Morning After

May 14 2015

[TW: Sexual assault]

Almost exactly one year ago, a show I wrote and directed, called Morning After, opened at my college. The play is about sexual assault on college campuses, and it was inspired by my own rape in the fall of 2012. In honor of the show’s anniversary, I went back and reread everything I could find from the production process. One of the things I uncovered was my director’s note, and I want to share part of it with you all here:

“Morning After is my reaction to a national dialogue that too often focuses on the act of violence itself rather than the aftermath. It is a response to the numerous plays I read that depicted sexual assault survivors as broken and defeated rather than working to feel better. It is my challenge to a culture that continues to blame victims instead of the perpetrators, and that shames survivors into silence. Most of all, it is my attempt to do what I previously thought was impossible: turning a traumatic experience into a personal triumph.

An important person in my life once told me that love is when a person or thing becomes a part of us, when one can no longer be fully understood without the other. In the years since, I have never forgotten his words, and I can finally say with certainty that he was right. I do not love or forgive the man who assaulted me, but I love this show, the way I found to heal. I love the countless people who helped shape my vision into the performance you see today. I love the women who trust me enough to get onstage and bring my words to life. I know that a piece of me is in every aspect of Morning After, just as I’m sure that this show is now a part of me.”

It’s hard to know which experiences will change us, for the better or for the worse. I was always someone who needed to know what would happen next. Forget just having a 5 year plan- I had a 5 day plan and a 5 week plan and a 5 month plan. But being raped wasn’t something I could plan for. My need to process and react through theater wasn’t something I could plan for. And the new path I’ve found myself on certainly wasn’t something I could plan for.

In the year since the show opened, I graduated from college and moved to New York, where I started volunteering as a rape crisis counselor. I just left my job in advertising, the career I thought I wanted all through college, for a more flexible job so I can focus on activism. I made the decision to go to law school to help survivors navigate the legal system, even though I never really saw myself as a lawyer before. I am the woman who can be found explaining consent culture at parties, the loud mouth who is no longer afraid of seeming too angry or too emotional or too biased. On one level it bothers me that it was an assault that set me on this road, but I can’t argue with where I am. The work I’ve found myself doing is hard and upsetting and incredibly rewarding, and I wouldn’t change anything about the woman I’ve become.

I haven’t made a new plan yet. I realized that it’s sort of worthless. I mean, it’s gonna change anyway, right? So I’ll just be here doing what I think is important right now, waiting for my next Morning After to come along.

Kelly O'Hara
[email protected]
Brooklyn, NY

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