Three and a half weeks ago, my mind broke. Five days were spent in dissociation that alternated with hysterical crying. For the first time in a long time, I had to take time off work for my mental health. All because it was the anniversary of the last time I was raped.
October is always hard for me. Dates and numbers stick too easily in my brain. Anniversary’s force themselves to the forefront of my mind. I thought I was doing better as the day approached. I thought this was better than the years that had gone before. It wasn’t until I was able to look back with that oh so perfect hindsight that I was able to see how not ok I had been in the weeks leading up to that day.
My mind fell to the deluge of delusions. Paranoia became my being. I trusted no one and saw threats and conspiracies everywhere. Even those closest to me were not safe from the paranoid fantasies that enraptured my mind, taking over common sense, immune to logic and knowledge.
I’m doing better now, though better is relative. I’m not back to where I was before the fall. I cry every day, often over little things. Paranoia still grips my chest in its icy talons, a plague of the mind that consumes my being.
I am fragile. I am broken. Yet, I don’t see these as bad things. I am broken, both body and mind. There is no cure in my future. There is no shining day where all will be ok. I reside in a body constantly racked with pain. My mind a labyrinth of forgotten memories and traps that lay hidden.
I am fragile. I fall apart easily. Yet, this means that I still feel. I feel so intensely it consumes my being. I am enraptured by the maelstrom of my mind; my mind a thing of beauty yet filled with horrors.
Memories lie in wait. Memories of pain and trauma lie dormant in my mind. Inaccessible. Painful. Horrifying. Memories I’m not sure I want to awaken. For once these stories come alive within my mind, there is little that can be done to send them back to hibernation.
I am a victim. I am a survivor. Both are true. Both are me. Victim speaks to the pain I still deal with. Victim validates the horrors of experience. Survivor speaks to my strength. Survivor says that I have lived through hell and have survived. These words are me, yet each in different ways.
I am a survivor of rape. I am a survivor of abusive relationships.
The ghosts of my past still follow me. These constant specters continue to shape me. These apparitions dictate my reactions to seemingly innocuous things. Their haunting is one that I cannot shake. No exorcism will cast them away. Instead, I must fight. Every day, I must fight away the phantoms and work to reclaim my mind.
October 28th. The day that lives in infamy within my mind.
I cried for hours in the arms of the man who would become my husband. As the sun was just beginning to rise, he convinced me to go to the police.
We arrived at the campus police station as the sun cast cheery beams to contrast the darkness within. They turned me away. They said they couldn’t help because it didn’t happen on campus even though we were both students. The police refused to help.
Help. Something so often offered, yet rarely with validity. People want to help. They want to make things better. Yet, they’re not ready for the long haul. They want a quick fix. They want us to go back to normal. Yet, there is no normal to return to. Rape changes us irrevocably. There is no going back to who we were.
People want to help until they see the ugly truth. Most turn away in horror, unwilling to face the reality that this could happen to someone they know. It’s too real, too raw. People want to wrap things up with a nice shiny bow. They want survivors who talk of how the experience changed them for the better and did everything “right.” They want the woman who was raped by a stranger. The woman wearing enough clothes. The woman who didn’t drink. But they want them at a distance. As public speakers and guests on news shows. They don’t want the harsh reality right in front of them.
We proceeded to the town police who led me into a sterile room with too much metal that was always cold. I was asked to tell my story again and again. I separated from myself so as to not feel as I told them about my most intimate trauma.
“What were you wearing?”
“How much did you drink?”
“Why were you out at the club?”
“What is your sexual history?”
Questions, questions, never ending questions. Questions that rip and tear and leave their wounds. Questions that say again and again “It’s your fault.”
“You have to remember this is at least half your fault.” Said the woman I had gone to for help. She was the head of the psychological counselling center. I had told her my story. I had told her of what had happened just days before as well as the other rapes, the other pain. Yet her reaction was to tell me it was my fault. My fault.
The police came to search my home. They took pictures of my disheveled room. They took the clothes I had been wearing that night. Then they took me to the hospital.
The rape kit was awful. So cold and sterile. A reenactment of what had transpired just hours earlier. More unwanted penetration. More violation.
My fault, my fault, my fault. It was all my fault. Shouldn’t have worn that. Shouldn’t have drank. Shouldn’t have taken him home. Shouldn’t have, shouldn’t have shouldn’t have.
“I’ve known her a long time and that just doesn’t sound like something she would say.”
I had told my story again. Reopened the wounds that had barely started to heal. I had told the Dean of Student services about what the head of the counseling center had told me.
He said he’d follow up, but he didn’t believe me.
I believe the women. I believe all those who have come forth in recent times with allegations against the rich and powerful.
I look back upon how I was treated and know that it is so hard to come for and make an accusation. Far too often, we are discredited or blamed. It was our fault. It was our fault for drinking or wearing a dress or talking to a man or just for existing.
But the women are being believed. Such a huge shift in such a short time. So many are taking a stand to support these women. The cultural conversation has shifted in such a good way.
Would they believe me?
From #metoo to Harvey Weinstein to all those who have come since, the news has been a constant feed of sexual assault and rape. Everywhere I turn, there are people talking about it.
I try to be strong. I try to put up a good front. I try to handle it.
But I can’t.
The trauma replays again and again, at this, my most difficult time of year.
An anniversary I would rather forget coinciding with a flood of accusations and change.
My heart aches for them. I hurt for all those who have come forward as well as all those who can’t. The world is changing, I hope. Maybe one day it won’t be so hard to come forward. Maybe one day we won’t have to worry about being blamed for our own violation. Maybe one day. Maybe.
I’m not yet back to where I was. I don’t know if I ever will be. My mind is still fragile, still broken. I still cry too much and hurt too much. I must fight too much.
But, maybe, one day, things will get better.
I just need to hold on until then.