Raped, victim and feminist; labels I hate, boxes I tick.
This is an uncomfortable read; it’s been an uncomfortable write.
Growing up I was conditioned to be private, to not burden others with problems or dramas; maybe to not even feel. No bleating, no sob stories.
After 37 years of getting to know myself I am acutely aware that I function via extremes; everything in the middle I find challenging and cumbersome.
So now I find myself extracting hidden thoughts from the intricacies of my private life and making them public and for what reason? I’m not entirely sure, it simply feels like loosening a noose.
In the following words I open myself up, as a willing participant, to scrutiny, judgement and questions. I’m aware that it might not be positive but I care less and less.
My dearest friends, out of concern, are scared for me that publishing this might cause me further damage. Further and unintentionally giving me cause to feel it’s wrong to be open about this. But if we don’t talk, it can’t stop damaging.
I am fearless of potential repercussions, whatever they might be. Nothing could punish me more, to the point of numbness, than I already have myself.
Our lives on social media are so transient, the majority forgotten within minutes. If it doesn’t catch our eye on first glance it’s ignored. I’m guilty. We are but a snippet in time. So what difference does it make. I don’t feel I have anything to lose. Others will forget but I won’t.
The fear I harbour is not trying to do as much as I possibly can in my life. I wonder if I put this issue to bed in my mind I might be able to stay still. Is this constant craving for movement my flight mode or is it something inherent in my character? Time will tell and I accept that.
The recent #metoo campaign conjured up conflicting feelings for me. Feelings I have not yet assimilated. It might be some of the responses to the campaign that I have struggled to digest. It might be that it many ways it has unintentionally, further segregated us as men and women. With every pro there is a con, with every choice there is a consequence.
It’s only a couple of years ago, and 15 years on, that I have ceased attempting to laugh off, being anally raped by a boyfriend when I was in my early 20’s.
I’m sure some might say, I wonder what she did or what was she wearing? I accept that, because it’s the first thing that springs to my mind, even now, when I hear of someone else’s same fate. In an ideal world it shouldn’t matter what we wear or what we do, but in my view, unfortunately, it does.
Perhaps this reaction is purely a mechanism for trying to rationalise an utmost show of disrespect, an absolute violation and the damaging and ongoing physical and emotional consequences of this act on another person.
I’ll tell you; it was the morning and I was asleep when I was woken to an unwelcome penetration. I don’t blame myself. I was at my most vulnerable in a place I considered safe.
A couple of people were aware of what happened at the time. I suspect they were a little surprised at how I handled the scenario. Looking back, so am I. In fact, I am deeply disturbed by it.
I won’t forget his housemates face that very morning when I joked about what had happened. As I laughed about being ‘arse raped’ the look of disbelief and his bottom lip slowly lifted and morphed into uncomfortable, nervous laughter.
I read recently that laughter releases endorphins, a mask for pain, a coping mechanism; my coping mechanism.
I didn’t leave this lad for some time. Later I entered into a relationship with someone else, he shook my hand and congratulated me on being a whore.
I found this comment tricky to comprehend. It triggered a reaction in me that I debate as to whether I’m proud of. I lost my temper, grabbed this beer swilling chump in a headlock and hit him repeatedly. A girl got caught in the firing line. I was removed from the bar.
Down the line I confided in several boyfriends, men I hoped I could trust.
The first responded with a look of repulsion and said, ‘I really wish you hadn’t told me that, I don’t fancy you as much now.’ The same chap who would joke, ‘if you don’t feed the dog, it will go elsewhere.’ I should have left then.
Another unsuccessful love, who considered himself a feminist, pushed me into therapy, to which I was grateful. What a hero. I debate now whether that was for his benefit or mine, ‘you have potential’ he’d say and jest I was, ‘damaged goods.’
Despite my honesty with him he would continue to push for anal sex. Telling me it was the most intimate act between a man and a woman. Persistence did not pay. I should have left then.
The list goes on.
The Major asked me once, ‘Has anyone ever hurt you?’ Given the previous reactions received I lied and advised him not to be so silly. Perhaps he saw through me.
I suppose I’ve kept this to myself as a result of the reactions I’ve received. I have, and been given reason to feel embarrassed, ashamed and disgusted. I withdraw from others for extended periods to purge myself. I muster the energy to allow people back in and the cycle continues. I would like to break this but actually, where there is a con there’s it’s opposite; in these periods I grow and learn a huge amount about myself; some might argue, too much.
If truthful with myself I have had little to no self respect and endured long periods of self loathing. Though I edge to the light, creating a fulfilling existence and a direction that isn’t driven by what society necessarily dictates as success.
The labels raped, victim and feminist make me sit uncomfortably within my skin and yet I am all these things. Some might argue, you’re not a victim, you’re a survivor. But we are all survivors until we die. It’s how we survive which requires the consideration.
I put a lid on this box until a couple of years ago. But now, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about it. Some interactions cause flashbacks, intimate relationships, certain behaviours. It haunts me to my core and is one of the drivers in the expeditions I have and will organise. To challenge the status quo, something I tried to maintain throughout my childhood.
Some will find this peculiar, as do I, that we, this chump and I, are friends on Facebook. Now and again I look at his profile. Wondering if, while he tells his wife he loves her and plays with his children, he ever thinks of me and the emotional destruction he has caused.
I have a vague recollection that he apologised at some point for everything that happened between us. When looking for this message, I see we exchanged several pleasantries over the years. I failed to locate the apology, perhaps it was wishful thinking.
Sadly, by telling a few trusted, as well as untrusted people over the years about this hiccup a multitude of suffering has been revealed.
A friend was raped by a family member. A soldier was raped repeatedly as a child by one of his cadet instructors. A fellow student was repeatedly raped as a baby, by her father, a minister.
The list goes on. And make no mistake, it’s not only women.
As I wrote my initial thoughts about this I was sat on an aeroplane from San Francisco on my way back to the sanctuary of rural SW France, where I was living at the time.
I watched Professor Marston and The Wonder Woman which coincidentally is about empowering women, dominance and submission. A scene from the film nudged me to pen this.
‘Love is painful we hurt the ones we love all the time with our words, our deeds. The nature of love is pain.’
The truth is, men, women long to control and to be controlled. It is human nature. Real life is full of pain, disappointment, fantasy’
For most of my life I have been unsure of what love is, maybe if many people know what love actually is. But now I’m certain it begins with respect, love and acceptance of self. Not validation from others. I know control, only too well. Control under the dark veil of love and caring. I am by no means a fan and maybe only a little wiser as to when to draw a line. I prefer to live in fantasy, it feels safer and I write the plot.
That morning has been one of the key shaping moments in this funny little thing we call life. Provoking and nurturing my interest in gender, relationships, conflict and human behaviour. There is no end point to this subject, changing and mutating daily, it provides me huge satisfaction to delve into it.
Above all, I do believe in treating one another equally with respect; regardless of our similarities, differences, wealth, education, genitals, colour or religion, until otherwise undeserved, and then, chances are I’ll walk away, and a lot quicker than I used to.
My friends have asked me what am I trying to achieve with this. I don’t know exactly what I seek. Maybe retribution, maybe offloading the burden, maybe because we all talk about talking but so few do. Maybe I hope the chump acknowledges, if not to me, then to himself, the suffering he has caused. I am not attached to that expectation though, I will save myself from disappointment. Or maybe it’s that another victim, man, woman or child, might draw comfort from the fact they do not suffer alone.
This little, big part of my story, my life, and other stories, contribute to the message I convey in my expedition to Oman: Her Faces of Change, to encourage respect, acceptance and understanding regardless of culture, gender or identity.
Image: Ahmad Al Rikaby