3 Ways Being Raped Still Affects My Mental Health Now
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I was raped twice in 2010. The first rape occurred on May 6, 2010, and the second rape happened on September 6, 2010. On May 5, 2010, I ventured to a local bar with the intent to fuel my addiction to alcohol and drugs. Struggling with drug and alcohol addiction since my mother had passed away in 2010, I had lived only to get high and drunk. I achieved both goals to the excess that May night, passing out on my bar stool, a thick puddle of drool around my face on the bar top. I was shaken awake by one of the men I had been partying with that night. He told me he would give me a ride home. Scarcely able to remember my address, I trusted him to take me home because I knew I physically could not get home on my own. However, instead of taking me home, he drove out of town, and raped me. He handled me so roughly that I ended up covered in cuts, bruises and blood.
The second time I was raped, the script was all too familiar. Still trying to satisfy my insatiable need to get high, to blot out the pain of missing my mom and the agony of the first rape, I went to another local bar to get drunk. As the bar closed, I vaguely remember agreeing to go home with one of the men I had been hanging out with that night to watch a movie about the band The Doors. I don’t remember the ride to his house, how I got up the steps and into his bedroom on the second floor, or how I ended up in his bed. I do remember struggling to stay awake and him snapping at me for not focusing on the movie. Then, as casually as if he were getting ready to go to work, he raped me. Unlike the first rape, there were no bruises, cuts or bleeding. Just the weight of his body on top of mine, my throat horse from screaming and crying and the unrelenting horrific knowledge I was being raped again.
Having reported the first rape with nothing coming from it, I never bothered to report the second. I didn’t need to go through more trauma just to be told again I was not a credible witness because I was drunk and high. Thus, both men walk free, prowling the streets of this small rural community, making the possibility of me seeing them again and again a very real thing. Being raped twice continues to affect me to this day, seven years later.
1. I have little sense of safety.
Every man I see that I do not know well is a potential rapists at worst and a woman beater at best. I am unable to trust men, seeing in them the possibility of being raped yet again. As a result, the only men I have a close relationship with are my father, my brother, my fiance and my stepson. All the others, even the man serving as our church’s interim pastor, are threats and reminders of my rape. I know logically the majority of men are not rapists and yet I cannot seem to believe it. When I reported the first rape, three years after it happened, my rapists shot the windows out of my fiance’s truck during the middle of the night. Unable to prove that it was him, the police did nothing. My second rapist had seen me several times since it has happened, often while I am walking around town, and has yelled out insults at me. My first rapist is a firefighter for a neighboring community, making me terrified at the thought of others in positions of authority who are secretly rapists as well.
2. I feel ashamed, guilt and dirty all the time.
Blaming myself for both rapes, but especially the second one, guilt and shame have become my constant companions of misery. The first rape I blame myself because I should not have trusted him to take me home. Even though I know I had no way of knowing he would turn out to be a rapist, I still feel like I should have known the truth about him. I blame myself for the second rape because after the first one I should have known better than to put myself in risky situations again. While I realize that such thinking is distorted and just plain wrong, knowing something and believing it are two different things. I feel dirty, the kind of dirty that no amount of soap, scrubbing or clean clothes can ever erase. A part of me still feels each rapists touch on my body, still feels the pain and humiliation.
3. I suffer from C-PTSD
According to the article “Complex PTSD,” Complex post-traumatic stress disorder results from “chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.” My current therapist diagnosed me as having C-PTSD because of being raped twice in less than a year. I experience flashbacks, nightmares, suicidal ideations, depression, dissociation, feelings of helplessness and a pervading sense of despair.
Though I struggle every day with the aftereffects of what those two awful nights have done to me, I do have a faint light at the end of my tunnel of pain. I am currently in an intensive outpatient program that specializes in trauma treatment. Slowly and painfully I am taking steps to reclaim my life.
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.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Unsplash photo via Davide Ragusa