Saturday, December 10, 2005

Reclaiming My Femininity

"That's not quite rape." That was a listener's response to a call-in which a distraught listener related her emotional trauma that she was still suffering through ten years following a brutal assault at the hands of her fiancee.

"What did you just say?" I asked, incredulously.

"That's not quite rape." Seconds ticked by as the rage slowly worked itself to a boil, starting deep inside, burned its way up the back of my neck and had my eyes stinging with unshed tears. The caller went on to explain his rationale but I heard none of it; his words blocked by the screams of pain and hurt from my own "not quite rape" experience.

I didn't talk about it then and I still don't. It has been thirteen years for me but I've never quite gotten over it. And never will.

Like this caller most people still think of rape as a random attack, happening in dark corners at night or in empty parking lots. Although this is a tragic reality for some women, the majority of rapes occur when there is some degree of trust..... Yet, less then 5% of date rapes are ever reported.

I reported mine but to no avail. The system that set in place to assist the victims of crime only raped me again. So I shut my mouth and went on about living a life that I no longer felt belonged to me.

Instead of getting counseling, I worked in the trenches: talking to young women about dangers of sexual assault; whether it is at the hands on someone you know or someone you don't; advocating for tougher laws and more stringent sentencing for those who commit sexual assault and holding the hands of those who are dealing with the aftermath, struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives and their shattered femininity.

It was my own form of therapy and I thought it was working. But as I listened to the call again, I realized I still have a long way to go in my own healing process. Not on the surface - my physical scars have long since faded; but the emotional scars that are hidden deep within and are still puckered and pink.

I used to think the details weren't important. After al I gave the details - in excruciating detail to a group of people that only turned them against me. But now I've come to realize that the details are crucial. Because the signs of control and rage that I saw only in hindsight might prevent someone else from suffering through the ongoing aftermath of rape.

My body was violated but so was the very essence of what makes me a woman.

And the reclamation of that essence has been my life's journey; manifesting itself through depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem and relationship issues that plagued me through my twenties. Now in my thirties, I still jump at shadows, unexpected movements and loud male voices.

Even in the most tender moments with my husband, a similar movement brings back hellish memories.

My self-esteem as a woman is still splintered but it is no longer shattered and I've started taking back what it rightfully mine.

I'm starting to feel myself.

And love myself.

Validate and believe: Rape victims need reassurance that the assault was not their fault and that their feelings are normal. Although you feel you might have reacted differently, remember that each person's reactions are uniquely theirs.

Create a safe place: Both emotionally and physically, it is important for the survivor to feel in control again.

Expression: The feelings of a survivor of sexual assault can be very strong. Expressing these powerful feelings in a safe environment is an important part of the healing process.

Offer options-not advice: Survivors often struggle with important and complex decisions. You can be most helpful by helping her identify all of the options available and supporting her in her decision making.

Most importantly, believe in the possibility of healing.

Continue to be blessed.

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:37 AM

    I was molested as a child by a trusted long time family friend. I never told anyone the whole story. I was 9 and I didn't tell any of the story until maybe 20 years later.My mom knew something happened but never heard a word from me. I thought I was over it until I sa w a man that looked just like the molester and my heart raced. I was so scared and then I was very angry. I felt like that helpless child again. I had many problems once puberty set in. I hated my body and I couldn't manage a halthy relationship with anyone. You can't just get over the violation.

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  2. Anonymous9:24 AM

    I pray that the healing has begun It is the first time I have heard you publicly acknowledged the rape and I must tell you that after these years of praying maybe I also can begin to forgive the damage that one person wrought on MY child. My prayers will continue for the healing of your inner child, and that you will finally accept the fact that you are worthy of accepting love and giving love. Something else I have never said to you but..after you came home and we went through that bad time I did a lot of research on the subject and found that we were among the fortunate ones if you can phrase it like that but many of the suicides of young women in that age group were because of a rape that had taken place. Many took place on college campuses. I was really surprised. Look it up some time. I love you keep on keeping on. Thank you for this today. God is on your side keep trusting Him.

    Mom

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  3. From the jump, this entry screams READ ME. Your blog started off with a bang:

    "That's not quite rape."

    Utterly intrigued.. I continued to read. Ms. Woods--very profound. Excellent subject matter.. I wanted to read more. Bravo!!

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  4. Nikki,

    I left my comments on the guest blogger as you can see from my memoir, the situation is quite delicate at times. My inner child is still healing and will continue to do so. My family cannot help with this, only God.

    sharon

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  5. This is a wonderful and powerful message you are sharing with women from all walks of life. It only takes one door to open and allow the rest to follow a path recovery. My sister Stephanie was abuse beyond words and I recently read it stated out as a rape--- by the one she trusted the most, her husband. I recently came across her journals and this is the first time I shared their existance. Even though she was the one abused being sisters I feel I was abused as well. No comparison, I know but it still hurts and opening up is giving others the spirit to share. Thanks!

    Tbou

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  6. Wow, deep story yet one of survival. Never stop talking and sharing, its stories like this that will make a difference in someone else life.... it may even save one as well.

    I feel your pain Tbou.


    -Nick

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  7. You caught my attention with your title." Reclaiming My Femininity” and kept it with the opening words “"That's not quite rape." After that I ran the gantlet of emotions as I continued on. Keep on healing.

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