Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Resolving through reliving: nothing quite hits the spot

Last night I sat obsessively at my computer, passing hour after hour, until the small hours of the morning when I could no longer stay awake. I was hungry for resolution and to see and experience something that came somewhere close to representing the events of being raped as I remember them.

I was restricted to watching anything free to view, which was a fictional scene. I was never ever going to pay to watch something which would end up with someone profiting from it really happening.

I sat through Jodie Foster's gang rape in "The Accused", I watched Clint Eastwood raping some woman in a barn in the old West (can't remember the film) to show her some manners, I watched the attempted rape of Sookie Stackhouse in "True Blood", I watched some Spanish film where the woman was theatened at knife-point, I watched what was billed as some hard-hitting Bollywood rape scene but was a little too smartly choreographed to seem realistic, and many others including "Last Tango in Paris" and something with Jennifer Aniston in it.

But nothing hit that spot. Nothing wrenched my stomach, nothing crushed my lungs threatening to rip them out through my ribs, none of it made me feel anywhere close to how the memories make me feel and how I remember feeling at the time.

Perhaps it's the fact that I know I'm safe watching it, all that I can cause damage to is my head and my wellbeing, but physically I don't need to fear harm. Perhaps I've lived it all over and over again so much that I'm numb to it? But I didn't want to be numb. I wanted to feel it all again, I wanted it raw and vicious in front of me, I wanted the emotions and fear coursing through my veins again to remind myself how bad it really was.

Am I completely insane??

I wanted to feel it now, as the person who I am now, so that I could make sense of it all, so that I could really understand what I'd been through and to help me prove to myself that I WAS really violated, that I can consider it to have been rape, which is the thing I've struggled with for years and why I didn't acknowledge that it had happened or how it had affected me.

Today I've been thinking a lot about why none of these scenes were enough for me. On paper most of these situations were notionally worse than my situation - with multiple assailants, weapons, vicious intention etc. Yet they didn't make me feel like I was living it again. I think I've hit on it now though. These clips were only minutes long, they conveyed the story and the events, but they did not let the viewer actually live in the scene. They didn't build up the tension, they did not show the detail, the nuances, they did not show what that woman saw from her own eyes and did not give us any idea of the physical reality. They did not take as long as the act took, they didn't make the viewer have to sit uncomfortably through every movement, every separate act and violation which added up to the big event, like the victim had to do. They weren't put into the place of the victim and can only ever be observers.

So I've turned to the only scene I've found in my life which comes close to echoing the experience of the undignified struggle against invasion, which still haunts me more than the eventual act itself. Well, that's probably a little simplistic, it's all pretty harrowing really, but the part of it all which still makes me lose my stomach was the initial fight before I gave in.

Anyway the scene is one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Series 6. I don't expect I'm alone in this, but I've often felt a real connection with this lonely young woman who took so much on herself to protect others and had to battle her entire life. This scene in particular was where the man who she had been involved with, but had ended things with, came round to her house. Well, I say "man" but he was actually a vampire, Spike. There was symbolism from the start, she'd previously invited him into her house, thus he was able to enter (unlike your vampiric stranger) so there was the inference that she'd already consented to his advances before. He was also a monster in a man's body. Vampires have no soul, no ability to see what's right and wrong, no boundaries, the inevitable predator.

He ended up catching hold of her in the bathroom, on the floor (mine was in a bathroom too and with a blond-haired lanky bloke - the same) and tussling with her. The rawness of the scene is palpable, the bathroom is harshly lit and the surfaces are hard so there is no sense of it being a place where people would want to have sex out of choice. She hits her head and it's clumbsy, which is the reality - so many rape scenes treat it as a sex scene gone wrong, they have the same smooth happening to events and the man is able to "perform" and to hit the spot. It's just not that neat.

He pushes for what he thought he deserved, what he should have, what she'd previously given willingly and what he thinks she should give again. The lines are blurred between them because of their history so it echoes in some respects my own experience (I didn't have history with him, but instead with his girlfriend and he got it into his head that he could have me in the same way). Some time in her life she trusted him and there was a fundamental breach of that trust (in my instance I put it in the bloke's girlfriend).

Buffy was also an immensely strong woman, but because he caught her off guard he got the upper hand. She was portrayed as uncharacteristically vulnerable at this point. She'd normally be kicking him in the face and putting him out of a window with her superhuman strength, but this scene showed her with such frailty that it has been a source of strength to me to watch it, to see how even the most strong and brave of women can be undone too.

I suppose I didn't need to spend all that time looking. I have my perfect "rape" scene to play over when I need to feel it and have a cry to myself. Out of any of those scenes this one where there is actually no rape in the end, where her fight is ultimately successful, is yet the one which I find most raw.

In the end he realises what he is doing is wrong. He is disgusted with himself and sees himself for the monster that he is. There is perhaps an element of sadness watching this scene that the guy in my own scene didn't realise this too.



  1. God, this certainly hits a raw nerve. *offers hugs*
    I've had those moments - sat up later than I should trying to find some way to relive (and partly exorcise) the demons my own molestation left me with - and I can only hope you find some sense of healing out of yours.
    Well thought out and well-written post. Thank you.

  2. Hi Duckiloo,

    What helps give me the tools to help me resolve these issues is being able to admit the exact truth of how I'm feeling and then to receive comments from people who understand and have been through similar processes. It would seem crazy to the observer who has never been through it that we would actively seek to feel those feelings again I'm sure. But knowing that there are people who have felt the same way makes us all feel a bit more reasonable and like we're not alone.

    That's why I write these things I suppose, to get resolution through voicing the things which I think people might think are odd, to then find that there are people who realy don't think it's odd at all. We are helping each other in these communities and it feels great to be a part of it.

    Take care ducky :-)

  3. Wow. I've had nights like this too. Times when I have tried so desperately to feeeel. To feel anything but numb, even though I know how painful it is going to be because I need to remember how bad it was so that I can begin to heal. It took me so long, and took so much energy and focus to block out the abuse when it was happening that I can't always find a way back to it.
    There have been scenes like these that have really disturbed me, especially shortly after the abuse. Recently, however, I tried the same thing but I still could not feel anything. I tried and tried but nothing worked. Finally, I found an old note I had written at the time of my abuse, describing what I was going through. Something about hearing my own voice from this time sent me back.
    Just wanted to let you know that I've been there. I'm sending peace and love your way. Keep writing...you are an inspiration. <3

  4. Hi Faith,

    Sorry for the delay in replying to you. I've been away from blogland whilst going through some personal stuff. I really do feel for you that you are having to go through any of this and I know that you have a lot to deal with being able to cope in "normal" life after you've experienced abuse. I know that it's hard to feel, because you cut off that part of you which feels things so that it doesn't seem so bad. I hope that you have some security now in your life so that you can feel like you are safe to feel again. Bless you, I know that I am getting some out of writing, because someone somewhere might get something from it and then it's not all for nothing!