My Journal: Being A Rape Survivor
Get insight into what it's like being a rape survivor and dealing with rape. Here are my early journal entries after I was sexually assaulted.
At the end of my freshman year of high school, when I was fifteen years old, I trusted a nineteen year old friend and left my home late at night to go for a walk. We walked to a playground at the elementary school near my house, where he suggested that we sit down to talk. He raped me next to the mouth of the orange tube slide.
I told no one.
He told his friends, and they told their friends, etc., that we had consensual sex. I was branded a slut and tormented for the next two years. To this day, when I hear someone yelling in my vicinity, I think that they are talking about me, laughing at me, "How many STDs did you get, host monkey?" You are so dirty. Why don't you just kill yourself?
During the summer before my senior year, I moved from Massachusetts to Virginia. One night, I told a friend about my past and I began the process of healing.
I've made a lot of progress since that night. I told a member of a confidential support group at my college and just recently, I told my roommate. Every time I tell the story, it gets a little easier. I know that I still have a long way to go, but I have a support system now, people I can rely on when I have bad days. I feel that I am strong enough now to support those who are just beginning this journey. It's really hard and it's really scary, but we can do this, together.
Well, that was cheery and optimistic, huh? I really don't feel like that all the time. Right now, I feel pretty crappy. I feel pretty alone.
I've noticed that I have a major problem with people touching me (male and female), in any way. It's like I exude stay away from me rays or something. I think that I really do. I freeze up when people hug me or even do something as simple as touch me on the arm. I don't know why I just realized this. In any case, it has really been depressing me, because I hate feeling...different. Not different in a good way, different in a bad way. I feel like I'm the only one in the room that freezes up when the word "rape" is mentioned. I feel like I'm the only one who feels weird when someone puts their arm around me.
I wrote an article for my college newspaper about something like this...you can read it if you want.
It's late. I'm going to bed.
Okay, that was a bad day. Luckily, they're not all like that.
Today I completed my application for Safe Space, the student-run, sexual assault support / activist group on my campus, which included an essay. Hopefully, I'll get in. I encourage everyone, when they're ready, to take part in a group like this. Reaching out to other rape survivors really helps you regain the sense of empowerment that is lost when you are sexually assaulted. It's like...not only is he losing his power over me, but I have the strength now to help others.
I really believe that survivors should stick together and help each other. It's so difficult to go through something like this alone -- I know -- I tried to do it for three years. I just want to let everyone know that I am here to listen and to be a friend.
The last two weeks of my life have been some of the scariest. Two weeks ago, I finally found the strength (with the help of a very good friend) to get tested for HIV. I was convinced that the man who raped me had given me a deadly disease as well. I don't know how I would have survived the last couple weeks (it takes two weeks for the result to come back) if it weren't for a friend, who spent many late nights calming me down and another friend who accompanied me to the clinic. This experience gave me a topic for the short story that I had to write for my creative writing class.
The test came out negative, which was a giant relief, to say the least. Anyway, since my professor wouldn't accept my claim that I shouldn't have to fill the ten-page requirement for the short story (the one about being tested was only five pages), I had to write a second one, which is about the struggle to put the feelings after a rape into words.
I got into Safe Space. Yay! I had my first meeting today and I think that the people in it are really nice. It means that I'll have to speak to groups, such as fraternities, about sexual assault, which will be hard, but I think it'll be good for me.
On a side note, I've decided to live in a single next year. I think that I need to be able to control my environment more than if I was living in a double with a roommate. What this means is that I've had to meet with a whole bunch of people in the administration to explain my situation, which had been hard. The last couple of days have been tough because of that, but I think that it will be worth it.
Tuesday, May 11th, 1999
Okay, I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me to date these entries before, but they'll be dated from now on. I told one of my close guy friends about my rape, and he has been really great about it. It is always wonderful when a friend reacts well to your rape survivor story. I am so grateful to him for being supportive.
I really think that once people are allowed to see the human side of rape victims (it's like Katie Koesner said, "One-in-four: your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your daughter" which one would you choose? Because no one is going to take your one-in-four. Statistics don't work like that"), they really make the connection that rape is a giant problem and that they need to be sensitive to the fact that they probably know a lot of people who have been raped.
The other thing that happened isn't as uplifting. I broke up with my boyfriend of one year. The first person who I told about my rape. The person who has been there for me through everything. Who had held me when I was crying, who was with me through the horrible two weeks of the HIV test, who taught me how to love again, and be sexual again and trust again. We broke up.
My world has not come crashing down, and this is, I think, part of becoming a survivor. He has been a huge support to me during my healing, but I have learned to stand on my own two feet. I'm not saying that this doesn't hurt, because it hurts very much. I loved him. I know that I will be okay. And where am I going with this? Here: we're strong. All of us. We're strong people. And bad things can happen to us, and we can be okay. I know that right now, you may be feeling like you are the weakest person in the world, but you are a survivor, and you are strong.
Wednesday, June 30th, 1999
I am at home right now. I came home from college three weeks ago. It's very hard to be back here. I have had two panic attacks since I got home and I absolutely hate panic attacks, so I'm really frustrated right now. I hate being at home because it makes me feel like I've made absolutely no progress in my healing. Here, I feel nervous all of the time, I have flashbacks more frequently and depression slowly creeps in and takes hold of my life. I find myself crying all the time for no reason and I have been sleeping an insane amount, which my mother is convinced is a thyroid problem (I had to have blood taken today so my doctor could test for this alleged thyroid disorder), but I am sure is just a symptom of the depression that is caused from being at home. It sucks because I love my family, but I hate my hometown and what it does to me.
Have I recommended Tension Tamer tea before? I probably have, but I'm just going to do it again. It totally sounds like some kind of voodoo cure, but I find that it really helps me calm down. And it's made by Celestial Seasonings, which is a company and not a cult, I promise. Anyway, back to what I was saying. I really do hate it here, and I know that once I go back to college, I'm going to have to make up for the ground that I will have lost while at home, but that's okay, because I know that I will be able to get back on track and continue healing. It just sucks right now.
Sunday, July 4th, 1999
Happy 4th of July, everyone. Last night, I started the Courage to Heal Workbook. I was pretty sure of two things: 1) that since the book is geared towards survivors of childhood sexual abuse, that it wouldn't apply to me and 2) that I would breeze through the entire book in one night and be done with it.
Well, it turns out that I was completely wrong. The book is really valuable for survivors of all kinds of abuse...or at least, the first couple pages are, which is all I got through before I burst into tears and had to stop. So much for finishing the whole thing in one night. Ah, reality checks. Aren't they fun? I'm going to try again.
This book is really good at making you look at your feelings, so I recommend it to anyone who is at the stage that they think they can handle something like this (and it's important that you are ready, because it is hard. I'll REPLACE INTO this page with my progress as I go through the book.
Friday, July 9th, 1999
Well, here's an interesting turn of events...
Remember the doctor that I went to see a couple weeks ago for my mother's crazy thyroid-disorder allegation? I went to see her again yesterday (because my mother made me) and told her that I was having panic attacks (although I have not told my mother that), so she prescribed Paxil. I thought that this was probably a good idea (although my first reaction was "NO MIND ALTERING DRUGS! AAAAAAH!"), since it is supposed to help deal with panic attacks.
I'm a little nervous because there are about five billion side effects, but I have decided to brave the world of antidepressants and try it.
I haven't made much progress in the Courage to Heal Workbook in the last couple days. I found that I was really really angry after doing the first chapter or two (unresolved anger sucks) and I ended up throwing the book and then collapsing on my bed in tears. So, needless to say, I've decided to take a few days off. And hey - maybe the Paxil will keep me from going into more book-slaying fits. Ah, antidepressant humor.
Thursday, July 29th, 1999
I have returned home from a trip and I will be in my hometown for the next two weeks. I feel as though I've been pushed hard against the ground, like the wind has been knocked out of me. I am in a state of hyper-awareness as if I must stay alert at all times to avoid an attack. The first thing I did when I got home was clean and organize my entire room. I filled my bed with stuffed animals and put a VCR in my room, so I can watch movies late at night when I can't sleep. I felt like I was setting up a fortress to hide in.
Today I have been trying to figure out why I feel so vulnerable and scared all the time. I think that it has to do with all of the work I've been doing in Courage to Heal Workbook. For the last few weeks, I have been working through the book and as the book got harder, I leaned heavily on my boyfriend for support. He became my source of comfort - the person who helped me through panic attacks and held me while I cried. Now, he's absent entirely from my life. I'm sure that this, in addition to being back in my hometown after being away for several weeks, is why I feel panicked constantly.
I have not yet decided what I should do until he gets back. I could put away The Courage to Heal and stopped reading Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery (the novel by Patricia Weaver Francisco that I am currently reading). That, on the one hand, would allow me to hide in my bubble, up in my room, and avoid anything triggering. On the other hand, I should probably learn to heal on my own.
I just don't feel very strong right now. I want to hide in my bed with my stuffed animals. I should probably get off my butt and push on with my healing.
Thursday, July 29th, 1999
I didn't sleep until 6:30 in the morning last night. When the sun came up and my room was lit, I finally fell asleep. Every day makes the next seem like an impossible task. When I'm awake, I live in a haze, zoning out completely so I don't have to think about anything. I dread leaving the house because I am afraid that I will see the man who raped me - he lives only a few streets down. I am a prisoner. All of the work I did has removed the scar tissue and created an open wound in my life. Unfortunately, I am no longer healing. Fear keeps me from pushing on with the book. I can't take the next step alone, and that knowledge disappoints me - I am ashamed of this fear.
I have an image of myself stuck in my head. I am standing beneath several feet of quicksand - not in, but under, so when I look up, the sky is yellowed by the sand above me. I am staring at a piece of twine in my hand that is supposed to hold my weight as I attempt to climb, hand over hand, out of the pit. The image itself is exhausting - when I space out, it plays over and over again until something from the physical world jars me out of my head and I realize what I have been thinking about.
I'm too far in my healing to drown and too weak in this place to climb. So I sit here, staring at the twine.
Wednesday, August 4th, 1999
I'm feeling a lot better. I started taking an over-the-counter sleep aid called "Unisom" at bedtime, so I've been sleeping through the night. Today, I talked to my doctor and she said that the Paxil is probably what is causing insomnia and that I don't have to worry if I continue taking the Unisom to help me sleep (which was good news because I was sure I would become addicted to it). I also asked my doctor for a referral to a therapist who specializes in rape survivors. She's talking to her referral expert and I have to call one of the counselors in my area and see if I can track down someone. Taking these steps on my own, without my boyfriend here to hold my hand, makes me feel a whole lot better.
Saturday, September 2nd, 1999
I told my best friend! She was so great about it. I don't know what helped me to do it, but suddenly I was just talking and talking and telling her everything. I feel so much better now and she was so supportive and wonderful. Yay!
Monday, January 10th, 2000
Wow. A whole lot has changed since my last entry.
I am transferring from Union to Oberlin College.
I am a little nervous about moving from one school to another. I had sort of figured out the "safe" and "not safe" places on Union's campus and I am not looking forward to having to figure all of that out again somewhere else. Yucky.
I'm going to be living in a single at my new school as I did at Union. Of course, I still have my trusty pepper spray, which makes me feel safer even though I'm not sure that I know how to use it correctly.
Anyway, the change should be good. I was beginning to feel very exposed at Union (which happens when you run the story of your rape in the school newspaper), and although I think it was a great step in my healing, I'm looking forward to being anonymous for a while.
Friday, March 3rd, 2000
Today I got an email from Debbie Andrews of RAINN (The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). She wanted me to speak on a talk show called Trackers on the oxygen channel. They were doing a show about sexual assault. So I agreed and what I had to do was call an 800 number at a certain time and then they kept me on hold while I listened to the show, and then eventually they were like, "Hi Lis, blah blah" and started talking to me. IT WAS BIZARRE.
Well, you won't believe it. After I spoke on the show, I signed online (I was supposed to stay on the phone to listen to the rest of the show) to check my mail. As soon as I signed on, I got an instant message from Shannon, who I have been friends with for a year or so) and she said, "So, are you Lis from Ohio? Cause I'm on next!" I couldn't believe it. She was on the show, too! We chatted while we were listening to the show. Isn't that funny!
I'm really glad that I got the opportunity to do the show. I think it airs on March 25th. The show is called "Life in Progress." Check it out if you get a chance!
Wednesday, March 28, 2001
Okay, so it has been over a year since I last wrote in this journal and a whole lot has changed. I am in love with a wonderful man, who is coming to therapy with me to deal with "sex issues." Our sexual relationship is the healthiest by far of any that I have been in, but since I have huge issues surrounding sex, we thought it would be a good idea to work on them before they became a problem. I am also in individual therapy.
Recently, I was able to take part in the Boxes for Pandora documentary. It was a really great experience and I think it is going to make a wonderful film. You should check it out if you get a chance.
I also got a dog, which was one of the things on the home safety list that I hadn't done yet. He is a big, scary looking dog, too, which helps me feel safe. He is an American Bulldog and I got him from my local animal shelter. My boyfriend also has a dog (a Golden Retriever), and since we began living together, I have had two big dogs to protect me. I highly recommend it. They really help me to feel secure in my apartment, and I have even felt safe enough to take a couple walks at night with my boyfriend and the two dogs.
So that is basically where I am right now. I stopped taking Paxil about five months ago and now I take Xanax for panic attacks. They are very few and far between, though, because I am really dealing well with the rape and its after-effects right now.
Staff, H. (2008, November 18). My Journal: Being A Rape Survivor, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, April 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/articles/my-journal-being-a-rape-survivor