You don’t get to practice the aftermath of rape. Nobody offers classes called “How to Survive Victim Blamers” or “When to Lay a Charge” but society will judge you as though you were taught how to deal with it to doctorate level. You have become a ‘failure’, purely by virtue of your normal response to an abnormal event.
Letting the news spread freely was the biggest mistake I made immediately after my rape. Those who didn’t blame me associated me with my victimhood. I became “That Woman Who Was Raped”. The rest of my identity was irrelevant. Now that the trauma is gone, I’m seen for who I am rather than where I’ve been. That’s the kind of ‘luck’ you get when life is easy and you have your health, but I didn’t know it was a privilege until I lost it.
In the dark years, every aspect of my rape was held to the light and found wanting. Each one left a brand new crack when I was already about to shatter.
Society allows survivors our trauma as long as it only lasts [insert random number of months] and is under some arbitrarily chosen level of severity. What it rarely gives us permission for is our reaction to fear. Men tell us how to respond to strangers who follow us in the streets. Women tell us how harsh we’re allowed to be when we feel threatened. We’re to be polite, safety be damned. We must preserve others’ feelings before our own.
The best thing rape ever gave me was fear. It taught me how to stay safer. Fear is personal power for me. I didn’t earn it or deserve it, but it’s a gift nonetheless because this is a fucked up world littered with monsters.
In the first years after my rape, I often found myself in dangerous situations. It was only when I refused to be polite that they began to happen less often. The fact of it is rape survivors know more about what threat looks like than most, but those who know the least of it judge us anyway.
They judge how well we handle our trauma and what treatment we choose. They judge how long we maintain it, how responsive we are to therapy, how often we cry or don’t cry, how our careers change during our worst months, and how we fought or didn’t fight our rapists. I could make a list of the criticisms I’ve seen directed at rape survivors that would circumnavigate a small moon.
The most tenacious consequences of my rape came from judgement. Assault comes with more than one perpetrator, and the ones who re-victimise us the longest are often our loved ones.
This post does not mention the judgements I’ve heard about my rapist because…
those hardly ever happened.