March 17, 2015

Raped: Now What?

I got up from the floor and gathered my clothing, shivering as much from shock as from the air-conditioned living room. Immediately, I locked the front door, providing me a sliver of security. I hurriedly re-dressed. 

I nervously called my (first) husband at work. Surely he'd know what I should do.

I was wrong. He didn't leave work, he provided no comfort. His advice? "Lock the door."

Maybe I didn't explain myself clearly, or maybe he was merely an ignorant  young man (22 to my 20 years) , unable to "fix" this. 

Or maybe he simply didn't care enough.

If my own husband didn't believe me, who would? That realization was more painful than the actual rape.

When I hung up, I had my epiphany: I had only myself to protect me.

Though we stayed married for almost 10 years after that day, it was never the same; I was never the same. The vows we took "for better or worse", "love, honor and cherish" - they were all lies.

I couldn't call my parents - they were on vacation somewhere. In the age before cell phones, I had no way of reaching them. I really wanted to talk to my dad, his voice would soothe me, although I had no idea how I'd be able to talk to him about what happened.

As I sat in the lime green swivel rocker, I came to the (mistaken, as I know now) conclusion that nobody would help me. There was no call to the State police, no call to a rape hotline (if one even existed in my area at that time).

Once my decision was made, I took the hottest shower I could and dressed in clean clothes. When I finished dressing and was brushing my short hair, the baby was stirring in her crib, naptime over.

I did what I had to do - I mothered my child when I was in need of some of my own mothering.

The first six months were the hardest, as I struggled with anxiety at the neighbor's return, anger and disappointment with my husband's lack of concern, and pissed at my own stupidity.

To add insult to injury, my husband helped that neighbor dig his car out of the snow when we had a big storm, a final death knell to the little bit of respect I had left for him.

I rarely went outside unless necessary. When I went out, it was a mad dash to the car, locking the doors as soon as I got inside (buckling the baby in the carseat was done in a blur of activity). The neighbor honked and waved all friendly like anytime he drove past when I was outside.

I used food to protect myself. I ate to numb the feelings, and added the padding to keep myself safe. That's a hard habit to break, and I struggle with emotional eating to this day.

One curious thing that didn't change - I was still able to perform my wifely duties. Even though nobody told me that rape was about violence, power and control, and not sex, my body knew.

Then, another epiphany: Our place was two small for two children, so I figured a baby would let me escape my self-imposed prison. I'd be too busy to replay the rape in my head with two kids to care for.

We moved out when I was six months' pregnant with our second daughter (13 months after the rape and my self-imposed imprisonment). Though the move did remove the immediate physical danger, the psychological storm continued...and periodically reappears, even after 38 years.

NOTE: I did go to a rape crisis center in my area several years later (during my divorce from the husband). A very kind counselor named Georgia was a great help to me, even though it was long past the traumatic event.

It's never too late, and you're never too old to start over.