There have been many points since I was raped that I truly wished I had the power of invisibility. Most often this happens when I have to tell the story, or even say, “I was raped.” So many times we have to repeat what happened, so many times we wish we could be invisible if even for a moment. The list of people that need to know seems endless, hospital staff, detectives, family, friends, therapists, psychiatrists, and each doctor involved in testing for STDs or petitioned to treat wounds. Each time I think it is the last person I will have to tell, another one comes up. Each time I wonder if it will ever get easier, if I will ever be able to talk about it without hanging my head.
I have been told that this is a common response for victims of certain crimes, crimes that bring shame to the victim. This would include crimes such as sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence; any crime where the shoulds are piled on in reference to our behavior both during and after the crime. How wrong does that sound, ‘crimes that bring shame to the victim.’ I cannot imagine anyone hanging their head in shame when reporting that their house or car were broken into, that they were robbed at gunpoint, that someone torched their business. I find this appalling and yet I, too, have fallen under the societal pressure that spurs us to self judgement and self blame. Interesting how so many who have never experienced rape know better than we what we should have done in that moment.
I believe that some part of society would like us to be invisible so they do not have to acknowledge and deal with the evil in this world. If they don’t see us, they can believe the problem does not exist and neither do the perpetrators of unspeakable acts. The only way to overcome this is to give up our desire to disappear and to continue to use our voices to tell our stories. As Patricia Weaver Francisco wrote in “Telling“:
Becoming visible in some way as a survivor makes that connection [to other survivors], and also remakes the world for the children being born to inherit it.
Being bold is truly my desire, I try each day to be brave. I have conquered many of my fears in speaking up about what happened; and in telling others that their judgement, outright or implied, really isn’t helpful. The hardest and most proud moments came when I told the detective that he had treated me cruelly and I was not surprised at the small percentage of women that report if they are going to be treated that way; and telling the rape crisis counselor that her frustration and judgement only made it harder for me to trust and reach out. Which led me to another “Telling” quote:
Accepting help begins with being visible. But the end of the story, I believe, is using visibility as a form of power[!]