. My junior high girlfriends seemed nowhere to be found as I allowed a man to lead me to his basement apartment. Before I knew it, he had me on the lower half of a bunk bed, pulling my jeans down and forcing my legs apart. I still remember the horrible quality of his closeness. I really felt as though I might die more from the terrible sense of violation than the pain. Before that time I had had no idea of how deeply I could be wounded. Afterward when I tried to get up, his roommate jumped down from the top bunk, unzipping his pants on the way. It’s the last thing I remember. If I ever knew the names of these white men, I have forgotten long ago. I did not report the rape to the police, not even sure in my thirteen-year-old mind that it was a crime. I was afraid of the police who I knew would make more of my underage drinking and my race than the rape."

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Silent No More (The Progressive September 2010)

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