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'Sorry if I was a little insistent,' he said later — after forcing her and changing her life forever.

TRIGGER WARNING: This short but powerful essay by Robyn Swirling on rape may be upsetting for sexual assault survivors. Proceed as you see fit.

'Sorry if I was a little insistent,' he said later — after forcing her and changing her life forever.

"Memories Outside the Mind," by Robyn Swirling


I don't quite know what happened. I mean, I know. I just don't remember everything.

I remember "just go down on me, just for a minute, it'll help me sleep," and his hands entangled in my hair as he pushed my head toward him. I remember my back against the full-length mirror, the frame digging into my shoulder blade, the pressure of his forearm across my chest as his fingers dug into me. I remember saying no as forcefully as I could, as often as I could, but as quietly as I could because he warned me not to wake his roommate and that somehow seemed more important in that moment than the fact that what the roommate would have heard was me begging him to get out from inside me. I remember laying in bed back in my room with tears streaming silently down my face, anxious not to wake my own roommate for fear that I'd have to tell her what had just happened, though the word "rape" was still days away from reaching my lips.

But I don't remember if it was a Thursday or a Monday. I don't remember the date — I think it was late September, but it might have been early October. I don't remember exactly how many days I laid in my dorm room bed, my eyes shut tight against light and friends and classes and obligations. Once I told my roommate and close friends, I don't remember how many days — weeks? — it was before they convinced me to leave my room for the first time for a party, only for me to see him there and panic, locking myself in the bathroom of some Coral Gables group house.

His IM to me lives as a permanent screenshot in my brain: "I'm sorry if I was a little insistent the other night."

I don't remember how many of my parents' calls I screened, as they became increasingly dissatisfied with leaving voicemails. But when I finally called my dad back, hiding from the aftermath of a hurricane in the backseat of my friend's Ford Explorer, I very clearly remember breaking down at his "what's wrong?" I will never forget my mom's first words when I answered her call 15 minutes later. "Why did I have to hear this from your father?"

I remember and I don't remember. Trauma has no respect for memory. It picks and chooses, often seemingly randomly, what words, sensations, details stick with you. Sometimes I smell his cologne on a stranger and have to stop walking for a minute or two to keep myself together. When we'd only been dating for a few weeks, I curled up on the basement floor to nervously warn my boyfriend that he could never ever push me up against a wall while we made out, no matter how hot it might seem, because I had a panic attack the last time a guy did that since the first time a guy did that.

Memory isn't only in the mind. As the book my therapist had me read tells us, the body remembers. The trauma lives in that entire reproductive region of my torso, where what I just refer to as Hurting jumps up to stab me from the inside, incapacitating me for seconds or hours at a time. After eight years of this, a pain specialist finally told me my Hurting is from muscle spasms, from holding everything so tight, from my whole body flinching internally. There is no medical explanation that exam after exam and scan after scan could find. The doctors' explanations are that the trauma did this. That he did this. The body remembers.

I don't owe you any of these details. I have come to know that you won't believe me unless I give you all of these details. And even then you probably won't, if we're being honest. Always one disclosed detail away from belief.

It is an unimaginable yet all too often manifested cruelty to disbelieve someone who tells you they were raped simply because they cannot recall every detail in perfect clarity. Maybe Jackie got it wrong that the guy was a member of that fraternity. Maybe I don't remember which week it happened. Maybe your sister doesn't remember if there were 5 assailants or 6. Maybe your friend doesn't remember how she got home.

Every bit of me remembers every bit of what happened to me. Sometimes we just don't remember the details.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less