I was really amazed when I started to understand how much of the shame and guilt I was feeling after the rapes was put on me by those around me. A lot of this from those who love me most, and are sadly ignorant of what being raped does to a person. It wasn’t limited to friends and family though and it started with the hospital personnel, the first police officers to arrive, the detective in charge of my case and even included the counselor from the rape crisis team. The statements from my family and friends were out of curiosity I am sure, and as they rolled around in my mind I started to own them.
In not reporting the first rape immediately I opened the doors for much judgement from the well meaning but not knowing crowd. I was drowning in the shame of, “If I had told I would have prevented the second rape.”
After the second attack, I showered to try to stop the bleeding from abused parts of my body and from the stab wound. I also cleaned up the blood mess on the floor, partly because my dog was licking it up and mostly because I was operating in robot mode, doing the next thing. I failed again to call 911 and drove myself to the hospital where the rape was reported. My behavior brought much (undeserved) chastisement.
“You shouldn’t have washed.” “You weren’t supposed to go to the bathroom!” “What are you doing on the phone? Get back in the bed.” “By cleaning up, were you trying to cover up something?” “Why would you shower?” “Why wouldn’t you call 911?” “Why would you clean up the mess?” “Why would you drive yourself to the hospital?” “Why didn’t you fight back?” etc.
As if I had the memo on “What to do and how to act after you are raped.” I had excellent coaching from a qualified trauma therapist and the rape crisis team to start to help me see that my behavior was not only understandable, it was common among survivors…ALL of it. Though helpful, they remained words from books and statistics.
Still struggling with berating myself which only served to fuel my sense of failure, I decided to read a book from a survivor of rape. I chose, “The Truth About Rape,” by Teresa Lauer, M.A. It is an astonishing account of a brutal rape, after which she walked home, showered, slept, and did not tell for years. That story was so comforting I really became hungry to read more stories, and did. Same results. Some told, some didn’t. Some showered. Some called friends instead of police.
This left me more astonished about the way I was treated, and reassured me that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was saddened that much of our shame and behavior, down to wanting to or harming self and attempting or completing suicide, is driven by innocent statements of unknowing individuals. More so I was angered at the vicious cycle of shame closing our lips, and our closed lips allowing such degrading comments to continue.
“Thank goodness for the survival mode of the brain that helps us function at all when the body and mind has been so horrifically traumatized, lest we curl up and die.”