Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Things they don't tell you

Rape.  Yes, I'm going to talk about it again.  I'm talking about it because I am one in four.  Yet, I have enough years after my assault that I'm not afraid, and I don't have any of my identity tied into what anyone things about my assault anymore.  As a society, we hide rape in a shroud of secrecy.  It is spoken in hushed corners, someone knows someone who knew someone who got raped once upon a time.  Once in awhile, a celebrity comes forward and speaks of their history and for a brief moment we give this thing a face.  Then, it fades back into oblivion and we go back to the hushed tones again.

One in four women.  We're not talking about something rarely seen here!  We're talking about 25% of women in our society.  This crime is something we are woefully unprepared to face.  We see it as an act, a one time event that is frozen in time.  (And I am not even speaking to the concept of male sexual assaults that we barely even have a handle on as a society now.)

Except...it's not.

I remember that day like it was yesterday, and yet it is clouded with the fog of memories and time now.  I remember being stunned.  I was so groomed in the concept of being polite that never did I at 16 understand anyone would hear me say no and not honor it.  It was so far outside my sheltered, groomed little world that it took my breath away.  How could I say now and he respond as if I said nothing.  Why didn't I kick and scream and bite and run?  Because I was told to be polite and I didn't want to make a scene.  Yet, in not making a scene, my no, while firm and consistent, was completely disregarded.

The next day, I was left shocked, puzzled, desperate to understand what just happened...and then the horror of feelings the pangs of ovulation two days after the assault.

Yes.  I knew him.  I agreed to go on a date with him.  He gave me the creeps but my father was the pastor of the church and his mother was the youth minister.  I was told I had to accept his invitation and I had to be polite.  Go on one day, and then I was off the hook and could find a way to distance myself from him.

No one told me after that day he would just SHOW UP wherever I was, pawing all over me, acting possessive, touching me in ways that made me want to vomit, even in front of my own family.  I still trenched in the polite rule that I would move away, and he would follow.  I would go to the store, and he would suddenly be there.  I would avoid his phone calls, and he would be standing outside my house.  I would ask my parents to quit telling him where I was, and they would shrug their shoulders.  I would get into my locked car, and there would be yet another letter waiting for me.  I would wash my clothes and my underwear would be missing.

He declared that I belonged to him.  He wrote letters daily, and even more than daily, telling me that God had promised him I belonged to him, and I merely needed to realize that truth.

No one told me that if I admitted I was not a virgin, I would be called a liar.  I had exactly two sexual partners before my rape.  One was a long-term, long distance boyfriend for several years.  The other was a long-term boyfriend that I dated for my entire Junior year of high school.  Yet, the minute I admitted I was nota  virgin, I was no longer allowed to say I was raped.  I learned VERY quickly to lie about my past and claim to be a virgin.  It was the only thing that made my rape legitimate.

No matter how many times I told him to leave me alone, he was still THERE.  I got really loud with my no's.  I met and dated another guy, who was the only person who seemed to grasp what was going on.  Yet, I think I overwhelmed him that I was acting out sexually in ways I never did before.  I am forever grateful that that guy protected me from what I didn't understand was going on by being the brakes for both of us.  He was also the only person who seemed to grasp I was being stalked, and how freaked out and scared I was.  He was more than willing to step up and get this creep away from me, but he was the only person in my life who got it, and who was trying to help me.  I had only met him within days of my rape.  He reads my blog.  You know who you are, CM.  Thank you.  Thank you for being the only safe thing in my life after my rape.

Three weeks after the rape, I found out I was pregnant.  It was the second worst day of my life, and my 17th birthday.  It meant I had to tell my parents about the rape, that I so desperately did not want to tell anyone.  I contemplated just getting an abortion, but I didn't know how and I didn't have the money to do so.  I was also fully indoctrinated in the pro-life concept that it's never okay to abort.

I was thrown out of my home.  My father wanted to hide what happened.  My egg donor wanted to get her hands on the baby.  My friend, he had to go back to his life as he had only been local for the summer.  To his credit, he offered to claim the baby, to marry me and to take me back with him if I wanted.  He had known me for three weeks.

They don't tell you that may want to kill yourself after a rape.  They don't tell you that you cannot remember to breath, and everyone and their brother thinks it's their business to demand you tell them what has happened.  They don't tell you that for the rest of your life, people will ask if you were a virgin when you were raped.  What the hell does that have to do with anything?  Does no mean something different because you weren't a virgin?  Absolutely not!  Yet, you will be asked, as if people think they have a right to even ask, much less know the answer to that question.

They don't tell you that you will wake up in cold sweats for years after the assault, reliving the details of that assault all over again, as if it was happening again.  They don't tell you that twenty years later, while in a long-term relationship, you can make love to your husband and STILL trigger back to that moment.  They don't tell you that this trauma is not dependent upon whether you were a virgin, whether you knew your attacker before the event, nor whether you fought loud and hard enough to earn the right to call your assault rape.    This legacy doesn't come because someone deemed your rape legitimate.  It comes from the act of having your own body violated and your control over your body ripped away from you by someone who thinks they had some right to do that to you.

They don't tell you that twenty years later, no matter how much you love the child that came from the nightmare, you can still look at them and see HIM.  They don't tell you that your own child may one day tell you, it would have been okay if you had aborted me.  They don't tell you that love and guilt will forever mingle in that child for you.

They don't tell you that if you don't keep the child, your other children will have to learn about rape so very early as you grapple with how you help them understand you will not get rid of them simply because they know you placed another child for adoption.  My oldest was three the first time she asked me if I was going to get rid of her.  All of my children heard of rape younger than I ever wanted them to hear, simply because it was part of who I am.  On the one hand, it means my children are aware of violence against women in this world.  On the other hand, there are times you simply cannot protect their innocence when you live in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Yes, you will find your strength. You will not be a victim but a survivor, and you will choose your own path and embrace your voice.  But, they don't tell you that it will never leave you.  Sexual assault becomes ingrained into the fiber of who you are, it becomes part of your psyche.  It presents a trauma that can be retriggered the rest of your life, no matter how much you are convinced you are "healed" or "over it."  It's still there. 

I was told to be polite.  I was encouraged to ignore my own instincts and lectured on not embarrassing my parents.  I was never told that you should never be polite when it comes to protecting your body.  You should not care what anyone else thinks.  If your body is threatened, you fight to protect it.

There's something else they don't tell you.  They don't tell you that if you find your voice and speak up, others will follow.  They don't tell you that when you stand up and say I am every woman, others will stand up and say me too.  They don't tell you that you are stronger than this assault, and that you have a right to speak up.

July 17, 1993.  That was the day someone made me a victim.

I can't give you an exact date of when I became a survivor, but I AM a survivor, because he violated my body.  He could not take my soul.  That is mine and only mine.  He hurt me, somewhere deep inside where the scars are permanent, but he did not destroy me.  You are not alone.  If you are one in four, know that.  You are not alone.  And while there is deep trauma and pain, there is also incredibly strength and fortitude inside of you as well.  You are not the sum of what was done to you, but the totality of who you are when you rise up and fight back.

We are your sister, your daughter, your mother, your friend.  We are still here.  We have a right to be safe, and a right to demand society pay attention and know this must stop.

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