Tuesday, October 06, 2009

this is not a pretty post

Rape is not a pretty subject.

Nor is rape a joke. Nor is it entertaining. Nor is it a figment of the imagination.


Once upon a time, there was an eighteen-year-old girl who was raped. When she told her sixteen-year-old friend (because good heavens, how on earth could she tell something like that to her parents), her friend obviously had no clue how to react and ended up being dismissive. The girl shut up. She tried to forget. And really, she did a pretty good job. Unless you count the nightmares. Or the unexplained crying jags over nothing.

Girl goes to college. Time passes. Girl meets love of her life. All is good.

Except that it's not. Girl gets sick. She starts having trouble keeping food down. She loses weight. Lots. She has medical test after medical test after medical test. No answers. She sinks into a deep depression. She tries so hard to put on a happy face, because that is simply the kind of person she is. But she starts sleeping eighteen hours a day. Being asleep doesn't hurt. So she decides to take all the pills in her medicine cabinet. It's not so much that she wants to die; it's more that she wants to not wake up.

Girl ends up in psychiatric hospital. Which turns out to be the very best thing that could have happened to her. She meets one very insightful psychologist who suspects immediately that there is some sort of sexual abuse at the root of this girl's problems. The psychologist calls her on it, and the girl put up no resistance. Thus began a new strategy for survival.


This post has been a long time coming. I've been strongly tempted to write something before, but, well, I hope you can understand why I would hesitate. So why did I decide to write it now? Because Eva wrote this wonderful post yesterday. She wondered if she was being too sensitive. And my heart broke. For her. For all of us. Because how is it that we are so conditioned to wonder if we're being too sensitive when we are upset by rape? Why do we doubt that that is a legitimate reaction to violence?

And she also quoted the statistic about 1 in 4 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes in this country. 1 in 4. And I think there are many people who just don't believe that. And I suspect there are many reasons for denial, and I'm not qualified to talk about them.

But I do know that while some women have these incredible voices and seemingly boundless courage in speaking out, there are other women who don't. I was raped 27 years ago. In all that time, I've told 7 people (not including the people at the psych hospital, etc.). The girl I told initially who brushed me off, later a boyfriend/now my loving husband, then my parents (yeah, sort of thought they might have wondered about the whole suicide attempt and psych hospital thing), and then, just in the last year, three dear blogging friends. Only seven people that have been a part of my life in the past 27+ years knew. I think it's easy to see why you may think you don't know anyone who has been raped, when you actually almost surely do.

Still, I imagine there may be people who are thinking, what exactly does she hope to gain from this post. I get that. Rape is not a comfortable topic. That, however, doesn't mean that it shouldn't be talked about. Being a survivor of rape is NOT something to be ashamed of. Oh, I grant you, this is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm thin-skinned, and I'm not sure I'm ready for this throwing off of the protective layer I've kept myself wrapped in. This layer of public silence.

But if throwing off this layer of public silence can help even one person throw off that layer of private silence, then it will be so worth it. That layer of private silence that I first clung to, well, it nearly killed me.


Nymeth said...

I love you, Debi. I don't want to repeat everything I told you in our e-mails, so I'll leave it at that *hugs*

Eva said...

We've already talked about this, but I just want to say again, that I am so impressed by your bravery and courage, and that I think by sharing your story you've done a very important thing.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. *hugs*

Amanda said...

Debi. Oh Debi. I have nothing I can say. Just hugs. Big, long, internet hugs. :(

Kailana said...

What a brave post to write! I don't even know what to say...

Vivienne said...

Debi, you are the bravest person I have ever had contact with. I think this is a good thing that you have done by sharing such a painful event in your life. I can only send you immense hugs.

Renay said...

Oh, Debi! I should've given you 1,000 more hugs! Thank you for sharing your story.

kreed said...

I already knew you were an amazing and strong woman and the fact that you survived such a horrifying experience AND are sharing it is more proof of that fact. Many, many hugs to you across the miles.

Louise said...

I am shocked and horrfied and awfully sorry. Words are not enough though. Brave post. Very brave.

DesLily said...

I am so sorry this happened to you Debi ..and sorry to anyone it happens to.. I am more than glad you found help in time and found your hubby to help you thru...

Susan said...

Oh Debi, this is so brave of you. You're so awesome. And you're right. We don't talk about it enough. I think we're afraid of how vulnerable it makes us feel. I'm a survivor too - and I have to say that's the first time I've said it this way (using the word survivor) to myself. Mostly I don't talk about it because I hold myself responsible for putting myself in that position, even though I know I'm not to blame. I'm so glad that doctor was there for you so long ago. I can't find any other words, so here's a hug, and I'm very grateful you are here.

Anonymous said...

hugs! Just when I think I check twitter, my blog, my emails, my Reader, my crazy PC updatestatusness etc - I still need the 2by4 to say um-read-this post. Yet, I knew I was missing something. I know there is some energy connection - I DO! I'm here to offer more virtual hugs and to show my support for your courage and support for YOU. Thank God this comment box is bigger than 140 characters!!!!!!!! Thank you. Life is precious. You are special. to me. :)

Ginny said...

I know you aren't posting this for condolences, etc. I got the chills reading your post though & had to comment. Not just because of your horrible experience, but for your bravery in posting this.

I'm not finding the words I want to say here, but I think your post is another step towards healing.

I'm sure this post will help someone realize that they do need to talk about it, they shouldn't feel shame over it. Hopefully before they get to the place that you did.

You are a very strong and brave woman. (Not that you were not before posting it obviously, everyone has the choice to deal with things there own way.)

Jason Gignac said...

I don't know you well, and am not as good as some others at making close friends, but wanted you to know that I can only deeply respect your actions. I'm not capable of saying much of use, but I wish you well, and send much love and good thoughts.

samantha.1020 said...

I think it was very brave of you to share your story. I have to agree that it is important that we talk about it so thank you once again!

Staci said...

You are an amazing woman Debi! I am hugging you right now!! Thank you for your courage, thank you for telling your story, thank you for being brutally honest, thank you for exposing a layer of yourself, thank you for you.

Michelle said...

Debi - I admire your courage for facing your demons both in the past and in the present. We need more women like you willing to come forward and speak out that this rape is never okay and should never be condoned. I am so sorry that you had to experience that, but I admire your strength and fortitude for coming out a survivor. Thank you for sharing your story.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Debi, your courage is inspirational ... in more ways and to more people than you may possibly ever know.

Megan said...

I'm sitting here staring at my computer monitor trying to think of something to say that would put into words what I felt when I read this post - something that's a mix of sadness and love and thankfulness and sympathy and pride and I don't know what all.

I'm so sorry that this happened to you, and it brings me to tears just thinking about it, as well as the fact that your experience is definitely not as uncommon as we'd all like to think. I'm so thankful that you're still with us and proud of you that you found a way to heal and the courage to share your story so that others will know that they don't have to live in shame and silence.

Thank you. Love you.

Chris said...

You're a true hero Debi...I hope you know that. I love you! Email sent!

Michelle said...

What a brave post to have written.

Jean said...

Blogger wouldn't take my comment last night ... grrr! You are so brave, Debi, in sharing your story. But what an important and life-affirming story to tell! I know that it will help someone who might be in a similar position. I wanted to hug you last night, and I still do this morning! And if Blogger gives me another flaky error, I might have to punch the monitor.

joanna said...

Hi Debi, I got to your blog from Nymeth's and this happened to be the first post of yours that I read... I want to tell you that I think that you're a very brave person. And you're right - uncomfortable topics need to be talked about. I've gone through some stuff in my past as well and I was always outraged at how many people could personally understand what I was going through - I had to wonder why they were silent until I started talking. Anyway - I'm sorry this had to happen to you and I repeat that you're a very brave person to write this post.

Wendy said...

Debi: I am inspired by your courage and strength. This could not have been an easy post to write...but in doing so, you may have touched the life of someone who needed to read it. I am so sorry you went through such a horrible thing. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

You are an extremely brave woman. Thank you, a million times, for this post. I'm sending lots of hugs your way, you deserve every single one of them. By speaking up you have given voice to anyone who reads this and thinks that they didn't have one before, and there is nothing more courageous than that.


Debi said...

Thank you so much for all your kind words. So many of you said I was brave...and you know, maybe for the first time in my life, I felt brave. Scared, but brave. I just wanted to share that it was worth the risk. I obviously can't share the details, but this post made a difference to someone. That is the most I could have hoped for. And while my heart is now aching for yet another survivor of sexual assault, I'm so glad that they were able to break that private silence that had trapped them.

You know I love you, too! And there is no way on earth I can ever put into words how much your never-ending support means to me. Please know that this "thank you" holds so much.

So sweet of you to say, but really, Eva, I'm impressed by your voice every day. You know how much you inspired me to finally just write this post. And while the fact that I published it still makes me tremble a bit, I am so very grateful to you.
I am blessed with the very best friends in the world.

Know that your hugs mean as much to me as any words ever could. Thank you, dear friend.

Thank you. And there is no need to say anything...thank you for being my friend.

What a kind thing to say. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And like I said above, I do believe it was the right thing to do.

I plan to collect them the next time I see you. And thank you. Thank you for so much, Renay. Yours is a voice that empowers people on a regular basis. I honestly don't believe you have a clue how many people you have inspired to do just a little something more. I know I will never have your strong, powerful voice, but I have to admit that I felt like I was channeling a little bit of you in finding the courage to talk about something that matters.

Oh how I miss those hugs in person! I know I'm not really amazing or strong, but those words coming from you...someone I always look to as the epitome of both...well, I can't tell you how much they mean!

A very heartfelt thank you. Really--thank you.

Thank you so very much. It is so very sad, and frankly, unforgivable how much this happens everywhere.

Debi said...

I'm applauding you so loudly right now. I'm so glad you've called yourself a survivor! Because you are, Susan! I think you're so very right...I think that feeling of vulnerability is a great deal of what keeps many of us from talking. And you know, in some ways I feel even more vulnerable for having posted this. But in other ways, I feel liberated.
I'm sure you know how much you saying you hold yourself responsible makes me want to cry, don't you? I know you would never put that blame on another survivor of sexual assault. I know it. That is somehow one of the hardest things though, isn't it? And one of the cruelest.
Thank you, Susan.

How do you do it?!!! I'm serious...how the heck do you always, always, always, manage to put a smile on my face?!! Do you have any idea what a tremendous gift you are? Any idea at all? Thank you, Care. For your kind words. And for the endless stream of smiles.

Your comment left tears in my eyes. I wish I knew how to tell you how much I was touched by your words. Thank you.

I wish I could tell you how much you comment meant to me without sounding like a complete dork. (Of course, I am a complete dork, but that's beside the point.) I know I don't know you well, but I already adore you to pieces. Mostly because I love your wife so much, and you make her so very happy! But also because I've read your words across the blogging world, and it's so obvious that you're one of the "good guys" and that you have a heart of gold. The fact that you would stop and leave such kind words to an almost stranger just proves that. Thank you. Very much. And would you do me a favor? Would you tell your lovely wife that I promise not be so intimidated by you anymore?

I'm sorry...I have to go right now, but I will be back to answer the rest of your comments. Because truly, you all have been so wonderfully kind, and I thank you.

Ali said...

I am so proud of you, Debi. I'm proud of every woman who finds the courage to stand up and say "I was raped." I totally understand the need to protect yourself for all those years by keeping it mostly a secret, but these are stories that people need to hear and I applaud you for sharing yours. And I grieve for that 18-year-old girl who was devastated and didn't know where to turn. I'm so sorry.

Jason Gignac said...

Gosh... thanks. Blushing now :). But since you know me now, I'll send more hugs and love, too :P.

Thoughts of Joy said...

No - it really is a beautiful post, Debi. It really is. It's a soul rejoicing. You have cleared the air - making it fresh and new. Not only for yourself but for those that continue to suffer in silence. You spoke from your heart and showed how a woman can move on from the depths of despair. What a blessing you are! My prayer is that you continue to heal and find peace in that walk.

You have a gem of a husband, but you already know that. :)


Melody said...

Oh Debi! {{{HUGS}}}

Stephanie said...

Debi, there is nothing I can say to make you feel any better right now. You have lived through a nightmare, and you survived it. You are truly my hero, you know that?? It took so much courage to write what you did. I can't tell you how much I admire you for that.

Big, big Hugs to you from me!

Carl V. said...

You are an amazing woman. I've always thought that, of course, but do even more so now! I've never been comfortable with rape in stories or in movies. It is one of those few subjects, like child abuse, that I am probably hyper sensitive about, but I don't care. There is nothing entertaining about that at all and unless it is included in a story as part of a healing process, it is just unnecessary. I can see why Eva wrote the post she did.

Being a survivor of something like that and having a strong marriage, raising a wonderful family, being a wonderful, well rounded and very cool person is something you should be proud of and I am so glad you chose to share this. It is truly brave, truly courage, and makes me love you even more than I already do.

Of course given the fact that I haven't visited blogs all week makes me feel like an ass because of the nonsensical email I sent you yesterday, but I know you'll forgive the bad timing of my frivolity when you had just posted something so non-frivolous.

Anonymous said...

Debi... *huggles tightly*

I don't know what to say that's not been said already - Actually, I think you could copy Ginny's post verbatim, almost - but... You are a brave, brave woman for sharing this and such a strong woman too. *huggles tightly* I'm so sorry to hear it's happened to you. I know you're not sharing this to get comments like this, but...

I'll just, go join the people who have no words and not ramble at you incessantly trying to find them. *huggles tightly* Brave, strong, inspiring Debi. (Yes, inspiring.)

Trish said...

Debi--I feel like my heart has just stopped in my chest. Thank you for being so brave, Debi--you give courage to all of us, and I hope you're right that more people will have the courage to speak up. I am so sorry for the pain in your life and that these things happened. I've come to learn over the years that sometimes the weight of silence is overbearing--and the fact that people don't always know what is going on inside leads to misunderstanding and even more hurt. I'm not saying everyone should know everyone's business, but sometimes the weight of silence is crushing.

Big giant hugs. I love you, Debi.

Debi said...

Thank you. Yes, I agree completely...talking about it is a good and necessary thing.

You have no idea how much your words mean to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. And definitely not just for your supportive words, but even more for your friendship.

Sincere thanks for your kind words.

What a very kind thing to say. Thank you.

Oh my sweet, dear friend. You brought me to tears with your thoughtful, loving words. It is just so unbelievable that my story is just one of millions and millions. How in this world does that happen? But there is so much goodness and light in this world too...I have only to look at dear friends like you to see that. :)

Well, we've talked before about this, and you know that I think you're a hero. That psychologist all those many years ago, she helped me get my life back. And that's what you do for people all the time. I know you don't always know the difference you make in the long term, but be confident that you do. I know that being a counselor, working so intimately with the pain of others, has to be draining and stressful. And yet you do it. And you make a difference. And that makes you a hero.
And you do know, on a personal level, the difference you've made in my life. Your friendship means the world to me. I know you know that, but it doesn't hurt to say it anyway, does it?

Thank you.

Mind if I just collect that hug next time I see you? :) Thank you, Jean, for your very kind words. And I hope your computer survived Blogger's glitches. ;)

Debi said...

I'm sorry, too, for the pain in your past. And I thank you for stopping and leaving your kind words.

Your very kind words of support mean so much. Thank you.

I couldn't help but tear up reading your comment. Your words mean the world to me, and I thank you so very much. And I'll take every one of those hugs.

Bookfool said...

Oh, Debi. I am so sorry, not only because you went through the actual experience but because you have felt obligated to hide it from most of the world. That's one of the worst things about crimes against women, in my mind -- they are so often brushed aside and covered up, the guilt shifted to the woman. And, no woman deserves or asks for rape.

You are so very courageous for stepping forward to share your story. Lots of love and hugs to you.

alisonwonderland said...

It may not be pretty but it's powerful! Thank you for breaking your silence. I'm shedding tears and sending hope for healing to all who have shared your experience.

Debi said...

You're are someone I admire so very much. You have such a strong, yet caring voice. Those words coming from you mean a lot. Thank you. Really.


You have this way of always making me feel so good about myself. Not quite sure how you do that. But I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your very kind words! And yeah, I really am blessed to share this journey through life with such a wonderful guy.

Thank you, sweetie.

You underestimate your power as a friend, you know. Because kind words like yours have helped. I felt so incredibly vulnerable hitting that publish button. But all this overwhelming kindness has helped it not feel quite as scary opening up, if you know what I mean. Bottom line, I didn't do it to receive support--I did it to give support to other survivors--but the support I've received in return has been amazing.

Sheesh...you've made me just bawl here. Thank you. Thank you so very much. I'm so grateful--grateful isn't nearly a strong enough word--that I am blessed with the most amazing friends in the world. I honestly can't believe you've only been a part of our lives for a few years now. How can one person give so much in such a short time? I don't know, but you make it look easy. Oh my, I just love you so much, and your support means the world to me!
And Carl, in case you haven't got my e-mail yet: There will be no more calling LOTR e-mails frivolous, okay?

Oh Shanra, my sweet, sweet friend. Thank you. You're such an amazingly supportive friend, you know that? And I don't mean just today, I mean every day. Thank you.

Oh Trish,
What incredibly powerful words you just spoke. Do you know that YOU gave me a lot of the courage it took to post this? Your Speak post...it touched me so deeply. It was so personal and so powerful and so brave and so meaningful. And I was so proud of you for sharing it. I love you, Trish. And I thank you from the deepest well of my heart...for so much.

I think that is one of the cruelest facets of sexual assault. The shame. How do we as a society allow that? I don't know. But I appreciate your kind words so very much. Thank you.

What beautiful words you just spoke. Thank you.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

A couple days ago I wrote about how I couldn't relate to the girl from the book Speak - her silence annoyed me because it was so different from my own reaction to rape. I hate seeming heartless and uncaring, for me the ultimate worst part of being bipolar is my inability to empathize.
Then I read Trish's review of Speak and I read this post of yours, and I can understand better. Thank you Debi, for sharing this. The bravery to write something like this must have been incredible. I know that by speaking out you are doing a wonderful thing for others, and you are helping people like me to better relate.
Speak was a book to me, the girl fictional, the refusal to verbalize problems silly. But you and Trish, bloggers who I've read for awhile now are people and so vividly real to me, and you've made me see the human side of silence. Sincerely I thank you both for that.

Memory said...

I know we don't really know each other, but I wish I could hug you right now. I sat here and cried as I read this post. You're very brave to share your story.

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