This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. In it, she discusses what it’s like when the first anniversary of a traumatic event comes up. Please, read with caution, as it may be triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, stop reading, and do something kind for yourself instead.
How do you “celebrate” the anniversary of a rape? What do you do, what do you think, how do you feel? Is there a guide somewhere? When we reach an anniversary of the death of a loved one, we may cry, take to the bed for the day, visit the cemetery, be inconsolable yet again, but we can still remember the beautiful life that was lost, look at pictures, share memories with others, talk to the loved one in the sky or in our hearts. When we reach the anniversary of a rape, especially the first one, how do we get through it? The memories come, and they are as intolerable as they were when they were happening a year ago. We can cry, take to the bed for the day, be inconsolable once again, but there aren’t the beautiful or fond memories to help offset the horror, there isn’t the loved one in our hearts to help us move forward.
This past weekend was the one-year anniversary of my daughter’s rape. We knew it was coming up, and we knew we had to get through it, hopefully without drugs or alcohol, without self-destructive feelings or behaviors, without going crazy with grief. My daughter, in her age-old wisdom, asked to go to a weekend-long music festival that happened to feature my favorite artist as well as hers. It was a new place, filled with thousands of faces that we had never seen, so they didn’t evoke memories.. There was good food, good beer at reasonable prices, and wonderful music, much of it rooted in the Appalachian folk tradition, which is our home and our heritage. We spoke of the events of the past year a couple of times, very briefly, but had enough distraction not to need to dwell on it or rehash it yet again. When the tears came, as they did a lot for me, we could blame them on the melodies or lyrics of the song we were listening to. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and we got through the day, the night, and the following day.
None of it went away. It never will. The horror of what happened to my beautiful daughter will be there, every year, every day. The pain of remembering will always be there, often when we least expect it. She still has negative self-thoughts born from the experience. “Survivor” is not a title earned easily. Wherever her life takes her, whatever success and happiness she carves out for herself, the anniversary will come along every year; it will need to be gotten through, and there will never be happy memories, as there are with a lost loved one, to help her (and me) through the day, the weekend, the year. But there will, next year, be the memory of the lovely music festival, and the memory of making it through the weekend. And each year, I hope there will be more memories of strength, of overcoming, of moving on, and each year, I hope it will hurt a little less. I do know that all she went through after the trauma, all the further victimization by her school,and all of her efforts to fix that, resulted in a better experience for the first girl raped on her campus this year. Helping one person helped her more than anything else could. And as each survivor of rape fights, to get through, to obtain justice, to stop the rape culture and the rapists in this world, these victories can be added to the victory of getting through, and moving forwards.