When I was 18 I was raped by a friend of my boyfriend.
It is something I very rarely mention, yet think of quite often.
I like to think I’m doing quite well in my recovery from addiction, and actually consider my relapse last year as a part of the journey, I learned a lot from it. I try to maintain a positive mindset. I go to groups, I’ve made great friends, I work hard to confront my irrational thoughts and beliefs head on in order to understand myself and become a better version of me. I’m a constantly evolving organism, my own masterpiece in the making.
I try to understand how the events in my life have shaped the way I’ve lived in order to take control over how I live now.
I’ve tried to deal with all my open emotional wounds in order to stop myself picking at them little by little and causing deeper scars over time.
And yet, this one event, this trauma, never quite makes its way out. I never quite pluck up the courage to mention it, not to anybody, friends, family, many counsellors over the years. It’s the one taboo I just can’t bring myself to discuss. And I obviously need to. As I said, I think of it often. And it hurts.
So why can’t I deal with it?
And then, a few weeks ago, I had a sudden moment of clarity. It happened in the group life coaching I attend weekly. We do a brief check in at the beginning. A girl, I’ll call her Kate, just mentioned when it came to her turn how much the life coaching and the various support services had helped her to learn how to manage her feelings and, in turn, her life. She just dropped it in, in rather a blase way, that she had been raped. The way she said it made it clear that it was a past event that was dealt with and put to bed. Which got me started with this train of thought. Why is my rape not dealt with.? Why can’t I announce it like that? Why is it the one thing I can’t be truly honest and open about?
Because, the answer came to me, I am ashamed and I am embarrassed.
I tried to put into words my new understanding to my partner the next day. Why can I not be as brave as Kate and just declare it with no shame? His response was that I don’t want to be identifying myself as a victim. And this got me thinking even more.
Why am I worrying about how it makes me look when it’s not something I had any say in, it’s something I had no responsibility for?
I’m carrying all this shame about something that was done to me. I’m shouldering the blame for somebody else’s decision to ignore word “stop” and beating myself up for failing to change his mind.
To hear Kate so matter of factly saying “I got raped and struggled to get my head together for a while,” was the catalyst for a huge awakening for me. It seems such a small, simple thing:
“It wasn’t my fault”
And yet it’s taken me 13 years to come to that conclusion. I’m not suddenly ‘over it’, how could I be after battering myself with it for so long? But I understand now why such a painful memory has been walled off and hidden for all this time when other traumatic emotional events that also caused me to feel guilty and ashamed, such as being unable to care for my children and their removal to a family member, or the death by heroin overdose of my best friend and my subsequent arrest, have been plucked out of my head, thrust into the light, discussed and dissected with several friends and professionals throughout the years, until reaching the point where I can think about it and feel the sadness without the onset of anxiety that inevitably leads to me tearing myself apart with one destructive behaviour or another.
So although it will take some time and effort on my part, I can’t help but feel positive about this small break through. Having read up on it, I now know that it is extremely common for people who have been raped to feel this way. Most of us feel that we could have, should have, done something to prevent the attack. Why didn’t I look into this years ago?! By closing myself off to any chance of support, i have been dragging out my suffering all these years. I’ve been letting him win! Well, no more.
Now that I have been able to find the root of the disturbance that the memory of my rape causes me, I can start to come to terms with it and move forwards a little lighter in my heart. One person’s actions don’t define who I am. I know I can overcome what somebody else did to to me and I know that my journey of recovery from addiction has just been made a little easier to travel because of this knowledge.
And, of course, I would not have been in the right place, emotionally and mentally, to have come to these conclusions, to have taken the rape out of its box and had a good look at why it was still messing me up, if not for the life coaching and the Smart Recovery meetings, provided by The Hidden Homeless. It is thanks to that support in working on myself that I have come this far and feel ready to confront my remaining demons.
Today, I am grateful.
Forum discussion of why the victims of rape feel guilty and ashamed
An interesting article exploring and trying to find a way through these emotions
The Hidden Homeless, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am right now.