You never get over being raped. You work through it. You figure out how to be – in a new way – after being raped, but it sticks with you. It never actually goes away.
I’ve worked through the trauma over the years. I’m in a very healthy place. I’ve untangled the confusion, sadness, frustration, anger, and disillusionment that came with it. I’ve worked on the fear, but there’s still fear there for me in certain situations. My awareness of safety is high. I’m a mellow person, by nature and rape reduced that some.
I’m grateful for the #MeToo movement. It’s collecting voices of so many people and amplifying the awareness. It’s offering validation that’s been sorely needed. It’s offering a forum that makes it possible to be heard and taken seriously. In my book, I talk about having been sexually harassed in college by a professor. The reason I didn’t turn it in was because I felt isolated and alone in that idea. #MeToo offers women in these violating situations not to have to feel alone in these moments.
What I wish wasn’t the case? That we need any specific brand-type label to be heard. I wish one voice was enough to show how seriously we take these crimes, but it’s not that way yet in the big cultural picture. #MeToo offers a way to break through media noise so these stories have a way to be heard not getting lost as they have been over the years for so many people.
Rape has a ripple effect on culture not fully seen, because it has a conditioning impact on people. I was angry and frustrated at that attempt to culturally condition me out of the strong woman I am. It was a warped way to get me to fall in line with a perceived value of me as being a discardable object. My exuberant, gregarious, open, trusting nature was assaulted by the rape. Rape has a squashing impact. Even when you emerge from it’s grip, there’s still an impact in how you handle your life.
I have so many times over the years changed my route, left work at different times, looked under my car before getting in, glanced in the back seat, stayed away from dark hallways and corners I can’t get out of if in a pinch – as a practice in how I’ve learned to be a smart discerning woman. This is not even scratching the surface and look at the energy this would take. I’m strong, capable, smart, resourceful, successful, and all of those words we like to tag to ourselves when proud of our lives, people in them, and our accomplishments.
Now, look at what I talk about having experienced in my blog posts. If you’ve read my book – which is so much more illustrative than these posts – you see the process even more clearly and it’s still only a piece of it. I’ve thought about several aspects I didn’t even include since writing it.
What if I didn’t have a strong family support system? What if I was broke? What if I didn’t have a stellar career trajectory before me? What if I wasn’t merely trying to finish college and had only just begun? What if I …so. many. more. things…
I was lucky in lots of ways and it was still very difficult to overcome in ways I didn’t tell many, if any, people along the way. I held it as my personal responsibility to overcome – so my strength wasn’t questioned.
It sets you up to take more responsibility for the behavior of others in your life than is useful to your own end. I hate that part of having been raped. One of the most frustrating things is it taught me to suck it up and deal…in a way I know now was a cultural way of telling me to absorb some kind of responsibility for people who would hurt me badly. I know I am not the only woman who has come to this sad realization. Strong women cope. It’s what we’re taught. At some point, you can’t absorb any more. You have to decide you will not take responsibility for having been raped. You can’t. It was never your fault. I was NOT your fault.
If I didn’t have all of the things I had going for me – in my favor – what would have happened to me? Where would I have ended up? What was my chance of overcoming enough to live the kind of life we seem to expect of our industrious citizens in America? There are so many people who don’t have the psychological or financial support they need to work through these sorts of traumas. So. Many. People.
Chances are you’ll never get over having been raped, but you’re worthy of being respected for your voice about that trauma and its ripple effects in a culture that’s supposed to see and respect your human dignity. Do we? – is the question.