Category Archives: Rape

Not My Shame

            I have been wanting to open up for a long time. I was so afraid to hurt certain people. But I am now to the point in my life where I cannot feel bad for his mistakes. I have so much hatred for this person that I never, ever wanted to hate. I am pretty certain that the day he dies I will NOT cry, as a matter of fact, I may clap and do a little dance. This is no longer my shame to hold on to.

          So for those of you that I haven’t opened up to, please take a moment to read this. In such a short time I have found myself in a place I never thought I would be. I was in a homeless shelter at the beginning of 2012. After a brief split with my now ex-husband, we made the decision to make one last attempt at our marriage. Probably, looking back, not the best decision I ever made. However, it did cause me to gain the life of my beautiful daughter. You see I had been told my chances of conceiving for a second time was .0001% and after feeling extremely blessed with my son, I was ok with that. This second miracle was the reason I now see that I tried the one last time.

          So on to the reason I am writing this. After leaving him for a second time, I knew that this time had to be the last. He was disliked by most of my family for the things he had put me through. When we made the decision to get back together, they were not happy. They were even angrier when I informed them I was pregnant again. After all of the things he had already put me through, I had forgiven him and allowed him back into my life. They were worried for me and with good reason.

          We did really well for the first few months. He increasingly became more hostile towards me and even towards our nearly two year old son. And then it is like the light in his eyes lowly faded. You see, he was one of those guys that had the most beautiful life-filled eyes. But as time went on, it faded. I still to this day do not know where everything went wrong. Now looking at his pictures (recent not old) that light is gone completely. As a matter of fact they are almost dead.

          What I do know, is that on September 24, 2012 my life was forever changed. This was the day after I had celebrated the coming of my beautiful daughter. I am saddened by the events that took place on that day. My feelings towards almost everything changed that day. This was the day that the man who was supposed to love and protect me, slammed my head into a wall during an argument and physically forced me to have sex. That is correct, my husband, raped me. I know now after a ton of soul searching and research, that what he had done to me was NOT okay by any means. Just because I was legally married to him, he was not allowed to rape me. A marriage license is not a license to be raped.

          After two and a half years of freeing myself from this person, my life slowly becomes more of what it should be. Peace and quiet. I feel more alive now than I think I ever have. I have a passion inside me to do something to help others like myself and many of my friends. I cannot by any mean find it in my heart to forgive him. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s better for me if I do. The anger and pain drive me to be who I am.

          I do however fell sorry for 4 very precious people in this entire situation. They are his 4 beautiful children (2 of which are mine biologically). These children now have to live with the stigma that their father is an abuser who rapes women. But even still, this is his shame to carry not mine, and not his children. His family shouldn’t carry that burden of shame either. As angry as I am at some of them for having nothing to do with my children, they need not carry that burden either. It is his shame, and his shame alone. I dread the day I have to explain to my children why he isn’t around. But it’s ok. They know their mommy loves them to the end of time.

          Then I look back and realize why some people treated him the way they did. They knew who he was and what he was. They knew I’d never in a million years believe he was capable of the things he has done. I know deep in their hearts they wanted to tell me, but knew I’d never believe it. I remember people telling me they saw the toxic relationship and were honestly scared for my safety. I of course didn’t want to hear it.

          Basically to get to the point, when you have survived abuse in any way, you do NOT have to forgive the person to move forward. I do strongly believe you have to figure out how to let go of the shame. Shame is a burden and we have held their burdens long enough. So to end this I will speak this and believe it even more THIS IS NOT MY SHAME, IT IS HIS. I AM DONE CARRYING THE SHAME, IT IS YOURS NOW AND FOREVER!!!!!!!

Moving Forward with Grace

Moving Forward with Grace

 

I’ve been asked several times over the past 2 years how I’ve managed to move forward with my life. My answers range in so many different ways. But I would say I am moving forward with grace.

                First, to make sure everyone understands what I mean by that. To move forward with grace, to me anyway, means to not leave destruction in my path. Also, to only share my story with people who deserve to hear it or those who need to hear it. To not blame anyone but him, and myself (just a little) for the abuse. To know that I bent a little but didn’t break. To know that not every person is going to hurt you and to use what has happened for the greater purpose.

                Second, I don’t really have a choice but to move forward. I have these two little beautiful people that are watching my every single move. I can’t treat life with hate or show them the pain I feel. What they need to see is a mother who is doing the absolute best she can, and a mother that loves them more than anything else in the world. They need to watch me be strong and resilient. My children, as young as they are, only need to know that the world is good and that the people that mommy allows near them love them.

                Third, I have so many amazing people in my life, that all I want is to make them proud of me. My family is pretty awesome and supportive in all of the things I continue to do since leaving the abuse. I honestly don’t know where I would be in my life if not for them. Then I have these amazing people that I call friends. They have gotten me through some really rough times. A few have taught me things about myself that I didn’t know. I never in my life thought I would care so much about people that do not share my blood. But blood doesn’t make family. Then there is a couple people that are from his family that have held true to actually caring about me and my children and not hated me because I chose to leave a dangerous and toxic marriage. ***Side note I love all of you***

                And last but not least, I have a passion to help people like myself. All that I have been through, has given me this passion that I don’t know if I would have otherwise. I want to be able to share my story with others, so that they can see it is possible to leave. It is possible to do all of the things they once told you was unattainable. I want someone to know they are not alone even if they feel like they are. A simple shoulder to cry on, a simple kind word, and a simple smile can completely change how someone feels.

What Consent is (and isn’t)

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson, and takes a look at an important subject: consent. She discusses what consent consists of, as well as what does not constitute consent. She also takes a brief look at how rape culture plays into this issue. This may be triggering, so please proceed with caution, and stop reading if you find yourself being triggered.
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“What is your definition of rape?” This question came at me, seemingly out of nowhere, one afternoon recently. Annie and I were sitting at a local brewery, having a beer with a couple of guys who work out with us at the gym. One was a man around my age; the other was a young guy, about 25, who is quite nice-looking, but shy and somewhat lacking in social skills. His looks, combined with his lack of self-confidence, leaves one often with a sense that he is arrogant and aware of being a “lady’s man.” I understand that this is not true, but I’m also sure that his physical expression is far more confident and practiced than is his verbal expression. The conversation had turned to a blind date the young guy (let’s call him Joe) had had the past Friday night, how much he had liked her, and how he had become too intoxicated due to his shyness around girls. She had ended up having to take him home and put him to bed. In the midst of this, he looked directly at me and asked, “What is your definition of rape?” Knowing nothing romantic had taken place on his date, I was taken aback by the question, and Annie immediately “received a phone call” and had to leave the table. I responded to him, “When both people don’t actually say YES. Not saying no is not enough, Joe.” He looked at me, confused, and said, “What do I say, then? How do I ask? ‘Wanna bang?’” He chuckled in embarrassment, then continued, “Won’t that ruin the mood?” I responded, “That probably would. Saying, all along the way, ‘Is this ok?’ or ‘Do you like this?’ will let you know that you’re not overstepping any lines, and will probably enhance the mood, because she will feel that she can trust you. The guys then, in their discomfort, began to joke amongst themselves about rape, and I had to excuse myself, because I don’t find anything about the subject funny.

That is a serious question, however, for men, old or young, who are uncomfortable with verbal expression, who are initiating sex with someone they don’t know well, who have been conditioned by our society to think that expressing themselves sexually is a natural thing, and that women couldn’t possibly have any objection if the mood has turned romantic. How does one ask? This is something parents should raise boys with more awareness of, something they actively discuss with their sons, something boys should be taught should NEVER be taken for granted, even if it is someone they have had sex with before, or are even married to. Actual rapists don’t care; the victim saying no has no effect on their intentions or actions. All men, however, become rapists when they continue just because the woman does NOT say no, with no clear idea of how she is feeling or what she is wanting. (Yes, I know the victim can be male as well as female. For the purposes of this article, however, I will have the victim be female.) And society still seems to think that is okay. It’s not. It is the part of rape culture that will make it almost impossible to overcome rape mentality, because these men don’t think they are raping. If she didn’t actually say no, she must actually want it, even if her body language is saying something different. She must be shy, or coy, or playing hard to get.

A woman close to my age was discussing this with me the other day, and said, “Oh, I don’t think men actually have to ask. They can tell what the mood is.” I couldn’t believe she said that. Hasn’t she seen the way men’s eyes glaze over when they are in the “sex zone”, doesn’t she know how difficult it is to break through that with so many men, to get them to listen at that point? I, myself, have been in the midst of sexual encounters that I thought I wanted to be in, when at some point things didn’t feel right. Sometimes it was someone new, sometimes it was with men I’d had sex with before, some many times before. I knew I immediately stiffened up, and said, “no, STOP.” I have been lucky enough, most times, to be with a man who respected that and stopped, however reluctantly. A few times, however, I have not. In my younger days, rape culture was not talked about, and if we got ourselves into the situation and they didn’t respect our request to stop, we were taught to chalk it up to a bad night.

Rape has been around as long as there have been people. Sex and power are often inextricable from one another, and rapists exist. But the sexual atmosphere leading to today’s rape culture is, I think, more specific. Through the 1950’s, girls and boys were both taught that “nice girls didn’t,” that girls should be virgins on their wedding night. The nuclear family was more intact, and I think boys were raised with a protective attitude toward their moms and sisters that translated to a similar attitude toward a girl they may like or love. The sixties came along with flower children, protests against war that acquired the slogan, “Make love, not war”, and the era of “free love” was born. This was a double/edged sword: it removed a lot of the stigma of women having sex outside the institution of marriage, and at the same time put more pressure on her not to say no. If love was “free’, why should anybody stop it? Because society was then and is now patriarchal, it actually just became an easier time for men to pass women around, and to pressure them into sex, because it no longer was a death sentence to their reputation. Or so they told us. Men could have all the “free love” they wanted, but women became sluts and were slut-shamed if they did the same. And there was no attention given to the rights of women. They were supposedly liberated, but liberated to do the bidding of men. Perhaps more women than ever began to suffer in silence. I remember seeing a short documentary in the early ’80’s called “The Silent Scream”, illuminating the horrors of abortion, but I always thought the title particularly appropriate for all women everywhere. We have had no sexual voice. Our “no” can’t really mean no, and our silence is tantamount to a resounding “YES.” My momma always said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, and that’s kind of what the sexual revolution became for women. Free lunch was a man’s ticket to free sex, and the implications are myriad from there.

Verbal consent is a relatively new concept in today’s society, and a ludicrous one to a lot of men. A mood-breaker, an inconvenience, an unnecessary and uncomfortable bit of conversation to have. But it is the beginning of a voice for women–a voice long ignored, and a necessity a long time coming for women. Verbal consent is the first line of defense in the rape culture of today. Parents, teach your children well–teach your sons to wait to hear that word “yes”, and teach your daughters to make their voices HEARD.

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.

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……….

What is rape?

This entry is going to discuss how rape is defined, and what it looks like. This topic may be triggering, so please proceed with caution, especially if you have been abused, raped, sexually assaulted, or otherwise traumatized. If you find yourself unable to handle reading this article, please stop, and do something else. Your safety is of utmost importance to me, and if that means you don’t read what I have written, I am alright with that. All links are set to open in a new window/tab.

According to the RAINN website, rape is defined as “forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.” Force, in the case of rape, is defined as violence, threats of violence, coercion, or if the victim is unable to provide consent (unconscious, drugged, disabled, injured, under age, or otherwise unable to clearly indicate consent).

That definition is rather broad. Hopefully I can help clear up some of the ambiguity that it leaves. Rape can occur under many different conditions or in many situations. There is partner rape, which is what it sounds like – where you are in a relationship (dating or marriage) and your partner rapes you. There is statutory rape, where the victim is below the age of consent as defined by local law. There is acquaintance rape, where the victim and rapist know one another but are not dating. And, there is stranger rape, where the rapist is a stranger to the victim. All of these are considered rape, and all of them are crimes. None of them are the victim’s fault. Period. Ever.

Before I continue, I want to emphasize something VERY important. It does NOT matter where you were, or where you were not. It does NOT matter what you were or were not wearing. It does NOT matter what you had or did not have to eat or drink or smoke or shoot up. It does NOT matter how your body reacted. Rape is rape is rape, and it is ALWAYS the rapist’s fault! Please don’t blame yourself. There is NO victim who has EVER “asked” to be raped. There is NO victim who “deserved” to be raped. And rape is NOT about the sex. It is about power, control, and intimidation.

I have been raped more times than I will ever be able to count. And not all of them were the same. (All of these names have been changed, and can be read about in greater detail in My Story.) There was Alex, who I didn’t even realize had raped me. I’d always thought it was sexual assault. But as I got more involved in doing what I’m doing with outreach work in the areas of abuse, rape, and sexual assault, I realized it was actually rape, since he penetrated my vagina with his finger. Then there was Phil, who I’d been in love with for almost three years, and who I’d dated off and on that whole time. He raped me in my sleep one night while I was staying the night at his place. (Which I had tried to get out of, but couldn’t come up with a reason he didn’t have an answer for.) And then there was Ben, who raped me more times than I’ll ever be able to count. He raped me in my sleep, frequently after I’d told him “No,” already. He would insist on sex immediately after fighting, with no apology or making up of any kind. If I refused, he would simply wait until I was asleep, and take it from me then.

All of those count as rape. None of them were wanted. And none of them were my fault. Also, none of them were reported. Rape is a highly under reported crime, which makes the statistics hard to compile. I chose not to report because I was ashamed, and because there was no proof other than my word. It doesn’t help that my own mother told me I deserved what had happened with Alex because she felt I’d broken the rules. It took me many years to realize that she was wrong, that it was not my fault.

I’ve said it before about abuse, and I will say it now, about rape. It is not just men hurting women. Men can be raped, too. Women can commit rape. No one is immune from being raped, unfortunately. And absolutely NO ONE deserves to be blamed for their rape.

I hope this has helped answer what rape is, and what it may look like. If you would like to learn more about rape, please click the link above to the RAINN site where there are many resources available. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call your local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). If you are not in immediate danger, but need someone to talk with or help finding your local resources, please contact me either here, on my Facebook page Hit Me No More, or at my e-mail HitMeNoMore@gmail.com – Amanda

Why is it easier to tell strangers?

Today’s entry comes from a dear friend. She makes some very accurate observations on why it is easier to talk to strangers about having been raped, abused, or assaulted, than it is to talk to your friends and family. – Amanda

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Today I want to talk about the reasons why it is easier to talk to complete strangers rather than trusted people in your lives about whatever abuse you suffered.

First you have shame. You tend to be ashamed of “allowing” this to happen to yourself. Ashamed of the time it took you to leave or escape. You are ashamed of the resentment you feel towards society, religion, basically anything that you once held so high in standards. You have this feeling of not being worthy of people time, a lot of times because you have been told this by your abuser. A shame that runs so close to your soul’s core that you fear telling a loved one will shatter their core because they had no idea.

This leads to resentment towards your “trusted” family and friends. These are the people that are supposed to love you even at your worst, and yet when you did finally reach out for their hand, they pulled back. Especially, resentment towards the criminal justice system and their lack of knowledge of any form of domestic violence situations. In my case I made it to where he wasn’t able to come back into my home, by getting a restraining order, changing my locks, and following the courts rules regarding the restraining order. Yet, he texted my phone telling me what time I was leaving, when I was coming home, what I was wearing, what our children were wearing (which he couldn’t have known if he was outside of the 500 feet that he was ordered to stay away from me). When taken to the prosecutor in my town I was told “It’s just text messages.”  I asked them “So he is allowed to stalk me?” Their reply made me so angry “That’s not stalking, it is telecommunications harassment” That is why we tend to resent the criminal justice system. Resentment I feel is a bigger part of telling complete strangers rather than those whom are supposed to be your trusted confidants.

Then there is fear of judgment. Things such as: “you were not raised to take that from anyone” why did you stay so long?” “Why didn’t you leave the first time” Judged for the things you “allowed” to happen to you. When talking to police or anyone in the criminal justice system (if you are brave enough to go that route) you tend to feel this sense of negative judgment. They do not understand because they have never been where you are.

And last but not least, we have fear. Fear that we won’t be believed. Fear, that if we have children, they will taken out of our custody and horrible things said to them about us. Fear that if we tell the people we trust the most we will turn on us and side with the abuser.

Fear, judgment, resentment, and shame………. The reasons telling a complete stranger is easier than a friend or family member.

Healing

This entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. We talked at great length after she sent this to me, and I can assure you, even though it may appear at times that she is making light of some things, she is not. – Amanda

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As I was bathing today, a Zen koan came into my head. (A koan is a story in the Zen tradition that is something like an Aesop’s fable. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.) It goes like this: A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her. The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.

They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and inquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

It got me thinking about the survivors of rape and sexual abuse I know, and know through Facebook. I find myself distressed by the self-destructive behaviors I find to be so common. I’m the mother of a survivor, and the pain I feel tells me that I can’t begin to imagine the pain felt by actual survivors. But I get very disturbed, confused, devastated, by the harmful behaviors I see and hear exhibited by survivors–soon afterwards, and years afterwards. Some, but not all, include cutting, drugs, suicide attempts, anorexia, bulimia, gaining massive amounts of weight. Nightmares, I understand. The rest, I acknowledge. I think this may be the most painful, terrifying, identity-stealing experience a woman, girl, boy or man can go through, destroying sense of self and self-esteem, leaving feelings of terror, shame, and guilt for survivors to deal with for long times to come. Victims are often blamed, not believed by families, friends, the legal system. Friends turn away. Nobody, NOBODY understands. The reality of what has happened can’t be escaped, even in sleep, because of the nightmares, and the nightmares aren’t relieved upon waking.

How is it possible to get through to the other side? What is the new normal, and when will it ever feel the least bit like normal? Again, as the mother of a survivor, I don’t know those answers yet. I do, however, want to share some of the teaching that has gotten me through a lot of things, and will likely be what gets me through this. I had the supreme honor, several years ago, of happening upon a therapist in the wake of my separation and the downfall of my marriage. Bob, it seems, was a Zen master. Not Zen Buddhism, but Zen. Bob believed in nothing, no religion, no God, and he was the most gloriously happy man I have ever met in my life. He felt that whatever spark of the divine there was was within us. And he tapped into his, every minute of every day. I would take my problems to him, he would listen for a while, then he’d break out his huge smile, throw up his hands, and exclaim, “WHO CARES”? “All of that is in the past. And you can’t drive anywhere new if you spend all of your time looking in the rear-view mirror!” He would encourage me to sit in the present moment. And as for my problems, he would ask, “Have you done everything you can, up to this moment? Is there anything else you can do? Then, in this moment, let it go.” Believe me, that didn’t come easily for me, a born worrier and fretter, and it hadn’t come particularly easy to him. He had spent years in meditation with the masters before him, practicing being here, in the present moment. But as we talked, the problems I came in with would melt away, and I’d leave feeling better, although I’d have been hard pressed to tell anybody what we actually did talk about. It often felt like spiraling into the light.

Unfortunately, I lost Bob. He fell to his kitchen floor one morning with a stroke, and never awakened. And there will never be another therapist who can replace him for me. But when I need him, I can see him in my mind’s eye, sitting in lotus position in his big chair, looking something like a hobbit, throwing his hands up, crying, “WHO CARES?”

Okay, okay, keep reading. I’m NOT saying I don’t care what happened to you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. I started this with the overwhelming horror of sexual abuse, and the same goes for domestic abuse. I am saying, that it’s done (hopefully); it’s in the past. If it’s not, get help and GET OUT. But if it’s over, you are already on the other side of the river. Don’t keep carrying the weight. Easier said than done, I know, but cutting, suicide attempts, eating disorders, etc., how is that punishing your rapist/abuser? Who is continuing to suffer? Certainly not that monster. How are you benefiting from continuing to hurt yourself? I would encourage us all, in whatever way possible, to be kind to ourselves. Find somebody else who’s been there, who really does understand. You’ve all done that, in some way, by being here and reading these blog entries. Find a therapist who knows how to deal with these issues, if you can. Bob meditated, and tried to talk me into it. So far, I have not accomplished that. My mind is just too damn busy all the time to just sit in the present. But we could all give it five minutes a day, just to sit and watch where our thoughts go. They say it gets easier. Reach out, in the hard times. Even on Facebook, there are always people up. The folks in Australia and New Zealand are up and about when it’s the middle of the night here in the States. It’s hard as hell to ask for help; I know. But being alone is probably not the best thing for the bad times. If you’re able, find a support group, or volunteer at a rape advocacy center, or a domestic violence shelter. You have a lot to give.

Depression is a hard companion. If you can take antidepressants, they will help. I strike bargains with my depression. I tell it it can have, say, 4 or 5 hours, and I’ll just curl up and cry or be sad. But then, it’s my turn. Get up and MOVE. Even a few steps, a couple of dance moves, gets the seratonin going in your brain, and fights the darkness. Sit out in the sun for 15 minutes. Take a bubble bath. Go for some of your comfort food, or have a glass of wine. Light a candle. You deserve those things, not to punish yourself more. You deserve to reach for what life can bring to you that is good. You will never forget, but scars feel better than picked-at scabs.

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If you need help locating your local resources (either to escape abuse, or to cope with what has happened in the past), please contact me either here, on Facebook at Hit Me No More, or by email at hitmenomore@gmail.com – Amanda