Here’s the bombshell.
I was raped. Not just by one person, but rather four… at the same time, they were friends. It was my fiancé at the time, fortunately I got out alive.
Money was readily available and so were their partying habits of cocaine -- their professions allowed them to get what they wanted on demand. It was almost 20 years ago but it might have been yesterday as vivid as it is in my mind. I’m not here to tell anyone about the rape because the details aren’t important, but rather the impact.
This “incident” comes with many names but all lead to the same conclusion. I was a victim of a violent crime and survived physically. Emotionally, it changed me to the very soul of who I am. I was super easy going with an easy laugh of which I shared freely. I had an amazing life with a promising vibrant fun loving future full of dreams.
The aftermath of my situation led me to build a very high, large and practically indestructible wall around my heart. Think of cement cinder blocks and then add six inches. There are cracks in my wall over the years but it hasn’t crumbled down, although there are some who make me want to add a gate, but breaking it down is impossible.
Over time I wasn’t quite as scared in my surroundings. But daily my life had changed. My laugh isn’t contagious anymore and when it happens, it’s real and unavoidable and I can’t subdue it because there was so much energy to make it happen.
Every day I wake up and it is one of the very first things on my mind. I think of the demeaning way in which someone was happy to harm me without just cause. I take a shower and slowly put my hands around my neck to make sure it isn’t tender or bruised. After that it is time for me to get dressed and I carefully with skill pick clothes that are hard to pull off, rarely do I wear anything that buttons. Skirts are rare if ever, always with a pair of spanx underneath, an extra layer of protection. Forget trying to look sexy, it rarely occurs.
I wake my child and the joy of being a parent takes over for a while and I’m able to let my guard down. When I worked around people daily I would ensure that my back wasn’t to a door or that I could always be aware of my exit strategy. Conference rooms were a challenge, so I would often show up to meetings right before the final moment so I could sneak in and sit near a door. Now I’m self-employed and while I miss the interaction of people, I have to face new challenges. Being in an empty building from time to time makes it nerve wracking. Do I lock the door, do I try to leave it open. Is the UPS guy going to attack me, will someone stop and ask for directions, will I turn my back and find a knife to my neck. Often times I think that these are normal thoughts of any single woman in a space alone but other times I think I’m just a paranoid freak and cry.
Sleeping is the absolute worst. I stay awake, feeling manic at times because I don’t want to have nightmares. When I fall asleep, then sometimes I have nightmares and have to wake up. The sleep cycle is one of my biggest long-term challenges.
And these moments of fear, shame and defeat are normal to anyone who has this type of post traumatic stress from a sexual crime. I’ve gone to counselors for hours and hours over the years and I’m one of the strong ones who has gone on to have a great marriage and be a mom. I’ve made it through and found love and trust since then. Twice in fact! While I’m not with the Father of my daughter, I was able to love and trust again. It is possible, it isn’t without fear. It isn’t without stress or problematic.
Friendships became awkward to me. I used to have a ton of friends, but as anything over the years those have dissipated by nature and time. Cultivating new friendships is a challenge when you have a dark side that haunts you. Forming a deep relationship with anyone becomes challenging because you are either afraid they will find out and have pity or judge you OR you just feel worthless and broken after someone stole your laughter away. Some days it is hard to feel like someone would want to be your friend. When anyone tells you they don’t agree with you, that they don’t like you it becomes numbing.
The statistics don’t lie, you likely have a friend who has a wall built up for something just like this, often times the unspoken shame just as mine.
Eventually there was a man who loved me enough to understand the wall and learned to scale over it. He shared the space inside the wall with me, never pushing me to go outside that wall, but rather allow it to protect me.
I took a leap of faith and trusted a man. I took a leap of another faith and found some trusting friends. My family loves me, all is good in the world. Eventually you stop feeling the complete lack of self worth and let yourself rise above and shine again. There are more good men in the world than the bad ones, you just need to make sure you get one of them in your life instead! I’m teaching my children that every day but also educating the girls in my life about safe dating and other important details that go hand in hand with knowing. Learning how to defend and protect yourself is critical because I wish that no one ever has to live a life being afraid.