If you have never been a victim of sexual assault, you are likely to believe that there are degrees to rape; that one type of rape is worse than another. This is a fallacy. I have been raped on two different occasions by two different men. While one rape could perhaps be classified as violent, forcible rape, and the second date-rape, the trauma I endured was the same. I am going to share with you a bit about both rapes. While the circumstances surrounding the rapes are not at all similar, the details that haunt me are almost identical.
I was six years old. We moved from a subdivision in the city to a farm in the country. I had not yet started school. Unlike my subdivisionin the city, there were no kids around me on the farm. It was summer, and it was a lonely time.
My neighbors had a teenage boy, the same age as my sister, also between his sophomore and junior year. He was short for a teen boy, probably around 5ft, but like my sister who beat me up on a regular basis, he was a lot bigger than me. He would come over to my house when his mom visited my mom. He played in the backyard with me. He made sound effects for my toys. He made me laugh with his silliness. He had new ideas for new games....like house, where he took me to the barn loft and raped me on a camping trailer mattress.
There are details from the rape that I remember that may seem odd to you, but it is a common phenomenon. My brain was rushing endorphins through my body like mad, and I became astutely aware of all of my senses at once. I can remember the differing textures of the mattress and torn fabric on my back. I can remember the smell of rotting timber, the moldy styrofoam, the dusty fabric on the mattress. I remember the taste of his mouth, the feel of his hot breath on my neck. I remember how when he made me touch his genitals I was confused by the contrast of coarse hair and soft skin. I remember the shadows cast by the sun through the holes in the barn walls and across the things stored in the loft. I remember his weight against my body, the feeling of being powerless as he held my head, and being unable to escape. I remember the pain between my legs, a fire burning, like being stung by hundreds of bees at once.
But what do I remember the most? His eyes. His green eyes were piercing. They glowed, they hungered, they preyed.
And I was crying.
Fast forward eight years and I go through these same sensations, only this time I knew what was happening.
I was 14 and a freshman in high school. I had a huge crush on a basketball player, and made no secret of that crush. I will cut to the chase here, but trust me, the events leading up to this rape are going to be addressed in a blog post all it's own.
He was 6'7". He was a smooth talker. He told me he was going to take me places. He slow danced with me in the living room. But when he took me to the floor I was in an all too familiar place.
I remember the feel of the carpet on my bare back. I can smell his cologne, the taste of Coca-Cola still in his mouth. I can feel his huge, strong hands on my skin. I remember turning my head and watching the dust particles dance through the single stripe of light shining through the drapes in the front window. I remember the weight of his body on mine and struggling to breathe. I remember not being strong enough to push him off or pull myself away. I remember the pain, the burning, tearing, ripping pain, between my legs.
I remember his eyes. And I was crying.
When I told people I had been raped, I left out those details. I frankly didn't expect anyone to understand how sitting on a foam mattress, or watching dust particles, or the taste of a soft drink could take me back to some of the darkest times in my life. This is the type of baggage a rape victim carries around. It is irrational, but it is very real.
This is what my husband, John, walked into when he married me. He had to deal with this baggage (and more). The ugly truth is that he said and did things at times that caused me to feel like a 6 year old all over again. He had no idea how the small details of the rapes had imprinted my brain and altered my senses. The good news is that we talked about it early on, and he loved me through it. I did not know that telling him these things made him angry until I started prosecuting the first rape 20 years later. Only then did my husband admit that Mr. X affected his life. My husband admitted to me that he feels he has had to fix what Mr.X broke.
I am thankful for a loving husband who chose to fight with me. But it took being honest and open about the details. It took my willingness to be vulnerable and his willingness to be broken to allow healing to take place.
All of the pain you feel, all of the details that haunt you, they can be redeemed. But it is going to require that you stop hiding them and telling yourself they don't matter. You have to bring them up, and out. By giving them away, you will be given a gift of much higher value. Redemption.