Last night, I read something that Carrie wrote on Violence UnSilenced, and a question that I’d considered emailing her about was answered for me. But before all that, there was a little girl who grew up protected, and bad things couldn’t happen to her. Sure, the man who lived next door, who always gave out hugs and lifted her clear off the ground, he reached out in his living room one afternoon and firmly grabbed her breast. But he had taken her sister to the hospital when a truck hit her, and the family saw him as a friend, so she said nothing. His son would creep into her room after visiting her brother and put his hand between her legs as she squeezed her eyes shut and wished he would go away.
But the old man next door died and she was happy. And she wrote a letter to her brother asking him to keep the son away at night, and he never came back and she was grateful.
I’m detaching myself by using the third person, aren’t I? I started college at sixteen, young and religious, wrapped in the incense of the Church. I had a joy in it that I couldn’t find anywhere else, although it came heavy with guilt, as the Church often does. I was a virgin, a word that leaves a sour taste in my mouth till today, and I wore my gold cross around my neck proudly, replete with my promise to God. My friends laughed fondly, little naïve girl, that’s what we all said, that we’d wait till marriage, you won’t be any different. I just smiled, knowing my God was a rock and I was all good.
When I started dating him, I made it clear what was off limits, I explained my vow to him and he knew how important it was to me. He knew, he had been raised in a similar church and he knew, for I was very clear. He would try and be sneaky about it, but I stopped him and repeated myself, no. No, no, no, no, a thousand times no. I should have been wary when he tried it again, and I had to say no again. He would apologize over and over, all full of regrets that didn’t weigh enough to stop him from giving it another shot.
One day, he stood up from the bed and looked at me. You need to get birth control pills, he said, and my world crumbled. I had no memory of what had just happened, all I knew was that it wasn’t the first time. I sat on the sheets on the floor and screamed and screamed, staring blankly out of the window and talking to myself. When he finally let me leave, I ran my arms through hedges outside until they bled and lay in the graveyard of the church up the hill. This is not a story about him though, or his selfishness, temper, jealousy, or possessiveness. I told that story a long time ago.
This is the story of how I blamed myself afterward, how dirty I felt that I had betrayed the one vow I cherished so dearly, how much of a sinner I was and how I didn’t deserve any better. Nothing anyone could say convinced me otherwise, and I just stopped talking about it. I had failed myself, and that was all, now move on, little girl with broken world. (I cut off my hair after this story, which led me to the blog I have now.) There’s been a journey from the girl I was then to the woman I am now, but Carrie led me to see something I had never admitted to myself.
She wrote, Rape is any act of sexual intercourse that is non-consensual. I never thought it was that simple. I still have no memory of my first time, it remains a black hole along with my second time or any other time before I screamed. But what I do know is that I had said no, that I never said yes, and that he knew these things. I don’t want to be classed as a victim, and I feel no anger towards him, that tale has been woven and tossed to the wind. All I feel is sorrow, grief for the child I was then and the pain she went through for months afterward, for the damage caused to my faith, for the past. Because the one thing I didn’t know, the one thing that no one explained to me is the same thing I realized when I read Carrie’s response to the girl who wrote in to her.
Three years ago, I was raped, and it wasn’t my fault.
I shut my computer after I read that post, then the man I’m going to marry held me in his arms as the grief from the past years of guilt washed out of my eyes. I’m okay now with everything that’s happened, but this final step was important, knowing at last that I’m not to blame for a piece of my past that I don’t even remember. I might not have known this if it wasn’t for someone else telling her story to the world, so to her and to Carrie and to Maggie, I want to say, Thank you.
You gave me a piece of myself back.
Thank you for visiting Violence UnSilenced, a speak-out platform for survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and sexual abuse. If you are a survivor and it is safe to do so, we encourage you to share your story here. If you are not a survivor but you want to support those who are, please click around this site and find out more about what you can do.
i forget how hard it hit me until i remember how hard it is to talk about it. still. http://violenceunsilenced.com/z/#comments
#FF one of the sites i admire most is now on twitter @VUnsilenced this site changed my life http://violenceunsilenced.com/z/
i am so humbled by your courage, so inspired by your voice, and so happy that you have found someone good.
I am so happy you have found someone that recognises your worth. I think you do too,and if not, it will come, because you deserve it.
Thank you for sharing your story, for the way you told it, and for the raw honesty with which you wrote. I am sad for the girl you were. I was that girl too. I made it out of high school with my virginity intact, but didnt make it that way to college. And there was so much shame.
Thank you for sharing your story. You've inspired me to share this site with others, with those who think their lives are untouched by these stories. The range in experiences that come up in the stories here on VU is so important. Abuse and violence takes so many different forms, and all of it is wrong. Thank you for sharing, and I'm so glad you were able to get to the place you have.
Sometimes it's impossible to understand the truth until you read it in someone else's story. That was the case with me, so I understand how that happens. But it IS the truth. You were NOT at fault, were NEVER at fault, and I am so unutterably grateful that you realize that now.
Tears can heal.
Memories or non-memories - either way abuse happens in all shapes, places, and times of life. Thank goodness you are a survivor and have shared your story - believe me, it will help so many because you reached out to Maggie's website. Thanks to both of you!!!!
You can know something in your head all day long, but until your heart chooses to accept certain tokens of knowledge, they are of no real value.
I'm so glad you've reached (and are reaching beyond) this place. Some things in life deserve thunderous applause. >:o)
No matter how many times people say, "It wasn't your fault, it wasn't your fault," you have to get to the point where YOU feel it, know it, hold it close to your heart; I am so glad that reading other's stories has helped you get to this point. Peace.
I read. I read every story and I just want to send peace to each and every one of you. Thank you for sharing.
This is why. This is the point. This is the whole reason behind VU. So that all of those who come here whether they choose to tell a story or not, can read their own lives in the words of another. So that they can know -- down in that place where you know stuff -- that they aren't the only ones. That someone understands, someone "gets it". Someone knows their pain and someone has survived it.
Sometimes the authors write for their own peace. Sometimes they write even though they've made their peace, because they want to pass it on to someone else.
And sometimes in the process, they realize that they haven't yet made that peace, and that there's still a "Damascus Road Moment" waiting to happen to them. Your story seems to fall into this last group. And because of that I'm doubly thankful to you for telling it. Thankful that you gave this gift of reclaimed innocence to someone else, and perhaps more thankful that you've given it to yourself. Because what happened to you was never your fault. "No" should have been enough. You did the thing you felt was right, the thing you believed in. And it should have been enough. The fact that it wasn't does not make you guilty. It doesn't make you "less than".
And it doesn't require you to perform a penance of blood, literal of metaphorical.
It sounds like you realize that now. I only wish that it hadn't taken this long.
But you should find solace in not only the gift you've given here, but in the one you give every day in your work. As someone before me has already noted, the experiences of that naive little girl made her into a strong and compassionate advocate for those who still suffer and there can never be too many of those.
Thank you. For what you've done here, and for what you continue to do.
Every SINGLE STORY here puts me at a loss for words, yet I feel compelled to write because I so much want to help.
I just don't know how.
I'm sorry for what you went through. I'm sorry for the pain he caused. I want to string him up by his "implement" for what he did.
Yet, somehow I know there is good that comes of this. It may seem trite, but it is not: your story helps others to cope with their own pain. Thank you for sharing.
More good: out of this grows a person of greater compassion, greater understanding, greater maturity, greater strength, greater mercy. And God knows this world needs all of that.
I don't know what to say.
You are incredible. You are beautiful. Your soul is brilliant. You are a gift to us and to everyone around you.
Amazing. I'm so glad you were able to read that sentence, that it's here for us to read, and that now you know, not just in your head, but in your soul, that it wasn't your fault.