I've been managing to stay busy this summer, which has been a blessing in itself. Not only does it keep me from becoming so sedentary that I threaten to petrify like a fossil, it has also had the added benefit of giving me very little time to dwell on things.
Those of you who have known me for any decent length of time know a little bit about my backstory; know a little bit about my past. You know that I raped when I was 20 years old. April and June are always hard months for me, because I tend to dwell on the rape and the aftermath. June is especially hard because I tend to give in to "what if"-itis -- that little mind-screw I do to myself where I obsess over the abortion and the child that would have resulted. Would it be a boy or a girl? Would she/he look like me, or like the rapist? Who would I be now? Who would the child be? Could I love it enough? Would I have kept it? Keeping myself from thinking about that child, who now be old enough to graduate from high school.
Probably the worst part of all of this is the guilt that I lay at my own doorstep in the whole sorry situation. I was raped by someone I knew, someone I was dating. And, for some people, "date rape" just doesn't register with them. Generally, these are the same people who don't think a man can rape his wife, simply because there's a history and a marriage certificate there, but that's neither here nor there. There is still a lot of stigma associated with rape, and especially with date rape. There's always an air of "what did you do to deserve it?" when you tell people that you were date raped.
I try not to think about it, but it was a very formative experience, occurring at a time when most young people are moving out of the family home and trying their wings for the first time. When they are beginning to forge their own path in this world, and to let go of their dependence on Mom and Dad and to live as adults themselves. I was in college, working hard. I was taking a full complement of classes, and was working three jobs; two at the college, and every shift I could pick up at the local movie theater. I had plans to move into my own place with a couple of friends, and we were looking forward to freedom. Looking forward to being adults on our own; and on our own terms.
And then, all of a sudden, I wasn't. I was frozen in place by the rape. Time stopped for me. I was scared to go out, scared to walk across the quad by myself. Checking the locks on the windows and doors compulsively, and imagining every shadow was closing in on me. I was never very self-confident to begin with, and after the rape, I had virtually nothing at all. No confidence, no energy, no bravery. It was all gone. He stole so much more than just sex from me. My safety, my sense of wonder, my sex. Never being thin to begin with, I began to hide under multiple layers of clothes until I looked as round as I was tall. Maybe all those layers would protect me, or at least discourage any other would-be attacker. I became asexual, hiding under layers, and behind a curtain of shaggy hair.
During the counseling session I had to attend before the abortion, the therapist postulated that maybe I "stay fat" because it's safe. That I deliberately try to make myself unattractive so that I'm not a target for other men, other predators. This used to make me sad, thinking that my dislike of myself was so strong that I would deliberately choose to alienate myself from the rest of the world through obesity. And then, one day, I thought, "Fuck you! I was fat WHEN I was raped! It didn't seem to matter so much to him!" And that's because rape isn't about attractiveness, it's about power and control. It's about being able to bend someone so totally to your will, whether it's through manipulation or aggression. In my case, it was a sneak attack, but the mind-screw that came with it afterward was sheer power through manipulation. So, not only did I get raped, I also got fucked over by the system, too. Being fat never made me feel safe. It still doesn't. It makes me feel unloveable and undervalued, but that's a whole other kettle of fish.
So, I've spent my time working this summer, concentrating on the class that I'm taking, and trying not to dwell on the things that usually pull me down into the mire around this time of year. Trying not to pity myself, and play the what-if game. Instead, I thank God for the things that I do have, and feel grateful that I made it through to the other side, rough though the journey was. It has shaped me, both for better and for worse. I try not to think about the child that never will be. And, most of all, I try to forgive myself and let go.
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