An imagined conversation with my friend who is remembering childhood sexual abuse.

What is it like?

It’s like…doubting every memory. Every thought. Doubting the way you perceive people. Doubting your history.

It’s like…replaying tracts of your childhood that have suddenly taken on a new meaning. You can view them through a different lens now, and my god, does it change everything.

It changes EVERYTHING.

You try this lens on, and it fits so well, all the puzzle pieces that never made a picture suddenly do!

But.

It’s too jarring because it shatters the very ground that you stand on, the assumptions and happy family memories that make up who you are as a person and so you discard this lens, you throw it away and feel guilty and embarrassed and shameful and sick and wrong and evil and mean.

And you tell yourself this: “You’re crazy. You are a crazy person for thinking this. You’re wrong for thinking like this. You’re a bad girl for thinking like this. You’re only thinking like this because you’re a little fucked up since you were raped last year, and that’s why you’re thinking like this. You’re incorrect. You don’t remember shit. You’re wrong.”

Then you push it aside, you bury it, you focus on healing from rape and planning your future and you try to laugh this off. You convince yourself that you’re making it up, and good thing you didn’t tell anyone, because they would think that you’re crazy and sick.

It comes creeping back in. It always comes fucking creeping back. You try to squash it, that thought of…what if? And then before you know it you’re walking around every day feeling nauseous, feeling like your stomach has been punched through to your spine, feeling an ache inside you that hurts so much you actually moan out loud, while you’re in bed with your arms wrapped around yourself, trying to keep yourself together, trying to hold yourself in one piece, because you’re scared, you’re so fucking scared that you might suddenly remember and then disintegrate, as your life explodes and burns around you, and you’ll forget how to survive when your entire childhood is exposed for what it really was.

Because. What if. What if your body is trying to tell you something? What if your instinct is right? What if, your memories, thoughts and perceptions are to be trusted?

I see your pain, my love.

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An early sexual experience. Age 14.

Reflecting on it later, she isn’t sure how it happened. She remembers talking to one of the boys, and feeling a lot more confident than normal. (Maybe it was the memory of her sun-warmed nipples under her tshirt). She sat next to him, on a log and they shared a beer. They sat in silence mostly, watching the flames, laughing at the poor jokes made by the others. She learnt that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend, he was two years older than her. She heard one of his friends say “rebound”.

Later, back at the hut, her sister and parents had gone to sleep in one of the bunkrooms, so she and Tess lay their sleeping bags out in the other room with the group of teenagers. Part of her longed to go into her parent’s room, snuggle into her sleeping bag, fold up her polarfleece as a pillow and read her book, before blowing out the candle and saying “I love you” to her family.

Later, on the platform of top bunks, all linked up. Tess and her are separated. She’s between ‘her’ guy and the wall. Tess is two different guys away. She doesn’t know what Tess is doing. She hears lots of whispers and laughs. She doesn’t know what to do.

The guy beside her leans in, and she assumes he must be going to kiss her, so she closes her eyes and parts her lips, like she’s seen. He pulls away, shakes his head slightly, but keeps coming at her. She lies still, as his hands explore her under her sleeping bag, over her tshirt and bra. She thinks about what she knows about this: women moan and arch their backs and squeeze their eyes shut. Men conduct, with grunts and say “baby” a lot. (When she was much younger, she thought it was lovely that so many men constantly sang and talked about their babies. “Such caring fathers!”)

She tries a moan. Just quietly, breathy, just enough for him to hear. He likes it, she can tell, because his hand is now travelling down, over the waistband of her shorts and over her thigh. She tries the moan again, and now his hand is between her legs, and then cupping right up there, right up there between her legs, cupping where no one else has ever touched before. Where she has only touched a few times herself,

secretly.

(The first time she did it, she didn’t know what had happened to her, she thought the orgasm that took her body by surprise was ‘having sex’.)

She decides to see how he reacts to a back arch, so she does, but without any sound it comes across like she’s uncomfortable and trying to move away.

(Is she?)

She tries the arch and the moan together, and this really excites him, and she knows this because his hands are now under her shirt, clammy and rough, sliding all over her belly and he can’t decide whether to go up or down. He tries up, and is stopped by her underwire, and this is too hard for him, so he’s going down, way down, underneath her shorts and underneath her panties, and his hands are scratchy and hard and his fingers are in a hurry.

(She’s not. In a hurry. For this. At all.)

Then, his fingers find her and push on her clit so hard she actually does gasp, not like in the movies, but a real gasp, one of shock and pain and bewilderment. And then his fingers keep going down and they push again and now one finger is inside her and it hurts and he’s pushing, his arm is pushing hard on her pelvis and he’s leaning over her, but looking at his hand under her shorts and breathing hard, eyes half closed, face frozen, eyebrows knitted.

(She doesn’t know what to do. So she…)

Arches her back. Movie-moans. Pretends. That she likes this, this violation.

He works his fingers in her for a long time. Any lubrication she had is long gone, and it’s feeling raw. She still continues with the charade, as long as he wants to, because she doesn’t want to make a

fuss.

Eventually, dawn is peeking through the matchbox windows. Like he’s been stung, he rips his fingers from her, she bites her lip to stop crying out, and he finally, finally looks at her. She makes one last grasp at intimacy, leaning forward for a kiss, and he turns his head aside, flops onto his sleeping bag, turns away.

She’s going to be sick. The nausea is quick and rising, and she can’t do it in the hut, she doesn’t want to wake everyone, so she’s climbing over the other sleepers, down the ladder, across the floor, out the door, across the lawn to the bush and then there she is, bent over.

Dry retching in the dawn light.

It’s misty. Mosquitos are still awake and start biting her, and all she can do is stare at her toes and feel a sharp ache, in between her legs, but also deeper than that, much deeper.

Pain.

This took courage. A letter to my oldest friend, about my rape.

Hey you,

your timing was perfect texting me the other day. I actually laughed out loud when I saw that you’d text me, it was as if the universe was like “hey love, you have friends!” and nudged you my way.

You asked how I was and I was so close to batting away the question with a flippant, “I’m fine!” and moving the focus back to you, but I decided that if i didn’t tell you how shit I was feeling then I was giving the universe the fingers, and that’s not cool. So, I said I was going to write you and since I said that I’ve been talking myself out of doing this quite effectively in fact, and now I feel like I’m stalling and possibly freaking you out more than you need to be.

Okay. So. Last year, over a weekend in June in Vancouver, I was raped. I found a flat on a website with one male room-mate, moved in and over that weekend he drugged and raped me, and then kept assaulting me over 2 days until I escaped. I know this is a shocking thing to read, I don’t feel the shock anymore, but I’ve very aware of how it would feel me reading it about, say you, for example. So, deep breaths, and that’s the worst of it. The story gets better from here.

As it turned out, I’m a pretty bad-ass rape survivor. I escaped, rang a rape crisis centre, had forensic evidence collected, found a safe place to stay, negotiated free counseling (that took WEEKS of bureaucracy and forms and statements), found a counsellor, talked to mum and dad. I decided that as horrific as this was, I was not coming home, I was still going to finish out my year of travel and have the Best Summer Ever in Vancouver, HE was not going to take that away from me. And I did. I had enough support immediately to get me through, until I could be in a safe place and really deal with this.

That’s what I’m doing now. I found a therapist when I got back to Auckland, and initially I saw it as a quick, “oh I might see her once or twice to deal with some issues I have around trust, but I’m pretty much fine.” I didn’t estimate how tough recovery would be. The last month I’ve been processing stuff I didn’t even know I carried, and it feels like it’s this endless slide down into crazy land. I feel like everything about me is up for review. Right now, I can’t decide what is me. It’s like, I see parts of who I am all separated, like puzzle pieces. And I can’t figure out if they are important to me, and where they fit. This is really bewildering and unsettling and depressing, but I do know that this isn’t endless, that things will get better and I’ll eventually be a stronger, whole person, all the better for having tackled this now.

I’m telling you this, because every time I tell someone important to me, then it gets a bit easier to accept that this happened to me, and helps me move past the unhelpful stuff I tell myself: that it’s my fault, that I could have prevented it, that it’s not that much of a big deal. People respond in lots of different ways, and often don’t know what to say, and that’s okay, we’re not really taught how to receive this news! I’ve had some people have unhelpful responses, so I’m trying to get better at letting people know what I need from them.

So, it feels really good to share this with you. It’s scary reaching out, but I feel that it’s important to my recovery.

If you’d like to ask questions about the specifics, I’m open to answering them, but if you’d prefer not to I completely understand that too. It would be great to talk about how my recovery is going, so feel free to ask how I feel and how I’m doing! Even though it’s hard to figure out how I fit together, I’m still the childhood friend you know, I still love talking about sex, drinking wine, dancing, dressing up, doing yoga and circus arts, being silly and laughing until I cry.

🙂

Okay, whew! I’m just going to press send now before I chicken out. Much love, I feel so glad to have you as a friend.

Write what you know. Well, I’m all about that recovery shit.

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Winter in Auckland. Exploring black sand dunes, feeling intrepid.

I’ve been thinking for a while about narrowing the scope of this blog. It’s my first blog, and I started it because there was so much I wanted to share and express! Initially, my idea was that I would write predominantly about S&M and feminism and relationships. I’d describe my blog to myself as: “thought-provoking” and “challenging”. Haha. In practice this is starting to feel like a chore. I’ll think of something that I want to write about, but thoughts are half-formed, I can’t put them down as eloquently as I’d like, and my dashboard is full of half attempted posts.

When I was kid and struggling with a creative writing homework project, my dad told me to write what I know. And I think I need to return to this. I’m going to start from what I know, and what I know right now is the recovery process following sexual assault.

I was raped last year, over the course of a weekend, by a room mate. I’ll write about it in more detail later, perhaps. I spent 8 months ‘dealing’ with it: living with it, but not processing it. Now, finally, I found a therapist and I’m processing and recovering and it’s really shit and really tough and hard and scary and lonely.

Today is a difficult day. I’m finding that Mondays usually are. Getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast and going into work to sit staring at my computer seems so pointless, mundane, stupid. Yesterday I met my cousin at a restaurant for dinner, and I told her about the rape. Usually, when I tell someone, I’ve made a plan about how to tell them, and built myself up to deal with their response. I hadn’t done this with her though, it just sort of came out and apart from blushing and not being able to make eye contact, I felt very calm about it, it was the right thing to do.

As I’m coming to expect, she told me about her sexual abuse: age nine, from a family friend. I am no longer shocked by the number of women who have experienced sexual assault and abuse. Today, sitting in my office thinking about this, I feel defeated. And my trivial to-do list: putting together a two day conference, writing a plan for a workshop on Friday, making phone calls- seems completely ludicrous when I am feeling so sad and weary about the injustice and horror of all the rape in the world. Where the fuck do I start?

I recognise that today is a low day. Later on in the week, I’ll build myself back up. My anger at my rapist will continue to drive me towards my ultimate future career as a sex educator. Making this anger a positive force in my life is the only way I can live with it. My relentless work ethic will kick in and I’ll get my office to-do list done, and feel stronger in my sense of achievement. I’ll connect with friends, and travel this weekend to beaches and laugh and feel grateful and happy and alive.

Today, all I can do is try. Here is my alternative to-do list.

Monday:

– try to not cry in the bathroom at work

– try to feed myself well

– try to look busy whenever my manager walks past

– try to go grocery shopping and cook when I get home

– try to do some yoga

– try and have an early night

– try and remember: acceptance and impermanence. Feeling like I do today is part of recovery. It will pass.