Now it is almost three months since the rape. I feel more stable, but still, that part of me is lost. It does not seem to be repairable. I cannot re-connect to my soul again. I feel that part of my soul died during that rape, and there seems to be no way to get it back.
I have lost interest in people. I am no longer eager to stay with humans. Any male is a potential threat. Any female is a potential judge. I hate them both, so I decided to keep myself on a large safe-distance from everything and everyone I know – including my husband-.
Today, I was googling, when I stumbled upon those paragraphs, they all related to me, and what I have lost after that day…
“I just don’t even know who I am anymore” is a statement I often hear while working with domestic abuse victims — one that saddens me, and is reflective of an issue that no one seems to be talking about. The girl uttering those words was a rape victim, and I was leading a support group for assault survivors. Someone stole her body, and with it, they took part of her soul.
I know what that feels like — because when someone used my body against my will, they took a hell of a lot more than just what they were after. They took pieces of my identity, pieces that I needed back. Because, you see, it wasn’t just my body that was stolen, but my entire sexual identity.
Who was I now? I thought I had known who I was before my assault, but now, afterwards, I didn’t have the slightest clue.
Day after day, I would avoid the mirror, and resist looking at my flesh while I got dressed. I didn’t want to see my body, because I didn’t want to remember what someone had done to it — and to me. If I didn’t look, it couldn’t hurt. And eventually, it no longer hurt, because I barely existed. I detached from myself, just as many rape victims do, severing the mind and body connection; I existed, but existed more in the space around me than within my own skin.
This kind of detachment is so common, in fact, that it’s actually listed as a symptom for PTSD (post-trauma stress disorder) in all the rape crisis manuals. I understood what was going on, and because of that, I did everything that I was supposed to do. I saw a counselor, I went to the support groups, I read the books. And although I finally came to the understanding that what happened to me was not my fault, I still couldn’t get back everything that I had lost.
Walking through my day-to-day life, my confidence was gone, and my sense of security shattered — and with it had gone all the parts of me that I trusted. I tried to move on with my life, and pretend as though everything was normal. But inevitably, the reality of how wrong everything felt would come crashing back to earth in the most inopportune moments — moments that usually involved a male partner.
I was more than awkward during those moments. I found myself fumbling through the motions and as my clothes would come off, the shame I felt inside would take over. With each layer of clothing that was removed, I found myself building a mental barrier that carried into the bed. I didn’t want my partner to know my body, because I didn’t know it anymore. Someone had done things to it that I didn’t want done, and while I had been working hard to process that on an intellectual level, no one had talked to me about what that meant on a physical level.
Sex after rape is a whole new ballgame, and the first step — reconnecting with your own body — is the hardest one to take. Learning to reconnect with something that was so badly hurt is painful. Unfortunately it’s a process that many women struggle through alone, just as I was doing.
Then one night, after a particularly uncomfortable evening with a man I was dating at the time, I found myself standing alone in front of the mirror. I let my clothes slip to the floor and for the first time in a long time, I looked at myself. The person staring back at me seemed more like a childhood friend than the woman I was now. Someone I used to know, loved even, but after so much time and so much change, I wasn’t exactly sure who she was anymore.
But I didn’t stop looking. I’m not sure why and I can’t really explain it, but I knew that I wanted to get to know her again — to find her, wherever she was, and to remember everything she used to be.
I wanted to get to know me again.