This post comes as a follow up to “Anywhere Other than Here.” If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so before proceeding. I am honestly honored, but slightly overwhelmed, by the amount of personal messages I have already received in response to the essay I posted yesterday. This post detailed the first time I was raped. That’s right – this was just the first time, not the only time. As was the case for some of the women who briefly shared their stories with me through various online messaging sources, rape was a painful experience that I had to suffer through on more than one occasion. I say this with all sincerity and need every man and woman who reads this to hear me and accept this truth: No woman should ever have to go through this experience.
What I already knew, but was reminded of in the hours that have passed since my posting, is that too many women have known similar pain. According to the Joyful HeartFoundation, 1 in 6 women is a survivor of sexual assault, and every two minutes in the United States someone is sexually assaulted. Further, like the situation described in my post, 90% of assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows. These are numbers we need to care about.
Your sister, your daughter, your best friend, the woman who works down the hall from you, the woman in front of you in the check-out line, the woman seated next to you in the church pew – any one of these woman could be a survivor who is silently suffering. So many people responded to my post by describing me as “strong” and “brave.” While I made my story public, these silently suffering women are no less strong or brave. We are all fighting a hard battle – and we should learn to allow others to throw up their fists and fight alongside us to eliminate the frequency of date rape and other forms of sexual assault.
I know that there is great shame associated with rape. But I think we need to question this – why should a woman be ashamed at being a survivor of rape? What did she do wrong? The answer is nothing. But, I didn’t believe that after this first happened to me. I was nineteen then, and am into my thirties now. I did blame myself. I felt I had played a part in this wrongdoing against me. I mean – I did kiss him. I lay down with him. I was initially warm to his touch – but when things changed, and I said no, he should have stopped. He needed to stop. It was many long months before I could even muster the courage to actually use the word rape – even just in my internal dialogue – and many more months before I could speak that word to others.
When I publically posted my own tale, I didn’t consider the pain that it may have brought to the surface for many of my readers. For that I apologize. I shared my story as a means of healing for not only myself – but others. I wanted to stand up and say, “Yes. I was raped. I’m not ashamed. I did nothing wrong. I am beautiful, smart, and intelligent, and he was an ugly monster when he did this thing.” I wanted to educate and empower. If you’ve been following me, remember that whole thing about education not being restricted to the classroom?
So, I shared my story. Actually, I would encourage you to share it as well. Post a link to this page on your own blog or add it to your facebook status or twitter update. Then women and men can stand together and read about the ugly thing in an effort to end such sexual violence.
I did something many years ago that may be considered completely crazy, but I forgave my abuser. I saw him at a bar, and I forgave him for that afternoon. I also let him know that what he did was in no way acceptable and it never, ever should have happened, but I also think that he didn’t fully realize what he was doing. It was like he was overcome by some sickness at the time that led to this crime. I don’t know if he felt any better, but I don’t give a shit because that wasn’t the point. I forgave him to allow myself to love. My hatred was only hurting me.
Today, no one hurts me. I am safe and loved in my home by my husband and adoring, wonderful children. I don’t want to be somewhere other than here. I don’t have to vanish to a finer place in my mind. I’m right here now – and absolutely happy. I accepted what happened to me, without condoning this action, and learned to pull strength and empathy from my experience as opposed to pity and misery. Now, I can be fully in the moment when my husband embraces me. I can be fully in the moment and blissfully happy when my daughter tells her younger brother “lub you.”
I’m not chained to that hurt; I’m not a slave to that pain. I am stronger and better – and I will never again be ashamed. My hope for every woman who knows what I’m talking about all too well is that you dispose of your shame as well. Know that you, too, are brave and beautiful and deserving of every happiness life has to offer you. Together we can be strong. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your genuine and considerate responses.
Elise Lieberth - "You're Gonna Pay"
Bring Awareness to Rape.