Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Opening the cage door and moving on: Part 1

I've written here about my rape experience, and what happened afterwards, how it affected me, and the dreams that I still have. Writing about these events and feelings has given me an opportunity to finalise a version of my truth, which I can work on and can start to come to terms with. It's so much easier to fight a demon if it's got a form, and to be honest sometimes putting the demon into form means it's a lot smaller than it threatened to be when it was just in the mind, running wild.

My first post, Rape or just bad sex?, gave my account of the rape from a particular perspective. I felt that the biggest hurdle which was placed in the way of me trying to get over what happened to me was the issue of consent, so I concentrated on the aspects which led me up to my conclusion that so often rape victims feel like they consented and therefore cannot truthfully see the situation as rape.

I tried to be as matter-of-fact as I could be to convey the bare facts, to avoid confusion, and to enable people reading my account to be able to see my arguments clearly and to hopefully give me some reassurance that my situation was rape. The trouble with that was that I missed a lot of things out and I still was left with the feeling that if someone knew the whole truth they would find that actually I was making a load of fuss calling it rape.

I worried for so many years about whether I've had the right version of the truth, whether the guy who I think raped me would have had the same version of events, whether he'd refute it, and sometimes whether it really happened at all or whether I just made a bad choice and tried to blame it on someone else afterwards. This has so often stopped me from telling, and it's been the main reason why I haven't really told my friends. Nearly all the people in my life who knew me back when it happened don't know any of it did happen. Most of them in fact. Only my now husband and a close friend. And it seems quite impossible to tell my friends now after I've pretended for so long that it hadn't happened. I felt that they would never really believe me or worse that they would believe but would be upset that I didn't trust them with it at the time.

I've recently told a friend. Admittedly it's a friend who has only known me a few years, so those fears were not relevant. He was supportive, sympathetic and non-judgmental. He was amazing, more amazing than I could ever have hoped. And yes, he was a "he". I broke so many bonds which have been holding me by telling a male friend. I have written in my post "Repeat to fade" about the way I felt after the rape, when I'd started to basically go with any man who was interested, that the rape increased my promiscuity as I had disconnected from the emotional sides of sex. Because of the rape I've been unable to feel strong enough to say "no" to men who proposition me, who I probably would have said no to if I'd been the former version of myself, the untainted version.

I have imagined that going through the process of saying "no" to a man would force me into telling. I'd somehow connected to two events in my mind and began to wish for the situation to present itself where I would be forced to tell my story. It was therefore incredibly important for me to tell a man of my experiences, without it leading to anything sexual between us or being caused by any sexual advance. He is a man who I find attractive, but I only told him on the basis of us being friends. This has broken the spell, like someone has waved a wand. Literally. The connection has snapped and I feel so incredibly free, like the door to my cage has been flung open.

I challenged myself at the beginning to be as honest as I could be here, telling myself that I needed to do this to really help myself to come to terms with all these things. But only now do I feel like I can tell all my story. I told it to one man and he accepted my truth, he didn't try to belittle my version of events and he didn't give me any opinion about my actions or the rapist's actions, or the actions of others who were involved. He didn't allow me to cling to any words, apart from my own words, but he reinforced to me that I was right. I was the ONLY person who lived this experience and I'm the ONLY person who can decide what really happened. The perspectives of the other people there are not important now. The only truth that matters is my own. It doesn't matter that I can't remember all the details, I can remember enough to know how I felt and whether I'd consented or not. He also said that I shouldn't let this define me and that I shouldn't try to define it. Something really awful happened to me and I should accept that, but not let it become the most important thing about me.

This intervention of logic from one man has broken the hold that another man has had over me. He's stuck a spanner in the wheel that I've been treading whilst I've been convincing myself out of being brave and talking myself out of seeing it as rape. He could see it clearly without all those pesky emotions and self-doubts. I fed off his strength and I need to continue to do that, not just with him but with other people.

All of this has made me realise that whilst I hide the truth, whilst I feel shame about any of the events which happened, whilst I pre-judge myself before I've even told my account of things - then I will still not be able to fully define it and will not be able to move on. I need to put a big fat fullstop onto the end of this and accept a version of the truth, whether it stands up to public scrutiny or not, and I need to give myself the chance to say goodbye to my former self, mourn for those parts of myself that I've lost forever, and then I need to move on.

To do this I need to tell the rest of the sorry tale. Here. So watch this space...



  1. Hi Prudence
    I take quite some time when I read your blog - to do any less would seem to serve you a great injustice...... I think the comment from your friend about not allowing the rape to define you is really important, and something I think you do well to hang on to.
    Love and prayers

    Liz x

  2. Liz - thank you so very, very much. I really do need to know that people are reading these things which I am finally voicing. It means such a lot that you leave such encouraging comments.

    The friend of whom I write has a wonderful ability to boil things down into motto-sized chunks, but it's all the supportive people who have touched my life from all directions who have given me the strength firstly to tell such bald truths and secondly to understand the significance of his words.

    Thanks :-)