Surviving a rape is one of the most difficult things to do in this world. It’s not just a physical act that your body heals from; it’s a mental tragedy that the mind must recuperate from as well. Bruises heal in a matter of days, broken bones in a matter of weeks, but a broken soul takes years to recover from, and in some cases it never truly does heal.
I cannot tell you what it’s like to be raped by someone you do not know. The fear of a stranger touching you like that, not knowing if they have an STD that will some day kill you if they don’t kill you right then. I can only imagine the horror and fear that one would suffer at the hands of a stranger violating them in such a deeply personal way.
No, I cannot tell you anything about that, but I can tell you what it’s like to be raped by someone you know, someone you loved. It’s heart wrenching to say the very least. You go through such a multitude of emotions after an attack of this nature. How can someone who is supposed to have loved you able to do this to you? What is it that you did that made them so angry that they could have done this too you? What did you do that was so bad that it set this person off in a way they could be capable of attacking you like that? These are just a few of the questions that you ask yourself after you’ve been raped, and you continue to ask yourself these questions for years afterwards.
It’s been 19 yrs ago but the memory stays fresh in my mind. Some days when the memory hits I can still feel his hands on me, the force of the punches, the smell of his Jack Daniels laden breath, the sound of his voice asking over and over again “how does it feel to know you’ll never see your family again?” It’s at those times that I can’t breath, I feel as though I’m being violated all over again. I feel dirty and broken, a feeling that never truly goes away.
When you survive a rape you are faced with so much more then the act itself. I know for myself I had to face the fact that this was a man who claimed he loved me, a man whom I loved, regardless of the trouble we were going through. I had to understand afterwards that what he did was an act of control and anger, not an act of sex, and that he was trying to control me when he knew he couldn’t. He knew we were heading for the end of our relationship and that was what set him off like it did. When I finally made it out of the apartment I ran into the arms of a friend who had been there for me for months before. He had worked that night and when he got home he had a really bad feeling something was terribly wrong and had come back to check up on me, and I was so thankful that he did, even though I had to deal with the embarrassment of him seeing me beaten and bloody and scared. After he got me in the ambulance to head to the hospital I had endure the humiliation again by showing person after person my bruised and battered body. I had to be photographed and examined and questioned. It was like being raped all over again.
People have asked me why I didn’t press charges on my attacker. I couldn’t. Not because I was embarrassed or scared but because of what happened after I left in that ambulance. If I would have pressed charges there would have been an investigation into it and several others would have been hurt in the process, especially my friend, and I didn’t want that to happen. I cannot and will not discuss the details behind my decision but know that my attacker was served justice to some degree and did not go unpunished.
I have gotten to the point now where it does not define who I am anymore. I don’t sit around thinking about it everyday. I’ve even gotten to the point where I will only think about a few times a year, always on the anniversary of it. Some times I still dream about it, the never-ending nightmare as I refer to it. Sometimes I find myself wondering what ever became of my attacker, is he dead or alive, has his life been harsh to him (God willing) is he alone and miserable. The thing I remember most about that time in my life now is the person who was there for me after it. The one who helped put me back together, who picked up the pieces of the shattered Shannon and reminded me of who I was and who I was going to be. He’s no longer here on this earth with me, to remind me that I am strong and I will survive. This is the time of year that I miss him most of all, that I wish I could pick up the phone and call him and hear his voice and know that I will be okay. I never thought he’d be gone so early in life, as with others in my life, and sometimes that makes me feel as vulnerable as the day my raped happened.
I try to not let my experience define me. I try to not let it make me hardened and angry and emotionally unattached. I can tell you that although it has been difficult to trust anyone ever again, I have let myself open up to people and even found love again, but I still have the walls around my heart. I feel those walls will forever be a part of me. I don’t believe I will ever know what it feels like to let myself completely trust someone, to completely love someone, to be completely at peace. He robbed me of those things that night. He killed an innocence I had and that is something that will never be regained. I now have a daughter of my own and I fear that she will one day know this feeling, and pray hard that hopefully she will never have to live through it. I pray that I do not teach her my trust issues, my self esteem issue’s, my inability to love myself or even just be at peace with who I am. I hope she is stronger then I ever was, and that her guardian angles will protect her, and frankly I hope she is smart enough to never put herself into the situations I did.