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An Ugly Word Doing Ugly Things
A Matter of Unreporting
Whatever label you decide to slap on the violent violation of one person by another, it's ugly. It's callous, it's about power, and it's about force.
It's definitely not something people want to talk about when it happens, which is precisely why we should make it a topic of conversation. It's important that this become something people can talk about, and not because we should bash a particular gender or engage in a round of victim blaming.
It's because if we don't talk, it becomes bigger than we are, and that gives the rapist his or her power. In fact, that's what most perpetrators count on - that victims will keep their mouths shut, because they fear reprisal or they are ashamed. It's the perpetrator who should be shamed, and the victim supported.
We can't pretty something so heinous up, people. We just can't. It's heartbreaking to hear the ongoing statistics as though we've somehow given up on bringing perpetrators to justice. According to USA Today, upwards of 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Depending on where you get your information, as many as over 650,000 American women get sexually assaulted yearly, or 1.3 women per minute. That doesn't even take into consideration the number of men who also are raped on an annual basis.
What the hell is happening, people?
Fear - Your Unwanted, Unmoving Neighbor
When it comes to being a victim of rape, it's definitely hard to get past the fear, shame, hurt, embarrassment, anger and even rage that accompany such violation. At first, you may not even be 100 percent sure that a sexual assault occurred; your memory of the incident might be clouded by alcohol or drugs, or blocked out altogether as a result of fear. You may have bought into the idea that since there was no weapon involved, and there may have been no screaming or yelling, it may not have been rape.
If you did not once voice consent to the sex, and you couldn't say no either because you were too paralyzed with fear or too out of it to say anything, odds are better than good that you are a victim of rape.
Sure - you may try to convince yourself that nothing untoward happened, that somehow you may have imagined what happened, or that the whole thing was really just a godawful, horrific nightmare that you can't quite shake.
Here's the deal.
You deny what happened to yourself, and sure, after a while, you might almost forget about what happened to you. But fear never really goes away. You suddenly won't be able to be outside - or even inside - by yourself at night, not without a whole bunch of lights on or even a dog to accompany you. If you're going down a somewhat empty hallway, you'll find your spidey senses tingle even more than usual, not because you outwardly think something's going to happen but because your body is hyper-aware and vigilant that something did happen. It may not be something that your brain can outwardly put a name to, but it's there.
What's worse is you will be at once terrified of being alone but not wanting anyone in your life at the same time. You may pursue intimacy for the sake of having the feeling of someone holding you because it almost feels like you're safe. Real intimacy will be difficult to achieve, though; the fear always lingers because you don't want the other person to find out what happened to you, as though you're somehow damaged goods.
Honey, you couldn't be more wrong about yourself.
That's fear pushing you around.
"Don't think about it and it won't bother you anymore."
Sounds like sage advice you might get from your parents, right? However, it's absolutely the worst thing you could possibly do to yourself. You're only going to make things worse.
Rape is something that hangs around for a long time, until you learn tools to deal with it. It's sort of like that scummy film on a shower after you've not cleaned your bathroom for a while. It's gross. You always feel slightly unclean because of it.
Therapy often works as a method of dealing with sexual assault - in fact, it's often the go-to method when sexual assault victims come forward. Naturally, talking about what happened does not come easy, nor should it. This is going to be a tough slog - tougher than anything you may have ever dealt with - for both you and your loved ones. The only way out is going to be through it. Coming to terms with what happened to you is so damnably hard that you want to scream and throw things and crawl into your favorite comfort food and drink and never surface.
Making yourself numb doesn't help. The pain is still there, just like a tooth ache that's just been anesthetized. You've got to talk to people trained to deal with trauma - and make no mistake, rape is unbelievably traumatic. Bring a friend whom you trust if you just can't on your own the first time, or even the fifth time.
Believe it or not, once it starts getting even a little easier to talk about, it becomes a little easier to live with. Better it be something that you can live with - sort of like the existence of mosquitos - than something you struggle with daily.
It Goes Beyond The Victim
Don't Give Up
Rape is one of those horrific life situations where it's all too easy to hide away and forget about the business of living. It's easy to say, "I'll be fine with me and my 2 dogs and cats."
The rapist has taken your sense of safety away, so it makes sense that you would feel exactly that way. Anyone would and does in that same situation. However, in doing so, the rapist has tacit permission to continue violating anyone he or she sees fit.
To the rapist, you are another conquest - another bit of armor to grant that person further power over others - power that this person absolutely should not have.
You are more than a conquest, though you may not feel it currently.
You are unbelievably special: someone's family member, parent, friend...you are important to so many.
You need to keep pushing, if only to give yourself the satisfaction that you've pushed through horrific trauma and are restarting your life again.
You have been changed horribly by what happened. It's your choice how you move on.
Let the choice be a positive one.