Men and Women

I Was 19

Jul 5, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Caitlin Johnstone):

I was 19 the first time I was raped.

Backpacking through Europe, drugged, woke up being sodomised over a toilet bowl in some Italian hotel bathroom.

Blood everywhere.

Memories were fuzzy through whatever it was he slipped me, but I recall fumbling with the doorknob trying to get out, unable to understand why it wasn’t opening, then looking down and seeing that he had his foot up against the bottom of the door.

Earlier that day I’d felt like I was flying. Here I was, traveling in Europe just like a grownup, making it work somehow even in a country where I didn’t speak the language.

“I’m doing it! I can do it! My god, I can really do it!”

I was going to be an artist. I loved to paint. Teacher told me I should try to get some life experience before going to art school, so out I went to get some. My god did I get some motherfucking life experience.

Came home from Europe and immediately got into an abusive relationship, with a man who would use my talents to get him as much money, as much female attention, and as much professional clout as possible. He got me pregnant right after one of the times I tried to leave him.

I didn’t paint.

I turned 26 the day after my daughter was born. I was terrified. I loved her so much I wanted her to have a better mother than me.

“Can I do it? Can I do it? Dear god, please help me do it!”

I gained a lot of weight, and I kept it on. Made me feel secure. Invisible. Like even if I can’t do it, even if I fuck up royally at life and completely drop the ball, at least I won’t wake up in a blood-smeared bathroom being sodomised over a toilet by a man who won’t let me leave.

Now I am 48. I am healing, and I have grown strong.

Through a strange series of miracles and unexpected rabbit holes, I’ve found myself in a situation where complete strangers from all around the world give me money to share my thoughts on things.

And I’ve begun painting again, after all these years. Just sold a few pieces at auction. And it’s been bringing up some old feelings.

“I’m doing it! I can do it! My god, I’m really doing it!”

And my bum has started hurting. I’ve been having shooting pains radiating from right where that bastard stuck me all those years ago. Smacking me out of the air in my state of teenage exuberance. Breaking my wings. Breaking my paintbrush.

People keep asking me to do interviews, but I prefer to stay more hidden. Makes me feel secure. Invisible.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this with you right now. I guess I can only write what’s coming up for me on a given day, and this is definitely what’s front and center for me at this moment.

I’m going to keep healing. I’m going to keep growing stronger. I’m going to keep painting. I may even do interviews one day.

I don’t know where this ride is headed, but I’m very happy I’m on it.

I’m really glad to be alive you guys.


Caitlin’s Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon, Paypal, or Substack, buying an issue of my monthly zine, and following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Subscribe to Caitlin’s Newsletter

By Caitlin Johnstone · Hundreds of paid subscribers

Articles, poems, stories and thoughts by Caitlin Johnstone. Everything published here will always remain free to read.

Categories: Men and Women

Leave a Reply