To Anyone Who Assumes a Rape Survivor's Life Is 'Ruined'


Again and again and again, I’m seeing the comment “her life is ruined.”

Yes.

And no.

Her life is different, certainly.

But ruined? Not necessarily.

Let’s be careful with our words, please. Because when you say her life is ruined because of her rape, it sounds like you’re saying my life was ruined by each of mine. But this?

The author and her husband, laughing, waiting to board a plane.
photo credit: The Archibald Project
This.
The author, speaking on a panel.
photo credit: Chad Bartlett, ERLC

Is.

The author, her husband and her family posing outside, sitting in fall leaves.

Not.

headshot of the author

A.

The author and her family at church.

Ruined.

The author, her husband and her children dressed up for Easter.

Life.

The author and her husband holding hands, walking down the street.
photo credit: The Archibald Project

She knows, I know, one in six women, one in 33 men know a darkness that can threaten at any moment. For her, it might be a glimpse of a dumpster, an ordinary scrape on her arm that’s too much like the ones she woke up with, an article about a swimming prodigy. For me, it can be an unanticipated touch, a certain kind of bush that was nearby then, any moment when I have trouble catching my breath because I couldn’t breathe then. For you, if you’ve survived the darkness too, you have your own list of triggers that can put you back in that moment.

One ugly chapter — maybe you could even call it a ruined chapter — doesn’t define our stories, though. Rape doesn’t get that power. Darkness doesn’t get the last say.

Therapy helps. Friends help. My husband helps. (Oh, how he helps!) Snuggles from little ones I love help. My dogs help. Being safe now helps. Sharing my secrets in safe places helps.

But the darkness still threatens, often when I least expect it.

That doesn’t mean my life is ruined. Changed, yes.

Her life is changed. Right now, in the pain of all she’s endured with the assault and examination and continual re-victimization throughout the trial and sentencing? She might feel ruined. She is fully entitled to that. I have a faint scar on my wrist from a failed attempt of ending the ruin once, many years ago. But that scar wasn’t the end of my story. (Thank you, God, for the grace of being woozy at the sight of too much blood.) And now? The word enough is permanently etched into my skin below that line. Nothing about what happened to me robbed me of being enough.

My story wasn’t over then, not in the moments or the aftermath. Neither is hers. In her statement, not to mention her tenacity in seeing this case through to its unjust end, she has shown the bravery she’ll need to keep waking up each morning and fighting the darkness when it comes.

As for me, I keep a post it note in my car to remind me that the darkness doesn’t win.

Some days I need to read it more than others. Some days I need to scream in secret places. Some days I need to have a hot sweaty workout. Some days I need to eat all the sugar. (Don’t judge.) Some days I need to text a friend to say I’m hurting. Some days I need to rewatch “Pitch Perfect” for the hundredth time because it always makes me laugh. Some days I rest in God’s arms, some days I wrestle with him and some days I give Him the silent treatment. Some days I take a break from Facebook. Some days I post passionately there, because using my voice on behalf of the vulnerable soothes sore places in my heart. Some days I have to talk something through with my therapist by phone in between sessions. Some days I say all the bad words and make up some of my own. Some days I need to have a dance party in the kitchen to remind myself of all the light in my life.

Every day I get out of bed again, because this life — even when it’s hard — was never ruined.

Neither is hers.

Follow this journey on Dingle Fest.

If you or a loved one are affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-0656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.


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