The aftermath of a lion kill is so calm and silent that the gore seems almost benign. You’d think death would snuff all the normality out of the world, but horror is not as it’s portrayed in the movies. It sits so comfortably next to everything you’re used to seeing in your everyday life that the only thing out of place is the blood on the grass. It’s hard to spot a kill. Horror doesn’t look dramatic. It looks ordinary.
Before I was raped, I thought assault snuffed all the normality out of survivors’ lives. I thought trauma was gory and dramatic enough to steal the stars out of the sky. That it didn’t was the horror because the dusk would always remind me that I wasn’t safe in the world. Now all the usual scents and sights that were there during my assault were covered in gore. Wherever I went, there was blood on the grass.
The trouble with rape is that you can’t escape the trauma for a second. The lack of respite is exhausting. There are no rest stops for survivors. You must believe beyond hope that there’s a happy ending out there somewhere. You must believe it even as the years pass and pass and pass.
Lions are elegant creatures, even at a kill. They look like a hybrid of a kitten and a king even as they’re lying in their own carnage, and rapists look just as harmless. Before rape, I felt protected because I thought I could spot a monster long before it attacked me. After rape, I knew that monsters did not look like monsters. They looked like the man sitting next to you on a train and the woman serving you sushi at the corner restaurant. They have moments of kindness and generosity just like you and I. That means anyone might be a rapist, and there’s no way to get that innocence back once it’s lost.
After a kill, the world begins to absorb the death it’s just seen. Vultures clean the carcass, and the last of the cadaver brings new life to the soil. In time, rain clears the savannah of blood. There is recovery, even after so much carnage.
We regenerate. We thrive.
When I was in the middle of my trauma, I knew I would never recover, but I was wrong. It’s true that rape changed me, but it didn’t freeze me in my trauma for the rest of my days as I expected. I became capable of more happiness. Like building a well, rape takes and takes and takes. The deeper it digs, the more you lose, but then the walls are built, the rain comes, and all that loss becomes sustenance.
People regenerate. It’s just what we do.