Disclaimer: This will be an incomplete work. I have always been able to start, but never to finish this particular story… But that never stops me from trying again.
LOVE > fear
“You’re the one I’ll compare all the others to…”
– “Be My Only” by FM Radio
Any story about love that I tell will have to start with this: I am a recovering victim and ongoing survivor of rape.
I am fond of telling people that I write the truth I cannot speak. My writing is a roadmap to the parts of my heart that I am unable to access in any other way. I suffered years of being raped at an age where I could not understand what was happening to me and I was too terrified to speak about it. The lingering effect of those years has been an inability for me to speak of anything that I feel deeply. I can never say the words, but I can write them. This is not going to be a story about those years, or the subsequent journey to whole that I am living. I haven’t been able to tell that story. And I am not ready to write it.
All week long, I have been trying to write a piece on being a feminist that can’t live without men. It was going to be provocative and challenging and controversial. That story simply refused, despite my best efforts, to be written.
I am my favourite version of myself when I am falling in love. I re-discover myself as I am being discovered. As my mind is being explored, I am exploring right alongside with him, re-awakening thoughts and ideas and quirks that exist only in the “in love” me. There are hidden sentiments, hidden desires, hidden traits that are activated within me by the inquisitive, intrigued man. It is cringe-inducingly trite, but I blossom when I am seen – and I love her. She is inspired, she is confident, she is encouraged, she feels beautiful. That is the power of being considered – someone else seeing that version of me, even before she has been prompted to appear. I am in the midst of being noticed by a man worth noticing. I am at once exhilarated and afraid.
I am a recovering victim and ongoing survivor of rape: I am a student of cautious optimism and a study in emotional fortification. Despite not allowing my attacker the victory of stealing my future as well as my innocence, despite being a well adjusted, high functioning member of the community of survivors, I am still an amateur at allowing myself to be loved. If my journey has been one of recovering everything that was stolen from me, I am still searching for my emotional voice. It is not enough to fall in love, it is not enough to be loved. It is not even enough that I am able to love and do so deeply – I am still unable to talk about it. I struggle to tell the people whose love has shaped me into the woman I am becoming about the depth of my own feeling for them. I flounder in my attempts to give expression to the profundity of feelings accumulating within me. In a relationship, I do most of my talking without ever using a word. I love with my actions, and my eyes and my hands, my money and my time. In a courtship, in the space between “hello” and “I love you”, everything I say is unsaid.
They say time heals all wounds; I am in the midst of being noticed by a man worth noticing. If ever the clock strikes healed, if he turns out to be the man I think he is, I would like to for my favourite version of myself to find the courage to tell him, in a way that he can hear, everything I have been saying.
“…I swear love speeds up time…”
– “Be My Only” by FM Radio
fear < LOVE
(This is incredibly difficult to write)
I have never attended a support group for rape survivors. The closest I have come is a conversation with a wonderful woman over $4 pizzas in which we shared our own experiences. I have never spoken to any professional about the impact that this experience would have on my life.
There is more to the brutality of rape than the act.
There is more to the story than the victim blaming (although I will never stop attempting to change the way we treat rape victims in our society).
There is more to this than the trauma of re-living the worst day(s) of your life in a police report, or subsequent police interviews, or a trial. There is the humiliation of rape kit testing – a necessary but violating step in achieving (as yet unlikely) justice.
There are the friends who don’t know what to say and so never say anything. There are the family members who are so devastated, you have to control your own emotion to give them comfort.
There is a society that does not know how to talk about rape, let alone how to deal with the scores of victims who carry this trauma into every area of their lives.
I carry those years with me into every intimate experience – every kiss that could lead to more, every flirtation that could lead to a relationship. I battle with the right time to talk about the fact that I was raped, I struggle with the stigma that I might be bringing on myself when I tell people that this happened to me. I struggle with trusting and I have a warped relationship with my sensuality and with sex as a result of it.
Psychologically, I am not sure I have addressed everything. How can anyone address EVERYTHING? I have no idea which situation will trigger a flashback, which word will put me back into that room, which person will resemble my attacker. Is it ok that even now, decades later, I am still affected? I have made the active decision not to seek help – I can’t talk about it. I can barely remember it, except in flashbacks and dreams that don’t seem to ever stop. I know I have repressed memories of those years, but I don’t want to remember. How many times do I have to re-live my horror in order to finally feel healed? I don’t want to find out.
I have no poignant conclusion except to say that if you, too, have been where I’ve been and have had to live this story daily as I have, you are not alone. It is complicated, it is messy, it can be debilitating and it can seem insurmountable. But it is never lonely. The saddest reality is that there are too many of us out here. Too many of us know what you are going through. Some of us are ready to talk. Some of us can only write.
LOVE > . . . .
Any story about love that I tell will have to start with this: I am a recovering victim and ongoing survivor of rape. But it will not end with that. They say time heals all wounds. I am in the midst of being noticed by a man worth noticing. I am my favourite version of myself when I am falling in love; I am inspired, I am confident, I am encouraged, I feel beautiful. Because, even before him, I am.
If you are a victim, a survivor, or both, tell your story to the incredible people at Outrape, who are champions for people like us.
“It isn’t hard to love your scars ’cause that’s everywhere you’ve been…”
– “Be My Only” by FM Radio
Follow me on Twitter: @plumandmustard
Follow them on Twitter: @Outrape