The R Word Series: Made of Glass & Broken Goods *trigger warning*
This post was originally published August 28, 2009 here.
The “R” Word Series on Rape is a series of posts wherein individuals (not just me) describe their situations, challenging common views on healing and victim mentalities and challenging common conventions among society at large on rape.
These posts may be immensely triggering. I would advise to read with caution.
The “R” Word Series: “Made of Glass” and “Broken Goods”
This post deals with rape and describes a situation of rape.
Important Note: Parts of this post came from another entry I wrote a while ago in a different place. If you make the connection between that place and this place do not out me by mentioning it here. I have made some minor grammar and sentence structure corrections and I have cut out parts that might endanger me or my privacy or the privacy of others. The identities of the people written about in this post are not to be revealed. That goes for everyone. Even the perpetrator written about here. I’m looking to write this to move on, to share what I went through, not to strike out at the person who victimized me.
It occurs to me that I can’t remember if I explicitly said yes or not. People tell me that a drunken yes given to an abusive partner who has coerced you before isn’t much in terms of consent, but that does sort of blur the lines as to whether it was rape or just an incredibly fucked up way of treating someone sexually.
I know I didn’t want it. That is for sure. I know I curled into a ball and cried and that was what stopped my ex from having sex with me. I’m also absolutely sure that curling into a ball was about all I could manage with how drunk and out of it I was, otherwise I probably would have pushed my ex away or flailed a bit. I know my ex had “good intentions”, to help me with a sexual issue. But it was also one I never planned on testing and certainly never wanted to test with my ex-partner. Somehow, I don’t think getting me drunk and fucking me until I cry really meshes with “good intentions.”
Although my ex did start crying after I recovered my composure a little, repeating over and over that they had raped me and that they didn’t deserve life or something (I was still really drunk and sort of in that haze that mental trauma causes, so I don’t recall exacts). Maybe it was just a stupid mistake on my ex’s part. Or does intent really matter here? The damage was still done to me. And was I really so abused that I didn’t recognize what had happened? Didn’t see red flags? Ugh.
I dunno. I can handle talking about it a bit more. [...] But maybe not. I don’t really want everyone to know what happened to me.
Society has this really fucked up view on people who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted or raped. Or really abused in any way or form. They see people like that as damaged goods or a victim that has to be protected and can’t protect themselves. One leads to a massive lowering in self worth and the other leads to learned helplessness. Neither one is acceptable to me. I refuse to let this rule me and make me into the victimized woman stereotype.
Yeah, I may have an anxiety attack when I see a lookalike of my ex, but I can protect myself, reduce chances and learn how to fight off an assailant while learning how to handle those I trust if they turn out to be untrustworthy in that horrible way. I owe it to myself to learn these things and do them and to avoid learned helplessness. My poor judgment in letting my ex give me that many drinks or even drinking them doesn’t justify what my ex did. But it is a lesson to learn from. I know not to get drunk about people who are sexually interested in me or to have a sober protector/babysitter in place for when I am drunk. I didn’t deserve what happened because I failed to get those protections in place with my ex. It wasn’t my fault that my ex chose to do what they did. But not having those protections was a mistake and if I learn from it I can protect myself better in the future.
The other one really bothers me a lot. I am not damaged goods. I am not somehow of less worth because I was emotionally and psychologically abused. I am not of somehow of less worth because my ex sexually assaulted or abused me or possibly even raped me (depending on what this incident counts as). It may have given me some trauma related problems but I am still a beautiful, loving, intelligent sexual being who is capable of loving another intimately and being loved intimately in return.
Handling me like I’m made of broken china because of what happened is not acceptable. I will give my boundaries and I will share what hurts and what doesn’t. Honor those boundaries and then work as normal for everything else. Avoiding the topic around me or being super protective of me isn’t acceptable. The more I’m handled as though I’m damaged, the less capable I’ll think I am and the more helpless and worthless I’ll feel. I lost my sense of control from that relationship, and I’m trying to regain it. People shouldn’t interfere by robbing me of it again in their good intentions.
[My partner] has been amazing in both respects. Giving me suggestions for self protection, not being afraid to take risks with me sexually but knowing and avoiding the boundaries that I’ve set. I’m lucky to have [my partner], I really am. I’m not seen as a victimized person nor as damaged goods. I’m a woman who was hurt. Hurt badly yes, but I’ll heal. And I am strong. I am resolute.
I refuse to be broken.
I’ve recovered in some ways. This was the third out of a set of writings in which I try to come to grips with what happened to me. The first was completely self blaming, denial filled and loaded with self loathing. The second writing had a lot of excuses for my ex partner and in that I had a hard time even using the word rape.
You can see that even in this third writing, I have a hard time with it. Lines like, “that does sort of blur the lines as to whether it was rape or just an incredibly fucked up way of treating someone sexually” are very telling on the state of my self blame.
In reality, it doesn’t blur the lines at all. A coerced yes is not consent and it will never be consent. This is a very clear precept in how we understand the concepts of consent, sexual trauma, unwanted contact and the violence of even rapes that don’t involve beatings or physical injury. Marcella from abyss2hope goes in great detail on why even just pushing a girl (or a guy) with intimidation, persistent harassment, or mind altering substances until they “give it up” is unacceptable.
The fact was, my ex got me very very very drunk. And then my ex (who had gotten very drunk too) started sexual contact, engaging in a particular sex act that was (and still is) very triggering for me due to my dysphoria. And my ex only stopped when I pulled myself into as tight of a ball as I possibly could and started crying.
I can’t say if the attitudes and mental problems that created the abusive behavior in my ex (and eventually led to my ex raping me) are still present. It is possible that my ex is completely rehabilitated, feels awful about what happened in the past and is just trying to live out a regular life. Hence, my mention above. This is for closure and healing. And so my ex’s privacy must be protected as well. This is partly in my interest as well. I am utterly paralyzed by fear of that particular person deciding to come after me and so protecting my ex’s privacy helps protect me from retribution.
However there are some really important things mentioned there too, things that I’m happy I realized back then. For instance, society’s attitude on victims of rape is all kinds of fucked up.
I’m not just talking about rape apologists, the doubters (“are you sure you were raped?”, “but is such a wonderful person!”) people who exclude groups from being able to be raped (the idiots who claim men can’t be raped, or that sex workers can’t be raped, etc, more reading on Harriet’s Fugitivus blog post, it’s far down in the post) and the predatory Wooers or practitioners of Nice Guyism (Marcella handled that perfectly in the link above).
I’m talking about the people who agree rape is bad for all people, unacceptable and don’t practice predatory techniques to get sex but have the “damaged goods” and “poor broken victim” attitudes. (I’ll handle nice guyism in another post.)
The fact is, when you shy away from someone who has been raped as though there’s this stain on them, that fucking hurts. That hurts a lot and only contributes intensely to the shame that I feel in general for what happened and self loathing that comes out of it. I’ve thankfully only met a few people who wouldn’t enter into a relationship or have sex with someone who was raped and really, they had their excuses but none of them held water.
“I’m afraid of hurting her” – She won’t break if you touch her, asshole. Why don’t you ask her for her boundaries and what to do if you accidentally go past one. And then if you accidentally go over one, it’ll be rare and you’ll know what to do to help her.
“She’ll never fully trust me” – It isn’t about you. No one fully, completely trusts another person. We all have at least some level of secrecy and doubt. The fact is, a lack of trust built from trauma can be overcome, if you’re willing to put a little work into earning that trust. And considering how women are treated on a regular basis you would have to do that kind of work anyways, no matter what girl you were with.
And the poor broken victim attitude is debilitating. These are the folks that refuse to let me define my own boundaries based on what I need, but overshoot them based on what they think I need. I am not made of glass. There seems to be this attitude in society that people who have been raped, sexually assaulted and/or abused are going to fall into a million pieces at a moment’s notice. This constant pity, this treating with kid gloves, it sucks. And it often leads to people forgetting what I actually need and breaking my boundaries in ways that they’ve gone out of their way to avoid (and poorly). Because they aren’t willing to listen to my boundaries and my triggers (and instead think they know better) they often overstep those boundaries and end up hurting me from an unexpected angle. What sucks about this is they use it as further excuse to pity and bubble wrap me more.
In the end, I will recover. Slowly, carefully, painfully, this wound will heal into a scar. The throat closing anxiety I feel when I even see something written by my ex or a lookalike will lower as time passes. The fear I feel that my ex will find me will fade. The flashbacks will become less common, less intense and terrifying.
And writing these things is part of that process. By putting this out there yet again, I can confront my past and my wounds and continue to heal.
I went from someone who thought she would never be raped (who felt dismayed and amazed that so many people she knew had been), to someone who stayed in denial for a long while about being raped and abused, to someone who fell apart and put herself back together again (always with the help of my family and friends) to someone who now can look on what happened to her and learn things about society and herself in the process. And maybe help some other folks who have gone through that kind of trauma too.
I’ll say it again: I refuse to be broken.
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Tags: bodily domain, feminism, rape, sexual assault, society, the r word, violence