By SARAH MARCUS
Warning: this post deals with issues of sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
I clicked on his picture, and of course it was him. The same eyes. Same goatee. He is in a relationship. He has two children. At first, I got sick and then the tears came. I wasn’t panicked or scared like I used to be. This time every crevice of my body filled with pain. This is a different pain than grief. It’s not like when someone dies or you lose an important relationship, and you feel like it might be impossible to go on without someone.
No, this is the pain of living with the knowledge of that person for so many years. This is the pain of having gone on, having lived and survived despite them and what they took from you. This is the debilitating pain and recognition of all of the women who have been raped, who are being raped, and who will be raped. And we always will.
At first I didn’t recognise him. It’s incredible how our bodies, our minds, try to protect us. The person who has haunted me most, impacted every decision I’ve ever made, who taught me what real fear was, and I still thought, “No, that’s not how he spells his last name.”
It’s because Facebook says that he’s 32 now. It’s funny, over the years; I’ve made him older. I always thought, or rather, began to believe, that when I was 13 he was 18, but that’s not true. He must have been 16 about to turn 17 when he raped me, and the reason I imagine him as 18, is because that’s the last time I saw him. His birthday is July 11th. I remember every year. Of course he was 16.
The crazy thing is that I was shocked, disgusted even by my reaction.
It’s hard to admit that even after all those years, all of the therapists, the time in college when I, myself became a rape crisis counsellor and victim advocate, that I am this affected.
I am not the 29-year-old robot woman I wanted to be. I say I’m not angry anymore, and in a way, that’s also true. My skin is no longer on fire and the burning hatred I once felt for him, for men like him, only ignites in rare instances when I’ve let my guard down.
I no longer have flashbacks during the day, or need to be heavily sedated at night so that I don’t harm myself during a night terror.
But I still have “the dreams.” And if you are a survivor, you know. Mine are usually along the lines of being a patient who is paralyzed in the Emergency Room, and he is the doctor, but I am unable to communicate this to anyone. Now, this mostly only happens when I’m anxious.
I texted my then-boyfriend, because I didn’t feel like I had the energy to speak, but I needed someone to know. He said that he was so sorry. A few hours later, he called me on FaceTime. When he saw me crying, he asked what was wrong. And in this moment I recognized that people just don’t understand, not even a little bit, the trauma of rape.
We see it on TV and in movies and in video games. And, we deny that it happens, and we cover it up, and we don’t talk about it. Or maybe we do talk about how it happens to “those girls.” Or how it’s rare… or how it’s just sex. People, who have not survived this damage, don’t understand the violation. They don’t understand that I would rather be dead than live through that again.
I don’t say this lightly. I am not suicidal or depressed. I have a beautiful and strong relationship with my higher power. I believe in my purpose in this world.
But I believe that in my core, I would not survive it. You can’t explain that to someone. Nor, do I really want the people I love to understand the kind of brokenness I’m talking about. No one should have to know this wreckage.