Portrait of a Rape

By Kendra Holliday | April 22, 2016

Look how crazy I am ROWR!

Look how crazy I am ROWR!

If you know me at all, you know that I have a mentally ill mother, and a mentally ill daughter.

Yes, genetics can be a bitch.

As a result, I’m constantly sandwiched between my past and my future.

If the timing features one of them having a meltdown, it can feel like a stressful seesaw, but if the timing features both of them freaking out simultaneously, it can feel crushing.

Today, I set out to have a happy-go-lucky day of self care – I took time off from seeing clients so I could enjoy the beautiful spring weather – read, write, go shopping, take walks, and nap.

Relax and rejuvenate.

But a couple days ago, I had a bad phone call with my mom. Among other things, she has borderline personality disorder. I’m not sure what that means exactly,

Photo by Mike Estes of me impersonating Aileen Wuornos

Photo by Mike Estes of me impersonating Aileen Wuornos

but I do know that serial killer Aileen Wuornos had it, and it means you have to walk on eggshells with the afflicted person and kiss their ass, or else you will pay dearly for it – they will instantly turn on you and become vicious.

I talk to my mom on the phone a few times a week, and I usually play along and kiss her ass, murmuring sympathetic responses to her litany of complaints about how cruel everyone is to her.

This time, I didn’t feel like it. She whined about what a victim she was, after bragging about slamming the door on her social worker and stealing money from my dad, and when I asked her what she wanted me to do about her pathetic plight, she got angry and insulted me. I hung up on her.

Today, my daughter got a letter in the mail from her crazy grandma. It included this picture of me, along with a taunting message in my mother’s spidery script:

This was your mother at age 21, before she met your father.

Violated and shell shocked

Violated and shell shocked

My daughter was confused, but I immediately knew the intent.

This picture was taken right after I was raped. She sent it deliberately in order to hurt me again. The first time, a man stuck his cock in me because he wanted to. This time, mom mom stuck a memory knife in me because she wanted to. Both times, I was penetrated without my consent.

The day this photo was taken was over twenty years ago. I was working at a nursing home with a nice guy named Pasqual. He was from Cameroon, and was attending Maryville University for a nursing degree. He lived with a host family. He had dark skin and a moon face, and a thick French accent.

I had just moved into a trailer home in Jefferson County with another guy in nursing school, and he was proving to be a creepy asshole who assumed I should pay him rent AND put out, which wasn’t what I had in mind when I moved in, so I was anxious to find another living arrangement.

Pasqual told me he knew of a house for rent, and offered to take me there to see it. I was eager to check it out – it was a real house and in a better location.

As soon as he unlocked the door, I got a weird vibe – it was cold and dark. We wandered around, and I wasn’t feeling it. Finally, we got to the last bedroom, and he cornered me. I was completely taken by surprise – we hadn’t flirted or dated at all, and suddenly he was pushing me down on the bed and shoving my dress up.

I pushed against him and struggled and said no, but he kept push push pushing, and he had his way with me. He was so strong, and I was so weak and frozen. He just pinned me down and shoved my hippie dress up and stuck his cock in my dry pussy and fucked me. I wasn’t into it at all, and that didn’t matter to him. No kissing or foreplay, strictly mechanical and masturbatory.

When he was done, I collected myself and shakily went to my car. As soon as I slammed the door, I sobbed hysterically. What the fuck just happened? Did I ask for that? Was I stupid for trusting him? I thought he was a friend.

I pulled myself together and went to my next appointment – I had plans to meet my mom at Northwest Plaza. I went through the motions – we had lunch and took pictures in a photo booth. I hung my faux leopard print coat up as a backdrop (I later lost that coat at a truck stop on a road trip a few years later.)

My mom had no idea I had just been traumatized – I acted like it was an ordinary afternoon. Weeks later, I told her about it, and she was surprised. But she held on to the ugly story for over twenty years, and waited for the right time to spring it on me again. So calculated.

You can see how shell shocked and dazed I was by my haunted eyes and grim expression. Here, let me show you again:

Violated and shell shocked

Violated and shell shocked

This type of assault is SO common – they say one in four women and one in six men are raped or assaulted, but I think it’s more common than that. And more often than not, it’s a friend or family member who is the perpetrator.

Not many people admit to being raped, and even fewer people admit to raping. In fact, when I confronted the guy about it later, he acted perplexed.

Have YOU been raped? Have YOU raped?

Human nature is so astonishing.

On top of all this, a few years ago, university researchers put a call out for participants for a study on rape survivors and PTSD. I responded and was interviewed, but was rejected for not being traumatized enough for their research purposes.

Maybe now I am eligible?

Pffft, no. I just got triggered is all. A victim is someone who allows their past to dictate their current actions. A survivor is someone who takes their past and builds off of it in order to become stronger.

Don’t let your past drag you down. YOU are in charge.

Me now:


Charles H 2016-04-22 23:21:50

I don’t think I’m going to ever forget that expression. Thousand yard stare, yes, but more than that: blue anger. Though it was sent as a personal attack, I’m happy you shared it.

Borderline Personality Disorder: the person has an overwhelming fear of rejection and abandonment. Their response to it can vary in many ways. They can be resentful of other people, they can hurt themselves to get attention, or a wrong look or tone of voice can send them into despondency for days. It’s one of those things that sounds like it can’t possibly be a medical condition, until you see it.

I don’t envy you, Kendra, and that’s coming from somebody who’s had a mentally ill parent, and who knows what it can do to a family.


    Kendra Holliday 2016-04-23 03:55:13

    Thanks for the comments. I wasn’t angry; I was shell shocked, horrified. Very true about BPD – one word that always comes to mind is manipulative. It’s amazing that my mom is one of the few truly monogamous people I know (one sex partner her entire life), and one of the most jealous people I know. I am the opposite – polyamorous and not jealous. Thankfully, my daughter is following in my footsteps.


      Charles H 2016-04-24 10:57:47

      I don’t know why you wouldn’t have been angry; it would have been appropriate and understandable.

      Off topic: If I had been there, I would have totally misread your expression.


        Kendra Holliday 2016-04-24 11:25:02

        Anger came later – that day I was stunned and horrified. Guess it’s like the stages of grief.


Shell 2016-04-23 07:44:33

I want to go back those 20-something years and just hold you tight. {{{{{{{{{}}}}}}}}} I wish there was more I could do for you today.

Not traumatized enough? There are degrees? And who has the right to decide?


Jason Kauffman 2016-04-23 12:14:54

Wow Kendra, such a powerful story. I do think it’s true that the more willing one is to open up and share their traumas, the less hold it has on them. This article reminded me of a girl I knew in college. We were both interns at the literary journal there, and she lived in the same appartment complex as me. One day she just wasn’t around. For like a week, she just disappeared. It turned out she had been seeing one of her professors and when she tried to end it he abducted her and kept her in a sound proofed basement for days. She escaped, but I just remember how warm and engaged in the world she was before her ordeal, and how removed and jumpy she was afterwards. And I remembered wondering if this asshole had any idea what he had done to such a kind soul, and if he had considered what it would do would he have gone through with it anyway. He was a visiting professor from another country, to whence he immediately returned, and to my knowledge he never faced justice, which I guess has no real bearing on her recovery…I’ve thought of her often, and wondered if that vivacious spark ever returned to her eyes (she left university the next semester and that’s the last I ever heard of her). Hearing this story, and knowing the person you are, gives me some hope that she has been able to find strength and joy again.


    Kendra Holliday 2016-04-23 16:11:51

    That is a crazy story. I do wonder how people can victimize others – how they justify it, what they are thinking. It’s so fucked up, the opposite of my goal of leaving people, places, and things better than I found them!


Sara 2016-04-25 07:21:59

This is a great book on Borderline Personality Disorder – it’s given me a lot of tools on how to better communicate, and build boundaries with those I work with who have BPD.


    Kendra Holliday 2016-04-25 07:24:02

    Thank you! It is a good book – my dad carries it around with him 🙂


Stephen 2016-04-30 04:58:07

I have raped. In a sense.

I have some traits of BPD. My major depressive disorder aside, I have outrageous abandonment issues, stemming from childhood and genetics. For me, this leads to impulse control challenges, problems recognizing boundaries, and, in order to feel superior in situations where I am certainly not, I’m able to use my powers of intelligence and observation to verbally accost people. I do this while in the moment not thinking one whit about the other person’s feelings.

BPD folks often get into trouble with the law – their impulsive actions either alienate people or lead to actual crimes in a decent society. Then, when faced with the potential loss of control, the BPD falls into flight/fight mode, either attacking (as your mother does), or internally fleeing and begging anyone anywhere for support (as your mother does). Many therapists won’t treat BPD sufferers because of their ability to dig deeply and wound other people (as your mother does). BPD folks lose lots of family and friends in this manner.

For me, I was into boundary breaking prior to therapy. My reasoning was, if I can do this, and the other person accepts it, I have established an impenetrable bond with that person – and put myself into a position of control.

Other times, I would break a boundary and have no idea I’d done that – absolutely clueless. Even after 10 years of therapy, if I am in a weakened state due to stress or physical weakness (or depression episodes), I can sometimes return to saying exactly what’s on my mind, often at cost to those I’m speaking with. I can and will make biting jokes or use sarcasm previously unapproved. Desperately, I hope to be called immediately on it by the person taking the abuse, but as you know, that just doesn’t happen. Guilt and downward depression spirals follow.

Pre-therapy (and during the astonishingly difficult times during therapy, especially during the rotating cycle of medications), these actions of mine were highly destructive. I’ve lost more than one friend (including a member of your family) to these actions. At the time, I can easily justify what I’ve just spoken. Until reflection, then it’s just SO obvious what I did/said wrong! How could I have done that???

And there have been several instances pre-therapy of actual sexual assault. Grabbing a breast of someone I’ve never dated. Even of great close friends – one girl told me “Oh, you’d never do that…you’re too good a person.” Well, she dared me!

I was fooling around with a roommate. In my mind (often happens with BPD disorders), we had a love relationship. In her mind (on reflection), we did love each other, but there were certain things on the table and other things not so. Lots of mixed messages (BPDs sooo often find vulnerable mental health partners, weak souls, which you may have been when you were 20, Kendra, I don’t know). We were fooling around, me on her back, rubbing away. I went for insertion, she said “No…that’s not on the table” but kept rubbing and grinding. Finally, implied consent, right? I inserted. She said “I said NO” so I stopped immediately. She spent the night, but the next day went into a psych ward to deal with the emotions of being raped (she had been raped before).

I didn’t ‘get’ it. Not til therapy.

I didn’t get it when I grabbed boobs. When I kissed inappropriately. When I spoke out without thought.

Therapy put me over on the other side, tho. Now I’m afraid to talk to people, to flirt with women, to act physically without a signed affidavit (okay, not, but you know what I mean). I still need more therapy.

You can’t force your mother into therapy. She’s grown.

But you CAN start your daughter on a positive path towards the thought of future therapy. Forcing her obviously won’t work, she’s too old now. But you can encourage her.

And I know you have found the unicorn’s place in life. You have created a space for yourself where you don’t need deep therapy. You don’t have to deal too often with people who don’t ‘get’ you. When you do, you get fingered without permission. Since you’re personable and popular and bright, you can just cut that weirdo out of your life and never have to deal with that again.

But so many other depressives and BPD folk haven’t your will or resources or desire. They just continue onward, clueless of their abusing ways, able to justify sending that awful photo to your daughter. That you choose to keep including her in your life is brave, caring, and hopeful.

To what end? We just can’t speculate.

I guess I wrote all of this to say – You’re not alone. Your mother is not alone in her illness. Your daughter is totally not alone, ever. I can only pray (yes, actually pray) for you and your daughter to find support and peace. Unfortunately, your mother might be beyond prayer at this point…but it doesn’t cost me anything, and for your sake and safety, I’ll pray for her as well.

Thanks for this blog. Hope I didn’t write for too long that it became unreadable. I can’t pee in under 1000 words.


    shady 2016-05-10 14:12:56

    Thank you for sharing this. I am always interested in hearing & wanting to understand another point of view.
    When I confronted my boyfriend after he raped me, he literally said “sometimes no means yes.” He justified it by saying that there’s nothing wrong with trying to change my mind.
    He would also wait until after I took Ambien CR & was asleep to have sex with me – many times after I had said no before going to bed. I told him that it was just like rape because he knew I was medicated & often didn’t even remember it afterward!
    Another time, I had been out of the hospital only days. I told him he was hurting me. He wouldn’t stop, saying he was almost done. I told him to finish by himself. He refused again. He said he has had “blue balls” before & wasnt gozing let that happen again.
    Afterward, he said “blue balls” hurt so much.
    So I said, ” so you would rather hurt me?”
    Took much longer than it should have, but I did break up him.
    And often thought of pressing charges.


Darla Darling 2016-05-24 13:56:07

I was molested as a kid, once in a movie theatre. I told my Mom about it when I got home. Years later when I mentioned it again she had forgotten all about it. That hurt too.


    Kendra Holliday 2016-05-24 18:49:37

    I FEEL YOU. You wanted your Mama Bear. And instead you got Denial Ostrich or Apathy Rabbit. There are ways to heal from past hurts. I’m going to learn more about them next month.


Liz 2016-11-30 17:50:56

I was date raped by an ex (after we broke up). I mostly shrugged it off after a few days of screaming and crying. I was assaulted by a coworker a few years later. Same thing. Got angry, cried, left that job, shrugged it off. Fast forward to this year (all prior events happened 5 and 3 years ago respectively), coworker grabbed my ass and my brain broke. It felt like the rape and assault happened just yesterday. Anger doesn’t even describe it. Paranoia, hell yes! Massive depression, check. Suicidal attempts, check. I think I’ve gotten through the worst, but it’s amazing how your brain can repress unhappy events and then open the floodgates when an event happens that reminds you too much of worse things. I understand the anger. I understand the sadness. I understand wanting to take your own life out of anger. I blamed myself for a long time. Therapy and the kindness of my partner, friends, and family got me through it. I read this blog because it empowers me to know that I can be a “slut” to my partner and yet in no way be blamed for the actions of someone else forcing themselves upon me. Healing takes a long time. Thank you for always being open and honest, it gives the rest of us the courage to do the same.


    Kendra Holliday 2016-12-01 03:27:43

    Liz, I am so sorry you’ve had to endure all these assaults. Thank you for sharing this with us – the more we address it, the more we can heal. I’m glad you are a survivor and have a strong support system. It’s incredible that our new President has no problem violating women and is seen as a world leader. I really hope people get the memo about consent so this kind of behavior can be curtailed. We have to stay strong!


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