© 2005 Evelyn Shakespeare.
It's a very strange thing, but my life feels as if it's been split into two - the time I lived before the rape when I was innocent, which I shall call the age of innocence and now there's life after the rape. So far I really don't know what to call this time, except to say that it was the loss of my innocence and it is the loss of the age of my innocence. The loss of my age of innocence will be a journey through the painful and almost unbearable ordeal of surviving the first 6 months following the aftermath of the rape.
In writing this chapter I found it so hard to find the words to describe the depths of the pain I suffered. The pain is beyond belief, it is unbearable and indescribable. I can only compare the pain following rape to be like the indescribable pain some women experience in labour. The quotes from my diary are the words I wrote day by day during those first six months... and to any woman who recognises any of the feelings I was expressing there, please know that YOU ARE NORMAL! Your feelings are a normal reaction in the aftermath of the shock, pain and trauma following rape. The yo-yo effect on your emotions is normal. The anger, the despair, the guilt, the disbelief... these are all NORMAL and healthy reactions.
Warning: for any woman who has been raped or abused this chapter may be difficult to read, and may restimulate some of your own buried feelings of pain. However I believe that for some women this chapter will validate the depth of your painful feelings. Some of those feelings you may not have been able to express to another human. I trust that sharing my feelings in this chapter may help you to know that you are not alone in your pain.Rape is a traumatic and abnormal event - our pain-filled reactions to this are normal, healthy and healing.
Lewis Herman describes how, after rape...
"The recovery unfolds in three stages. The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central task of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life"
This chapter is about my remembrance and mourning.
"Not rang only confirms my suspicions about what really happened here. Not that I would want this pathetic excuse for a man or whatever he is, ever making contact with me again"
(diary entry, 9/7/04)
Apparently. I spent the first couple of weeks in shock,
"I feel kind of empty, sick to the stomach, numb with this sense of un-realness. Did this really happen to me? I can see how women don't deal with this straight away because you can't believe that it happened"
(diary entry, 9/7/04).
When I see Georgia for the first time since that rape happened a week later to the day, I can feel the building tears and I...
"Go to the toilet to try to hide the building and ready to overflow and flood tears. I check my breasts to see the bite marks and bruises are still there. My breasts are a constant reminder of what he s done to me"
(diary entry, 9/7/04).
Realistically, at this point in time, I really don't fully understand what has happened to me or even put a name to it. That is until my friend, Paula telephones me to tell me that what he did to me was rape. It felt like a bad dream or nightmare. I was so stunned to discover that I found myself in this situation. I felt that I had been stupid and I had been too trustworthy.
I realise that
" In this life you learn very valuable lessons the hard way. I have discovered that some people cannot be trusted, they are deceitful, very methodical and they know how to get what they want and it does not matter that the other person gets hurt along the way. They know if I do this or that or whatever it takes that they will get what they want. What kind of person treats another human being like this? Someone I never want to see again or have contact with ever again."
(Diary entry, 9/7/04).
I have returned to my work immediately and my activities of my everyday life because I seek comfort in normality following the bizarre and abnormal experience of rape. However, in hindsight, I would not recommend doing this, in the initial days to weeks I would suggest taking time out from work to give yourself time to absorb what happened and recover from any physical injuries.
However, the aftermath of the rape touches everything, for example
"While I am shopping I feel vulnerable, not wanting to be touched, when dealing with men or women looking at me and smiling at me. When I don't want to smile back. After all, what is there to smile about? I have been raped!!!"
(diary entry, 10/7/04).
I'VE LOST MY SMILE
While listening to my work mates chatter about fashion, I wish that is all I had to worry about. They are innocents, they don't know my inner turmoil and I'm no longer innocent. So, I feel that it's hard to relate to what worries them. On the 11/7/04,
"I was awake thinking will I ever be the same again? Somehow, I doubt it. How can I be the same again after being coerced, bullied, and physically pushed around to get what he wanted. I thought that I could send him a blow up doll with a note on it saying "here use this instead of hurting innocent women" Then I wished that I had sprayed pepper spray or put chilli inside the condom - that would fix the bastard!!!!!"
There are times when I need time out from the world, but I know that I have to be careful that I don't get caught in the trap of becoming a hermit or sinking into the depths of the deepest, darkest and murkiest depression. At these times, I wonder
"How could he exploit my vulnerability to suit his own needs? Everything seems so surreal, like I'm living in limbo, on the outer edge, it's like I'm the living numb"
(diary entry, 11/7/04).
It is really quiet frightening and scary to see how my thought patterns become bizarre and at times symbolic and I realise that I am continually checking my safety making sure someone isn't sneaking up on me ready to attack me again. After all it has happened once, it could happen again. I hardly recognise myself in the aftermath of the trauma following the rape. For example,
"I clean the toilet, it feels like a symbolic gesture, I feel like I'm trying to get rid of all the shit. I realise that I haven't taken the rubbish out since it happened, so I once again consider this a symbolic gesture, to get the garbage out (shit and garbage that belong to the man who raped me). Although I panic as it's 5pm and it is going to get dark soon, so I have to get the garbage out before it gets dark. God almighty my thoughts are getting so bizarre, I wish he was dead so that I could go to his funeral and tell everyone there that he is a rapist. An uncaring, self centred, self absorbed bastard who hurts women to get his needs met. I did pick up something on the net that suggested writing a letter to the rapist. It doesn't need to be sent to them, it's a form of therapy for the survivor. It's food for thought"
(Diary entry, 11/7/04).
STINKING SHIT AND GARBAGE
It is incredible how long it takes me to understand what he did to me. Let alone believe what he did to me, believe that it happened to me and believe that a supposed member of the human race could do this!!!!!!
"I still can't believe that it has happened or that he did this to me, but if I break it down - he lied, plied me with alcohol and possibly drugs, threatened me with a weapon, denied me access to food and water, he used subtle threats and not so subtle physical force. If he hurt me or didn't like a comment I'd made - it was my fault NOT his. He continued using his revolting kissing technique even though I'd asked him to 'go slowly and gently'. Basically I didn't get listened too, he left the most god damn awful bruises and bite marks on my breasts, he used his body to exert power and control over me, he lied again and again, his jokes were sexually sick and he had information that I didn't want to do this and I wasn't into it yet, he kept pushing on to get what he wanted. Once it was over he left me alone until the morning, he DID NOT once show any interest or check on what I wanted, he was like the Dr Jeckyll/Mr Hyde type of personality"
(Diary entry, 12/7/04).
However, in the initial stages I doubt myself and even attribute blame to myself which, in retrospect, is very understandable given my pain, confusion, disorientation, disbelief as a result of the trauma and, of course, society's tendency to blame the chosen victim. On the 12/7/4 I kept thinking if only...
"If only I done this or that. If only I knew what he was doing, if only I hadn't submitted to what he wanted, if only I'd gotten out sooner, if only I'd never gone, if only I knew how to deal with this Dr Jeckyll/Mr Hyde type of personality, if only I had my full senses about me. But 'if only' doesn't change what happened nor WHAT HE DID TO ME. Now I wish if only I had shown someone or taken photographs of my breasts with bruises and bite marks on them, but one day I could look at them and other days I couldn't bear to look at them"
In amongst my confusion and trying to get a grasp on the reality of what happened to me, I start to see sparks of the survivor emerge from the ashes of the trauma from the rape. For example,
"However, I have to see the positives of this. I will not be so trusting and vulnerable again. I will find out how to protect myself. I will learn how not to get myself into a situation like this again. I will not abide by this society's code of silence. I will not let him control my life. I did get out alive. I got out with relatively little physical damage. The emotional damage I can deal with. I am strong enough to do this. I am not pregnant to him and I couldn't have contracted a sexually transmitted disease by making him wear condoms. I will take one day at a time, knowing I can never be the same, but knowing this has happened and there are lessons, albeit, painful ones, that I must learn. I have absolutely no intention of letting him or any other creep like him hurt me again. I deserve better"
(Diary entry, 12/7/04). And
"I'm not going to let you control my life - you will never get an opportunity to do that to me again you pathetic and miserable coward and low life"
(Diary entry, 20/7/04).
I found that so much energy was required to help me endure, survive and overcome my pain, grief, disbelief, confusion and abnormal thought patterns that arose from the aftermath of the trauma I had suffered as a consequence of the rape. I had to do a lot of talking to myself to help myself as
"I can feel my jaw is tense with me getting worried about going out in the dark. After all, someone I had met has hurt me so why couldn't someone I haven't met hurt me. So, I'm carrying a Leki stick with me in the car when I drive at night. I have to find out about how I can get hold of some pepper spray. I'm not going to let this beat me, I'm not, I'm not. I am strong. I am strong. I can overcome this. I can be as strong as I need to be"
(Diary entry, 12/7/04).
My work has kept me sane, but unfortunately work hasn't always been easy, my own work place is full of painful triggers for various reasons. I find that
"I'm trying hard to forget all this while at work, but there are times when it floods back, times when I feel I can't get close to people, times when I look at men and wonder if they would hurt me like he did. There are moments when I feel like myself, but these are fleeting moments. I have to remind myself that he can't control my life. I wish that all the pain, anguish and shock that this has happened to me wasn't there, but I must deal with this. I am more aware of my surroundings considering how I can protect myself. Today, one of the women at work was teasing me about 'getting out there and getting myself a man' and I think 'if only she knew the price I paid for getting out there!!!!!!!!"
(Diary entry, 14/7/04).
It feels like some bloody scary, frightening and horrible roller coaster ride that you just can't get off. My emotions are all over the place and I feel like a bloody yo-yo. It really is so incredibly raw and painful, so overwhelming and shocking, so numbing and unbelievable, it's almost too much to bear and it's so difficult to describe just how painful it really is. I write
"I'm feeling so sad, hurt and vulnerable. It keeps dragging me down. I have to keep dealing with it. It would be easy not to deal with this, to lock myself away! It is so difficult having this affect every facet of my life. So, I'm not feeling as strong, all these ups and downs and there is bound to be more to deal with. How did I get to be here???? How I long for the age of innocence, a time when I didn't have to deal with all this. Sometimes it's easier to be with people who don't know because I don't have to deal with it at all. But my pain is still there. It's always there. What he took from me, he had no right to render me unable to fight back, unable to do anything but what he wanted me to do, he had no right to force me into that situation!!!!!! NO RIGHT!!! I feel so lost. Where do I find myself? How do I move past this? How do I forgive myself for letting him do this to me? Yet, I am grateful that I am alive and physically unharmed. But, at the same time, I am sick to the stomach and revolted by what he did to me. The thought haunts me that he could do this again to another woman and I can't stop him or protect her"
(Diary entry, 15/7/04).
I struggle to believe that this really did happen to me and even though I know what happened. I discover that I have some memory loss as bits and pieces keep coming back to me and I have to unravel the memories to understand the reality of the shocking truth. I remember him saying something strange during the actual sexual assault,
"He said 'Hmmm, shaved' to me which is really bizarre because I'm not. He must have obviously been in some fantasy"
(Diary entry, 16/7/04)
Paula had helped me to understand not only that he did rape me but also to realise that I have been blaming myself. Georgia thinks that he has drugged my drink after I tell her about feeling very drunk very quickly after half a glass of wine, I remember saying to him that I didn't think that I'd be able to drive, he says we'll get take away pizza and I'm staying the night sleeping on the couch. Interestingly enough, he doesn't offer to take us out to dinner as planned in his car parked in his driveway!!!!!!!!!
I decide to spoil myself by getting 2 pictures of myself framed. One picture is of myself dancing and the other I'm taking off on a helicopter ride while on a holiday. I want to display these pictures to remind myself of myself during the happier moments of my life. So...
'When I'm feeling down and need cheering up I can see myself in those photographs smiling and happy. That's where I'm aiming to head towards. I'm worth fighting back for. Although sometimes these photographs remind me of the age of innocence, which saddens me as it remind me of why I feel this way. But I am going to fight to get back to the vibrant, bright, happy, positive and smiling woman I was. Sometimes, it is so hard to look at these photographs of myself looking so happy before all this happened and I wonder if I will find my way back to that happy woman'
(Diary entry, 22/7/04). And
"I keep looking at the photos of myself and sometimes I feel my joy, happiness and radiance. But I know that I don't feel like that right now and I seem so far way and it seems so difficult to reach out and touch that woman that is me in the photographs"
(Diary entry, 25/7/04).
The enormity, shock, pain and overwhelming nature of what I'm dealing with continues to affect me. It affects my emotions, moods, body, sleep patterns, appetite, relationships with others and how I feel within this world. On the 23/7/04 I write
"It is 1.30 am and like other nights I can't sleep yet. Things keep coming into my head- like how stupid I was, but then I was put in to a stupefied state so that I would do as he wanted. God almighty, when will the pain ease and go? I'm left feeling so numb, surreal almost, so bullied, coerced, so injured, emotionally hurt, invaded and I'm left feeling like I can't trust people. I feel that I'm no longer innocent. I'm so lost and struggling to come to terms with how this affects every aspect of my life. I'm left wondering how can someone plan and actually carry out what he did to me. What kind of monster does that? It's so hard to believe that there are people like him in the world who think nothing of harming another person to get what they want. It's so hard to believe that this has happened to me. Sometimes, the pain is so raw that it's hard to keep focused on being strong. Sometimes I wonder if people can tell what's happened to me. It's just so hard to deal with the enormity of this. It's such a struggle to keep going to work and trying to function normally, yet it keeps me sane and provides a distraction and an escape from dealing with the pain"
(Diary entry, 23/7/04).
Probably one of the most scariest moments I had following the rape was this moment when I'm tired and exhausted feeling tearful while driving home from work...
"I see a man on the walkway who looks like the man who raped me and I have this huge urge to cross lanes and run this man over just because he looked like him. Unbelievable. What is totally scary is that I'm capable of thinking that, so I wonder am I actually capable of doing that. Christ almighty, this is how the man who raped me has left me feeling! I know I wouldn't do it, but it's scary to think it or that I could do it?... I go to bed for a nap. I find myself crying and rocking. It's still so painful, I'm so sad and it's still so raw. It's just so unbelievable that someone could do this to someone else without even batting an eyelid"
(Diary entry, 24/7/04).
I find it extremely tiring and difficult to try to come to terms with the impact that the rape is having on me and how he could do this. For example,
"I am so sick of how this is taking over my life. I'm so tired of how difficult this is too deal with. Why on earth did he do this to me? What gave him the right to hurt me this way? I bet he doesn't give shit about what I'm going through right now because of what he did to me. But then he's a man and a fuck is a fuck no matter how you get it! Another notch on the belt. What a man, what a stud, what a hero -NOT. WHY would he think seeing his Swiss army knife would interest me? I think it had more to do with his interests! When will it ease?...What scares me is - am I really doing well or am I setting myself up to fall or am I not really dealing with it? He has stolen away my innocence, trust, body and who I am. He had absolutely NO right. I hate the fact that I am wasting so much energy on what he did to me. He doesn't deserve the time of day. I won't let him win. I'm a wonderful caring human being. I bet he can't say that about himself".
(Diary entry, 25/7/04).
I discover that I no longer feel safe in this world. My idea of this world being safe place has been shattered into fifty million pieces. I guess we all feel that bad things can't happen to us, they happen to other people. Therefore, we create this false sense of security and safety within the world. But the truth is that the world is a safe and beautiful place, but some people who exist within this world are not safe people to be around and they are cruel. I just don't feel safe anymore
"I go shopping, I am always checking to make sure no one's trying to jump out at me I walk all the way along the beach constantly checking no one is going to jump out at me. It makes me so mad that I can't walk along the beach and feel safe. I find the sea raging, it reminds me of how I feel, all the turmoil inside of me. The calm just doesn't reflect how I'm feeling. I realise that I'm in a sea of pain. Then I see what I think is a lone shark, only metaphorically speaking, it really represents him. I'm left wondering why didn't I fight back, at times I did, but I guess I was too scared and I really didn't know how to deal with him. Now I've got to fight back"
(Diary entry, 27/7/04)
The pain does ease at times but I'm still left wondering the same old questions -why did this happen to me, what's the point of it happening to me, how can people do this to another person and what am I supposed to learn from such a painful lesson? My instinct to be a survivor exerts itself over and over again
"He's not going to win!! No way! I'm strong and I'm as strong as I need to be. I will find a way to overcome all obstacles that come my way as a consequence of the rape. From here on I'll make my own decisions and do things my own way. Just like I did before the rape. You can't destroy me. I won't let him do that to me. I deserve better. I will go on living my life and I will be as strong as I need to be"
(Diary entry, 29/7/04).
A month later, in my diary I note that something seems to have shifted...
'It still feels painful and I'm sad, but it doesn't feel quiet as raw. I realise that this has happened because it can and we can't always be in control of our lives. We probably have very little control over our lives and I did the best I could to get out relatively unharmed. The sand is shifting. I am able to worry about other things other than just the rape. I must remember that there are good and caring men who'd never hurt a woman like how he hurt me"
(Diary entry, 29/7/04). And
"I'm feeling more like myself. It's like I'm no longer drowning or struggling underwater, but I've only just managed to hit the surface of the water. I'm not so tearful. I still feel the disbelief, the regret, the hurt, anger and pain, but it seems easier I guess...I've sensed another change in that I am able to give out rather than just receive"
(Diary entry 31/7/04) And
"Today I feel like myself and how wonderful that feels. I have missed this happy and positive woman that I was before all this happened. I feel as if the fog has lifted"
(Diary entry, 7/8/04)
However, in hindsight, I still have an awful long way to go on the road to my healing and recovery from the trauma I have experienced being raped. Even today as I write this, I know that I am still on that healing road to recovery.
At times I struggle with the uncomfortable silences I receive from people who know and how difficult it is to enjoy my life while I must deal with the enormity of all of this. I wonder one night at dancing...
"Why can't they talk to me, let me deal with it my way and support me. At least I'd feel as if I had choices and control over something that I didn't. At least I'd feel supported and not hurt and resentful. So I bolt after class rather than stay for drinks afterwards because right now I can't drink, laugh and joke. I can barely smile. How can I be who I was before all this? All I can hope is that I work my way through this so that I can become strong, positive and happy again"
(Diary entry, 3/8/04). And
"Let's not discover how she's really doing or dealing with this and let's not find out how to protect ourselves from it. That way we can all become victims, we can say it's ok, it doesn't matter that a woman or a friend is hurt in this way. Well I'm sorry I can't deal with it that way. I was hurt. I need friends who accept that it has happened, no matter how scary or ugly the truth maybe and friends who will love and support me deal with this in my own way"
(Diary entry, 3/8/04).
Another huge issue to deal with is the guilt that I felt. I felt as if my body had betrayed me and I felt like a total failure. I come to realise that being there that night was just as confusing as being in a burning, smoke filled room. I found that...
"I think I probably feel more guilty about how I reacted to the situation, how I was too scared to get out, how I couldn't think past what he wanted to do to me, how I just submitted so that I'd escape with the least amount of injury, but now I have to deal with that decision for the rest of my life, but then again, I chose to try to live as I felt my life was in danger"
(Diary entry, 12/8/04).
I made a conscious decision that night that I wanted to live, but I woke up from the nightmare of that night, to find that I living an ongoing nightmare as a consequence of that decision. It just didn't feel like living to me, it felt like I had survived to find myself living in hell on earth. I felt like the "living dead" or the "living numb". I struggled to come to terms with living in this pain, shock, anguish, anger, disbelief, agony and utter torture that I had to endure as of consequence of surviving rape. I had no idea of the consequences I would have to endure. But I have learnt that I am strong and I am a survivor. I now know that I have dealt with the most painful experience of my life. If I have been able to deal with this I can deal with anything.
My mood continues to shift, but it almost like a slow awakening. The pain is still present, but I'm starting to feel better. I write in my diary
"God almighty this is so fucking tiring, it's gotten a little easier, but I'm still having to deal with it all. It's a sunny day for a change and the beach begins to call me. The sky is still blue, the trees are green, the beach is sandy, the birds are singing, the seagulls are surfing the waves, the mountain is covered in snow and the sun glistens, sparkles and plays on the water. The world goes on. There is beauty in this world, but I am still sad and lost, hoping and praying that things get better"
(Diary entry, 16/8/04).
IT'S OK TO GRIEVE
I am extremely grateful to have the support, care and love of my friends because
"I have to do all this hard work, but it helps so much to have someone beside me, helping and supporting me"
(Diary entry, 24/8/04).
Sometimes it helps to have a wonderful friend who supports, encourages you and even makes crazy suggestions. Mary and I decided to tie a condom to my kitchen cupboard and I merrily flick it until...
"Today I flicked the condom lots and it finally broke. Bugger. Oh well, it had to happen sometime. I hope it hurts him!!!!!!!! But it still saddens me that I had to meet someone like him and that I had to go through that experience! It's just so unfair!"
(Diary entry, 26/8/04).
As time goes on I come to the realisation of just how wrong everything was that night and how he treated me. But I begin to wonder
"Why on earth would my body respond by 'freezing', 'disassociating' and being 'hyper vigilent' afterwards?"
(Diary entry, 29/8/04).
I go on a quest to find out these answers and I will share what I have discovered with you in a future chapter.
Dealing with men during my initial stages of recovery has been very interesting to say the least. I remember an experience with a man who has shown interest in me, but I have made it clear in the past that I don't feel the same way. Anyway on this day I saw this man, he...
"Came up to me to try to put his arm through mine. I just instinctively wanted to pull away! Then he plants a kiss on my cheek! What is it with men and them wanting to touch you without ever checking if it's ok with you. Christ I feel like I've gone back to square one all over again. I'm bordering on the edge of tears thinking 'why can't they just ask permission?''
(Diary entry, 31/8/04).
I discover that I feel safe with men who I knew before the rape, those male friends who have proven to me so far that they are safe men to be around. I just don't feel safe with men I have just met. For example, I met Leigh casually out at the pub one night with the girls from dancing just before the rape. Leigh continues to ring me and I tell him why I don't want anything to do with men right now and...
"He puts his foot in his mouth saying he wished this hadn't happened because it's stuffed things up for him, the timing and he reckons it wouldn't have happened if he had of asked me out that night he met me. Well fuck me. I wish it hadn't happened more than he can ever know"
(Diary entry, 18/7/04).
Leigh continues to phone me, but I feel like he is putting pressure on me and I feel that he is expecting far too much. I say "one step at a time". I realise that...
"It's pretty obvious that he just doesn't get it. I know it's just not possible for him to understand. When I tried to explain about feeling like the living dead, he says 'You're depressed!' Jesus, what else would I be - Ecstatic!!!!!"
(Diary entry, 16/11/04).
Another male friend Danny has been very supportive in his own way. One day he...
"Came at me playing and boxing. I stood my ground saying 'Don't do that to me'. I know that he was playing, but I just can't tolerate the threat of being hurt, even if it is play, because someone did actually hurt me"
(Diary entry, 14/10/04).
Some male friends offer to go round and sort him out themselves, but I really don't want to perpetuate the violence and aggression. I guess, it's hard to tell them, 'I know you are angry about this man hurting me, but I've already had to deal with an angry, aggressive and violent man. I don't want the men I want in my life to be like that too'
I feel like my tree has been shaken to the core. It has been shaken so hard that fruit has fallen off it, but I can pick up the pieces of fruit that I want, I can discard the fruit I don't want and I can grow new fruit.
SHAKEN TO THE CORE
I discover something interesting that I found in the governments "Violence against women, Australia says NO" pamphlet that says
"Forcing someone to have sex when they don't want to, or forcing them into having sex by making them think they will be harmed if they don't, is a serious criminal offence"
(Diary entry, 20/904).
This really confirms for me the reality of what happened to me, that it was so wrong. But unfortunately, I really don't see this pamphlet helping many women, stopping men raping women and children or Australia really getting serious and actually treating it as a serious criminal offence. Women must still prove that they did not willingly submit and the men are considered innocent until proven guilty. In fact, the women are innocent and those men who rape women are guilty! Somehow men must become answerable for their actions, maybe, the men should have to prove what means he used to seek her willingness to freely give consent to sexual activity without any means of coercion.
I continue to work through the pain and trauma of the first few months. It's almost like an unbearable grief. I grieve the loss of my life prior to the rape. I know...
"That people think I 'm doing well and I know that I 'm doing well. But it's still so hard to believe that this happened to me, that there are men out there who are capable of doing this. It's been an extremely raw and painful journey. Working on this as I have been is the only way to have choice and control and hope of living a normal life. But it has been so bloody hard"
(Diary entry, 22/9/04). And
"I feel down, almost tearful. It was just starting to feel like I was doing ok. I was coping day by day, feeling like I can breathe and move past this. But today, feels like I'm back there, back to all that hurt, pain and disbelief that this happened to me"
(Diary entry 27/9/04).
Although work keeps me sane at times, I find it a painful trigger. It has been up and down in my healing and recovery due to the fact that I've had run-ins with two verbally assertive and sometimes aggressive staff at work.
"I manage to stand up to them, which I am proud of myself for doing. But it upsets me so that these aggressive people must treat people in this manner and it always reminds me of the rape because of how aggressive he was verbally and physically. I'm learning to speak up, but Jesus, it's so hard having to confront these aggressive people. If they knew what had happened to me would they treat me like this. I do wonder. I hope not"
(Diary entry, 5/10/04).
Three months after the rape I still feel like a yo-yo with the continual ups and downs. I continually wonder when will it ease? When will it get easier? I find that...
"I am so incredibly tired. It's so hard to see light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes I just feel like giving up, it's all too hard. I just wish I could escape it! I guess there are bound to be ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like I've pushed myself too hard using normality as a means of keeping sane. But I don't want to give in and give up. Although it would be easier, I really don't want to be this depressed, numb, destroyed person who can't even get out of bed!!!! I don't want to waste my life. I want to continue making a positive difference in people's lives. Why did I have to be sent such a painful lesson!!! Why? Why? Why? What did I deserve to be treated this way? It's so annoying that throughout my life I'm going to have to deal with triggers that take me back to it. Why did it have to be this???? I just want my life back, how it was before all this and who I was. I really liked how positive I was. Why did it have to be such a painful lesson? Why? Why did it have to be something like this that has shaken me to the core, shaken my foundations and nearly destroyed me. I must keep on keeping on. I am strong enough to deal with this. Basically, I have to be strong enough. I still have the pain in my back, adrenals, body and heart. It gets so tiring. I can handle this. I can deal with this. I can do it. I can do it"
(Diary entry, 5/10/04). And
"Even though I'm so tired getting up to go to work helps me get up out of bed and it gives me a purpose in my life. It just doesn't seem to ever go away. I get tearful with violence and aggression or if someone does something nice. I have the urge to lock the car doors if anyone comes near. I still can't trust people and it hurts so much! It's such a long, hard, lonely and painful journey"
(Diary entry, 12/1/0/05).
There are many triggers that continually remind me
"That some men rape women, they are violent, physically stronger, but emotionally crippled and weak. At times I feel nauseated and frustrated with the painful reminders of the rape. Anything to do with breasts transports me back to the rape. Did he treat my breasts lovingly and with respect when he left them battered, and bruised with obvious teeth marks left behind??? No I don't think so. After all did he treat me or my breasts with love or respect???"
(Diary entry, 24/10/04).
My pain transforms into anger after I brought myself an inflatable Martial Art Partner that really represents the man who raped me. I was punching my martial art partner...
"And the thought 'I just want to smash your fucking face in' came into my head. Oh yes, my anger has been contained within me and I need to let it out, slowly, but surely"
(Diary entry, 24/10/04).
PICTURE - ANGER - P5270033
Anger is a very frightening beast, but it's better to recognise your anger and release it in healthy and safe ways. I'm pretty sure some people were scared of my anger, including myself at times, but the healthy release of anger is so therapeutic.
I continue to feel sad and indifferent. I feel like I'm the living dead or the walking wounded. Although I'm keeping busy, I find that it's
"Not consuming my every waking moment. It's still there. I'm still having to deal with it. I really want someone to wave their magic wand and say 'there all gone'. I've been working so hard over the last 4 months trying to deal with this, but it's still raw and painful. Will I ever bear any resemblance to the happy and positive woman I was when I lived in the age of innocence? I guess I should give myself some credit, after all, it's not even been 6 months yet"
(Diary entry, 5/11/04).
I make some startlingly discoveries about my body's protective mechanism that helped to protect me that night. I initially judged the same protective mechanism as my body failing to protect and help me. This discovery was triggered by an actual fall I had and
"Oh Boy did it hurt and it continues to hurt my whole body! I don't even remember any physical pain during the rape. It's amazing how my mind and body has helped to protect me in this way. Although, the emotional pain, physical releases of my body's shock and pain have been so incredibly painful that I don't think words can ever begin to describe how painful it has been"
(Diary entry, 5/11/04).
I say I feel indifferent, a little lighter, but I think that I have almost pushed myself too far in trying to heal and recover. I realise
"That I am alive. What am I going to do about that?' It's food for thought. Then I realise that what he did to me has sent me to hell and back, but when he goes to hell, he'll be staying there, there will be NO coming back!"
(Diary entry, 7/11/04).
But there are times when
'I just want to climb a hill or mountain and scream at the top of my lungs"
(Diary entry, 15/11/04).
It seems to me as if the issue of the rape isn't just under the surface. So if someone mentioned it I feel the tears and pain were just under the surface. It now feels like it just beginning to go into the background. It doesn't seem to consume my every waking moment, although, I am still working through it. Sometimes
"It's just so frustrating. I feel the lifts and shifts, but I still don't feel like myself. I just can't seem to smile and laugh all that much. I mean I do, but no were near as much as I used to before this happened. It's been 5 months now, and although I see improvements, it seems like it will never go away"
(Diary entry, 28/11/04).
However, there are moments of feeling a sense of justice when I saw a TV report that the gang leader who had initiated the gang rape of a 16 year old girl got a 40 year jail sentence. You know
"That's what I call justice. Although he's ruined her life, he probably should get life imprisonment. But it makes me happy to know that some women are able to get justice and that maybe these men will see that they risk long periods of time in jail. Finally, the punishment is beginning to fit the crime"
(Diary entry, 28/11/04).
I come to this totally amazing realisation that
"Even though he chose me to be his victim, I'm really a survivor, because I have chosen healthy ways of dealing with being victimized and assaulted by him. Whereas, he has chosen to remain a victim, he has chosen to continue with the 'someone hurt me, so I hurt someone else' story. He had no right to hurt me. I have never done anything to hurt him and I didn't deserve what he did to me. He has never targeted his anger and pain at the person who caused his anger and pain. He has chosen not to deal with his pain and anger in a healthy manner. Instead he choses to be violent, exerting power, control, fear, anger and aggression over innocent people in some pathetic attempt to make him feel better about himself!!!. In my opinion he is the real victim here. He is not strong enough to survive in a peaceful, non violent and healthy manner. Wow, that's a pretty big realisation don't you think?"
(Diary entry, 8/12/04).
As I approach the 6 month anniversary I begin to experience what I can only describe to be the roller coaster of emotions. Now
"I'm feeling pretty sick and tired of being sick. I'm tired, lethargic and sore all over my body. My emotions are starting to drag me down, and it is all getting too hard. It is as if the last 6 months of pain, grieving, working intensely hard have caught up with me. It is taking its toll on my mind, body and emotions. So I decide that it's just too hard trying to deal with being sick and dealing with all of this. So I'm feeling like I've just crashed and burned"
(Diary entry, 12/1/204).
I end up taking 5 weeks off work while I try to recover from the chronic sinusitis and the fact that I have finally crashed and burned. My GP has been wonderful, she has been professional, compassionate, understanding, empathetic, positive and supportive of my efforts to heal and recover. It is also at the time that Paula finds me my unit to buy, although this is extremely positive because it means that I will feel safer as he will no longer know where I live or have my phone number. However, most people would consider buying their first home as being a stressful event, but it also accompanied the most stressful event of my life so far. The last 6 months
"Have been the hardest I've ever had to deal with in my life and believe me when I say that my life has not been easy. I grew up with an alcoholic father who created a home full of domestic violence that resulted in the death of an unborn baby boy. I have a sister and her partner who uses, manipulates, steals, abuses and denies our family access to their children when we don't do what they want and demand. So far it has been 2 years since we have seen or had contact with the children. I've had to deal with pain, grief and loss before, but never anything like being raped. Despite all this I've continued to practice from the heart, I have tried to be nurturing, giving, loving and positive to other people. Despite all the pain, grief, shock, disbelief, anguish and the nightmare of the last 6 months I can still be grateful, strong, loving, operating from the heart. I am grateful for the loving and gentle support I've received from some of my amazing friends during this time" (Diary entry, 12/12/04).
I start to feel radically different, I feel that my smile and laugh have come back and I can appreciate how painful the lows can be, but also how exquisite and sweet the highs can be. However, another painful bombshell explodes in my face when my so called friend "social acquaintance" decides to deal me another painful assault. [see Chapter 1] I wonder if my body can continue to deal with these painful extremes. I wonder how much more can I be expected to deal with???????? But I discover that...
"Resilience is learning how to absorb sadness and how to live with it. At first, shock cushions sadness. Fear can come next, anger, outrage, pity, denial and ultimately, hopefully, acceptance. There's no right way"
A positive experience happened when one night I heard footsteps, someone trying to open a door downstairs at my neighbours place, more footsteps and then there was the sound of smashing glass that frightened me. I was so pleased with myself because...
"I didn't freeze. I put a plan together. I try one thing at a time, if that didn't work I tried something else. I believe I was mobilised to act appropriately. Thank God. Admittedly I was scared and frightened, but I was mobilised into action. I am so proud of myself. What sweet relief"
(Diary entry, 18/12/04).
It turned out when my upstairs neighbour checked things out for me, that it wasn't someone trying to break into my downstairs neighbours place, but it was my downstairs neighbour trying to break into his place because he was drunk and had lost his unit and car keys!
The upheavals of my recovery continue to swing like a pendulum from one extreme to another while I deal with all of this. One night...
"I think I could easily slip into a catatonic state. Oh God almighty, when will it get easier? Why am I still been thrown these continuous challenges? How much more am I expected to take? Discovering how strong I can be is one thing, but it's leaving me so tired. How much more can I be expected to take? Please, give me some relief, breathing space, a reward or something positive. I mean I feel this is probably a transition between moving from the past into the future. But please, please, please remember, I have worked so bloody hard to get here. Please ease up. I know I've had some amazing realisations and understandings, but I need to rest from the intensity, pain and hurt. When will it ease? So many things take me back there to the horror of that night and I must say I've had enough! Enough is enough. How much longer can I be expected to do this? If only I had some idea of where I was during my recovery. But I got nothing to help me know or understand where I am right now. I've got no one else who is dealing with it like I am to tell me that my recovery is possible. I just have to trust that all this hard work, pain, hurt, suffering, therapy, reflection, realisations and understandings will lead me to my recovery. I live in hope, otherwise, what other options are there. I guess I feel like I'm in limbo, not knowing where it begins and where it ends or if it will ever end. Oh it's so tiring, this yo-yo effect, going from one extreme to another. How I crave stability, friendship, love, happiness, joy and recovery. Will I ever be alright again?"
(Diary entry, 18/12/4).
Christmas day 2004 marks the 6 month anniversary of my survival following the rape. Finally I have told my parents what happened, although they had guessed something was wrong and that I had probably been assaulted. They are both supportive. I realise it's time to move ahead and I read my stars that said December would be a month when I'd either clear out junk or end a toxic relationship! Well guess what, I did both. The 6 month survival anniversary was ok, although I needed to release some pent up energy by washing both my car and my Dad's car. That night on the TV both the programs The Bill and Fritz had stories about rape. So I had to endure 2 hours straight of one trigger after another. I could feel my body subtly reacting and at times I felt like going away with the fairies. I guess it was an appropriate reminder for the 6 month anniversary
According to Judith Lewis Herman author of Trauma and Recovery
"Many women may have difficulty even naming their experience. The first task of conscious-raising is simply calling rape its true name"
A study by Ann Burgess and Lynda Holmstrom in 1972 found that women experienced 'rape trauma syndrome' which consists of psychological reactions such as nausea, insomnia, feeling numb, disassociating, being easily startled and experiencing nightmares (Lewis Herman, 2001:31). The same study connected the fact that women experiencing symptoms of 'rape trauma syndrome' were similar to the symptoms that combat veterans had previously described (Lewis Herman, 2001:31). In a state of hyper arousal...
"The traumatised person startles easily, reacts irritably to small provocation, and sleeps poorly"
(Lewis Herman, 200135).
The experience of rape renders the survivor overwhelmed as it is outside the realm of our ordinary everyday emotional experience. Lewis Herman describes
'The purpose of the rapist is to terrorize, dominate, and humiliate his victim, to render her utterly helpless. Thus, rape, by its nature, is intentionally designed to produce psychological trauma"
IT'S A MALE ISSUE
As a result of the fear and anger experienced during the rape, women need to develop adaptive processes to become mobilized into action to battle and fight (Lewis Herman, 2001:34). Lewis Herman describes how
"The recovery unfolds in three stages. The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central task of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life"
"The first principle of recovery is the empowerment of the survivor. She must be the author and arbiter of her own recovery. Others may offer advice, support, assistance, affection, and care, but not cure. Many benevolent and well-intentioned attempts to assist the survivor founder because this fundamental principle of empowerment is not observed. No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster her recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in her immediate best interest"
According to Lewis Herman (2001:190) the survivor's ability to re-establish love within her own life will positively influence the survivor's healing and recovery. Lewis Herman states that
"Though the survivor is not responsible for the injury done to her, she is responsible for her recovery. Paradoxically, acceptance of this apparent injustice is the beginning of empowerment. The only way that the survivor can take full control of her recovery is to take responsibility for it. The only way she can discover her undestroyed strengths is to use them to their fullest"
It has been found that survivor's of all types of acts of violence through out the world and of different age groups ask the same questions. It is because the act of violence is beyond our human comprehension and understanding that we ask the question in dazed bewilderment "Why? (Lewis Herman, 2001:178) Followed by "Why me?"(Lewis Herman, 2001:178)
Survivors of rape that immerse themselves in telling the truth about their trauma will immerse themselves into overwhelming grief and it is an act of courage on the survivor's behalf to deal with that grief (Lewis Herman, 2001:188). The survivor learns to protect themselves from future harm and danger as the survivor takes specific steps to regain a sense of power and control over their lives (Lewis Herman, 2001:197). The words "never again" are uttered universally because the survivor's greatest fear is the risk of it happening again and a strong determination to avoid that happening ever again (Lewis Herman, 2001:206). Lewis Herman states that...
"Among the few positive outcomes reported by rape survivors is the determination to become more self-reliant, to show greater respect for their own perceptions and feelings, and to be better prepared for handling conflict and danger'
Survivor's that achieve recovery are able to be grateful, appreciate joy and laughter, they understand that life circumstances can be tragic, but know what is and what is not important (Lewis Herman, 2001:213). The survivor that achieves recovery is familiar with evil and the fear of death that the evil brings with it, but the survivor that has recovered is able to appreciate what is good and she now knows how to rejoice in how precious life really is (Lewis Herman, 2001:213). Although the rape survivor will never be the same again as...
"The rape survivor Nancy Ziegenmayer testifies on this loss of self. "The person that I was on the morning of November 19, 1988, was taken from me and my family. I will never be the same for the rest of my life"
(Lewis Herman, 2001:56). And
"The truth is, though, that after any great loss there is no such thing as a normal life. When life returns, 'normal' will feel different. Profound grief is not something we get over. In time, we get on, sometimes noticing with surprise how much life is still giving to us even while it has been taking so much away"
I chose to share my most painful and personal moments of grief, loss, overwhelming and the almost unbearable experience of my trauma and I include research findings I found because it has helped me understand and accept what happened to me. It also provided me with enormous relief about the reality of my healing and recovery, especially in those first 6 painful and almost unbearable months following the rape. Somehow I didn't quiet feel so alone in this journey when I knew of other women's experiences and that the research surrounding other rape survivor's experiences and recovery supported how I was feeling. I hope that this will help the women reading my story about the reality of the pain and almost unbearable nature of the grief that brings healing and recovery.
My advice is to face your fears, deal with your healing and recovery by making your own choices, taking control, reclaiming your own power and yet to be discovered strengths. Remember, no matter how painful, raw, unbearable and messy the pain and grief may be, you can do it, you are strong enough and you can handle it.
There are rewards for all the hard work you put into your own recovery, but I want you to remember the quote I heard on Sex in the City, when the lead actress said
"The most important relationship is the
one you have with yourself"
To see an outline of the stages in Evelyn's journey to date
Chapter 1 of her journey - 'Love, not Time, Heals all Wounds'
Chapter 2 'Be careful of the men you choose'
Chapter 4 'Frozen with Fear'
Chapter 5 'Counselling'
Chapter 6 'Bodywork'
Chapter 7 'Simple Things'
Chapter 8 'Making Sense of Secondary Wounding'
Appendix 1 - Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Appendix 2 How survivors of sexual assault can have a positive Pap Smear Experience
The journey of survival and healing - an outline
© 2005 Evelyn Shakespeare
To read Chloe's story
of her rape and abuse within a long term relationship.
© 2005 Chloe