Archives for the month of: October, 2012

I feel alone
You feel cut to the bone
I want to feel love that has never happened
You want to forget pain that is all too real

I thought you were out of your mind
Even though you have always been kind
You just wanted to protect me
From the sick minds, prying eyes and impatient hands

You trusted them
But they didn’t give a damn
About anything but your body
And their fleeting pleasure

I am now out of my mind
Even though I have mostly been kind
Because I don’t understand why you still blame yourself
Why you have to hide your pain

And I am the only one who knows
That you suffered by hands you hadn’t chose
But you are not the only who knows
When what you want isn’t what goes

And how ugly intimacy can be
How many years later, you still do not feel free
The shame of being abused
The never-ending fear of darkness

I have now put myself to a task
To remove doubt from those who ask
If they did something wrong
And show them they were justified in trusting

And that the world we live in is harsher than it needs to be
I wish you could see
That it’s not your fault
That you are worth more than they would ever know

I feel overwhelmed and wonder
If the world will become free of survivors and perpetrators
And if we can trust each other
And comfortably express love without hurting each other

“Because they thought that it was their fault that they were assaulted and abused.”

Fear of retaliation from the rapist, or his friends.”

“The idea that everyone should pretend to be strong and none is willing to admit one’s ‘weakness.’”

“I think people are reluctant to open up about their experiences because too often, the perpetrator was a close friend.”

Not wanting to feel like a victim.”

“Speaking about the experience makes them re-live the experience and also makes it more real — something they cannot forget.”

“Amherst culture: Drinking = you should’ve been more careful. Which should not be the case.”

“We live on a campus where it is almost impossible to avoid people. If you had to see someone who sexually assaulted you everyday, normalcy may be the only thing to cling to. Telling someone what happened might offset the balance of everyday life and be more than you can handle.”

“Society is sexist, ignorant, and victim-blaming.”

“I don’t know.”

“Eleven.”

“I only personally know one survivor. Although I don’t know her very well, she seems so optimistic, strong, and proactive. I sincerely admire her and hope that she has/will fully recover from the experience. It is through her that I started to be aware that sexual assault happens more often on this campus than I thought. I hope survivors will receive more support from Amherst.”

“Zero. I bet I know people but I don’t know who they are.”

“As a PA? I’d say 12-14 that I’m aware of. From last year alone. Though those are only the ones I’ve heard of, the ones that we’ve gotten as cases. Do I think there are more? Without a doubt.”

They call you a survivor because you should have died from the hurt of it: from the four-hour shower after, the vomiting, the loneliness. After is the worst part, because it doesn’t make sense that you can continue to live when you hurt this bad. It doesn’t make sense that a few hours of one night can change every second of the rest of your life. It doesn’t make sense that one instance can rob you of your sanity for a while, steal your ability to love yourself.

They call you a survivor because you are option-less for the rest of your days, because you don’t get to be un-raped, because every day for the rest of your forever, you will have to live differently, have to make decisions with a rape in your back pocket. Being a survivor isn’t about surviving the assault; it’s about making it through every day afterwards. Being a survivor is about finding a way to be whole again.

They call you a survivor because “learning how to be a human again” is too long. They call you a survivor because though you may have lost friends, sanity, love, and lifestyle, you are still breathing, still living, still existing in one way or another. And sometimes that means you feel stale, holed up in your room, like an uncarefully kept box of cereal. Sometimes it means that you feel lonely, only to discover that you want to feel that way for a while. Surviving is hard, because so much of it seems like masochism, seems like dragging out a single life event.

They call you a survivor because most of the time you don’t want to be surviving anymore, because you are your own worst enemy after rape: isolating yourself, blaming yourself, rethinking the event day after day after day. You feel like you never get to make eye contact again, like you can’t say no to sex because for christ sakes your first time was your worst time. You feel possessed, like something is inside of you that shouldn’t be, because something was inside of you that shouldn’t have been; and you want to die and relive all at once. You want to be unborn, to be unbroken; but you don’t get to be.  Rape isn’t about one moment of not having a choice; it’s about all the little moments that follow after it, like ripples in your blood.

 They call you a survivor because it hurts like hell for what seems like forever and you feel like you will never make it out of the darkness, but you do. You get stronger, stronger everyday and it’s ok if it takes time to be you again. It’s okay to lay low, to eat too many pieces of Dove chocolate with wrappers that tell you you’re beautiful. It’s okay to buy yourself flowers – sunflowers and daisies, because they’re you’re favorites and because why the hell not? It’s okay to wear sweatpants, to stare at the ground, to ignore people. And it’s all right if everyone thinks you’re a bitch for a little while. You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t owe anyone a blow by blow. It’s okay to be intimidated by guys, to hide in your room. It’s okay to have trust issues. It’s okay if the only one you told was your Dog, and you felt like you had to lie to everyone else. It’s just fine to sleep with a couple of stuffed animals, to have Winnie the Pooh on your curtains, to play with Play-Doh on a Saturday night. It’s okay to burn for a while; you won’t burn out. That hurt will fill you, make you whole again, cauterize your invisible wounds.

They call you a survivor because one day you will wake up and think, “Holy shit! I’m pretty close to being me again.” You go to Val with your friends for breakfast. You have maple muffins and laugh. Because sure, he touched your insides, the vulnerable places, but he didn’t get to see you laugh, get to see you when you were at your best, when your hair was tied up and you were in love. He never got to look into your eyes and touch the middle of your back when he kissed you in the darkness, when you let your guard down for the first time and got the best kiss of your life. He never got to know how hard you love, how much you care about your friends, what it’s like not to see you for a month, and to be unable to talk because he’s kissing you so hard. Someone else got that and maybe he didn’t deserve it either, but it’s his. Someone else got to be your real first time, and they get to keep it, because you gave it to them and you want them to have it. And maybe that was a mistake too, and maybe it hurt you a little bit to love like that, but it was a choice, and you’re so glad you got to survive to make it.

When you love someone, you want to be close to her. And you know she wants to be close to you. So it hurts tremendously when you are the one who scares her. And that’s exactly what happens. The girl you love cringes when you take off her pants. She wants you inside her, but at the same time she is terrified of what she will remember and feel. So you spend countless nights with her head in your lap, telling her how much you love her and holding her when she wakes up from bad dreams.

You are 100% supportive of everything she is going through. In your mind, you understand that she loves you and wants you completely. But it still hurts you to see her hurt. And it really hurts that there is nothing you can do to be closer to her without making her feel more pain.

“My friends who are survivors are so much stronger than even they know. I wish they could feel comfortable sharing their stories, but I’m proud of them for being who they are.”

“Even though I cannot begin to know what you’ve experienced and how it has affected you, please know that you are so strong for being here, and I hope that it gets better for you.”

“This has happened to me more than once. At first, I didn’t know what to say. Then, for a long time, I still didn’t know what to say. But I stayed where I was, not knowing what to say, and I was told later that the staying itself said the things I wanted to say, the comfort I wanted to give but didn’t know how.”

“Just listen.”

“I cannot begin to understand what you’ve been through but I am here for you whenever you need a friend.”

“I’m sorry, it’s not your fault, and I want you to know that I love you and everything about you.”

“If they need to seek counseling or just a friend to talk to, I would be there to help them in any way possible.”

Abuse can and often does become a way of life.

I always felt that someone was leaving me. My brother left for the service when I was five, and my sister left for college when I was nine. My parents asked a friend of my sister’s who was still in school to watch me after school. He became a surrogate sibling and I loved and trusted him. We will call him “Jon”.

Occasionally he would stay with me in the evening when my parents went out. One night, I couldn’t sleep and Jon was rubbing my back. I was about 12 and pretty naïve (it was 1973). When he pulled up my nightgown, he told me that the warmth from his hands would help my muscles relax. I thought nothing of it. And when he told me to turn over, I did without much thought. Thus began my journey through a world of abuse.

I quickly learned that men and boys found breasts attractive and mine were large at a young age and therefore seemed to invite touching. However, while my breasts were popular, I was not. Dates were elusive in my teen years and seemed to be about one thing — how long before I let them see and touch my breasts. I let them because I had already come to believe that this was how you love and were loved.

Emotional abuse is the worst. It starts you on a path of seeing yourself as an object put on earth to please others and believing that they have a right to use you as they see fit.

That summer I went away to a Christian summer camp. There were adults there who liked me. They told me I was loved and, what’s more, they showed it. Hugs were just that: hugs. Safe, secure, and totally non-sexual in nature. They told me Jesus loved me just the way I was, but I didn’t truly believe it. I couldn’t.

High school was a challenge. I loved school and my teachers, but my home life was extremely stressful. Jon got married and had the reception in our home. I was jealous, confused and angry. My dad was angry a lot and my mom seemed to believe, “If you don’t talk about it, it isn’t real.” So we didn’t talk. I came home, mowed the lawn, worked in the garden, made dinner, did homework, and escaped through reading.

My mom realized I was unhappy, but she didn’t know I drank almost daily and had attempted suicide more than once. She tried to get me help; she took me to see a psychiatrist, which only made me more certain that there was something wrong with me. She never asked what we talked about in our sessions. She didn’t really want to know.

The few friends I had were the other misfits— the nerds, geeks, or otherwise unpopular students. We formed our own little clique. Many of my friends were upperclassmen and they introduced me to a friend of theirs, Mark. Mark was seven years older than I and they assured me, “A great guy and a deacon in his church.” I had continued to go to the Christian summer camp every summer and  had grown to see people involved in church as safe. That illusion was about to be shattered.

My mother tried to make things better but she never actually asked what was wrong. I think the psychiatrist told her I needed a change, so she sent me to boarding school for my senior year. I won’t go into everything that happened to me during that period of my life. Even now, 35 years later, the memories are too painful.

But I continued to see Mark and was eventually date raped (a term that did not even exist at that time). I spent the summer after graduation on a mission team and I confided to the leaders that I was afraid I was pregnant. Thankfully I was not, but I returned home and, after dropping out of college, married Mark because once you had sex with someone you were “supposed” to marry them. You were also supposed to obey your husband, so when he shared me with his friends, I only hated myself more. Mark liked to drink and when he was angry he hit me.

No one seemed to know or care what was going on. I went to our pastor for help; he said he was sure it was a misunderstanding and he would talk to Mark. Of course, that only made things worse.

My grandmother once said to me, in passing, “God does not expect you to live like this.” It was all she said, and of course we didn’t talk about it, but it was as if she had shone a light into my soul. As if someone knew and cared.

I woke up one day  after a particularly brutal fight (I had been knocked unconscious). Mark was passed out on the bed. I searched blindly for my glasses and crawled to the door. I left without a coat or shoes and ran three blocks to a friend’s house. I never went back in the apartment when he was  there; I moved home and filed for divorce. I felt I was a failure, as a wife, woman and daughter. I was 22.

End of story, right? No, this is where my first statement comes in, that abuse can and does become a way of life. Next, I went out with a man almost twice my age. He “gave” me  away to his brother. I went from abusive relationship to abusive relationship. Some people said that I  “allowed” these things to happen. I know now that those first patterns of abuse formed the way I viewed myself and my world to the extent that  I didn’t even understand the concept of “choice” anymore.

I moved several times and drank a lot. I didn’t care what happened to me. I tried attending various churches but couldn’t find the love and acceptance I had found at camp. I was empty. I worked, slept and drank. Finally, when I hit bottom, I decided to stop drinking,  stop “dating” and just spend some time with myself. I think it was the first time I consciously made a decision and it probably saved my life.

Eventually I found stable friends who seemed to like me as I was. Most of them were married, so when they fixed me up on a blind date, I reluctantly agreed to go. This man was different. He wanted to talk, get to know me. About a year and a half later, I married him.

It has not been all roses since then, especially for him. He has had to put up with a lot of ghosts from my past. I was extremely frightened that I would become an abuser when we had children. I worked hard at protecting our daughter and son from the verbal and emotional abuse I had been raised with.

At times, I failed and heard myself saying hurtful things. But the difference was that I realized it and apologized. It didn’t undo the wrong but it helped them to know that it was my problem, not theirs. I tried to teach them how to think and not what to think. I did my best to be as transparent as I could about myself and my past whenever appropriate. As a family, we learned together. They provided the healing I thought I would never find. I went back to school, and my daughter rushed home from her first year of college to see me graduate. This spring, my husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

So, why tell my story now? To let others know that It Does Happen Here, on our campus, and in our small New England towns. It has been happening for a long time. And until we speak out, it will continue.

Some days, I want someone to be close with — both physically and emotionally.
Some days, I think it would be nice to feel comfortable enough to let someone in.
Most days, I tell myself I don’t need that because it will be messy.
Maybe that’s because Most days, I am terrified of even thinking about letting someone touch me in any way other than a friendly way.
Most days, I would rather die than think about intimacy.
Most days, I am thankful that I am “unattractive” because I do not want to “attract” unwanted attention.
Even though Most days, the above statement is ridiculous, because I was sexually objectified when I was a child, when I was in no way “attractive” and the attention was definitely unwanted and confusing.
Most days, if I use such a justification, I can step out into the real world,
and Most days, I can be unafraid and happy.

One day, I will not feel guilt or shame or self-hatred.
One day, I will be comfortable enough with myself so that I can love someone as more than just a friend or a family member.
One day, I will be not be scared of life.

But Most days, I am working on it.
Most days, I am strong enough to go on.
Most days, I am learning how to not hate myself for something that was not my fault.
Most days, I am learning how to love myself.

Image

I saw what you did to my friend. You leached off her beautiful soul. You made it seem like she was the one with problems — intimacy problems, alcohol problems, paranoia problems.

But you are a liar. You are a monster. You are the one with problems. Huge problems. I was there
for everything — you stalked her at Amherst, you got men to stalk her when she was abroad, you raped
her, you tried to strangle her. You made her live in fear. You made her bleed. You made her loathe herself.
You made her feel powerless. Like she was the crazy one.
You thought she was weak. That she was going to put up with your abuse, your violence, your aggression.
You couldn’t have been more wrong. She took a stand. For herself. And for every other girl
who you have pushed and will push to the brink of destruction.

You may have thrust her into darkness, but she stepped out into the light and shone it onto you.
— However far you run from Amherst, from that you can never escape.