At the exact time that I’m writing this (8:30 a.m. ), on this exact day two years ago, I was reporting my rape. It had happened after midnight on March 10, 2013.
I’ve been trying not to write about it too much, anymore, because I feel like I’ve said everything I need to say about it. But this morning alone, I’ve had to type 3/10/2015 into my Google Drive and my to-do list and a few other places, and it’s just hard to ignore how bad it still feels.
I still wonder: How long does it take to recover from rape? Do you ever? The fact that I was in an long, abusive marriage not long before the rape happened complicates recovery. I can say, now, that the effects of that rape are nowhere near as destructive to my well-being as the effects of the relationship that preceded it. The rape feels like a one-off now; a really unfortunate thing that happened, a serious breach in trust, a serious violation, a reduction of my humanity for the sake of my rapist’s ego; but still, in comparison to seven years of abuse from my ex-husband, the rape usually feels like it weighs less heavily on me.
But then I have to type “3/10” over and over, and I get flashes of a vast, abiding resentment that I can feel in my arms. I feel — literally feel — like there’s a knife twisting in my ribcage; it’s probably a rise in blood pressure and muscle tension. And I just feel deeply and suddenly exhausted. The air goes out of my lungs. I remember the last two years all at once: I remember the gossip that went around after it happened, how heartened I was by my friends’ loyalty and discretion, but how betrayed I felt by secondary parts of my social network, friends of friends, who assumed, as a given, that I had lied about it, that my rapist hadn’t done anything wrong but that I reported it out of spite because everyone hated him anyway. One of those secondary contacts explained to me that they just hadn’t thought that my rapist was capable of raping someone, that this person just didn’t want to accept that the worst, most horrifying possible rumor was the truth, and so they stuck with something easier to believe.
I remember falling in love with my now-fiancé, Michael, shortly after the rape happened, which complicated things mainly because I was hardly able to function at all, much less function as a girlfriend. I remember him rushing over to my apartment to help me clean it, because I couldn’t get out of bed without collapsing into tears; in his haste, he wound up running his bike into the back bumper of a utility truck and getting a massive bruise on his leg. I remember my best friend bumming me her Xanax to get me through a non-fiction workshop that she and Michael and I were in together, when one of our classmates wrote about her rape.
I remember going to a state psychiatric facility because my insurance didn’t cover mental health at all. It was during finals week of my last semester of college, which had taken me eight years to finish for reasons mainly having to do with my former spouse and his greed as regards both money (he wanted me to become a lawyer and provide for us, but it wasn’t in the cards for me; he wanted me to go to a school with a “prestigious” name, but it meant I had to take out massive private loans and ultimately ran out of money) and as regards my time (I could only do three or four classes at a time because I had to work, too, because he didn’t; I had to do homework, but I was also required to spend time with him every night, regardless of everything else going on). I had shouldered through the last three years of my education and done really, really well, and I wanted to walk at graduation. Michael coordinated with my teachers to get them to approve take-home finals, and with my dad to get keys to my apartment so that he could get all my books and notes so that I could finish my work in the hospital, where I was generally left unsupervised. I remember walking at graduation, the same day as Michael, with a gold cord hanging from my shoulders to signify the honors I earned.
I remember taking leave from my job over and over, and then finally being forced to leave. I remember how humiliating it felt to take unemployment benefits. I remember my relationship with Michael becoming co-dependent, and us breaking up, and then getting back together six weeks later; him getting a great job and me getting a cruddy job. I remember feeling like I was in a rut, going nowhere, unable to get a legitimate job befitting my ability and experience, and trying to shock myself out of that rut by traveling alone. I remember the nervous breakdown that ensued, feeling agoraphobic and unable to get out of bed again, how painful it was to withdraw from medications that weren’t working for me, getting a good therapist, getting into a groove, starting to do work I liked. And even though things got better, I remember the gruesome, harrowing nightmares, and my god, the insomnia, the ongoing, life-flattening insomnia..
A year and a half passed, after the rape, before I started really living as a functioning adult. Things are pretty good now. I have a fiancé and a wedding date and a nice apartment and an adorable dog and a full-time job with benefits. My friends are awesome.
Still: It’s been mostly downs with some significant ups for the last two years, and although I try not to dwell on the anniversaries of unhappy events in my life, the rape really and truly tipped over the emotional house of cards I’d built up in the six months that passed between leaving my former spouse and March 10, 2013. And it’s only recently that I’ve been able to accept it as a part of my past, and it’s only been two years, and it still hurts. In a year, maybe it’ll be better, and maybe the year after that I’ll barely even notice the date. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the whole experience, it’s that my impatience to get better just winds up making me more anxious, just winds up making me feel more broken and stuck. “Time heals all wounds” feels like a trite way to look at a hurt as deep as what I – -and a lot of other rape victims — carry around, but there it is.
Original by Rebecca Vipond Brink