The problem with self-diagnosing… Is that your messed up mind is trying to figure out why it’s messed up.
When I at last went to counseling last year (2015), I explained my obsession with all the things I did or didn’t do, which festered into self hatred: ignoring the many signs that indicated the kind of man he was, for feeling lonely and weak, for not asking for or accepting help.
She told me not to beat myself up, and to remember I am a survivor and incredibly strong for that. I think this is correct, I did survive. He never tried to kill me, but I tried to kill my self later, and I survived. But try as I might to see it positively, those survivals were the result of suicidal failures, not strength. What I needed (still need) so badly to redeem myself was conviction of my own strength, because I was so sure I was just a weak person. I needed to believe I was not bad but good, that I did right and not wrong, that I did not allow it happen but that it was forced on me.
At the time in my life I was raped, I was in my mid 20s. I think my biggest mistake was assuming I lived in a good world and that people are essentially kind. The very worst things that had happened to me in life were my dad dying suddenly when I was 15, the kind of death they like to say was an ‘act of God’, and having a college boyfriend who was mostly just a talking, trumpet honking turd. I saw terrible poverty and the injustices that derive from it on tv all my life, and in college noticed for the first time the ease with which Americans like me ignored it. I have a very active imagination and I would think about what people would feel if they knew I saw their plight and moved on with my own middle class life. That (and my inability to commit to medical school) drove me to join peace corps. Because people are deep down good and deserve chances, and because to be good is to do good. I truly believed that.
Post rape, post peace corps, post a lotta more life: the more women, and children, I realize are raped or abused, the more I listen to intolerant and hateful speeches and incendiary conversations advocating violence and pain upon people they don’t know, I think I was wrong. People aren’t all evil, but that doesn’t mean people are all good. From my experience, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, athiest, man, woman, any race or status… The bell curve is the same. Majority are just neutral, go with the flow. Most people are just contingent on the state of the world around them. Very few are truly evil regardless of circumstances, and perhaps, very few are truly good.
I offer you one of my favorite poems, by W. B. Yeats
The Second Coming.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
My grouchy, pessimistic musings: How can we ever know if someone is really good? (For simplicity’s sake, By good I use the rule: won’t kill unnecessarily (I.e.not out of self defense) or deliberately let a person die who wants to live.) Let each meet the rough beast. Let them each live through anarchy. Let each person face the murky unknown, and taste fear and greed and a world without punishments. What a filter to test the idea of universal ethics and morality! What a filter of humanity! Then you will know who emerges unscathed, and how many of us fall. I suspect most of us, when the world is in chaos, lose the goodness that only exists through security. I wonder sometimes if a event like the holocaust or other mass genocide happened in my culture or country, who among my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances would stop being decent and good. It’s a bit terrifying.
Lessons gained through hindsight, of course. For me, from childhood on through college, I cradled the assumption of inherent goodness in all people, besides possibly sociopaths. I believed that if I forgave and was gentle and didn’t do bad things that other people would treat me the same. I didn’t believe I needed to actively protect myself when threatened. I was secure in my faith of humanity, that no matter what, things would turn out all right for me because I wasn’t a bad person. … This is my fake laugh: HA HA HA HA. HAAAAAAA….!
I am told not to bash myself for my mistakes, but I can tell you it is impossible for me. I was raped, but my mind scrapes the memories against the front of my skull: reliving all the ways I did not protect myself. All the wrong answers I gave, the wrong things I said. I had nightmares almost every night for a year afterwards. When I wasn’t being killed or hurt in my dreams, I stared up in anguished nights, seeing his face and body and the world I had lived in, my brain never ever shutting up. Bash myself! I wanted to bash my brains in for peace. I wanted anything to just shut it up. It’s funny… I usually sleep when I am sad, and I wake up better. But I was denied even that, by my own body. How many times can you betray yourself?
The man who raped me was my boyfriend. In April of 2012, about 6 months prior, he had threatened to rape me. I was appropriately enraged and indignant that he dared even think like such barbaric, medieval thoughts. In this century!? and what woman did he think I was? Ah yes, I broke up with him and never went back, and in just a month I was grateful I had the strength to do that because I deserved better!
That’s what should have happened, anyway. Instead I went back to him and in 6 months I was raped……. Damn it, I hate this story. Why did the author (me) make the protagonist (me) so stupid?! Why did she go back?! Gah!
Hm. I want to tell you the choices I made that I used to cut myself for making. You know this, every time you come to a ‘fork in the road’, however subtle, you make a choice of which path to take. And it leads you to the next set of choices, etc. I go over how I could have chosen better for me. I used to hate myself, insult and hurt myself for each choice. Self punishment. I thought I was a joke of college educated woman, a stupid, worthless person who volunteered to walk all the paths that led to rape and pregnancy.
About three and a half years after the rape, (that is, this year of 2016) I slowly stopped hating myself. I mean, more or less. I still hold a grudge. Maybe because enough time and space is between us, I see who I was as a separate person. My feelings for the woman I was have been transitioning to pity. I watch her be so naive and so trusting, so lonely and unhappy and I can see she never saw it coming, despite all the signs. I don’t want to ever be her again, she lacked self confidence and the ability to be alone. But I don’t condemn her anymore. She deserved forgiveness a long time ago. I am a different person from her in many ways now. I try not to lambaste myself for the choice I made years ago, but it is crucial to me to learn how to recognize those moments and do the right (read: best) thing for me in the future.
Welcome to Flashes of my Midnight Incubus! (archaic ‘nightmare’ also, interestingly, a male demon who sexually assaults sleeping women). Convenient!
…..Doodle above is a quick sketch from another weird dream.
I was aware he was cheating on me and I decided that not only was I leaving a cheater, but a particularly stupid and narcissistic one, as the way I caught him was absurdly easy: he gave me a phone with a recording he made of himself talking to his girlfriend about me. I broke up with him over the phone and went back to my home, phone silenced.
The next morning I had 60 missed calls. I remember already feeling the slight twinge of loneliness, because I was originally happy in the relationship. I also felt guilty for breaking up via the phone, so I agreed to meet him in a public restaurant in a nearby city.
Fork in the road: deciding to meet him because of guilt. Guilt is a dangerous emotion. Understand when guilt is appropriate and when you truly shouldn’t give a damn. An otherwise good man would certainly deserve a breakup in person. A cheater and liar does not deserve my time or nobility. I do not think it was bad that I felt sad, but I could have accepted it as a normal, passing emotion when a thing ends unhappily.
Woman! Don’t feel bad, don’t meet him ever again. Good fuckin riddance of a human shaped parasite. My greatest improvement in these four years is learning to conquer my constant feeling of obligation and guilt to make everyone else’s life pleasant, even at the expense of my own health and happiness.
I tell myself: You DO NOT bear any guilt. You do not need to be kind, or considerate, or noble when dealing with a man or woman who hurts you. Take care of YOURSELF. Selfish, stupid people need far more help than you can give them by being polite.
At the restaurant, our civil conversation went wrong when he grabbed my wrist and twisted it across the table. My metal watch made it hurt, and I told him so. He told me ‘I can rape you anytime.’ He let go of my wrist, I took off the watch, and he threw it on the ground.
A man came over and asked me if I was okay. I thought I was in control, and I was embarrassed, so I said I was fine.
Fork 2: I thought I was in control. I made a mistake when I pretended I was still in control and he was just having a temper tantrum. He was physically hurting me, and threatened me. He did this in public. He was in control, and fearless. I should have accepted help, and disregarded my personal embarrassment. He should have been ashamed, not me.
SEE THE SITUATION FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS.
ADMIT TO YOURSELF WHEN YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL.
ASK FOR HELP
Never care about ‘what others think’ … Take care of yourself no matter what, when someone threatens or hurts you. Shout, scream, anything.
I felt afraid enough that I went to the bathroom, and called my organization. They asked me if I wanted them to call the police, I declined saying I didn’t think it was that bad. In my feverish brain, I remembered my boyfriend claimed over and over to me to have bribed police before and how corrupt they were. I believed he had that power over the police and I would be the worse for it if I went to the police. I cannot tell you why I was so sure he was so powerful. It makes no sense now, looking back.
Fork 3: I rejected help, I gave in to fearful thinking and paranoia. The better choice, though harder: CALL THE POLICE, ACCEPT HELP! Most bullies are deep down weak and cowardly, when they learn they can’t control you. They aren’t as powerful and all knowing as they assure you. As hard as it is, use reason and don’t give into fearful thinking. He is a mortal man, not an all powerful, omniscient demon. He CAN be defeated.
I knew he was waiting for me outside, and suddenly I felt overwhelming scared. Peace corps promised to call back to check on me later.
I had this feeling of just wanting to go to sleep and wake up and none of it happened. A woman came to me and said my boyfriend was asking me to come out. I was shaking, and I was evaluating whether I could climb out the bathroom window. I couldn’t. I finally walked out and he was still there.
He dogged my steps and would not let me go to the bus station. Instead he started making a scene, and, again embarrassed and afraid, I got into his vehicle. His mood changes very suddenly and he is joking and making it seem that I am overreacting. I am shocked and when we pull into a parking lot of a mall, I said something about his threats and quickly get out, intending to run into the mall. He jumps out and blocks me, shouting and insulting me. I get back inside, and he drives me to a school where I had scheduled to do an interview. He donates some money to the children there, and is in a pleasant mood the rest of the way.
I finally get on a bus and go home. My organization contacts me a few more times that day and I assure them I am okay and safe at home. The whole afternoon seemed surreal. Could that have happened in real life? I see it on tv. I must have overreacted, I am an emotional person, i don’t understand how it went so wrong.
Fork 4: ?? I don’t know. I play that over my head, getting in the car, trying to escape to the mall… I remember thinking he would hurt me and my strategy to pretend I had forgiven him so he would let me go home. It worked, he thought it was all over and done with when I left him. But it backfired- I wondered if maybe I was in the wrong, because he seemed so genuinely contrite that we had ‘had a fight’. What choice could I have made instead, if I am ever faced with that situation? Hard to say.
All I know is that in such a situation,
TAKE HIS ANGER, THREATS SERIOUSLY AND DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET AWAY. RUN, FIGHT. SEE IT THROUGH TO THE END, TO END ALL FUTURE DANGER. If it is a matter of life and death, keep yourself safe and get away from him. In my situation, I kept myself physically safe. But I failed to remember how dangerous he was when I was out of that danger. I didn’t follow up by calling the police and peace corps and staying the hell away from him. So the danger never ended.
By the time I went home I was in tears and a mixture of unhappiness and fear. I called my friend and told her what happened, bursting in tears.
Months later I found out she shared our conversation with our colleagues, and in my anger and shame, I vowed I would never tell anyone something like that again.
I did the right thing by talking about it with someone. Though this woman had a big mouth and ignored the private nature of the call, I had no way of knowing that.
I later regretted the vow I made, because I kept it.
No one from my organization checks on me for about three weeks after the threat. This is egregious neglect on the part of the organization. By the time I received an personal visit from my boss, I had already forgiven my boyfriend and was dating him. I remember the words of my boss as being quite ironic: what ever you do, don’t go back to dating him okay?
fork in the road….. DONT GO BACK DONT GO BACK DONT GO BACK!!! …. I went back.
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT …why is it so difficult … That we would choose to stay with than leave the person who is hurting us?
I mean, it sounds easy. It sounds obvious. If it were happening to anyone else, we would know what to do. If only we were Spock… It’s just so logical. Someone hurting you? Leave. Find a way.
But I couldn’t do it. It is the hardest thing to leave the person who has made you feel dependent on him for permission to do normal things, you feel emotionally worthless without him, he who swings you from love to despair like you were a yo yo, who keeps you on a hook and convinced you that it is true love by accusing you of not loving him enough. So you retaliate by loving him more, proving your commitment. Even as he cheats he puts you down for even doubting his loyalty. You don’t trust yourself. This goes on, deeper and deeper as months go by. Then at some point, I really believed he was my soul mate, because I felt extremely deep emotions, deeper than I had ever felt with any other man, when I was with him. I felt true despair without him. I needed him to help me make decisions. I needed him to say he loved me, I needed to prove I was the best he could ever get and maybe I could show him how to be a more honest man. I believe he couldn’t help the ways he hurt me, and deep down he was just a sad man in need of love. My love.
Yes, it makes me feel sick now. Is that what brain washing is like? Your victim begins to accept, even expect as normal, your lies and abuse? I realize now I had been mistaking dependence and submission for love and loyalty. He said he was responsible for my happiness, and that I caused my sadness. He told me every bad thing in our relationship was my fault: I didnt do sex well, I was too emotional, I was always doubting him, I didn’t love, I didn’t believe him. He cut me down on all the things I used to be confident about, things no one had ever criticized me about. But when he treated me well, I felt like a queen. I hardly noticed that as time went on, I was less a queen and more a servant, and expected to be grateful. I became grateful for any tiny nugget of affection he gave me. He called me beautiful constantly, but slept with other women and pointed how this or that type of women was the most beautiful in the world.
Don’t go back? Good advice! Yeah. Too late. But what was I thinking? Where was the ambitious and educated woman who had such pronounced opinions about women’s rights? and Oh! I remember the confused, patronizing scoffs I gave when I heard on the news of so and so woman not leaving her abusive husband. Of the teenager defending the boyfriend who beats her, of having opportunities for better and yet going back to the old insults and inferiority. And there I was… Defending, denying, cowering, crying… Back with the bad (no really, actually bad) boyfriend. *bangs head on wall*
A few incidents stand out from the time of my dating him again and the rape:
For awhile it was good between us- he seemed genuinely regretful. But in those few months after the threat, I discovered he lied to me about his age, his education, and he continued cheating with women. He stole money from me, nothing I could prove, but there was no one else to have done it.
I caught him flirting just a few steps from me one evening while we were out late. I confronted him and then stomped away. He threw a bottle of water at me, it hit and water gushed out and soaked my back. I delayed it for awhile but I went back to him.
(See fork 4)
The main event leading up to the rape was just unlucky and, predictably, had everything to do with my always shitty guts. I ate food with crispy dead bugs in it (accidental deaths), I got seriously sick. The whole diarrhea and vomiting for two days straight kind of sick. As someone who is lactose intolerant and still eats dairy, take my word that this was a Lot of diarrhea. To the point it was mostly mucus-y or just squirts of thin liquid. I wasn’t able to walk by myself when my boyfriend took me to the local hospital. I lived in a third world country but I was admitted to the nearby city’s best hospital. ‘Best’ really Really Really is a relative term here. Every hospital in this country, outside the capital, is likely to kill you.
I waited for a few hours in the waiting room. Fell asleep a lot until I was called to a small side room. The nurses poked me about 6 times… I was sort of falling asleep but I could see two large patches of what looked like blood under my skin on both arms. Vessels broke apparently. She said oops a lot, and I wondered dully if she cheated or bribed anyone to get her job. A second nurse came and finally an iv was put in and I was put in a bed. Hallelujah.
I stayed for a week while they did tests. The magic clear Baggie restored my water and health, which turned out to be enough since they never figured out what made me sick. The highlight of my stay was the evening they told me the reason they failed to check on me and give meds every day (after waiting hours after the scheduled check up and meds time, I buzzed incessantly to see if the nurses were on strike again or just lazy). Apparently, and I quote, “the pharmacy ran out of the medicine.” Gahgbaiurbgakjsdfhasffh….. Of course.
Yep. And it really is the Best hospital in the city (outside the capital). Imagine the government-run ones.
My boyfriend visited me, along with his superstitious relatives who did some strange things to my belly and would later swirl around an egg and tell me I had the evil eye on me. When we were alone, he got mad about me texting a male friend. Yelled at me and the normal jealous rage invective. I had asked for my birth control medicine from the first day I was admitted. He brought me a huge bag of junk food but no birth control.
When I left the hospital he picked me up, I was still very weak and needed to rest a few days before traveling home. I remember not wanting to be near him after his tantrum in the hospital. I was eager to get home and maybe be able to break up for good. That evening in his family’s living room we were sitting and talking. I was explaining how angry I was that he yelled at me and that I was only talking to a platonic friend. He got mad again and slapped my leg.
It didn’t hurt physically but it shocked me very badly. I remember I told him, you hit me! And he responded, no I didn’t.
What the FUCK? I was afraid. Something was seriously mentally wrong with him, he acts like it didn’t happen. I repeated myself, you hit me on my leg. And then I decide that I am going to leave, and I won’t talk to him until i do.
Things get blurry in my memory from here… I don’t remember what happens that night but I know I don’t speak to him at all. I remember at one point lying facedown in bed crying and his mother comes in and talks to me, she is supportive of me but acts like it was a small misdeed.
Then the rape.
After the rape, I feel completely different. I give up on not talking- there’s no point. I prepare slowly to return home. He had taken my bag with money and phone in it and hidden it from me. He gives it back just before I am leaving. I have to go back to teach at school. His mother once confronts me about something, must be about leaving, asking me how it would make the father feel. I tell her, her husband is not my father.
A different evening at his parents house, maybe weeks later, he locks me in the house while he goes out. I think at that point we already knew I was pregnant. His sister in law misses her period, and she tells me she consulted someone who told her to drink very strong tea. She gets her period. I think about trying it.
I remember his mother locked me in the room with the sister in law the first night I stayed at their house, months before. What a strange, sick play I must be in, I thought. It didn’t seem real at the time. It still doesn’t.
I started complying with the role I thought I now had to perform- looking back, it was sort of messed up martyr notion of being good at this path I was now on: mother of a baby I did not want? Well. I will be a good mother. Wife to a man who thought control and love were the same thing? I would be a good wife, I would be good. Looking back! How I want to shake that woman into a fight! A fight for herself and her future and her right to happiness! But she doesn’t hear me. She thinks her fate is before her, because to leaves requires bravery, and to be free requires an abortion. She is afraid of action, and afraid she would be committing a sin she couldn’t forgive herself for, and that she would be the more evil one.
Bah. As I trudged on, head more vacuous by the hour, I’m sure any spark of intelligence in my eyes dulled enough to be called cow-like. I felt stupid. I stared a lot at nothing. I spent time with his mother and sister. I tried to learn to cook. I watched and pitied as his sister in law (also his first cousin) was verbally abused and controlled by his brother. I was there when her new born baby of less than a month died, and thought about my own. I participated in cooking dinners and cleaning, I ate on the floor with his mother and sister when those dinners were served. I took part in one of their religious rituals, and became quiet in their family conversations. Basically I just stopped being myself. I rooted for the sister in law to run away but I had no hope for myself. It was a depressing time. Hell. Depressing to remember it. Depressing to write it. Reader? Misery loves company!
If you’ve never been raped, I hope you stay that way. These were my warning signs… But some things we can’t stop or prepare for. Some people, too. Plenty of situations though, we can learn from each other, and our own pasts, and protect ourselves. Learn from my mistakes, if you can. It’s not too late, where ever you are on your path. So long as you are alive, you can find the will to get out of a bad relationship. If you found that hulk-like strength to leave, stay hulky and never, ever go back.
A final poem, with my favorite reminders in bold, to remind you of what the truth really is, no matter what anyone tells you:
Invictus, by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.