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A Survivor’s Story …

May 31, 2010

This post is part of the Theatre’s Rape Culture series.

For many that experience sexual abuse or rape, life is forever and irrevocably changed.  Many who have been violated in this way liken the rape or assault to the murder of the person they were pre-assault.  The perpetrator’s choice to use physical control and dominance- to use another person’s body in that way- is not about sex.  It is one of the most intimate forms of violence and is devastating and has long lasting if not lifelong reverberations.  The victim is often left with shame, self doubt and a myriad of damaging and hurtful reactions from a society that often focuses on the victim almost exclusively and what that person did or did not do to avoid sexual assault rather than on the perpetrator and their singular choice/responsibility to rape.

Often, many will not report the crime.  They may actively or even unconsciously try to keep their secret.  A victim who attempts to avoid acknowledging what happened will find the secret takes on a life of its own, and that the silence is the space that allows the pain to grow.  For many that have survived sexual abuse and rape, telling others about their experience is the first time that they have an opportunity to start the healing process, to realize that they are not alone, and that what happened has forever changed them and they can progress from victim to a survivor and NOT be defined by another’s use of violence.

A Survivor’s Story …

I find myself waking up in panic less and less as time passes, but not to say that it no longer haunts me.  Every time, I wake up confused … what happened to me?  Why am I naked from the waist down?  My limbs won’t move, and my mouth is thick with a medicinal aftertaste.  My head feels like glass, ready to shatter.  I hear low music and murmuring, and I try to find my underwear, my socks.  They are rolled up in my jeans … how … what… where … in dawning horror, I find a condom wrapper in my shoe, then another at the doorway… then I find the used condoms.  NO- this cannot be happening to me.  I am responsible, highly educated, street smart, and I knew and trusted these people, my friends of several years.  I travel to the bathroom, and my legs feel as if they are filled with lead, and my wrists, ankles, and neck are burning, and my personal areas are on fire.  I get to the mirror, and a gaunt, pale zombie looks back, with lipstick smeared across the mouth- like someone’s hand still was clamped there.  There is blood in my underwear now, and I see the marks on my wrists, arms, and legs.  I know what happened to me … although I can only remember shadowy snippets, begging them not to, begging, negotiating.  They almost killed me that night … and at that moment in the mirror, I wished they had.  This does not happen to people like me … does it? Sitting in the shower for hours, dumping the clothes …. Often I wake up here, but some nights I do not.  I flash forward to the days after… almost 3 days of trying to convince myself it did not happen.  Three days of watching the handprints grow and darken on my wrists, upper arms, ankles, and neck.  I go for medical help, and sit sobbing in the emergency room among curious but uncaring eyes.  I eventually am moved to a ‘quiet room’ but I feel alone in the room of people.  I have chosen to keep silent, to not tell those who love me, care about me.  A painful exam- a flashback to violation and humiliation … I still keep the secret.  Now, years later, I mark my life in 2 phases … before, and after.  Before I was assured, open, and in control.  Now, after, I am closed, wary, and reactive.  However, I am taking back control.  I am healing, and I will not stay silent forever.  I am … a survivor.  This is MY life.  They did not take it from me.  I was too strong for that.  I may have bent- but I am not broken.

About Survivors, Inc.

Survivors, Inc. is a sexual assault and domestic violence center located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.   Survivors, Inc.’s mission is dedicated to striving for a world where violence is unthinkable.  Survivors, Inc., as many of its sister organizations across the country, works to provide those impacted by sexual abuse, incest, rape, stalking and domestic abuse with supportive services such as crisis work, safety planning, information and referral, a 24 hour hotline, medical and legal accompaniment and advocacy, support groups, individual supportive counseling and shelter.   Survivors, Inc. services are free, confidential, and focused on assisting those impacted by sexual and domestic violence to begin their journey to healing and empowerment.

One Comment
  1. June 2, 2010 3:23 am

    Thank you for your work and your commitment!! It is needed. But besides the support etc it is important with information to all the ignorant people so further hurt can be stopped.
    Have just been through hospitalization including several actions which to me felt like new incidents of abuse. I tell – and told – why they had the reaction on me. The answer was, ‘next time say you do not want it, YOU DO NOT NEED TO TELL WHY’ – said by women, nurses, doctors .. probably to protect me.
    Good luck with your work!

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