As I processed being raped and all the emotional repercussions I went through a period where I told a lot of people about what I was going through. Some people were supportive, but others contributed to me feeling further isolated. This may or may not have been intentional, but I can’t ignore this reality. In all honestly, part of why I stopped sharing with people is because of the reactions I received. Before starting this blog, I hadn’t shared the fact that I was raped with anyone in over ten years. None of my close friends I met after college, and even some I met in college, knew.
I journaled for over two years after I began processing my rape. I have included a lot of excerpts from my journal without necessarily referencing them since I am quoting myself, but I thought it appropriate here to just include what I journaled about what I am terming “rotten responses.” What follows is from two years after my rape, one year after I started facing my rape:
“Date Rape.” I hate the term “date” in front of it. I want to just call it rape. All “date” implies is that I knew the person who raped me. I had trusted the person who raped me. The “date” aspect of it did not give him permission or justify the rape, nor did the fact that we were making out. In a book I read about date rape, entitled I Never Called It Rape, Robin Warshaw states that bad judgement is not a rape-able offense. I put myself if a bad position, I was raped, but that doesn’t minimize or take away from the fact that I was raped. I am still amazed at the profound effects one act has had upon me. My opinions of myself. My psychological well-being.
One of the things that has hurt me the most and has been weighing heavily on my mind of late, was a statement my ex-fiancé’s mother made about me having such a difficult time with being raped. She told my fiancé at the time that she didn’t see what the big deal was or why I was having such a hard time with what happened. After all, I had been making out with him before it happened. How could anyone say that?! There is a huge difference between two people consensually making out and someone overpowering you, pinning you down, hurting you and forcing themselves upon you whilst you fight, scream, cry, struggle, and beg for him to stop.
One of the hardest parts of being raped is telling people. People who you expect to comfort you and be there for you, but instead they sit thousands of miles away looking on at you in a blank stare. No words of comfort. No words of hope. No embraces of support or comfort. Nothing. I told my college pastor’s wife about what happened. Her response was to just sit there. She didn’t say a word. No response whatsoever. No change in her face. No concern, no hurt, emotionless. Nothing. She never tried to talk to me about it.
Why do people blame me? I know I slept with him after he raped me out of fear, obligation, and my own sinful self-trying to take control and right a wrong. That is confusing for most people, but it doesn’t justify blaming me. I struggled for so long with blaming myself. That was at the heart of me trying to “fix” the situation. Now I was finally placing the blame on my rapist where it belonged. I was beginning to no longer blame myself, only to have that blame thrown in my face by others.
It is so easy to look on a situation as an outsider who has never faced that particular situation and know the exact right response you would have. However, those assumptions are built entirely upon fabrications. When you are actually faced with a traumatic event, reason and logic go out the window. Survival mode kicks in. Coping mode kicks in. For me looking back at what happened, I know what my exact right response would be now. Hindsight is 20/20. When you remove the trauma, the shock, the stress, the disbelief, the fear, the repression, you can make some very sound decisions, but that is not the situation I found myself in. This experience has taught me so much about not judging people. Until you have been faced with the exact situation they have been in, how can you honestly know what your response would be? Responses are imperfect. Responses are spur of the moment reactions to unforeseen circumstances. When life throws you a curve ball and you must react.
I have found some comfort and encouragement from Beauty Restored by Me Ra Koh. Me Ra Koh was also a victim of date rape and she recounts her journey toward healing in Beauty Restored. As I read the other day in chapter three: “Understanding Grief,” I realized I am still very much depressed about what happened. When I think about the rape I feel hopeless, I feel worthless. Me Ra described the difference between depression and grief:
Depression is a bottomless pit. You can’t see the top. You are too tired to even try to climb out. Grieving is being on top of the ground. It’s like sitting on a park bench on a rainy day. Memories of the things you have lost pass by you. Every memory that passes by hurts and you feel the pain in the core of your being. Often you sit alone on the bench, but you are reachable. There is room for others to sit on the bench and remember with you. Tears flow because loss is always painful. Tears that honor what you have lost are shed, but they are not tears of hopelessness. They are tears that say good-bye and leave you free to move on (pg. 43).
Have I moved beyond depression? I haven’t. I have my brief moments where I can sit on the “bench of grieving,” but I mostly find myself looking at the rape through the lens of depression. I feel worthless. My rapist robbed me, he took my virginity in a violent and horrible way. I want it back so badly, but I will never be able to get it. I am worthless, devalued. Who could ever love me? I am broken. What could I ever offer anyone? A husband? Children?
As I reflect on people blaming me, my mind wanders to the thought of a repeat rape. What if I was attacked, beaten and raped? Why not? Apparently, I got what I deserved the first time. If I deserved my last rape, if I am to blame, then why not another rape? These thoughts haunt me; horrible thoughts. These thoughts fill my mind and pull at my heart. All of them devalue me and ultimately portray me as worthless. Why do I even consider the possibility of someone hurting me? Maybe it stems from self-loathing.
My life is still so controlled by what my rapist did to me. My world came crashing down upon me when I started facing the rape. He shattered my world. How could he have done this? How could someone do such a thing and go on living life “normally?” How many times had he raped? How many more times will he rape? Why am I the hopeless one who is powerless to exact justice. I can’t stop him and I can’t make him pay for raping me. I feel like a helpless child. Someone hurt me deeply, I was violated, but there is no one to turn to. The adults deny it, blame me and don’t see it for what it is. Why is there such pain in the world? I never knew true pain until I was raped. Why is it that the rape victim lives in a constant state of repercussions from the event, while the rapist gets off “Scott free?” Why are people blaming me and not him? Shouldn’t he be the one suffering?
Even my counselor didn’t tell me until the end of our last meeting, after months of counseling, that she didn’t blame me for what happened. She emphasized that she was very careful and took her time to say that since I had put myself in the situation. I was the first person she had counseled who had been the victim of “date rape.” Most of her other clients had been victims of sexual abuse as children, mostly females molested by older authoritative figures like their fathers and step-fathers. She told me a young child couldn’t prevent themselves from being alone with their father or step-father, so they were obviously blameless. I must admit, up until that point I had assumed she didn’t blame me for the initial rape. Hearing her admit her reservations about admitting this to me wounded me. I felt like a lot of the progress I had made had just been undone, but this was our last meeting, we were parting ways.
If I could go back in time and change what happened, I would. I would erase everything that happened after the rape. I should never have tried to take matters into my own hands. “God is God and I am not.” Of everyone that knows about what happened, the one person I feared telling the most, the one person I vowed never to tell, my mother, understood why I slept with him after the rape. When I told her everything I had been taught and how I felt trapped she said it made sense. She also said in a somewhat hesitant and distressed voice, that she didn’t think my youth pastor meant what he said about being married to someone in the eyes of God when you sleep with them. She stumbled over her words as if still processing her thoughts.
She then asked me if I had had an abortion and if I ever shared with anyone at her church. I answered “No” to both questions. She responded with: “Good, you shouldn’t tell anyone at our church.” Wow, talk about another rotten response! Don’t tell anyone at their church? Not that I was planning on it per say, but her specifically telling me not to say anything was really hurtful! I immediately knew why she didn’t want me to tell too. In her fear-based legalistic church, it would shatter everyone’s perception of her being perfect; of our family being perfect. In essence it would embarrass her. I would embarrass her.
How could I have thought that I could right this wrong? Why did I think that continuing to do whatever I needed to do so that he wouldn’t break up with me would be the right solution? Why did I think someone who had no reservations about hurting me and complete disregard for my feelings would eventually fall in love with me and want to marry me? How could I have thought about spending the rest of my life with someone like that? Why would I even consider enduring a lifetime of ill treatment? Why would I want to bring children into that situation? Surely no good would ever come of that! It wasn’t that I loved him or that I enjoyed sleeping with him. It was that I felt bound to him, obligated. The only person you ever sleep with is your husband, your spouse, that one person. I was determined to keep that number at one, no more.
It hurts so badly when people don’t understand my logic. It makes me feel alone, isolated. Like I am standing amid a crowded room. Everyone is moving in one direction or another, but I am standing still. My stillness impedes their progress, some even bump into me, but I am left standing there in a trance. Completely oblivious to the crowds and their movement. Nothing. No one sees my crippling hurt and pain. It’s not that I don’t want to move, it’s that I can’t. I am stuck. Everyone I have told except my mother has thrown the fact that I slept with him after the rape in my face and used it to justify the rape.