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.