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Author Topic: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape  (Read 13389 times)

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Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #50 on: September 05, 2013, 09:56:04 AM »
Well, the shoe is on the other foot now, so to speak … and I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do.

One of my very best friends is currently in a relationship that charitably – at best – could be termed "unhealthy". Personally, I'd just call it "awful". The guy she's dating, I suppose, is sweet to her at times, particularly when they're out with friends ... but mostly, he's mentally and physically abusive to her. Even when I’ve seen them together in a public setting where he’s mostly behaving himself, there’s a constant barrage of condescension and insults towards her that’s wrapped in a veil of smiles and jokes, but I don’t think he’s kidding. She's also “been clumsy” and “tripped” more in the past few months than in the entire time I've known her over 6 years, she constantly has bruises that she’s trying to cover ... and she's also not a very convincing liar.

And he rapes her. Frequently.

I know that because I've gotten that particular confession from her a few times – usually in a panicked text or phone call in the middle of the night, which is also usually recanted the next day as “I was drunk” or “I was kidding” or “it was a misunderstanding”.  Again, she’s not a good liar.

I can see what’s happening (as can several other people), but as of now, there’s not much I can do … which is just an incredibly helpless feeling. I’ve let her know that I’m there to help and support her, ranging from the passive “if you want to talk about anything, I’m here to listen” to the most active “if he’s hurting you, you need to leave him”. But apart from a few slips here and there, according to her, no, everything’s fine and wonderful … except I can see the hurt in her eyes. And the guilt, the guilt that shouldn’t be there because she isn’t doing anything wrong. I used to see that hurt and that guilt when I looked in the mirror, and I know what’s going on, and I understand it all too well …

… and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it, because she’s shutting me out. She’s shutting everyone out.

Just like I used to shut everyone out who wanted to help me.

So, I’m left to my own advice. When she asks me to leave her alone, I do, reluctantly. When she tells me to shut up and mind my own fucking business, I do, reluctantly. But I always make sure to let her know that I am there for her, unconditionally, and that I love her no matter what.

I’m just kind of scared because I found out today that she needed to go to the hospital – again – for the second time in several months, this time with a few broken ribs. Apparently she “fell down” again, which I don’t believe at all, unless by that you mean “the asshole boyfriend’s fist fell into her ribcage”. (If I could actually prove otherwise, I’d call the police … unfortunately, I can’t.) I can see things getting progressively worse and worse … and I worry. A lot.

So I do what I can … which isn’t much at the moment. And I think about all the times I pushed the people I loved away from me who wanted to help me … and realize how helpless they must’ve felt. And I’m so, so sorry for doing that … not only because it hurt them, but because it meant I was further hurting myself as well, for far longer than I needed to, just living in a world ruled by guilt and shame and pain and self-loathing.

I just hope she’s stronger than I was … and that she reaches out for help sooner than I ever did.

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #51 on: September 05, 2013, 10:06:02 AM »
Does she know that you had to get out of a similar situation?  I know you've said that you haven't told many people (outside of this blog anyways), but this could end up helping both of you.  I'd also completely understand if that wasn't something you were ready to do.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #52 on: September 05, 2013, 11:24:15 AM »
She knows about my own experiences - I told her about them, not too long before (I think) her own unpleasant experiences began. It's how I've even led off a few of my not-so-subtle offers of support to her - "you know all of the shit I've been through, so if you're going through anything like that, believe me, I know how tough it is, and I understand ... you're not alone." Which usually gets an uneasy laugh and a quick brush-off.

It's ... strange (?), for lack of a better word. On the one hand, my own rape experiences has given me perhaps more insight into what's happening with her, and to be able to offer support and help where I might not have been able to otherwise do so. (Several of our mutual friends have noticed she's "off", but didn't see any signs of abuse until it was pointed out.) On the other, I understand too well the defensive mechanisms that go up the moment you suggest there's a problem, and despite having been the one to operate said mechanisms for many, many years, I still have no insight as to how to get past them, apart from patience, kindness, and honesty. (Especially patience, which is the hardest/most frustrating part.)

Intellectually, I know that someone you love and care about really can't be helped until they want to be helped ... but that doesn't make anything any easier. The person she most loves and cares about at the moment is also her abuser, and until she recognizes that fact, I'm not sure what can be changed. (Again, he's done nothing to her that I've directly witnessed, nor have any of our mutual friends, but if he ever does the police will be notified so fast it'll make his head spin.)

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #53 on: September 05, 2013, 11:53:50 AM »
Keeping the lines of support open is a good start.  Even having a regular 'girls day' where you get together and do something without talking about him at all gives her a possible 'safe zone'.  The fact that she does know, and knows that you've found your way out, means that you're probably going to be her first choice for advice when he crosses the lines.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #54 on: September 05, 2013, 04:41:08 PM »
~hugs~ Thank you, Oniya. It's pretty much what I'm doing now ... but it's good for my own sanity to hear someone else say that it's the right course of action. I want to do so much more, but I know that it might just push her away (and not in a good direction), so I'm resigned to making sure she knows she has friends - and a life - beyond her main unhealthy relationship.

Offline Dallas

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #55 on: October 27, 2013, 06:42:15 PM »
I read this story and I couldn't help but feel moved to contribute a story of my own on this board. I will comment here further once I'm finished. I just want to say that I respect your aftermath philosophy. You say (in so many words) that you choose to stand and not let yourself be defeated by a tragic past. I had a similar experience as a child by a grown man. I won't say its the same but I would think it similar (in reality) to having a vital peace of you taken away. For me it was my childhood, but as you say: "I'm a survivor, not a victim." It took me a long time to develop that perspective. I think that despite everything that happened, your choice in the end is quite gallant. :)

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #56 on: December 31, 2013, 03:41:30 AM »
Hi, New Year's Eve. Looks like you're back again.

Well, this year I plan on going to some posh party with my girlfriend, the kind of party where I have an excuse to wear a slinky, shiny cocktail dress and a pair of I-paid-way-too-much-for-these high heels. And while I expect the ugly things that happened to me on a New Year's Eve so many years ago will do doubt cross my mind many times tonight, they won't haunt me or define me, as they have so many times before. In fact, I plan on raising a glass of champagne when the ball drops at midnight this year, whenever the countdown starts.

I want to celebrate moving forward, not being held back by the past.

I hope so, anyway. At least that's the plan. It sounds brave, I just hope I can actually do it.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #57 on: January 01, 2014, 07:16:39 AM »
Made it. Survived. Had a fantastic evening.

Here's hoping you all did as well. :)

Have a wonderful 2014, everyone.

Offline kckolbe

Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #58 on: January 01, 2014, 07:18:04 AM »
Good job.  I am proud of and happy for you.  Way to start the year off right.

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #59 on: January 01, 2014, 01:42:36 PM »
That's amazing!! I'm so glad you had a good time! <3

Sounds like you've come leaps and bounds. ^^

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #60 on: January 02, 2014, 02:46:24 PM »
Thank you both very much! Slowly but surely, it's been getting better the past few years.

Talking about what happened (and posting about it) certainly helps; people listening helps even more. :)

Offline Cycle

Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #61 on: January 03, 2014, 08:35:55 AM »
Made it. Survived. Had a fantastic evening.

Congrats, Zillah.  I was happy to read this.  Each step forward counts so much. 

And I am positive 2014 is going to be an amazing year.

Offline lovelylilT

Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #62 on: January 06, 2014, 05:50:13 PM »
Hooray! Oh I'm so very happy, for you!  :-)

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #63 on: January 08, 2014, 03:14:15 PM »
Cycle, T - thank you. :)

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #64 on: June 26, 2014, 02:11:33 PM »
I haven't written here in a long while - for a variety of reasons - but one of the main ones is because with what little free time I've had over the past year or so, I've been volunteering at a rape crisis center as a counselor. It's been an experience that's hard to classify as "good" or "rewarding" –  you're trying to help people in pain, and you wish that they simply hadn't been hurt in the first place –  but I'm glad to be able to help where I can, and I suppose that's what really matters.
 
The main reason I'm writing here now isn't anything new. It's simply a lesson I've learned that I think is worth repeating. Since I decided to start talking and writing about my own experiences of being raped, it's helped me tremendously in my life. Not that it’s been particularly fun, but it’s been therapeutic – I was consumed by my own pain, guilt and self-loathing for a long, long time. It’s only by confronting my own experiences, instead of trying to deny them, that I’ve learned better to cope with the pain, and to realize that there was never any reason for the guilt or self-loathing. I’ve learned that while being raped becomes a part of who you are – and nothing you can do can change that – it doesn’t define who you are.
 
And by talking about rape with others, you realize you’re not alone. You never were alone.
 
That being said … as I’ve told some of the people that I’ve counselled lately, talking helps, but talking’s also painful. There’s no way around it. Talking brings up all the ugly, horrible things that you’re dying to forget, and pulls them all out in the open, with nowhere to hide. But talking’s also the release of that pain. If you hold it inside, all it does is grow and own you. Letting it out is how you can try to own the pain instead, and to eventually let it go.
 
I’ve come to terms – more or less – with the first time I was raped. However, the second one, not so much. I was in an office meeting the other day when an older gentleman – a company client, and a rather important one  –  introduced himself to me … and I realized that he was wearing the exact same cologne as the guy who raped me that second time. (It wasn’t him, in case you’re wondering. Too old, different size, different skin color.) But still, it was enough to put me in a full-blown panic attack that was bordering on a meltdown, to the point where I needed to quickly excuse myself, and sprint to the nearest restroom so I could throw up, and then I curled up in the fetal position for the next five minutes and began crying hysterically and wished I would die. Fortunately, my confused and concerned co-workers found me, and called a paramedic – and between people doing their best to calm me down and a handy sedative from the paramedic, the panic eventually passed.
 
I mention this for two reasons. One, I still haven’t really told my co-workers about why I had the panic attack. Part of that’s because I would genuinely feel bad about making aspersions about our client – hey, you smell just like a rapist! – and having people look at him differently. But part of it … I’m still embarrassed and ashamed by what happened. Even though I know I shouldn’t be. And even though I’ve spent god knows how many posts talking about finding the courage to be a survivor, not a victim – well, it’s still hard to talk about it sometimes. It feels easier to just keep quiet and wish it would go away …
 
… even though it won’t.
 
The other reason is because tonight I’ll be going to my rape crisis center, and I’ll be talking to a counselor about what happened. And I’m hoping that helps me to talk to the people where I work about what happened after that.
 
One step at a time.
 
Talking. It helps. Really.
 
I just need to remind myself of that sometimes as well.

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #65 on: June 26, 2014, 02:34:30 PM »
I want to hug you. Can I just hug you and protect you forever?

* Ariel clings to Zillah *

You are such a strong and beautiful woman. I admire you so much. You've been through hell and the fact that you can be so strong blows me away. Reading your posts made me hurt and want to cry for you, but the fact that you braved through all of this makes me happy. You're amazing.

I just can't believe so much evil is out there. The part about the guy in the van was the hardest thing to read.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #66 on: June 26, 2014, 03:43:29 PM »
~hugs~ Thank you, Ariel. :)

The van and the motel still give me horrible nightmares. I've started to remember more of what happened then, which I guess is both good and bad. I think those surfacing memories are what triggered the panic attack, and remembering that cologne smell.

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #67 on: June 26, 2014, 03:52:56 PM »
Smells are something that get terribly tied up to memories, both good and bad.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #68 on: June 26, 2014, 03:57:32 PM »
Yep. Normally I couldn't tell you the difference between one type of cologne and another - they all smell the same to me. But when I caught a whiff of what our client was wearing, I recognized it instantly, even though it's been years since I lasted smelled it.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #69 on: July 02, 2014, 08:55:58 AM »
I got groped this morning on the way to a client meeting this morning. Right on a crowded subway car. Strange hand right up my skirt, grabbing me between the legs.

Tell you what, though - throwing an elbow and screaming RAPE at the top of your lungs gets that fucking shit to stop in a hurry. And gets the attention of the off duty cop sitting at the opposite end of the subway car.

Fuck.

Going to the police station later to make a statement.

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #70 on: July 04, 2014, 08:54:56 AM »
I've been sitting here at my laptop for a long time now, trying to write something insightful about what just happened the other day.

I can't.

All I can say is that I'm struggling to deal with it. I'm coping as best I can, and I'm trying to make sense out of something that really doesn't make any sense - I know this, and yet I try and do it anyway.

And I have an amazing girlfriend and a wonderful family, who have been very supportive of me, as have been my friends as well. Not keeping what happened a secret from people, or keeping everything bottled inside ... well, I won't lie. As I wrote not too long ago, it still hurts. But it hurts far, far less than pretending everything's okay, when it's not.

One day at a time, I guess. :)

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #71 on: December 12, 2014, 09:57:54 AM »
What happened this summer affected me a lot more than I really care to admit.

But I'll admit it anyway.

At the moment, I can't get on a subway without being physically ill. I'd rather walk 30+ blocks to work than take the subway that should make my trip to and from work super easy. I have a hard time going anywhere by myself, for that matter.

I don't like even being touched right now, let alone hugged or kissed. And right now sex is something that I just find repulsive, which isn't making things easy for my fiance and I.  I take about four hot showers a day, to the point that I rub the skin on my arms almost raw at times. I just feel constantly disgusting.

I'm seeing a therapist again. I go to a group counseling meeting each week as well. I'm taking some prescription medication for depression, and all of this helps ... somewhat. But I don't remember feeling this low in a long time.

I promised myself that I would write about my experiences here, the good and the bad. This is the bad. I'm not looking forward to New Year's Eve this year.

I hope for some good in 2015.

Offline ImaginedScenes

Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #72 on: December 12, 2014, 10:38:42 AM »
You are very courageous to write this on a forum that isn't intended for survivors.

I felt a lot of things and had a lot of thoughts while reading this blog, and I don't know how to put some of them into words.  I empathize with becoming ill in certain situations that trigger bad memories. I sympathize with not knowing how to get past something you have been struggling with for a long time.

I'm angry and want to yell into the internet about people who do horrible things or are careless enough to think so little about something so serious that they blow it off as you being a tease and lying or exaggerating.

I want to relate personal concerns and admonish nameless people about what they say and things that they think and how that enables others.

But this is your space, and I don't want to take away from that. So I hope that just describing how strongly I feel about how strong you are (whatever your weak moments), how wrong what happened to you and how people responded to you was, and how much I hope good things for you is enough to give you some happiness.


Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #73 on: December 14, 2014, 07:17:51 AM »
You are very courageous to write this on a forum that isn't intended for survivors.

I'm not quite sure I agree with this statement (or perhaps I'm just not understanding it correctly). I think this is a site for everyone, including survivors of rape and other sorts of traumatic experiences.

But I thank you for your kind words, and for taking the time to write them.


Offline kckolbe

Re: I'm a Survivor, Not a Victim: Coping with Rape
« Reply #74 on: December 14, 2014, 07:29:06 AM »
From the brief glimpses I've seen from you over the years, I think you are doing very well.  Admitting weakness isn't easy, even though none of it is your fault.  I'm glad you are seeing a therapist and talking about it, especially to people that you know care about you, in life and online.  It will get better.  You know you are strong enough to eventually overcome it because you've done it before.