The Final Knife

Jessica Crutcher

It’s a sunny morning on Friday, June 24, 2022, and I’m doing the post-COVID thing of considering what shirt to wear to go work in my office as opposed to my home office, when the news come through. I skim the opinion reversing Roe v. Wade while the world shatters around me as if it is made solely of sharp pointed glass and metal. I try all my hard-earned methods of staying present, touching my dogs, identifying the date, the time, objects around me, but I fail and instead now I’m free-falling down that black hole that always seems to be nearby, wide open and hungry, no matter how hard or how far I run.

The year is 2015 and I’m in a seated fetal position, backed into the far corner of my co-worker’s office, knees to chest, arms wrapped around knees, hyperventilating, can’t breathe, keeping in mind thin office walls and trying not to scream out the hot tears that are dumping down my face like buckets have replaced the spots where my eyes used to be. I’m 34 years old. 

Five minutes earlier, she was complaining about feeling like she’d been stabbed in the uterus this period. Five minutes earlier, I realized I should have been feeling the same way, because we always got our periods at the same time. Always.

Five and a half weeks earlier, I was drugged and raped. The primary drugger and raper was a bartender at a place where I ate dinner alone on my way home from work. I didn’t know him. I guess they found my address on my driver’s license, I don’t know. Anyway, he brought a friend with him apparently. I wake up to two men in my bedroom the next morning, one of them I’ve never seen before, they’re laughing as they yank the covers off me; I’m naked, disoriented, curled up in a ball in the bright morning light, somehow I see through the hazy confusion and nausea enough to be scared. 

Photo by the author.

I have to fight them out of my house and off my back porch. Noise is my only weapon—I can’t stand without support, my arms are rubber, and the main guy makes sure to knock me down and do his best to rape me again on the back porch while I flail and scream before his friend tells him a neighbor is going to hear and drags him away. 

I know I called my mother and my best friend. I don’t remember doing it. My best friend took me to the hospital, where I went through six or seven hours of hell otherwise referenced as the neatly packaged phrase “rape kit.” I don’t remember most of that either. It was very bright. I mostly remember the brightness and the sharp objects—needles, exam tools. At some point, running on auto-pilot, in response to a question, I told them I was on birth control. So they treated me for potential STDs but didn’t give me a morning after pill. Eventually I’m discharged and I am taken home to start trying to navigate the terror, shame, and darkness that is my new life.

Five and a half weeks later, here we are in my co-worker’s office, realizing that I was not on birth control after all. Because after a miscarriage of an accidental but very much wanted pregnancy, and a break-up with the person I had lived with and promised to marry, I had taken a break from birth control for the first time in 15-plus years. And that of course I had forgotten to tell the hospital, because that’s what shock does. 

The year is 2015, so abortion is still legal. But it’s not lost on me that I lost a baby I wanted 8 months earlier, and now I may be pregnant with my rapist’s baby. I have no idea whether to abort this hypothetical baby. I know I want a baby, but oh god, not like this. I end up not having to make a choice; merciful cleansing blood arrives a week later. I know now that I would not have survived that pregnancy. I didn’t know what kind of monster PTSD was, not yet, but it wasn’t that many months later when I decided to take my life for the first time. 

The year is now 2022, I’m 40 instead of 34, and it is a miracle I’m still here. I’d like to say that I’m out of the Roe v. Wade black hole, but it sure does take a lot longer to climb out than it takes to fall back in.  

In the year 2022, I’m unmarried with no children. I can’t imagine carrying a child in this broken body. All the yoga, meditation, and other PTSD survival tools in the world will not keep a baby safe from the medication I’ll also eventually need. Any child I do bring into the world will eventually see my bad days. It’s unavoidable. And that generational trauma that I was so determined to stop when I was younger will spread its tentacles to another generation. My rapists stole my chance to have kids. I thought I had finally accepted that. It took years. And then. 

The death of Roe v. Wade felt like the final knife in the chest for me. I had another near suicide attempt that night; I thank my doctors and teachers that I get to include the word “near” in that sentence. I’ve been fighting for reproductive rights since my college days in the 90s. Aside from the fact that I irrationally feel like all that work was worthless to my fellow women, the overturning of Roe v. Wade feels very personal to me: like that final expression of power and control over my own body, the missing puzzle piece that really and truly makes my body not mine, was finally slipped into place. 

I don’t have any answers today. I, along with a lot of other lawyers, have publicly pledged to keep fighting the Roe v. Wade decision and its effects across the U.S. And I will. I’ll keep teaching the trauma and mental health grounded yoga and meditation that I learned to teach as part of my own survival journey. I’ll do what I can, and will try to remember to be kind to myself also. I hope that if we all do what we can, it will be enough to build something better than we had before—one step, one brick, one hand reaching out to another, at a time.