Enter your email address:

Monday, July 1, 2019

On the other side of Rape



In light of Busola Dakolo  sharing her story of sexual abuse and violation by someone she trusted- "a Pastor", I was taken aback as I listened to her describe the details of what it was like for a 17 year old girl to experience such violence. I got to the end of the interview and my heart started to beat faster as she expresses the different ways she has seen the reverberating effect of this experience on her adult life. I cried. I wanted to reach through the screen, give her a big hug and tell her, thank you. Our experiences are different but the effect? oh the effect. Lord. They sound too familiar.


Cause 

About 2 years ago, I shared, briefly, my story on the blog of how I was raped by my ex-boyfriend. Many people reached out to me to express both sympathy and empathy; I was glad that the main purpose of me sharing that story- to stretch out a hand to others suffering in silence- was achieved. In the last 2 years, I have taken down the post and re-posted multiple times out of panic. Panic of not wanting this to be an identity and the thought that I'd have to spend the first few moments of meeting someone new convincing them to separate me from it ran cold shivers down my spine. I remember someone who had read the post when I had just posted it coming back to ask me for a link a year or so later. I had taken it down at this point and she told me someone else really needed to read it, so I re-posted it again. Like I mentioned 2 years ago, vulnerability is a small price to pay when it's 5 loaves that could potentially feed thousands.

I picked up my pen again to write about this, from the very same place I was 2 years ago. A place where my heart yearns and I physically shed tears for every woman who continues to feel the effects of sexual abuse like a stain that will not freaking wash off. I have tried to write more about the road to healing but I have all of those saved in my drafts, un-posted. I would think to myself, " Moyo, don't draw attention to that again, we are trying to disintegrate from it remember ? " Busola gave me a nudge to write today, not because my initial fears aren't still valid but because my desire for women to never feel alone in their suffering and learn to move towards healing in-spite of it stands taller (thankfully) than my fears.

Like Busola said, rape is not something you "went" through, it is something you continue to walk through. And in so many different ways, when you're just about forgetting, it will tap you on the back to remind you it's still there. She also mentioned that she didn't even understand that some of the behaviors she exhibited (lack of trust, identity issues, commitment issues, passive aggressiveness/anger, etc) stem from that very moment someone who lacked control decided to take advantage of you. I could spend all of this blog post expressing my anger and disgust for the predator/rapist/violator but I am thankful to the thousands of people who have rallied to do that in the past couple of days. My energy today, is for the survivor, the oppressed , the fighter.  I am here to speak to/for the one who will continue to go to bed with the clear images of this morbid experience in her head, long after the protests die down.


Effect

Let me help you understand what happens to a person's psyche after rape, using myself as a case study. I say these things from strictly personal experience and not in anyway speaking for someone else or from a professional perspective. Because the journey towards healing starts by recognizing the source of the bleeding.

I spent the first couple of years convincing myself that maybe I wasn't raped.
He's my boyfriend right? He has a right to demand sex even when I don't want to have it right ? I mean, I was screaming begging and running around in circles but that doesn't really count 'cause I eventually got tired and lay there lifeless.  Plus, I stayed in the same room with him for too long, I should have been more cautionary. And he was right, no one will ever believe me when I say my boyfriend raped me. He's a trusted ally. 

These were my thoughts as I lay on my bed tired as heck trying to make sense of the previous day's ordeal. So in some twisted way, I managed to convince myself that this human being had a claim over my body. My phone rang, it's him. " Moyo I love you sooo much, I'm really sorry". I guess it's fine, I told my body but my brain did not agree. It is not fine, in fact, we will not be fine for a very long time after today. Thankfully, that relationship ended but I wish my pain ended with it .


Identity 

Being raped at 18 means just at the brink of stepping into adulthood, you are handed something you don't quite know how to deal with yet. I was obviously doing fine on the outside and to God, I swore I was fine on the inside too. Except I wasn't. And I say all these in retrospect because like Busola, I did not connect any of my behaviors to trauma until years later. Because the control over my body and how I choose to use it was snatched away from me before I even knew what that meant, I started to willingly hand over that control to all the wrong people. I took any and everything because I didn't feel worthy of love and respect. I didn't even know what it looked like to be truly loved and respected. Although I began a personal relationship with God, understanding my identity remained a constant battle.

And then when I realized that I had been giving the wrong people access into my life and allowing them gain control, I went the other extreme. I wanted control over every little detail of my life to the point of doubting anyone that dares to show me love and affection. It was all blurred, I couldn't separate the real from the wolves, I just wanted out of everything. I want to be in charge of my world and when things went a little off track, I panic, a lot.

Fear, Anger, Exhaustion

Some nights I'd wake up angry for no absolute reason. I'd feel my veins popping and have not a clue who or what pissed my off. This was years later, long after the assault. Other times I'd wake up with panic attacks, like I had just gone to war in my sleep. Some times I'd blow very little things, things that somehow signaled my pain,  out of proportion and I'd go back to wonder why I responded in the manner I did. Like this wave of passive aggression would come over me and almost immediately I'd regret my action. I was starting to get worried because it felt like my brain had been full to the brim and is starting to signal my attention.

Some days it's just pure exhaustion. I'm tired. The thoughts of having well meaning people come into your life and doubting their loyalty. Carrying a magnifying glass to find something, something that will disqualify them so at least saying " peace out " will be a little easier.


On the other side of pain...Hope 

So when I see people say things like: "why now?", "forgive and forget", "let it go",  blah blah blah, I want to help them see the depth of this. It is not just an event, it is a whole life. Long after everyone is done expressing their anger on social media platforms, this is what continues, this is the baggage being dragged around by millions of women. Women whom other things like careers, families, ambition, survival etc, will continue to beg for their attention.

Trauma is so complex, I am learning. I've listened to some of my friends tell their stories and even though our experiences are different, I have been able to draw some patterns. It is hard to say one can go back to the person they were before rape, you'd most likely have to learn a new normal. It's like losing functionality in your legs after you've learned to walk. People respond to it in different ways and it takes different lengths of time to heal.

To Busola and millions of other women who are learning to walk again, please don't stop trying. The moment I learnt that I am the biggest stakeholder in my pursuit of healing, I began to invest time and effort into finding wholeness. A lot of therapy, psychological evaluations and support from family and friends will go a long way. Oh dear, therapy will expose a lot. Thankfully, we have a whole generation of people awakened to the truth behind your pain and taking actions to make sure history doesn't continue to repeat itself. You may not be able to go back to who you were before rape but you can choose who you want to be after it. Rape is what happened to you, it is not who you are.


8 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your very well written thoughts, as always. This was very heartbreaking to read and so packed with knowledge. Thank you for giving hope to the hopeless, for trying to find light in the darkness and for continuing to fight every day. Love you always.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My emotions took the best part of my voice, right this moment I’m speechless and have nothing to say. Thank you Moyo ❤️

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much Moyosmile for sharing.

    ReplyDelete

Do you have any thoughts on this article? It'd love to hear them :)