Anniversaries

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.
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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.

Music that Uplifts me.

Today I am going to share a list of song and the artist who sing them. These songs are ones I listen to when I need some strength……

If you click on each title and artist it will go directly to the youtube video for each song 🙂

Warrior by Demi Lavoto

Sky Scraper by Demi Lavoto

You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me by Cher

A Woman’s Worth by Alicia Keys

Weathered by Creed

Fuckin Perfect by P!nk

Human by Christina Perri

Hall of Fame by The Script

Titanium by David Guetta

Win by Brian McKnight

You are Loved by Josh Groban

Fighter by Christina Aguilera

Brave by Sara Bareilles

People Like Us by Kelly Clarkson

One Step at a Time by Jordin Sparks

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

Survival by Muse

You’ll Be Okay by A Great Big World

For My Sake by Shinedown

Courage by Orianthi ft Lacey Sturm

Monster You Made by Pop Evil

You Raise Me Up by Celtic Woman

Never Too Late by Three Days Grace

Awake and Alive by Skillet

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys

Why I’m Here by Oleander

Through the Rain by Mariah Carey

We have also put this list into a Spotify Playlist for your enjoyment.

Our Spotify List

Spotify is a free on-line radio. You can download it to your computer or your phone, or listen to this particular playlist without downloading anything.

A letter to my abuser

*Trigger Warning*

This contains details that may be hard to read. If you need to stop please do. Your saftey and self preservation are important to us. If you choose to continue, thank you so much for reading.

To whom it may concern,

You……. Looking at this, I hate you. I hate you for what you put me through. I hate you for giving me something false to believe in. I hate you for putting your hands on me. I hate you for making me feel like I am not worthy of love. I hate you for being that man that feels as though I have no right to tell you no. I hate you for raping me. But most of all I hate you for distancing me from so many people. I hate you for telling everyone what I “did” but not telling anyone what you did.

I am 35 years old and I am scared to allow any other man near my heart because of you. You have left me in such fear of life in general. I am scared to be happy because at the very moment you and I reached the depths of happiness you changed. You became someone I don’t even know.

I sat and looked at your prison mugshot and just cried. Where did you go? The person in that photo isn’t you. Your eyes used to hold so much light and energy in the bright blue, now they are this blank grey that I am not even sure that is a good color to call it. You have this darkness in your face that I don’t even know any more. The man I met and married would’ve never done the things you have.

I very clearly remember September 24, 2012…… I like to hope you were very messed up on something as the you I knew wouldn’t have done these things. So here goes…………. On September 24, at 7 months pregnant, we were fighting in our upstairs hallway, screaming about the entire lack of being able to have sex. You didn’t understand it hurt, and it was dangerous for me and our daughter. You didn’t care. I told you to go to hell if you didn’t like it. Big mistake. You grabbed me by the face and slammed my head into the wall. I fell to the ground sobbing, you had never put your hands on me before…….. Then you grabbed me by the throat and dragged me into the bedroom and forced me physically to have sex. I cried the entire time. My husband, you, the man who was supposed to love me, had just hit me, and was now raping me. You made me feel so dirty, so lost, so empty. All of this happened with Leland watching from his bed. Later that evening, while making your dinner, Rhonda and Heidi sitting there, I was scared to tell her what had happened; Leland reached up on the counter (nowhere near the stove), you grabbed his wrist so hard that his fingers began to turn blue. I screamed, Rhonda screamed, and after arguing for a few minutes, you went upstairs. I made the decision as you were walking up the steps to be done. You again forced me to have sex with you when I got into bed, crying the entire time. You raped me twice in a single day.

Then a couple months later I found out the other things you had done while I was pregnant with Sara. To drug me and get strange men off of the internet and have them come to our home and rape a drugged pregnant woman whom you were supposed to love, is sickening to me.

Then there is the repeated breaking the restraining order. Why would you make me more scared of you than I already was? To make me afraid to leave home, to go anywhere or do anything. I couldn’t even go to the doctor. I was made a ghost patient when Sara was born because I knew you would try to find me. I also knew that if you found me you would come and try to take her and since I had a c-section I couldn’t allow any chance of that. I also ensured Leland was safe where you couldn’t get to him either.

I do want to tell you thank you. Because of what you did to me, it has given me a passion for helping others endure the court system while dealing with the pain of domestic violence. That’s right I am in college. That is something you always swore I couldn’t do. Well guess what? I am, and rather well might I add. You always disregarded my intelligence, there is not a single person I have come in contact with, that has made me doubt that. Every single person that I have met here has encouraged me. Something I am not used to. You didn’t have to beat me daily, weekly or monthly, your words over the years had beaten me down enough that you were never forced to lay your hands on me but the one time.

I have learned so much about myself in the nearly two years since ending our marriage. I am a good person. I deserve happiness, love, respect, and that I am beautiful. I now can say these things without hesitation. I can look out at the world and know there is a place for me and I am allowed to search for it. I am allowed to be happy. I am allowed to wear whatever I want to. I can wear my makeup how I want to. I know you don’t think you were doing anything wrong, but you were. You controlled me and every move I made. That is not a life any one should live. I deserve better.

I want you to take a moment of your pitiful life and look at where you are. You’re sitting in a prison cell because you lost sight of love and life. You became someone who do not want near my children. I say my children because you don’t deserve to call them yours. You had ample time to see and spend time with these 2 precious lives. You chose not to. You chose to completely turn your back on them. I am not going to tell them until they are old enough to really understand the depths of what you have done. As long as I can help it, you will have nothing to do with these kids.

I think the thing I want to say to you more than anything though is I am ready to forgive you. I want to forgive you for making my life so different than anything I ever imagined. I want to forgive…….. I do forgive you, but not for your sake for mine.

I am going to include lyrics to a song…… My song…… A song that has touched my heart since the day I heard it.

 

Warrior by Demi Lavoto

This is a story that I’ve never told I gotta get this off my chest and let it go I need to take back the light inside you stole You’re a criminal And you steal like you’re a pro

All the pain and the truth I wear like a battle wound So ashamed, so confused I was broken, and bruised

And now I’m a warrior Now I’ve got thicker skin I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in I’m a warrior And you can never hurt me again

Out of the ashes, I’m burning like a fire You can save your apologies; you’re nothing but a liar I’ve got shame, ‘I’ve got scars That I will never show I’m a survivor In more ways than you know

‘Cuz all the pain and the truth I wear like a battle wound So ashamed so confused, I’m not broken, or bruised

‘Cuz now I’m a warrior Now I got thicker skin I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in I’m a warrior And you can never hurt me…

There’s a part of me I can’t get back A little girl grew up too fast All it took was once; I’ll never be the same Now I’m taking back my life today Nothing left that you can say Cause you were never gonna take the blame anyway

Now I’m a warrior I’ve got thicker skin I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in I’m a warrior And you can never hurt me again

Nooo oooh yeaah yeaah

You can never hurt me again

 

Sincerely,

Your EX-WIFE

What an abuse survivor wants from a new love.

What an abuse survivor wants from a new love.

I would have to say the first thing I want from a new love is understanding. Understanding that I am scared. The last man that I gave my heart to hurt me. He was supposed to be the one that protected me, instead he is the one who hurt me. He took my love for granted. Understanding that when I tell you what I went through it’s not because I want you to feel sorry for me, I tell you because I’m still healing and will be for a very long time and I want you to help me heal. Understand that even though deep down I know you’re not that person I still somewhat need you to prove it. Understanding that when you go to put your arm around me and I flinch, it’s not because I am scared of you, it is because his hands weren’t that sweet. Understand that when you go to kiss me or touch me sexually and I back away, it isn’t because I don’t want you to, it’s because I wasn’t given a choice with him.

The second would be trust. Simply because I wasn’t trusted, with absolutely no reason for mistrust. Trust me that when I say I am going to the grocery store, that’s where I am going. Trust me to work and be faithful to you and only you. Trust me not to check everything I do or say I am doing. Simply trust.

The third thing would be words. Use your words wisely. If you think I am beautiful, tell me. That person that did all of the damage wasn’t so kind with words. Think about how you say something and the words used to say them. There is a lot of venom in words and some just don’t see the damage they can cause.

The fourth would be compassion. If we are still feeling pressure from the abuser, being stalked, court dates and so on, let us know you are there. If it is possible go with us to these things. Never make us feel that the fear is silly or unwarranted. There is a reason we are scared. If we ask you to hold us, it is a feeling of safety that is needed. Compassion that sometimes we are just scared, and all it takes is you letting us know you are there and that you will do all you can to ensure our safety.

Another would be sympathy. Some if not most of us do not seek counseling in the aftermath, sometimes because we fear our abuser will be following us. Most of the time, those of us who suffered extreme abuse or sexual assault from our abuser, suffer from PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This disorder is complicated and there is no sure way to beat it. If we refuse counseling there is a reason.

And last but not least, RESPECT. If I say no respect me and listen. If I give you my opinion on a subject, respect it even and more so if you disagree. If I am trusting you enough to give you my opinion, respect it please. If I am crying, angry or even very happy, I am sharing my feelings and emotions with you, RESPECT them.

Trigger Warnings

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. In it, she discusses an experience from this past Labor Day weekend that was highly triggering for her, and reflects on triggers in general. Please, proceed with caution, and if you find yourself being triggered, stop reading and do something kind for yourself instead. Your well-being is, as always, of utmost importance. – Amanda

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Most of these blog entries come with trigger warnings–words, sentences, stories, something in the article may stir uncomfortable memories, may stimulate anxiety or fear, may be hurtful to read. I hadn’t thought too much about them, because I’ve dealt directly with the subject of rape and trauma since last September, when my daughter called me in the middle of the night. Seeing the words doesn’t seem to trigger anything in me. I do get irritated when I see someone, (usually a guy), casually use the word rape out of context, thereby cheapening the experience and furthering the acceptance of rape culture by making it part of everyday language. A young man on my Facebook the other day was asking if anybody knew a nearby plumber for flooding in his house, and mentioned that he “didn’t want to get raped on the cost.” I thought about making an issue of it with him, but I get tired, sometimes, of being the “bad guy” in such situations by people who tell me they didn’t mean anything by it. Still, stuff like that I can take; I hadn’t actually experienced anything that actively acted as a trigger for me.

Last night, however, that changed. My daughter is home now, graduated from college and living with me for a while. We’ve been uncomfortably aware of the anniversary of her trauma coming up, and have been taking active steps to distract ourselves that weekend, as well as any times now that we can. So, yesterday, Annie’s girlfriend drove in from out of town, to have dinner with her and go to our little downtown festival. I was slightly nervous having them amongst all those jesus-loving, drunk, homophobic rednecks, but I warned them not to be conspicuous. I drove them down, and dropped them off. Just after dark, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. A man’s voice asked, “Is this Annie R.’s mother?” When I said yes, he continued, “We just found your daughter lying unconscious in the road.” I didn’t even realize it, but I started to scream and didn’t stop. I vaguely heard him saying, “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to calm down…” I thought he was trying to get me quiet so he could tell me my daughter was dead. He finally got around to telling me this was a “friend” of mine, and it was a joke. I won’t try to recreate my response to him; I’ll say only that it was still hysterical, and most of the words began with “F”. When I hung up on him, I was crying, shaking, sweating, my fingertips were tingling–I was in shock. I called my daughter and told her to come home instantly, but she convinced me she was fine, she had run into him and his wife, suggested to them they call her mom sometime, and had no idea or control over him calling immediately or what he said. I understood that with the rational part of myself, and told her to go on and enjoy herself. I continued to be beside myself, couldn’t begin to calm down. I fixed myself a drink, took three sips of it, and vomited. I talked to anybody I could, and called law enforcement as well as my friend, our former sheriff. When Annie got home, we talked at length. She very much understood, but hadn’t had a similar reaction, because she was standing there, listening to him, and knew she was okay.

I had been thinking about it the entire time, and had written on Facebook, “For those of you who have not been through it, the experience of rape and/or molestation leaves triggers in the victims, and the triggers can lead to a bad, even worse, reaction than did the actual event. When the horror happens, there is an element of disbelief for a while. When you are later hit by triggers, that element of disbelief is forever gone,and the reaction can be even more devastating. Anyone who has, even peripherally, known an experience such as this, would never in a million years let such a thing come out of their mouth. Joke it is not. The trauma is very real, as real as the last one, and carries all those emotions into this one. I think that my reaction was, in fact, worse, thinking that I had gotten her through all of that, only to lose her less than a year later.

My daughter had some interesting perspectives on it as well. She had been aware of triggers before her own attack, as a girl she loved had lived through a rape, and had numerous triggers. Annie said that in a lot of ways, those were worse for her than any relating to her own attack. She said that when it happened to her, she was physically there to know she got through it, she knows she is a survivor, and with a few exceptions, doesn’t react nearly as much to things that remind her of her own attack as she does still to those that reminded her of her friend’s attack. She says her heart still stops when she sees certain things, like military uniforms, because her friend’s rapist was in the military. She went on to say she feels worse for my pain than she does for her own, because the people who love her can’t do anything at all about their feelings, while she knows how to deal with her own as they come up. She’s certainly not done with that process, but she may indeed have a better handle on it than I ever will.

I have read a lot of y’all’s posts about things that trigger you, that set you off, and the damage they continue to do to you. You may not agree with what she said, and I really want to hear thoughts and reactions to this. Comment freely. Just know that, either way, it is no joking matter, and for anyone to make a joke about them is sick, heartless and cruel.

These kinds of reminders may never leave us entirely, but with time and therapy, I hope that they will be somewhat dulled for all of us. I also hope that they stay with us just enough that we all continue to work for change, in our judicial system, in our communities, in the general rape culture we find ourselves in. In some ways, perhaps our triggers will stop being debilitating and work for us, as triggers in the true sense, to fire away at rape, to disable it and kill it.

The What Ifs

Today’s entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. In it, she explores something I am all too familiar with (as are all survivors, and most people in general). The “what if”s.

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What if I hadn’t gone there that night? What if I hadn’t spoken to him? What if I had turned right instead of left? How many of these do every survivor of rape live with every day, along with those of us who love and support them? Survivors and their loved ones live with as much a sense of guilt as that of trauma. This is partly the fault of the justice system, and the rape culture in America. What was she wearing, how much was she drinking, why was she in that part of town, why was she talking to him if she didn’t want to have sex with him? We’ve all seen articles recently about how women shouldn’t have to protect themselves against rape, parents shouldn’t have to teach their daughters how NOT to be raped, we shouldn’t have to polish our fingernails to detect date rape drugs; instead, parents, schools, society should teach our sons NOT TO RAPE.

It is human nature, however, to revisit the horror, endlessly, in our minds. My daughter said to me, soon after I arrived in New York following her phone call telling me what happened to her, “I’m sorry, Mom.” In the months following, she expressed regret that she had wine that night, that she had been nice to him, a new acquaintance, and offered him a place to stay on her floor when he said he missed his train. She even feels guilty about having worn flip-flops that night, (with her boy’s pants and men’s hoodie), instead of tie-up boots, because the seconds it would have taken to untie those boots might have brought her to her senses and made her fight. My regrets and guilt, as her mom, haunt me all night, every night. She called me every night when she got in from her evening, except very occasionally when she decided to assert her independence. That night, I hadn’t heard from her, so I texted her to see if she was in yet, and to see if she was ok. She texted back, “yes.” I expected her to call soon, but she didn’t. A nagging feeling in the back of my heart told me that wasn’t ok, but I assumed it was one of her “independent” nights, and went on to bed. She woke me about 45 minutes later, hysterical. What if I had texted her and told her she had to call? What if I had called and called her until she had to answer? Could I have stopped what happened to her? I’m a Southern mom, who always taught my children hospitality. If I hadn’t been, would she have not been so quick to feel for his situation and not offered him a place to stay? I’m very outgoing, never met a stranger. Was she trying to be more like me? I could go on and on.

The fact is, no victim of rape is responsible for what happened, no victim is guilty, no matter what. But I think a large part of the recovery period is that nagging sense of guilt, those middle of the night “what-ifs.” I know it is hindering my recovery. I know that I go there late into every night. I know that my tears have a lot to do with what I didn’t do to protect her, even if I couldn’t have, even if I was over 500 miles away.

I’ve said in an earlier blog entry that we shouldn’t live in the past, that, as my wonderful therapist Bob always said, “You’re gonna wreck the car if you spend all your time looking in the rear-view mirror.” Easier said then done, however. In a book I was reading last night, I found a passage that said, “The past is never really past…Do you know that song, ‘What a Wonderful World’?…Louis Armstrong? We hear it so often that it’s become about as moving as a beer jingle.But it’s beautiful. Have you ever listened to the lyrics, closely? The list of things that prove how wonderful the world really is? I’m taken every time by this: ‘the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night.’…”The past is like the night: dark yet sacred. It’s the time when most of us sleep, so we think of the day as the time we really live, the only time that matters, because the stuff we do by day somehow makes us who we are.We feel the same way about the present. We say, Let bygones be bygones…water under the bridge. But there is no day without night, no wakefulness without sleep, no present without past. They are constantly somersaulting over each other.” ( And The Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass) I love that, the dark and sacred night. In the days following the attack, day and night, past and present are dark. I think that the darkness becomes familiar, and therefore dear, and sacred. Many of us forget how to live in the light, in the present. Sometimes that translates into PTSD, or other things. But it is impossible to live in the light without making peace with the dark, with the memories, the guilt, the what-ifs. This is where the day and night, the past and present begin somersaulting over each other. It can be confusing and disorienting, trying to live in the present with the past intruding time and time again, with no warning. We need to let that happen, we need to sit with the darkness, until some light shines upon it. In the dark, those things continue to have power over us; staying with them as we continue to define who we are in the light defuses the power, the hold they have on us. Only when we have visited those thoughts consciously, confronted them, talked about them with somebody trusted, can we move on. Do I know how? Obviously not yet, or this wouldn’t be on my mind. But I’m not as afraid of those things if I let them come, and let them sit, without them taking my power.

Maybe some day society will achieve a zero tolerance policy on rape; it will no longer exist in the gray area that so seldom benefits the victim. Maybe then we won’t have to wonder what we did wrong; justice will be so exact and so clear-cut that we will KNOW, down to our toes, that nothing was our fault. Until that time, I hope we can all remember that the “dark sacred night” is part of “What a Wonderful World” it is.

(As an afterword, I want to include a poem written by my beautiful, brave daughter, Annie Virginia, that I had not read previous to writing this. The mirrored images are amazing.)

It Would Not Have Happened

If I had been wearing shoes that didn’t slip off.
If I had not changed from my dress of the morning.
But that’s not what they say.
If I had sat on my chair and not my bed.
If I’d lost my keys.
If I’d found my keys, used my pocketknife.
If I’d had one fewer glasses of wine or one more shot of tequila.
If less people had told me to be nice to men.
If men had been nicer.
Always and on and back.
If they had played a song worth dancing to.
If Alanna had loved me, too, all these years.
If Southern hospitality weren’t stuck in my gentleman words.
If my hair were short.
If we hadn’t taken the time to clean up the deck of cards.
If I’d been more tired. If I’d been more awake.
If my body weren’t made of what the earth doesn’t tell anyone.
If Tati had never left. If Celeste had never left.
If I’d fallen down like I did in every city in Italy.
I am grateful for every scar of prevention.
How much smaller they are.
If I’d shattered the wine glass.
If the weather weren’t so nice.
If my voice hadn’t stuck in my chest like a scrap of hot metal.
If I had had plans Saturday morning.
If someone had been in the hallway.
If I had loved Allison more than myself.
If boxers turned off the predator in him.
Look, this is my boy armor, it has always been.
You don’t want me.
If I’d chosen a different house.
If I were sicker, if it showed.
Maybe that’s just it.

When Justice is Served

What happens when you get justice?

I have told my story to you all, that in itself was very healing. But today I would like to talk about what happens when justice is handed down.

This man who was supposed to be the man that protected me, that loved me, that was my soul mate. Hit and raped me. When I finally got up the nerve to leave, he would harass me to the point where I was afraid to leave my home. Finally he moved to another state with another woman. He did to her what he did to me except a bit worse. He was charged and convicted on 2 counts of domestic assault, 2 counts of kidnapping to facilitate and one count of criminal sexual assault. He was sentenced to 14 and a half years in prison and ten years probation, so I have 25 years before I have to worry about him.

This has left me feeling conflicted.

I am happy that he is out of my life and behind bars where he can’t do this to anyone else. I can move forward with my life, not feeling like I have to look over my shoulder every time I step out the door. I no longer feel like I can’t live and breathe. My children have a chance in living a normal life. They don’t have to see mommy nervous, scared, angry, hurt, or sad anymore. I am so happy that they no longer have to worry that their father is going to attempt to steal them.

Then there are the other feelings. Anger, I am angry he is not the man that I loved. He was an illusion. I am angry at him, I am angry at myself. I am sad that the happy days were just an illusion. I regret wasting ten years of my life with him. Though out of that ten years I did get 2 beautiful children. I am hurt that I allowed myself to be put in that situation. I am angry that I am now alone with two small children.

So my emotions are all over the place, most of them feelings of relief, happiness, and just plain excitement to see what the future holds. Plus anger hurt and regret.

No matter what the feelings are now, I did get out with my life and I am succeeding with everything that he once told me I couldn’t……….