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Vanilla is the Scent of Rape

Tracy Grinstead-Everly

Vanilla is the scent of rape.

I have tried many times to make it NOT that,

to make it the scent of nurseries and holiday baking,

but it won’t work.

No, it is the scent of decades-old memories

that still sometimes wake me in the night and catch me off guard,

stealing my breath

and almost knocking my feet out from under me

in bath and candle shops in the mall.

It was the scent used to freshen the air in his mom’s not-that-nice-but-all-we-can-afford-since-I-finally-worked-up-the-nerve-to-leave-your-abusive-dad’s house.

It was the scent that battled the never-quite-covered-up mildew aroma

that hit you when you entered the front door,

the door that always closed behind me with a bang

that never ceased to startle me,

no matter how many times I heard it.

Maybe it was less that I was surprised by that noise,

but that despite my better judgment

I hoped each time that perhaps this time it would shut quietly, gently,

or someday let me do the closing.

It was the scent I breathed in deeply afterward,

to try to focus my racing brain,

slow my pounding heart,

and dry my torrent of tears to a trickle

so I could smile convincingly

and pretend everything was fine

so I would be allowed to leave.

Vanilla is the scent of rape.

It is warm, but not warm like homemade cookies or a fireplace in winter.

Warm like the blood that pounded in my veins and escaped my torn labia.

So, don’t bother sending me anything that smells like vanilla.

No matter how much I love you, it will go straight in the trash.

I will not allow it a place in my home.

I will not allow him a place in my life.


Tracy Grinstead-Everly

Tracy Grinstead-Everly (she/her/hers) is a social justice attorney and intersectional advocate who has dedicated over three decades to activism and community leadership, primarily in intimate partner violence and reproductive rights. She is a changemaker with many “firsts” on her resume. She has been honored to support myriad survivors reclaiming their voices and pursuing safety, one court case, legislative bill, systemic change, policy implementation, and courageous conversation at a time. Tracy is the proud Sephardi Jewish mother of two amazing adult children whom she loves beyond words, and she adores that her wonderful husband of 28 years doesn’t remove her feminist bumper stickers when he drives her car, even though they are magnetized to provide that option. Tracy’s favorite holiday is Halloween and the best introduction she has received to date as a public speaker is “This woman is as fierce as her shoes!”


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