So I’m not kidding around with therapy this time. I’m there to do the deep and hard work. I’ve been seeing this therapist since October, and we have done the easy stuff-religion, my life at Four Quarters then, my life with Pete now, and the people of those times who left a mark for good or ill. (Okay, nobody actually went into the ‘left a mark for ill’ department, but concluding that took a bit of sifting.)
So while working on this easy stuff the therapist and I got to know one another. We built a relationship that would enable me to do the hard work. I trust her a lot more than I trust most people. But I also know that I can not take therapy for granted. Medical Assistance pays my therapy bill, and they could decide to stop covering therapy at any time for any reason, so the therapist and I must go hard, because we never know how much time we have.
Last week, in my appointment I talked to the therapist in depth about the date rape that preceded my current derailment. I laid out what had happened in exacting detail.
It was hard to face those realities again. I tried not to paint the rapist as a devil, and I tried not to paint myself as an angel. That does not mean that I believe that blaming rape victims is correct, it empirically is not. But I, being older, and fairly homely, did not ever think I was in danger of being raped, and I ignored all of the responsibilities of keeping myself safe.
I told my story of rape. And I have been on shaky ground ever since. Well, worse than shaky ground, really. Mostly I have been in my room. Mostly I have kept the lights low. Mostly I have been tending to those wounds ripped open hard and deep. I sit. I stew. I bleed. Since I told the story, my voices have sung to me in a sweet choir. The angels I see have kindly replaced their usually missing eyes. The ferocious dobermans who haunt my nightmares usually are currently tumbling and sleeping like puppies.
My illness is doing all it can to seduce me back into safety.
And, for now, I am ignoring that seduction. I know what lies under its seven veils.
The statistics are chilling. Rape is associated with a lifetime of psychiatric illness, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, schizophrenia and more. And rape is not easy to talk about. Not with a trusted therapist, and certainly not here.
What you need to know, I think, is that being raped is like buying an express ticket to Crazytown. The rape that most recently derailed me was not the only rape, let me be clear and frank about that. It is the only rape I have broken down in detail during therapy, so this post is about that rape.
When I was date raped, I did not report it. At least not to the cops. That was deliberate and intentional. I have no desire to go through a rape investigation. I was blaming myself sufficiently without getting the authorities involved. I confided in a couple trusted friends, and that was mostly to assure that they would watch my rapist closely at social gatherings. The single biggest mistake I made was not seeking therapy.
In my mind, this rape was less significant. Because it was a man I had been dating, I assumed that it was less scary and damaging. Because I had been raped before, I assumed that it would not be significant. Because I was older, I assumed I could handle the aftereffects without counselling or therapy.
Gods forgive me, I could not have been more wrong.
Immediately following the rape, I spiraled into depression and agoraphobia. I lost my job. I lost a friend who I will always regret losing because I flaked out on a long-term project, which also compromised (in my eyes, anyway) my relationship with my Church. I cut off my social networks, and fell into schizophrenia hard. Poverty moved into my house, and it hasn’t left. I was, and remain deeply suicidal.
It has taken me years to begin to emerge from the shadows after being raped. Not figuratively years, but very literally years…almost four long, lonely, frightening years.
And I don’t understand FaceBook memes like the ‘rapists cause rapes’ and I don’t understand ‘rape culture’ trying to study those things still brings nausea, fear, revulsion, and more than a tinge of madness. I fear I have zero future in rape activism.
I understand the lessons I learned. I understand the scars I carry. Other people will have to fight to change the world. The only fight I have is this tiny post that very few people will see.
But, for what it is worth, this is what I know.
- Rape is rape. All of it. I think the terms ‘date rape’ or ‘acquaintance rape’ need to be buried.
- If you are raped get therapy and counselling at once. You do too need it.
- Be safe. Take any and all steps possible to be safe. Let people know where you are, and who you are with. Be aware of your surroundings. If someone behaves in a sketchy way, assume they ARE sketchy and get away from them.
- Know that even with the best plans, things can and do go horribly wrong.
- If you are raped, first, you have my deepest condolences. Second, forgive yourself. Over and Over and Over. It was not your fault. Even if you think it was, it was still not your fault.
I struggle to learn. I struggle to find compassion for myself. I struggle with self-blame. I struggle to talk to my therapist about these things, because I have ignored them for years, and tried to bury them deeply. Now I am digging my psyche raw to call them forth again for re-examination.
But slowly, painfully, I am trying to seek my own redemption. I am trying to taste the light. And I am struggling to remember the countless others who stand under the burning lights of the labels ‘rape victims’ or ‘rape survivors.’ Although I feel very small and alone, I know I am not. I know my story has many faces, and many names. I know that our silence must be broken to help heal the shame and hurt.
So this is my tiny voice, shaking, but defiant. Shouting, ‘I’m real. I survived.’