Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual or domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
It’s 5 a.m and I am thinking about the eyes of the man who raped me. Such cold, sunken eyes that follow me everywhere I go. As I lie in bed, I check over my partner, scanning his face for similarities. Do they have the same eyes? Nose? The way his beard is grown out right now makes them look identical. I can’t ask him to trim it again, can I? Yet, I know I have to.
I leave my partner in bed while I go downstairs to perform some memory checks. I sit on the sofa, arms and legs wrapped in tight. I slow my breathing and tell myself there is no cause for concern. They look nothing alike. They really don’t. But it’s not enough. I need absolute certainty so I open up my laptop and search for him on Twitter. My stomach twists with a pang of guilt. Bile rises to my throat as I force myself to study the face of the man who raped me: his eyes, his hair, his beard, his hands even. I take a deep breath and remind myself they look nothing alike, but in the exact same moment, I close the page and delete my history to save my laptop from feeling contaminated. It starts up again. They look identical, my mind pushes.
It isn’t my laptop that is contaminated. It is me — my mind, my body, my memory. We dated for two years and in that time, he abused me physically, emotionally, mentally and finally, sexually. I was controlled by him in every sense of the word. Almost 10 years have passed and he is still controlling me.
I often become so confused as I watch my partner’s face turn into some warped version of my abuser. I close my eyes and beg my mind to let me live in peace, but it doesn’t. When I open my eyes, there he is and I am no longer able to convince myself it is a hallucination. Gone is my caring, loving partner, replaced instead by the man I had to flee a country to get away from.
At the time, I waited until he was at work and then got into a taxi and headed straight for the airport. I’ll never look back at this, I thought. But 10 years on, I am forced to see him every day. I hear his voice before I fall asleep. He never left me. I don’t know if he ever will.
I’ve learned that being raped didn’t happen once. Instead, I am made to endure that person forcing himself on to me time and time again. It happens when I wake, when I am are holding my partner’s hand or enjoying a beautiful sunset. It feels as if he has never stopped violating me.
A few days ago, my partner broke down in tears and I could not comfort him. As a person living with depression, he cries often and each time I am thrown into the memory of the many times my abuser played with my emotions to manipulate me into staying with him. His tears were never genuine and they very quickly turned to rage if I ignored him. This rage never left me. It is there whenever my partner is curled up on the floor, sobbing into his knees, begging me for the affection and comfort he deserves. I want to go to him, but my body is frozen. Next comes rage, my mind nudges. Of course, my partner does not stand up from the floor and hurt me, but he does burst into a choir of confusion and in that confusion, there is a hint of anger. Anger because I won’t hug him. Later, he explains his anger is merely self-doubt and fear. He is worried I don’t love him and I get it, I really do, but once your mind has made a connection, it is difficult to unravel, especially when the result is trauma.
Back to the here and now, and my partner is not yet awake. As I sit here writing this, I am filled with anxiety, fear and a strong sense of foreboding for the moment he comes downstairs and kisses me because I know it will feel… wrong somehow. I know I will be thinking of the man who raped me, even though I want nothing less. I know I will be scanning his eyes, his nose, his beard for a thread of similarity — not because I want to find it, but because I am absolutely terrified to.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem.