© 2005 Evelyn Shakespeare.
It has now been 16 months since I was raped and it has been the most painful, traumatic and horrific experience I have ever endured in my life. Interestingly enough I am not going start at the beginning of my journey, but I will begin with the issues I am dealing with at this point in time in my recovery from the painful aftermath of rape.
My healing and recovery has been assisted by a multitude of things, but perhaps the most important thing that has helped me has been the love, care, compassion and support of my friends, health professionals, work colleagues and family. During my healing and recovery I have needed my friends and family like I've never needed them before in my life. But having said that ,it has not always been an easy journey for me to be able to tell my friends and family what I have needed from them, or for them to know how to help me. I hope that I can help both rape survivors and their support circle with sharing my experience and research evidence that I have found. So when, as a friend, family member, health professional, partner or work colleague, you don't know how to help the survivor of rape remember that
"Love cures people - both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it"
Dr Karl Menninger, Better Homes and Gardens, September, 2005 page 179.
I remember initially following the rape trying not to face the reality of what happened, yet I felt this sense of un-realness, I felt empty, sick to the stomach, nauseated, numb and shocked. I remember being too shocked to even name what had happened, yet I knew that I had never felt this way with any other sexual encounter with a man. I was unable to hide the constantly building, and ready to uncontrollably overflow, cascade of tears and I was constantly reminded of the reality of what had happened by my bruised breasts with bite marks on them. It was difficult to consider whom I would tell and how would I tell my friends and family, yet I so desperately needed their support.
I consider the most vital thing anyone can do to support a rape survivor when she tells you what happened to her is to believe her. I remember telling my friend Paula in an email that I was sick of shit happening and I had said that I had sex with the man (who raped me) on the first (and only) date with him to stop him hurting me anymore which, of course, is hardly what could be considered, foreplay or consensual.
The definition of rape I will use states that
"Rape is in fact primarily serving non-sexual needs. It is the expression of power and anger . . . addressing issues of hostility (anger) and control (power) more than passion (sexuality)"
(book: After Silence.Venable Raine, 1998)
ROMANCE VS FORCE
But, in reality, it's hard to fight back when the perpetrator has plied you with alcohol, drugged your alcoholic drink, denied you access to food or water, come at you with a weapon, lied, manipulated, used physical violence and left you battered and bruised. What I was really doing was giving up my body so that I might survive.
Crime victim's research in South Carolina found that:
"Women raped by strangers, by their husbands or by former boyfriends viewed their rapes equally as violent. . . The victims were equally likely to have feared serious injury or think they might die during the rape. . . The trauma can last a lifetime"; and
"The victim is aware of the rapist's murderous rage" regardless of whether a weapon was used or death threats made."
(After Silence: rape and my journey back, Nancy Venable Raine, 1998)
"I felt like I could have just been a blow up doll, not a human being with a personality, thoughts or feelings"
(diary entry 9/7/2004).
Remember to trust that she did the best she could to survive and endure this bizarre, frightening and abnormal situation
BLOW UP DOLL
Anyway, my friend Paula replied to my email by saying that what had happened to me is rape, that my email was full of self blame, when, in reality, he is the predator who lied. Paula said that normally on a first date men are on their best behaviour and this man certainly was not on his best behaviour! Paula suggested that I make an appointment with sexual assault services. So, the next way you can support a rape survivor is by gently encouraging that she find professional help and support. Paula's support also helped me to search the Internet for more information about rape.
From my Internet search I found helpful were that he is 100% responsible for what happened. I also realised that that this sexual encounter did not leave me with positive feelings, that I did have doubts, regrets, physical and emotional damage and that my feelings are a normal reaction to this abnormal event. I discover that it is important for me to make my own choices in my recovery and healing because it will help me to regain a sense of control. But perhaps, the most powerful and helpful thing from my Internet searching was some quotes from a rape survivor saying, "if I can survive rape, I can survive anything", "women must know they are worth saving, worth fighting back for" and "I am not to blame" (diary entry 10/7/04). Thank you Paula, I am so grateful to you because even though you couldn't be with me physically, you encouraged me to take my first steps working through this and supported me from afar.
Another idea to help a rape survivor is to keep in regular contact and be present, just like my friend, Georgia, who phoned me on the 15/7/04 to talk,
"I'm glad, we talked about so many things. I needed to know that she cares. I'm glad because I just need people to show they care even if I can't reach out to them, I need their support to help me through this. It's too hard to deal with on my own. I can't do this alone"
(diary entry 15/7/04).
Georgia believes what happened to me and helps me understand that he had drugged my drink because I remember feeling very drunk very quickly after half a glass of the first glass of wine I had. Plus when I commented to him that I didn't think I would be able to drive to go out for dinner, he says we will get take away pizza and that I will be staying the night on the couch (lies, lies and more dam lies). Georgia does not judge me; instead she helps me to unravel the truth in the midst of my confusion.
On the 16/10/04 Georgia and I go shopping in town and I decide to get myself an 'Art martial partner' so that I can release my pent up anger by punching and kicking into my art martial partner's face and groin in a healthy way. And "oh it feels so good to let this creep have it. I hope you've got a headache and the sorest nuts out!!!!!!" (Diary entry 16/10/04).
It is only natural to want to hurt those people who have hurt you, but it's far safer to express and release your anger in healthy ways eg. Visualising your revenge, drawing and/or writing your feelings, or using an Art martial partner, punch your pillow, yell and scream in the car etc. It is far safer and healthier to do this than actually act out, express and release your anger inappropriately that could result in consequences like jail for you.
GETTING IN TOUCH WITH ANGER with the ART MARTIAL PARTNER
Remember, there is NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE. Ask yourself, do you really want to continue the cycle of violence, aggression, anger and abuse by hurting the person who abused you or by hurting other innocent people like you were?
Following submitting a Police report documenting his treatment and behaviour towards me Georgia helps me deal with my mixed feelings and fears. Georgia helps me to consider living my life as if he won't be caught and punished. If he doesn't I'll be ok, and if he does that will be a total bonus. I loved the way that Georgia was protective of me if she thought someone was hurting or ignoring me because she knew I didn't deserve to be treated that way. Thank you Georgia for being brave and courageous enough to support and protect me through our ups and downs during this difficult time. I know I haven't always been easy to deal with, at times I've been unable to trust you, demanding, confusing, frightened and needing you to be present in my life.
It was at the birthday party of my friend Carol that I had met him (oh if only I never went to the party!). Carol had asked her friend Gemma about him and she said he was ok, so I accepted his invitation to have dinner together a few days later...
"Carol feels guilty and I explain he is 100% responsible. There is no way Carol could have known what he would do. There is no way she would put me in that position. Carol feels so sad that this has happenedbut she is pleased I am working through this."
(diary entry 16/7/04).
Carol is respectful of my wishes and that is extremely important to me. One thing I will be forever grateful for is the love, kindness, care and support of my circle of friends who have helped me through this.
My friend and work colleague, Grace, "has rang me this morning to see that I was ok. I knew she would. I am so grateful for her caring about me. She said to remind myself "I survived, it isn't my fault" and that I am "doing amazingly well dealing with this . . . being able to see positives" (diary entry, 23/7/04). This is so nice and reassuring to receive positive feedback about how I'm dealing with this. Grace also sent me a card saying:
"Keep trying to smile. Remember always that you are worth the effort that the pathway to healing needs. You are a good, strong, kind person. This awful thing that has happened to you was not your fault"
Another work colleague Jen asks "what can I do" and I say, " I don't even know what to do" (diary entry, 28/7/04). Jen tells me about her experience of almost being raped only after he had broke her jaw, he pleaded guilty, went to jail and later apologised to her. I was so relieved to talk to someone who understood what it's like to be physically violated, hurt, pushed around, controlled and frightened.
Another work colleague Kelly telephones me after another work colleague had told her I was having problems and when I tell her what happened she says, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry". We talk and Kelly tells me about her experience of how she avoided being raped. I found that:
"It really helps to know that I am not alone, that other women were chosen as victims and today they are survivors in healthy relationships."
(diary entry, 29/7/04).
Later in that day, Kelly had sent flowers to me with a note saying, "Don't forget you are special"
"This is such a beautiful and touching gesture. I end up crying once again because I'm getting flowers because of what happened. . . it always comes back to that, but I feel loved."
(diary entry 29//04).
I am ever so grateful to have these amazing people supporting me during this difficult time in my life.
My friend Mary rings tonight telling me that Grace had told her that I was "in need of tender, loving care." That catches me off guard.
"I kind of feel a little bit resentful, like my choice and control over who I tell is gone. Mary says she doesn't want to force me to do anything I don't want to do. I say someone has already forced me to do what I didn't want to do, so I'm not in a hurry to let anyone do that ever again. The pain, anguish and tears return. But I guess that plenty of other things are going to catch me off guard in the future. It sucks because it will never go away."
(diary entry, 1/8/04).
A few days later Mary comes to visit me and I decide to tell her what happened and she was just fantastic, she helped me to be able to find ways to deal with people I'm having problems with, for example how can I express to friends that I don't want to lose you as my friend. What I need from my friends is for them to take the time to listen, love and care for me while I deal with this. We go out to dinner and talk about crisis what I see as a crisis, may not be to others and usually only a very small number of people are able to help. Mary has been awesome in giving me insight, love, support and opportunities for healing. Thank you Grace for giving me the gift of Mary's support.
Later on Mary suggests I get a massage and I'm fortunate to remember my friend, who I discover does shock and trauma bodywork and therapy. I learn to trust my intuition to help guide me in getting help and support appropriate to my healing and recovery.
Mary also helped me while trying to desensitise from the shock of a Swiss army knife coming at my breasts by loaning me her Swiss army knife. I have since brought myself one so that I don't have to be continually triggered by it by jumping out of my skin, feeling like I can't breath and shaking when I see one which tends to be my initial reaction to seeing one since the assault.
SWISS ARMY KNIFE
Sometimes I found solace from other survivors of other types of grief, trauma and loss. We could talk about society's taboo regarding grief and how people really don't know how to help people with their grief. One couple who had lost a baby talked to me about the lessons they learnt from the loss. We talked about issues such as: can they use their experience to make a difference by helping just one other person; how dealing with grief at the time helps to lessen the stress levels later on; how you can become a better person; and their belief that 'it feels how it feels and it takes as long as it takes to heal'. I can tell you guys, you helped me so much that night even if you don't know it, and I have always been in awe of you both because of how you dealt with the grief, trauma and loss of your beautiful baby son.
At times I felt like I was being forced to deal with this the way everyone else wanted me to deal with it or without letting me be sad and angry about it. I felt angry because it felt like people were treating it like if they don't say anything, maybe I won't say anything about it either and we can all get on with our lives as if it never happened. But in reality it did happen, but people were going on with their lives forgetting that my life had been shattered, that I was living a nightmare and I was trying to rebuild my life and I still needed their ongoing support. As a support person for a rape survivor remember that her:
"Dwelling on trauma and doing it so intensely for a period of time is very important to healing." and
"Everyone makes poor choices in words or deeds before they know any better and before they realise what the consequences will be."
Women who run with wolves; and
"Until we feel our greatest fears directly, we don't know our courage"
Resilience, Anne Deveson, 2003.
Sometimes it felt like there was a code of silence, designed to protect other people so that they didn't have to discover the reality of what happened, or face the reality of how scary and ugly the truth of rape really is. Then they don't have to take the time to discover how I was doing or dealing with this, and find out how to protect themselves and their children. At times like this I feel so lost, alone and abandoned. Some friends understood when I got upset, others needed reminding that I still needed their ongoing support and one friendship was not worth saving because that person was destructive to my healing and recovery.
THE WALKING WOUNDED
As I was renting I had told my landlady that I had been attacked and I had asked for security lights in the car park so I would feel safer and I was told that idea was "out the door" by my landlady. So I decided that, although I had been there for 10 years and had asked for very little in that time, if that's the support I'm going to get then I'm getting out of there and I'm going to buy myself a unit. Interestingly, my landlady said to me that she understood what it's liked to be attacked, but as far as I'm concerned she hasn't got an ounce of understanding, comprehension or compassion.
But I feel as if this moving is a blessing, reminding myself that I can handle this. After all, I handled being raped and dealing with the healing and recovery. It felt rather positive, therapeutic, cleansing to be getting rid of my accumulated junk and a moving away from the past.
What is truly amazing is that my friend Paula returned home briefly and, with her mother, has found a unit for me to look at buying. Paula is hoping that this will be a new and positive beginning from dealing with everything that I've had to deal with. I am so blessed to have Paula in my life. Despite all the pain of this experience, "I feel so grateful when good things happen and good people do exist in this world. You know the good people are a striking contrast to those people who use, abuse and hurt innocent people" (diary entry 12/12/04). I did buy the unit found by Paula and her Mum and it has been a great source of comfort because while I transform my unit and my garden, I feel like I'm transforming myself.
A person I had once considered a 'friend', who I will refer to as a 'social acquaintance' (trust me, these are her words to describe our relationship) from the very beginning was not supportive. Initially, social acquaintance had shown no respect of my wishes to be left alone and not asked to explain what was wrong. She decided she needed to know the gossip and pretended to be supportive that night that I told her I had been raped. The very next day after I'd told her I was raped, social acquaintance, a dance instructor, at class in front of other students tells me that "you dance like you have something shoved up your arse". So even on a professional level this was totally unprofessional and not acceptable treatment of a student especially in regard to the fact that she knew that I had been raped a week before this class.
Unfortunately, the negative judgements, denial, disbelief, minimising and discounting my experience, ignorance, generalisations, cruelty and bad behaviour continued, with her saying to me stuff like "so who hasn't been raped", "pretend it didn't happen", 'that didn't happen"(funny I don't remember her being there at the time), "you talk about it too much", and "it looks like you chose the wrong man".
Let me ask you all "if men don't rape women and that doesn't happen to women:" how come there are some many shocked and traumatised women in the world who say they have been raped? I have finally worked out why I am still disappointed with social acquaintance it is
"because she is not even trying to comfort me when I have been wounded" and I remember feeling hurt by social acquaintance's "lack of compassion, understanding and empathy."
(diary entries 2/9/04). And
"basically I get the strong impression that she doesn't believe that I was raped, yet she expects me to deal with it in the stereotypical way by pretending it didn't happen and just get on with it rather than deal with it in a healthy manner"
(diary entry 17/12/04).
In the end, social acquaintance asked that I leave her dance class because she felt that I didn't respect her and she felt too uncomfortable. Well, that makes two of us. Especially after she couldn't deal with this 'dismissal' face to face with me, instead told a fellow student who addressed social acquaintance's problems with me (once again, extremely, unprofessional). But I've come to the realisation that I don't want or need destructive, cruel, pain-full, hurtful and unkind people around me and trust me when I say I've seen her treat other people the same way. Matsakis (1998:24) describes that sometimes there is:
"The unstated rule for belonging, is that the trauma must not be mentioned. Most people don't want to hear about your trauma because if they really listened and understood the kind of horror you have been through, they might feel hurt the way that you do".
Of course, social acquaintance had choices about whether she chose to soothe, care, support and help me as a rape survivor, but choosing not to support a rape survivor doesn't give you permission to wound the survivor again. It is an awful feeling to be judged negatively when you are the victim of a crime not the perpetrator of the crime!
I have returned to dance with a safe, beautiful, understanding, caring, loving, kind and supportive dance instructor because I realise that dance is a form of therapy for me. I know that as a consequence of returning to dance class I will and have seen social acquaintance, but I know that she won't have the courage to say anything to me not knowing what I would say and do now that I'm stronger. All I can say is that I didn't deserve how you treated me, just like I didn't deserve how the man who raped me treated me.
Friends, remember, be loving, kind, supportive, be honest and set your own limits if you need to and don't be hurtful and cruel as the survivor has already suffered this in the hands of the rapist. For example, say "I don't know how to help and support you", "how can I help and support you?" "It's difficult for me to see you in so much pain", 'I can't deal with this right now", or 'Your pain is triggering something for me and that's why I'm finding it hard to support you right now". Remember, it is not going to be easy, it is hard to know how to comfort her and what may work for people who have not been traumatised may not work for a person who has been traumatised. The survivor may not seem recognisable to you as the person you know and love, but she is still there, but hurting beyond belief and it's hard to let people close or trust them when someone has hurt you so badly and shattered your concept of trust.
Sometimes, survivors of rape trauma feel like Frankenstein as Betty describes here
- The Strange Woman
- "You're a little strange," said he. He, who lived so comfortably.
- But can I help it? I was hurt. And can I help it I was used?
- Dear Sir, I have news for you. If you had had my life. You'd be a little strange too."
Betty, a trauma survivor (Matsakis, 1998:21)
I would recommended that
"The most accurate and certainly more sympathetic attitude toward survivors is summed up in these sentences. 'If it can happen to him or her, it can happen to me. Life can be dangerous and unfair. Sometimes good capable people get hurt for no reason at all."
I finally get the courage to tell my parents 6 months later. My Dad alerted my Mum to the fact that something might be wrong. He had suggested I look at another unit to buy in the suburb that the man who raped me lived in and I responded by saying "I'm not living there!!!" I had become sick, around the time of buying the house, suffering chronic sinusitis probably because I was feeling that being raped was hard to swallow and I was tired of the code of silence protecting people. I had extended time off work as a result and my mother was suspicious that something had happened. Mum has been pretty good gently asking questions and telling me that Dad is pretty upset and wants to make sure that my unit is safe and secure which is fine by me. I guess I wanted to protect them from the horror and pain of this, but they have both been wonderfully supportive.
My friend Mary takes me away on breaks for a few days to listen, talk, provide advise and words of guidance and kindness, for example, the people who have supported me have done so because I'm worth it and I'm a special friend too. Basically what drives me to continue to deal with my recovery and healing is the fact that I'm worth all the effort and energy required. We go to the coast, the beach, sunshine, waves, dunes, birds and nature' beauty nurtures me. You see, the help of other people make it more bearable. Mary helps me in so many way, helping me to understand the many contradictions, eg, How can I be this gentle person and be chosen as a victim and how can I be kind yet someone be so cruel to me? Sometimes, I feel like "it's almost like I want to be kind to balance out his cruelty" (diary entry 30/1/05).
When I caught up with Gemma I felt that she was justifying his actions by saying "he's very lonely" and I said "if he treats other women like he treated me, it's no wonder he's lonely" It felt like Gemma was supporting his violence, anger and, aggression. I understand that she is trying to understand how she got it so wrong, when he appears to be a nice man, but that's what he wants most people to think, it's the ultimate deception. It's only his chosen victims who get to see this angry, violent, aggressive, cruel, hurtful, scary, frightening, controlling, lying, manipulating, bullying, opportunistic, horrible, uncaring, insensitive, awful, bizarre, self centred, egoistical man who is capable of being Dr Jeckyll/Mr Hyde type of personality. He does this so that if the victim does reveal the truth, they are less likely to be believed because he only shows most people the nice side, although don't be fooled it's a tactic designed to protect him!
A brilliant book called Trust after Trauma by Aphrodite Matsakis (1997) has been extremely helpful to me understanding that "trauma means wounding, and wounded adults, like wounded animals and children, need comfort and care" (page 110). The author of this book discusses how as a society we tend to consider people who ask for help in a negative manner, they are considered needy, childish and dependent (page 111). However, Matsakis argues that survivors requesting help are doing this so that they can strengthen themselves so that they can survive and go on to live their lives. Matsakis considers it a healthy response to ask for help because once people realise how deeply you are hurting they may be able to give their support in the ways that they can. It is considered better to ask for help early rather than need enormous amounts of support dealing with undealt and unresolved issues later. Matsakis (pg 113) says that :
"It is also better psychologically (and emotionally) to turn to a safe human being for soothing than to alcohol, drugs, excessive food, or some other addiction, such as compulsive overspending or gambling".
It may seem to be a contradiction in our society, which values self sufficiency, that a survivor may ask for help to deal with the difficulties associated with trauma. But giving the survivor the help they need, will help them to handle their overwhelming experience and triggers, grow and become more able to heal and recover sooner. Therefore, "asking for help or soothing is an act of empowerment" (Matsakis, pg 114).
Providing a rape survivor with comfort, soothing, emotional support and help will give the survivor hope and relief and enable the survivor to make positive changes in their life.
"People who have experienced trauma experience continuing reactions to the trauma that they have lived through such as anxiety, tendency to withdraw from others, over react or under react, confusion occurs in relationships as the survivor finds it hard to trust themselves or others."
(Matsakis, pg 89).
The survivor does not choose to be this way; it is a direct response to the trauma that they have experienced. I hope that this can provide both survivors and their support circle with valuable information and understanding of the importance of them providing soothing, comfort, emotional support and help.
Unfortunately my friendship with Paula has been threatened and thrown into chaos and confusion following a comment that I made about social acquaintance (saying it was karma that her relationship had broken up). I received an angry response from Paula in response to me venting my anger about social acquaintance. From my point of view, my comment was not about revenge or vengeance; it's not even about what goes around comes around; it's about karma - messages coming to people about lessons they need to learn to change their attitude and behaviours. However, I was wrong about this being a karmic message because social acquaintance did receive a karmic message about rape when a male friend of hers was accused of rape. However, I don't believe that she has changed her attitude or behaviours toward rape survivors yet.
Around this time I was so stressed from the ongoing cumulative stress that I had become physically sick, and I felt like I had early stage Alzheimer's. It felt like I was trying to stay sane while going insane at the same time. What is important to understand is that my reactions to social acquaintance are about how she treated me badly being trigger to the rape where he treated me badly too. It literally felt like she had picked up his Swiss army knife and repeatedly stabbed and twisted it into me, it was like being assaulted and wounded again. Remember words can be just as destructive as actions. Social acquaintance had said that she didn't want to hurt me, but she did hurt me over what I can only describe to be the most painful experience I've endured in my life! Remember the wheelchair bound and injured Vietnam War veterans who on their return home were violently bashed and assaulted by non-supporter's of the war. Instead of soothing, comforting, supporting and helping the already wounded injured war veterans the non-supporters emotionally and physically wounded the war veterans further. I do not support any war and I certainly do not support this treatment of these already injured war veterans or any other trauma survivor either.
Paula expressed how she felt disappointed with me because I felt better knowing that someone else is hurting and considers that sick. I feel that society portrays that women should be polite, gentle, kind, subservient, passive, and non-aggressive. Yet society doesn't teach women and children how to protect themselves against angry, aggressive, hurtful, cruel and violent men. The contradiction continues when something happens that we have every right to be angry we are still expected by society to be polite, gentle and kind and never show, express or release that anger. From what I have read it is far healthier to express and release anger in healthy ways because releasing it in inappropriate ways is the reason we have so much violence in our society and turning anger inwards results in depression. I feel that being told that I am sick negates how social acquaintance and the man who raped treated me and behaved toward me. Let's face it if I had not been raped and social acquaintance hadn't treated me badly over the rape I would not have anything to be angry about would I? I love this quote from Dr. Phil, simply "what is behind anger is hurt, fear and frustration". Now:
"I ask you, how am I supposed to feel about these two people - glad and happy that they have hurt me - no, I don't think so. How would other people feel if these two people hurt them like they hurt me? Wouldn't' they be angry with them? Somehow, I reckon they would be angry too. I'm trying to get through this the best I can. It's taken all my energy, resources and reserves so far. It's been the hardest thing in my life I've ever had to deal with" and "If I am sick, then what is the man who raped me and social acquaintance? - Are they normal? Or are they sick? All my life I've been surrounded by painful and hurtful people and do you know what I've had ENOUGH of them. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!!!How much more am I supposed to put up with? ENOUGH IS FUCKING ENOUGH!"
(diary entry 1/3/05).
What would have helped more was if Paula had been able to ask me "why do you feel this way towards social acquaintance?" or "what did you mean" or "I understand that you are justifiably angry, but, I can't deal with your anger" or simply, " I can't deal with this right now". Once again my friend Mary comes to help me understand what happening and how to deal with it all. I can only compare my experience to being like the myths versus the reality of motherhood, and it's the same with the myths versus the reality of being raped. It is only those who have experienced the reality can understand the full impact, sacrifices, losses, pain, uncertainty, unknown, grief, strength, courage and joys. However, we seem ready and able to judge and be critical of our new mothers when they do something that we don't agree with or understand and it's no different for rape survivors.
I don't know whether Paula and I can save our relationship, but I've tried to explain my perspective with 2 letters sent 3 months ago and so far I have no response. So I'm not sure if it was too much information, if I have triggered something for Paula with my anger or if she doesn't want to save the friendship. All I know is that I am willing to let go of all this hurt between us if we can deal with it somehow. My greatest fear is the longer it takes for us to sort it out the less likely we will be to sort it out and the less likely we will be able to save our friendship. We have been friends for many years and I will always be grateful and appreciate having had someone as special as you in my life, someone so caring and giving, someone who has helped me during my most painful and darkest hours and someone who has given me some much joy and happiness. I know you wouldn't want to admit to anyone that you possess these qualities, but you and I know that you do. I am going to keep trying to save our friendship Paula because I believe that you, our relationship and myself are worth fighting for.
It saddens me to say that a work colleague of mine has also been raped recently. When Jessica tells me, "I hold her hand and tell her that I was raped 10 months ago, how painful and difficult it is to recover from, but I know that she can because I am and that I would be willing to support her if she wants, but it's all about her choices" (Diary entry 9/5/05). I later support Jessica by reaching out to her when the pending court case gets closer by writing her a letter of support that I hope will soothe, comfort, support and help her. I remember what it felt like when I desperately needed people to reach out when I wanted to but I didn't have the energy to do so. I wish I had someone who had been there who was able to support me. But I am grateful to be able to support Jessica because I know that both of us will benefit and it will aid our healing and recovery. I show Jessica that I am interested in how she is doing coping with this, offering books to read and ideas to help.
Many months after the rape I see him, at a local market, for the first time since the rape. I summon all the courage and strength I can, I approach until he can see me, and I give him what I can only describe as that "laser beams of hate look". He can't hold my gaze, he puts his head down and he can't face me because he knows what he did was wrong. I now know that he knows he's guilty too. Mary is proud of me because I didn't react with violence, although, trust me, if looks could kill the one I gave him would have.
My other great friend has been my diary because I could freely express myself without fear of negative judgement and it is a testament to the truth, for example, after seeing him I write
"If he does something else, like permanently shut me up, then I know that sharing my truth with you will be enough evidence against him. I know that even though I feel stronger and more courageous, but I also feel scared that he might harm me again and I can't live through this again."
(Diary entry, 14/5/05).
I decide to increase my safety and security measures including asking Georgia, Carol and Mary to go to the Police if anything suspicious happens to me and I'm unable to tell the Police myself. I want them to tell them that he is the only person I know of who would hurt me. I am grateful that they are willing to do this if necessary even though they know the Police already have a report about what he did to me. I decide to go to the market the next weekend determined not to let him stop me from living my life. Of course I see him again, but this time when he sees me, he turns away and walks into the crowd. I decide that he hasn't even got the courage to face me or apologize to me. I realise that "I have to take comfort in the fact that he is behaving like a gutless wonder, who is an evil bastard that is guilty of a horrible criminal act against me" (Diary entry, 22/5/505).
As the anniversary approaches I feel like I need to do something symbolic or ceremonial, but I really don't know what to do. Our society has ceremonies for everything else, but not this. However, it is consistent with society's contradictions, taboos, myths, lack of understanding and support, negative attitude toward survivors, protection of the perpetrator and double standards. Somehow, I think my friends now think I've definitely gone crazy. However, what I really wanted and needed was something that says that I've survived. The day before the anniversary of meeting him at Carol's birthday party I start to get upset, crying, sad and not sure what to do with myself. Around the time of the party I feel sad, tearful and I wish that I had never met him. Mary rings me to see if I want to go dancing, but I'm too upset to even consider facing the world. However, Mary comes around after dancing to visit me.
I decide to write the truth of what he is on the calico therapy doll that Mary had made for me for some sort of unplanned and vague anniversary ceremony. I write:
"xxxxxxx xxxxx is a rapist, on his chest, other words I write include bastard, evil, devil, sad, lonely, manipulates, liar, pathetic, weak, fucking arsehole (written on his arse!), living dead, dead man walking, monster, creep, garbage, shit, Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde, dangerous, horrible, no respect, hurts innocent women, violent, bizarre, predator and 100% responsible for verbal, physical and sexual abuse"
(Diary entry, 21/6/05).
Throughout the evening I burn a candle given to me by Kelly as a gift for the anniversary. It feels strange to get gifts for this type of anniversary, but I am extremely grateful for Kelly supporting me in this way. (Kelly has also been amazing in supporting me several times when it was obvious to her that I needed support and protection. For example, at a recent conference, when one of the topics covered sexual abuse, Kelly came and sat next to me, to quietly support and protect me.)
Mary strongly feels that we need to get rid of the doll once I've finished writing the truth on the doll (in waterproof pen, of course). So we go to a bridge, climb up to the highest point, I give a speech and I throw him over. I wonder if the doll will sink or swim, but sure enough we can see the doll floating in the water. Throwing the doll into the water disturbed some birds sitting on the bridge's pillars and they decided to fly over, hover and circle around the doll for a long time. All that I can tell you is that it:
"Felt great, he's released into the icy depths of the waters, he risks being discovered by my reactions to his actions, the truth is out there . . . The truth of what he is, what he doesn't want people to see and I want to burst that bubble of his deception and lies. It was an amazingly powerful and cleansing thing to do . . . I hope he always feels cold, that he can never get warm. It seems like his icy cold dunk into the water matches his icy cold heart." (Diary entry, 21/6/05).
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE AND BURSTING THE BUBBLE ON HIS LIES AND DECEPTION
The day before the anniversary of the actual rape, Mary and I work on another therapy doll, this time to represent justice. After making the therapy doll, I feel the need to write on it again, so this time I write:
"Stop him from hurting other innocent women, keep women safe from predators, karma, stop him, burn in hell, hang, die, jail, an eye for an eye, impotent, offender rehab program, be alone forever, get help, justice, get the truth out there, got to hell, go senile, one less predator in the world, and another woman comes forward with evidence"
(Diary entry, 26/6/05).
I tied the doll's penis, used as a weapon against me, into a knot, but then I use my teeth to tighten the knot and I leave teeth marks just like he left teeth marks on my breasts. In the car, I continually play John Farnham's song "You're the voice". I especially like the words "we can write what we want to write" and "you're the voice, try and understand, make a noise and make it clearer, you're the voice, we're not gonna sit in silence, we're not gonna live in fear, no" I draw strength from the words of this song.
On the day of the actual anniversary, I go dancing, but I distinctly feel like I'm away with the fairies. Carol, Georgia and I go to the local market for lunch and a look around. When I come home I don't know what to do with myself, so I throw myself into gardening and tidying up. Then Mary arrives to find me in this restless state, not knowing what to do and doing stuff just so I don't have to face what happened a year ago to this day. Mary and I go to a quiet and isolated beach that Mary thinks will be the perfect place to burn the justice doll and release my request for truth and justice.
MOON SHIMMYING AND DANCING ON THE WATER JUSTICE CEREMONY
After the ceremony,
"We watch the moon come up and see the light reflect onto the water, shimmying and dancing on the water . . . But it was amazing to see this happen after the ceremony, to remind me that the world is a beautiful place. . . I feel at peace with the world. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I can do what I like to him without ever having to resort to violence against someone. I've chosen healthy ways of dealing with this, he can't say the same thing."
(Diary entry, 26/6/05).
THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
I guess the idea of having a ceremony to help recover from a major trauma like this might seem foreign, bizarre or strange, but remember, we do have ceremonies in our society to celebrate and remember other forms of grief and loss.
As the anniversary approached I write in my diary that
"I am ever so grateful to have someone as amazing as Mary. I really don't know where I 'd be with this if she was not there to help me, to accept how I'm feeling is OK, to listen, encourage, guide and love me through this long, painful and difficult journey"
(Diary entry, 22/5/05).
I want to say thank you to Mary for being brave enough to help support me during the anniversary of meeting him and the actual rape for you have been a major force in my healing and recovery during this painful and difficult journey. I am grateful that Mary signed up for the whole journey without ever judging me negatively, but showing me that love, not time, cures all wounds.
In Patricia Weaver Francisco's book Telling: A memoir of rape and recovery, I discover that it takes at least 3 years, but usually 10 years to recover from rape. I know that is a long time to be providing love, comfort, soothing and support to the survivor. However, I would ask that you remember it is also, a long time for the survivor to have to the endurance to deal with the triggers, pain, grief, loss, disbelief, anger and have the reserves, resources, energy, strength and courage to dedicate to the healing and recovery process. I have seen parallels in the survivor's recovery and healing from rape and descriptions of running long distance events or a experiencing a long and difficult childbirth.
Television programs have been a constant trigger about the rape for me. For some reason the media has an unhealthy fascination on the topic, but they never cover the reality of the pain, anguish and hard work that the recovery requires for healing to occur for the survivor. One night, "I was watching Cracker when the policewoman who had been raped said "I've been raped, nothing else matters, not even you" to her lover. Those words are so true. Rape just takes over everything. It threatens to destroy your very being, to destroy your identity, your world as you know it, your strength, your relationships, your ability to function, to destroy your body, heart and soul. I know that it not only threatens, but it actually has the ability to destroy you. This is what women have to live with when they are raped,
"doesn't anyone care that women are being destroyed by these men's actions. Isn't anyone going to say, this is enough, we are going to protect and support our women and children because they deserve to be free from the pain of rape and they deserve to be supported and loved if they are raped. How can our society tolerate, allow and accept that our women, men and children to be hurt in such a way? How can you do it? How can you protect those predators and not those who are harmed by these angry, aggressive and violent men? How? As a society we should be ashamed that we tolerate rape and support the perpetrators and not those innocent people who are harmed. Unbelievable!"
(Diary entry 9/1/04).
I know that as a person supporting a rape survivor that you can't even begin to understand how she feels and even know how to help, but believe me when I say that "LOVE, NOT TIME, HEALS ALL WOUNDS". Pure and simple, love her because she did not deserve what happened and she deserves your love, trust, ongoing presence, and support to heal and recover from the trauma of this experience.
Remember that she is going to be unable to focus on anything else for a long time, and that she might not be able to trust you because rape shatters our trust into tiny pieces, but love her anyway.
There are many other experiences with friends, family and work colleagues not mentioned here who have shown me that they are ready, willing, able and capable of giving me loving soothing, caring, help, respect, understanding. They have been able to be present, to ask about how I'm doing and to give kindness beyond belief. And I want to say to you all - I will always be grateful for all your acts of kindness, no matter how big or how small, they have all meant so much to me.
A big hug and THANK
YOU to each and every one of you
as you have all shown me that
LOVE, NOT TIME, CURES ALL WOUNDS.
Chapter 2 'Be careful of the men you choose'
Chapter 3 The Loss of the Age of Innocence
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 abuse within a long term relationship