Monday, May 26, 2014

Repercussions of Rape (Part II)

It is truly amazing to me the response I have gotten from people based on my post Repercussions of Rape (Part I).  So many people have spoken of how courageous I am and how much help it is for people who have experienced sexual assault to read it and know they're not alone.

I am truly humbled by that. Please know that I appreciate the kind notes, Facebook messages, texts, love, and support.

The truth of the matter is, I honestly thought I was over the rape.  I really did.  Like, I didn't think about it, didn't talk about it, only occasionally had nightmares about it.  I even got told by a counselor (originally he was a marriage counselor, but the third time my ex-husband showed up late to the appointment, we realized that marriage counseling was a waste of time but he would happily continue to see me as I felt I had some unresolved issues beyond being emotionally, mentally, and physically tortured by my ex) after spilling the whole rape story that I had great coping mechanisms and there was no real need for me to go back.  He was happy to have me come back if I needed it, insurance would cover it, but there was no real need.

I had no idea that it was consuming my life.

My rape was characterized by someone overpowering me, speaking down to me, telling me I was  nothing, and the guilt associated with my best friend thinking I was sleeping with some other guy in his house when he and I'd had awkward, random, drunken casual sex a few weeks before.

When I encountered a bully, and there are many adult bullies that prey on people they scent weakness in, I would get sweaty, nauseous, clumsy, and my heart would start racing.  I never knew why I had such a visceral response to assholes.

It certainly couldn't be about the rape, right?  A therapist had told me I had great coping mechanisms and a solid support system, that I was just fine.

I do not want to get into specifics here, but just imagine that a person is in a position of power over you in your professional life.  Imagine even further that this person is a bully, a cruel person known for talking about his colleagues (bosses, lateral equals, and peons like me) behind their backs, of laughing at the misfortunes of others, of speaking down to people until they couldn't stand up any longer, telling people they were wrong when this person had no idea what h/she was talking about, and pouring on the guilt by emphasizing how your shortcomings (the ones that s/he had given you) explained why you did a crappy job.

If you had survived my situation, one would think that being bullied by some pathetic loser who epitomizes the Peter Principle would be nothing ... but it wasn't.

So I messed up.  A lot.  It took me forever to do anything at work because I was so anxious, and then it reached a point where it was coming home.

Being beaten down at work every day turned me from a fairly confident woman with many and varied passions (reading, writing, the beach, traveling, spending time with friends) to one who internalized everything.  The dog knocked something off the table?  My fault.  My daughter broke her leg and had to be in a cast because she was screwing around at Hannaford?  My fault.  The washing machine broke? Yup, my fault.

At first these were just feelings, and I tried to keep them from my husband and kids.  After Gabrielle was born, though, it came out in words.  This hypothetical a-hole boss honed the keen blade of self-loathing that went back to 1998, and with the stress of Gabrielle's bloody birth, which was sort of a nightmare, I came to a point where the rape, and its repercussions, nearly killed me.

After the rape, when I washed my hands, there was blood in the sink.  I saw blood in the sink when I washed my hands a month or so ago (and, I mean, I'm an English teacher ... I felt like freaking Lady MacBeth).  I am afraid to take showers, because the shower I took following the rape was when I started to come back to myself, and I was alone and so damn scared.  I will wake up screaming, or I'll jerk awake.  According to my husband, I say the things I said to my rapist when I am asleep, sometimes in a mumble but sometimes nearly yelling.

I am not healed now.  I am in counseling, and I suspect I will be for a long time.  My husband is extremely supportive (except when he's in a bad mood, which is almost never).  I've found some online support groups and even some groups that meet face to face, but the humiliation of someone knowing about the rape makes that medium hard for me.

I guess that makes me posting about it ironic, but the thing is that I am a teacher.  I have had more than one student tell me they were sexually assaulted.  I have heard stories that make my own experience seem very small.

I guess the bottom line is, sexual assault, molestation, rape, whatever word you want to use, they are more common than you might think.  If you are reading this and you feel alone, please know that you are not.

If you are reading this and you are one of my many wonderful friends whom I've blown off, I suspect I've put enough info here for you to figure out why.    

There is a picture that circulates around Facebook from time to time, and I guess that's what I want to end with.