Today, I am celebrating the two-year anniversary of the last time I was raped. Yes, I celebrate this. Yes, I know it’s morbid. Yes, I know the exact day.
Two years ago today, a very close family friend raped me. I hope to continue celebrating this anniversary because, for me, it truly is a happy thing. It means I am continually putting rape in my past. In honor of this day, I want to talk about the aftermath of the last time I was raped.
In the two years since, I have done research, soul-searching, lecturing, talking, crying, drinking, wallowing, reading, explaining all to try to understand the events in my life. (Please keep in mind I am writing from a personal perspective that is influenced by my past and my research in the field of sexual assault. I also talk in generalizations; not everyone follows the same pattern or does the same things. It is a generalization because many people with similar experiences have gone on to do similar things, but not always. I am an example of a generalization, as well as a caveat to the generalization. We are all people, and everyone is unique. Do not think this is a blanket statement for everyone.)
Two years ago, I was newly single due to the break-up with my long-time boyfriend. The summer of 2013 was a chaotic summer. I had not yet admitted that I had been raped. It’s not something that is easy to say, let alone admit to anyone, including yourself. This is normal. Even though I had been through the process twice before, it does not get easier. It took me six months to realize and admit that I had, once again, been raped. In those six months, I turned into the slutty* version of RaeAnna. I dated. I dated a lot. I did not have sex with any guy I dated, but I did blow a few.
This is a normal reaction to being raped. Whether it is oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, etc. It is normal. I’m not saying it happens immediately or that all survivors participate, but it is normal. Why? Well, let me tell you. It is a normal reaction to experience a “sexual awakening” or “sexual curiosity” or “sexual experimentation” or whatever you want to call it after being sexually assaulted. If you think about it, it makes sense. It is a way that a survivor can take back power both of their body and psyche. Being raped has very little to do with sex and everything to do with power. It isn’t about the sex. It is someone’s exertion of power over someone else in one of the most personal and demeaning ways possible. It dehumanizes someone to a point that some never recover. Going through a period of sexual experimentation is normal. Every rape survivor I have talked to in depth has gone through something similar. The best way I can explain it is “It’s hard to be raped when you never say no.” That doesn’t come close to really explaining it because it is so complex, but it’s the shortest way I can without trying for a doctoral thesis – although watch for it, maybe one day.
I was lucky enough to go through my explorative phase without a spotlight. I was anonymous, and, quite frankly, no one gave a crap that I blew a few people over a summer. (Well there were a few, but that’s a completely different story.) I went to a very enlightened school that embraces sexual exploration as long as you’re safe, willing, having fun, and no one is getting hurt. So many people don’t have the luxury of anonymity. These unfortunate souls, whether it be in high school or college or the workplace or wherever, can go on to be dubbed a “slut” or a “whore” or any other demeaning and degrading name. Not only do they have to work on recovering from a physical and emotional trauma, they also have to face the judgement of their peers or worse: faculty, administration, employers, leadership, etc. It also doesn’t help if they want to speak out about their experience. They then face “Well, you sleep with everyone,” “You’re asking for it,” “You just remember wrong,” “Don’t do so much BDSM,” or countless others.
After being raped, going through a sexually experimental phase can help survivors gain back a sense of power over self. It does not, however, help them recover from the emotional trauma, nor does it make them feel any better. Honestly, it makes them feel a whole lot better for a minute and then worse for a long time.
I have thick skin. I’ve been through a lot and I’ve heard a lot. I would love to say that comments don’t hurt me, but I’ve heard it enough it doesn’t hurt as much.
Here’s the thing. I have been through the rape after math too many times. I now have the drill down pretty well. Here are my personal steps: 1) Get raped. 2) Go home and pretend like nothing happened. 3) Time passes. 4) Feel worthless. 5) Start dating someone. 6) Start dating someone else. 7) Make out with a random person. Feel better for a minute, then feel worse. 8) Repeat 7 until making out no longer does anything. 9) Blow someone. Feel better for a minute, then feel worse. 10) Repeat 9 until blowing someone no longer does anything. 11) Contemplate random sex. 12) Rule random sex out. 13) Blow again. 14) Still nothing. 16) Have a complete breakdown for three days. 17) Realization hits during a meaningless conversation leading to acknowledging the suppressed feelings. 18) Continue to feel worthless and like shit, but at least no why. 19) After the age of 22, alcohol was splashed throughout steps 4-18.
I wish I could say that I am fine. I’m not. I’m not fine. I hold it together great. I do it because I have to. There are two things you have to realize about me 1) I have a hard time feeling anything. 2) The only feeling I can really get behind is anger. I am always angry. I wish I wasn’t, but I am. In my most selfish mind, I will always wonder What did I ever do to deserve this? The truth is, nothing. I did nothing, but I am angry. I’m angry because it happened and it kept happening. I am angry that I have been raped by more men than I will ever have sex with. I am angry so many choices were taken away. I’m angry that my life is limited because of my past. I am angry that I have to worry about everything from my social life to my career because I am open about rape. I am angry that I can’t dream anymore. I am angry the most defining moments in my life are violence. I am angry I can’t be tickled. I am angry I wonder how hard it is for a man to get into jeans when I buy them. I’m angry I talk about rape as an every day thing because IT WAS. I am angry I have to drink just to feel something some days. I’m angry that the thought of rape doesn’t terrify me anymore… it would just be another day, another cycle. I’m angry that my life hasn’t been my own. I’m angry.
They say forgiveness is the best way to move on with your life. I can forgive almost anything. But how do I forgive this? How does anyone. In order to forgive I have to understand, and I can get the psychology and the mindset intellectually, but as a person, I can’t understand. I can’t. I can’t forgive them. Not yet. So on bad days, I am selfish and I cry. I cry and cry and cry. And I’m angry.
*I do not condone the word slutty when talking about people because this exacerbates the victim blaming culture. However, I am using it in this context because the alternative is far too long and complex to type.