Smeared by Rachel Carson

*Featured Artwork: “Protected By Layers Of Shame” by Megan Matthews

A rape kit isn’t really a “kit.” It’s more like an annual with a new gyno, except this doctor (or, more typically, a nurse) records measurements and pictures in addition to checking for abnormalities.

I cracked jokes. With my feet up in stirrups and legs spread, I chattered about movies and TV shows that I liked. My nurse—was her name Diane?—appropriately mmhmmd as I warbled on.

Right Knee: 1.15” laceration.
Left Knee: 2.21” laceration.
Left Sixth Rib: 1.01” bruise, oval, could be a thumbprint. Blue and orange.
Right Hip: 4.62” bruise, oval. Blunt trauma. Black, purple, red, blue.

Or something like that. I haven’t ever looked at the actual report; the nurse turned in her notes to the detective almost three years ago.

I babbled for normalcy, to hear myself speaking and to confirm that I could still be liked and put-together and interesting and welcoming even if I’d been—I hate that word, you know? The R-word. Along with the SA-expression. They both scream severity and involve violence and survivors. Those are not the words I want in my story. That evening didn’t make sense anyway—those things don’t happen when you’re sober, when you’re with your friends, when it’s a work night.

Even when I explained what happened without using the R-word, others used the R-word to describe what happened to me.

I hated it.
It made me feel weak.

Like a victim.

There were 127 impressions on the ceiling tile directly above my head. Definitely 127. I counted, pretending the scattered marks formed clear lines that I could work through methodically. I didn’t want to lose my place. The nurse kept ducking in and out. I never knew how long I’d be alone. Focus and count by twos—become a somnambulist. Stop thinking.

“I need you to scoot down, sweetie,” the nurse said. I balanced on my lower back, legs slightly raised off the stirrups. How humiliating.

She touched and spread my buttocks.
“Who the fuck gets raped in the ass?”
What did I just say?

My sweaty hands cocooned my face as it melted into a mush of red Play-Doh. My inflamed rectum, sphincter, and anus flexed and relaxed in tandem with how I gasped and sobbed. I imagined the nurse looking at that wobbling “O-o-O-o-O-o-O” and quietly pitying me while also finding humor in her humorless job. She probably felt uncomfortable. I was the butt of the joke. I tried to share the pun with her—to make her feel better? To try to make her like me?—but interrupted myself with a sob. My mouth wouldn’t take any commands, not from me or anyone.

The nurse handed me tissues. I nodded a thank you and tried to find her face.
The nurse sat on her stool, neck arched, looking down. She said nothing.
She waited.

She probably counted the specks on the floor, or traced the tiles’ dividing plaster with her eyes.

She waited.
She waited.

She paid no mind to my bum.

The exam eventually continued. She informed me that I was still bleeding; she held up a tissue to show me my own blood. She explained words like “anal fissure” and “sitz bath.” She encouraged me to get laxatives. She prescribed me a local anesthetic. She filled out my report, promised to let me know if my STI lab returned positive, and escorted me to the waiting room to exit.

“The Process” by Megan Matthews

Did you know some hospitals have an entire department dedicated to rape victims?

A young Latina, no older than fourteen, whimpered quietly, leaning against a woman I assumed was her mother. The girl’s knees were split open like mine were, but her injuries had probably happened that day. Red dripped. She had torn-up knuckles and crusted blood smeared around her mouth.

It was unclear if that blood was her own.

The nurse called her in as I left. She did not stand. I could hear the nurse whisper to her mother: “Sorry, I need to speak with her privately.”

Rachel Carson is a writer based out of Washington D.C. whose work has appeared in a variety of international outlets like The Hill, Forbes, and The Washington Times. She recently started to explore the literary field and has published in O: JA&L and Memoir Magazine. Rachel holds a BA from Agnes Scott College, an MA from the University of Chicago, and is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction from Johns Hopkins University.

Megan is a psychotherapist, artist, and author living in Iowa City, Iowa. In what feels like another life, she also raised a human from infancy to adulthood where she spent the early years cutting swords and shields from discarded cardboard boxes for a good Princess Bride style duel. She also worked in the schools as both a teacher and a school social worker.

Currently Megan shares her heart and home with her family, including two dogs and a cat, and an abundance of journals and houseplants. When not translating charcoal portraits into words, Megan finds peace in the quietness of a sunny day, the laughter of friendship, and the love of a good pen on the right type of paper.

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