Words, Words, Words
After my deeply trusted lover turned from an affectionate, loving man to a sociopathic rapist, overnight, and raped me, humiliated me, raped me again, then discarded me, I found that I had to rebuild reality. The subsequent months of struggle also included my rapist making legal and social threats, convincing an entire community I was lying, trying to confront me at a sexual assault awareness seminar, and stalking me at Burning Man. Not a nice guy, in the end.
Now, over a year after the assaults and continuing extensive rape recovery/PTSD therapy, I’ve rebuilt my reality, but it looks considerably different than it did before. I’ve found a few words have changed their meaning for me. Certain words that meant one thing for the first 42 years of my life now mean something completely different.
SEX & ROMANCE
Before: Sex was wondrous and fun and euphoric. Sex was a way to express love and desire. It was spiritual for me, connecting with my lover body, mind, and soul. There was little more sacred than the love and sexuality shared between two souls.
After: sex now means exploitation and violation. The thought of sex makes me nauseous. I can’t read about sex, especially loving sex. Not even romantic affection. I’m an author of erotic romance, but now I can’t write about sex, unless it is violent and cruel, because that’s what it is for me now. That’s what it represents. I can’t make love to my husband. I can’t masturbate without crying. I can’t be naked in front of myself, let alone my husband or anyone else. All safety is gone. All desire is gone. My sexuality, which was a big part of my identity, has been shattered.
I don’t know who I am anymore.
Before: An alternative lifestyle chosen by me and my husband because we had the belief that love is not finite, nor is desire. That love breeds more love; desire, more desire. Perhaps even an orientation more than a choice, we approached interpersonal, romantic, and sexual relationships with integrity, honesty, and genuine, open love. We believed that most everyone else who was “poly” felt the same way, more or less. That sex was a part of a fuller, more rounded and fulfilling relationship. That if casual sex was the goal, that was communicated and expressed with honesty and respect. If things evolved into something more serious, or that was the intention to begin with, then that, too, was communicated with honesty, integrity, and compassionate respect.
After: A euphemism for lots of sex without responsibility or integrity while pretending that the “poly” people are self-aware, honest, and genuine. A place where people can practices lots of sex and short term relationships, riding on oxytocin highs and “New Relationship Energy” (NRE) under the pretense of establishing something deeper, until they get bored and move on to the next lover, often callously. A way to exploit the sexuality and emotions of another person for one’s own selfish ends, under the pretense of honesty and openness, while never truly investing in the relationship or having any responsibility to the relationship.
For men especially, it is a new age euphemism for establishing a harem.
SPIRITUALITY & MEDITATION
Before: I would run or walk listening to the soft voice of Eckhart Tolle, teaching me about how to let go and live in the moment, how to deny ego. I felt a connection between all living things and I knew although I didn’t understand the intricacies, I was a part of that larger network of life energy. I believed that everyone was basically good at their core, although they sometimes made horrible decisions. The “evil” people, like rapists and murderers and such, were distant. People who would be easily recognizable so that I could steer clear. I meditated every morning across from my lover, focusing on the words of Thich Naht Hahn then opening our eyes to see one another in a bubble of euphoric love.
After: To be “spiritual” is to use a sacred term to hide one’s own debauchery and callousness. My rapist was “spiritual.” I had rape recovery and PTSD counselors who were “spiritual” and told me that I needed to have compassion for my rapist. That the reason I was so upset was they way I thought about the rape, all while giving me anecdotes of remote tribes who systematically gang rape every female at the age of 11, and no one is traumatized by it because it’s part of their culture. So, you see, if I just get out of my ego and embrace my rapist with compassion, everything would be all right.
Men, especially, use the pretense of “spirituality” to con and entrap women for sex. Again, without responsibility or accountability.
In short, “spirituality” is a con.
FRIENDS & COMMUNITY
Before: A group of good people with similar interests. Some closer than others. Spiritual and honest and unashamed of their sexuality, it was an open and free, loving community.
After: People I can’t trust. Rape apologists. People who would rather ignore rape and sexual assault because the rapist is a funny guy, charming and witty, skilled and personable. People who believe partying is more important that sexual safety. People who will shun the victim for having the audacity to speak about her assault. People who will rally around the rapist, protecting him, crying “slander” – “witch hunt” – “cry rape” – “revenge tactic” – “love gone kaplooey” – “trolling” – “false accusations,” etc. Not just my former community, either. I’ve seen this time and time again over the last year.
Before: Something I gave fairly freely to good people. I trusted people to be decent. I trusted people to be kind. Forgiving. Loving. Rational. Responsible for themselves and their action. To have integrity. With few exceptions, I trusted them to be honest, for there was no reason to lie to me. Bottom line, I trusted most until given a reason not to. I would never “make someone pay for another’s mistakes.” Everyone started with a clean slate.
After: The word has absolutely no meaning anymore.
The Number 12
Before: My birthday in November.
After: The first time he raped me in February. The 16th was the second time.
RAPIST & RAPE
Before: A horrific act perpetrated by severely abusive people and men in dark alleys. Something that I had fortunately escaped, now being out of the target zone of 18-35. I didn’t accept drinks from strangers. I didn’t walk alone at night. I didn’t drink at parties and pass out in a short skirt. I did everything that rape culture teaches a woman to do to avoid rape.
I was with my lover.
After: Every person is a potential rapist. One in every 16 men has or will commit rape or attempt to commit rape. 30% of men claim they would commit rape if they knew they could get away with it. A woman is raped every. single. minute. in the USA. 1800 a day. The average rapist will rape six different women. One in every three-to-five women will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime. Since coming out as a survivor, every. single. woman. I’ve met or spoken with since is a survivor of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Not one in five. Not one in three. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
Rapists look like everyone else, up until the raping starts.
The only sure way to avoid rape is not to be in the same room with a rapist.
So, I spend a lot of time alone.
Before: A deeply trusted confidant with whom it was safe to share my innermost thoughts and fears, with whom I could be open and honest, with whom I could share my body and soul, with whom I could safely be vulnerable and exposed.
Before: 1990 film with Kiefer Sutherland and Dennis Hopper
After: Something I experience every single day for over a year now. Reliving the rapes. Reliving the humiliation. Reliving the subsequent trauma from not being believed, from being ostracized, from being accused as a liar. Reliving the police interrogations and how they translated the oral portion of my violent rape as “she remembers at one point giving oral sex to the susp.”
AKA Intrusive Memories and Re-experiencing. Benchmark of PTSD and Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS).
Before: Something that occurred under extreme circumstances, or when a cockroach was present.
After: My new state of being. Every second. Every day.
Then, there are a whole set of new words I’ve learned and come to know intimately because of the abuse, the assaults, and the long-lasting effects of PTSD and RTS.
The psychological phenomenon of holding two conflicting ideas in one’s mind and trying to make them fit together, like LOVER and RAPIST. How he could have raped me, then right afterward told me he loved and adored me. They don’t fit. If he raped me, he couldn’t love me. If he loved me, he wouldn’t have raped me. Which is it? Which is real? How could he have been so tender and affectionate and blissfully in love with me one day, and the very next day punish me with rape?
It took me five months, a dozen sexual assault support professionals, and extensive therapy for me to accept it was rape. One of the most insidious things about “date rape,” which about 85% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, is coming to terms with who you thought the man was, friend, lover, father, brother, cousin, etc…and RAPIST.
These are so much fun. Dissociation is the mind’s way of protecting itself from trauma. Often during rape, the victim goes into one of these states. They don’t fight or scream; they freeze. They’re suddenly somewhere else. Nothing seems real. They’re confused. And it continues after the trauma. I remember about a week after being raped twice and discarded, I was in a daze of sorts. I ridiculously thought it was a glimpse at enlightenment, for everything seemed surreal. I was completely in each passing moment, and I had found a sense of peace. I now understand it for what it really was: a severe dissociative state. Those states come and go throughout the PTSD, although never has one been as intense as that one or the one during the rapes. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not real, as if the world is a movie going on around me and that I’m somehow not in it.
It’s quite unsettling.
This phenomenon is called depersonalization.
See all the fun words I’ve learned? Another one: Hyper-Vigilance. Hyperarousal. Numbing.
BETRAYAL or TRAUMA BOND
The months and months of cognitive dissonance and crazy-making reality rebuilding, trying to see your abuser as an abuser and not a lover. The vacillating (mostly covert) abuse and (mostly overt displays of) love creates and extremely strong bond, as shown in Skinner’s experiments with pigeons: intermittent reinforcement. This is believing, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that it was all a misunderstanding. He’s just confused. He’s just scared. He really loves me. It will be okay. He just needs some time and patience and more and more and more and more love. If he would just show the slightest bit of humanity, I can hold on to something that says he’s not this monstrous rapist.
Finally, once I broke free of this extremely strong bone, understanding that I was the lucky one to get away early. The unlucky ones are bound to the abuser for years, if not decades, if not for life.
The only place I feel safe is in my remote home overlooking a lake with my husband, my dog, and my cat. No people. Little contact, and then only with the barrier of texts and internet communication. Any time I let someone in just a little bit, I learn all over again that any amount of trust is too much.
If someone is nice to me or funny or smart, it doesn’t mean they are a good person. It doesn’t mean I am safe with them, alone or otherwise.
I’m not safe with anyone.
My life and perception is so drastically different than it was before the rape, I feel as if I’m no longer the same person. The Rapist shattered my identity. The Rapist raped my sexuality out of me. The Rapist stole my ability to trust and function in society.
I see authors who weren’t even published three years ago far surpassing me in readership and success now, and I’m angry that The Rapist, The Musician, and The Writer (the two “lesser” assaults before The Rapist that contributed to the Complex PTSD and caused increasing vulnerability) robbed me of my career, sending me into a tailspin. In 2010, I was on the cutting edge of the Steampunk movement, now…I’m just the woman who’s “always fragile” and can’t talk about anything other than rape. Authors I used to promote I see promoting each other, leaving me and my work forgotten. Understandably, since I’ve barely been able to function over these years, let alone write anything other than a short story up until a few months ago. I’m writing again now, though. Fuck yes, I am. They may have forgotten me, but I haven’t forgotten me.
There is an ever-widening chasm between my life before the rape and after the rape, and I can see now there is no going back to who I was. The Rapist, along with his accomplices, The Musician and The Writers, murdered that person with rape and betrayal. Now, I imagine people saying what a shame it is that I “let” my rapist have so much control over me, that I “let” him change me. They’ll muse about what a nice girl I was before and now I’m just a cynical bitch, a man-hating feminist, a drama queen, etc.
I’d rather be regarded as those things than be a victim of rape again.
Bottom line. I don’t care what they say about me. They don’t know what it’s like to be betrayed, raped, and discarded by a trusted lover.
If they did, they would be kinder.
If they did, they’d have a new reality, too.
If they did, they’d be looking back over that ever-widening chasm of life before rape and after rape, wondering if there would ever again be a day they weren’t afraid.