I don’t think about rape a lot, as in I don’t envision the act of rape a lot, but I do consider the effects of rape (culture) quite often. Does that mean I do, in fact, think about rape often? I don’t know. As a woman who has experienced rape more times than I will say in this post, the events have shaped my life. No, it does not define me, and it’s only a tiny fraction of my life, but all experiences shape us. If we have been raped, we are shaped by it somehow. I could argue that even if you haven’t experienced rape, you are still shaped by it because you live on Earth, and we are all connected, and our stories are linked. But maybe we will go into that another time. For now, let’s discuss freedom after rape.
Is it too rough to start a post like this? The R-word can sting a bit, I know. But I recall that part of my purpose here is to discuss what is possible. As someone who has grown through painful moments like rape and the aftereffects, this topic must be included here in Blue Like Water. Yes, I can be straightforward, but that’s because there is no time to waste.
For me, something that used to feel challenging was that rape or trauma can happen in the blink of an eye. Trauma is like that. One second we are one way, then boom, along comes trauma, and suddenly we are different. Never the same again, and we need to live with that. I know it’s not easy. I did seek out therapy to work through the grieving process of who I used to be before rape. Therapy and time did help me to accept the events of my life and continue onward into joy and freedom, which is an ongoing life process.
The other night, I spoke with my cousin about life and everything, and rape (culture) came up. It doesn’t always have to be a devastating topic. Of course, it’s not a “fun” topic, but it’s part of life, and how can we talk about life if we don’t also address the challenging moments?
From my perspective, one component of freedom is to speak honestly about anything, including rape. My cousin said something interesting, which is that she believes one reason that people rape is because they see someone who is happy and free, and they want to tear it down, control it, or have power over it. In many ways, I agree, and I have considered an idea like this before. I believe I have even witnessed it in action.
I am curious if therapists or any professionals have had a sit down with convicted rapists and discovered why they rape. Maybe I’ll look into it later, but right now, I’m reflecting on my experiences and observations. That is good enough for me at this moment.
The first time I was raped was as a teenager. Before that experience, I was happy, wild, and free, Thank God. Thank God I have reference to that feeling in my history. Thank God I spent some of my youth feeling confident and joyful. I got to refer back to that feeling and use it to inform my life. After experiencing rape, I felt the opposite of free. For many years, I turned inward and to substances and caved in on myself.
This healing has been a process of stepping into freedom. And let me tell you, it’s possible to do so, and the freedom and joy I have now are even more conscious than before when I was a wee teen. One reason is that I am no longer a teenager, and my understanding of life differs as I age. But two is because the journey I have gone on to establish these feelings of joy and freedom is undeniable. I chose each step to get here. The steps and choices are mine. I moved with deliberate action to construct a life that deeply supports me. And while I have more steps to go, who doesn’t? I wouldn’t change my journey for anything.
With support and effort, I created a new foundation that is sturdy and rooted in love and care. Did I arrive here overnight? No. But here I am, confident in my body and heart, aware of my health and life, and yes, the work continues, but Honey, the mission for joy and freedom is a good one. It’s a possible one even after hardship.
This conversation with my cousin had me saying these words “I agree. I agree with what you’re saying: a man who rapes might want to conquer and control a free girl or woman. But I gotta say, have found a new freedom even after I have after experienced rape and this freedom runs so deep that no one can take that away from me. If I can find freedom after rape, I can do fucking anything.”
And I know that’s true. Trauma and obstacles of sexual assault are challenging. The things we have seen in this realm are atrocious, but baby, keep going. It can get better. Find support. It can be brighter, healthier, and free-er; no one can take that away from you. They can try, but they cannot. Maybe they did, but they can’t again. Of course, this path is not easy, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
So often we hear of the sadness and the hopelessness, and the low ceiling that exists after experiencing sexual assault, but here I have a message of hope. There can be freedom even after it has been stripped away. There can be joy and embodiment, and it can run so deep that no one can even begin to touch it. And, as a matter of fact, there is no ceiling at all. So there is that: untouchable freedom.