Give Me Life, Give Me Pain, Give Me Myself Again
**** !!!! This blog contains triggers specific to sexual assault survivors, if you need a support person or safe place please find one before reading. If you need to skip this blog there is some cuter lighter fare after this post. If you know me but don’t want to know this part of me please stop reading. !!!! ****
I have over 70 Tori Amos songs on my iPod. That means every 6th song that comes up is a Tori Amos song on shuffle. Sometimes it will be a run of Tori Amos songs. I first got turned on to her in high school when Cornflake Girl came out. Maybe it came out earlier but I didn’t buy the album until high school. Whatever. I continued to buy every album that came out since then. My favorite songs currently are Little Earthquakes, I Can’t See New York, Marys of The Sea, and Original Sinsuality. I love Icicle because I had never heard a song about a little girl discovering masturbation before and it’s so adorable, it reminds me of my childhood explorations. When my younger cousin Christopher died in an industrial accident this summer I listened to 1000 Oceans on repeat for hours and cried.
For some reason I have left Me and A Gun on my iPod, even though I can’t listen to it. It’s a great song, I’m not all “Bleh, don’t tell me your rape story, art isn’t for therapy!” I’m more like “I don’t want to think about my rape story right now.” If I listen to it I just start bawling. But I keep it, because, because I’m not sure. Sometimes I just feel better knowing I can hear it if I want, that it exists, that it’s out there.
I remember being freaked out about the possibility of one day being raped. I knew statistically it had a high probability of happening, and I was scared as hell of what it would be like to carry around that kind of trauma. And yeah, it happened. It was the fifth time I ever had anything sexual happen to me and it did fuck me up, until I met a really sweet girl who helped me heal, but I’ll get to her in a bit.
I’m not going to tell you the specific details of the event. You don’t need to know the date, the number of assailants, the genders of the assailants, the number of hours it went on for, what particular acts happened, or anything else like that. In fact if you ask me for the facts I won’t give them to you, even if you’re my best friend in the world. The only person I completely explained it to was a friend who also had a fairly similar assault and we were both supporting each other in the aftermath. I told very few people, partially because a lot of acquaintances knew the assailants and I didn’t feel safe disclosing the event. I did not go to the police and file a report, because I know that as an Aboriginal woman my charges would be dropped and I’ll just have told some white guy about the worst night of my life for no reason.
I will tell you what happened after. I went back to my apartment in the early early morning, I think I walked home from downtown, or maybe I waited somewhere until the first buses started running again. I felt exhausted and dirty and I just wanted to sleep. I got into my apartment and it was like jamais vu. I didn’t feel like it belonged to me anymore, this apartment belonged to someone more innocent, someone who hadn’t been through that night, someone who puttered around learning to be a grownup and only worrying about trying to find storage space in a 300sq ft apartment. I went into the bathroom and had a bath, the longest hottest bath of my life. I used a ridiculous amount of soap and I probably shampooed and conditioned about four times. And after all that I still didn’t feel clean. Any sexual assault survivor will tell you this part of the story too, it’s just this automatic response we have immediately after.
It was morning but it just felt like the second half of a really long day. I crawled into bed and curled up in a ball and went to sleep. I don’t think I cried, but I might have. The sun coming through the windows was beautiful, but it didn’t make me feel anything. I was just numb.
I was celibate for a year after wards until my next lover, who turned out to be abusive and fucked me up more about my sexuality.
I was celibate for another year after that until I met the sweet girl who I’ll now tell you about. I’d actually met her when I first moved to Vancouver and I always had my eye on her, she was a super cutie and a Vancougar celebrity. It made sense for us to be together because I was a Vancougar celebrity too, at least in our particular subculture. We had a sweet summer romance. She was the kind of femme who thought nothing of necking in broad daylight at Scotiabank cashstops. Thinking back on it now I think we also clicked because we hurt the same way. We were both stone sometimes, I was really stone in the beginning actually, but she was safe enough to get silly and sexy and slappy. We said I love you a lot, because it was true.
What totally impressed me was that she took it in stride that I still had a fairly limited sexual history. She was patient and made sure I knew what she needed or wanted. She had fun doing things to me no one else had. She liked cuddling and being sweet and adorable and sometimes she would be bouncing up and down on the bed giggling in the morning yet could still do the bossy scary persona for those particular games perverts play. She’s still the only one I did breath play with, which shows you how much I trusted her.
Anyway, one day we were lounging around in bed and I don’t remember what we were talking about but I disclosed what happened. She said “oh,” in this way, I don’t know how to explain it. It was this one little word that had so much meaning in it. And she just held me and I cried and there was so much going on in this exchange of wordless communication about it. I healed so much in that one moment. I think because I finally told someone who was intimately involved with me. It wouldn’t have been the same at all if she was a friend or other platonic individual, it had to be someone I felt safe enough to be sexual with for that moment to happen. She was the best lover to disclose to. She just handled it so perfectly.
It was really nice to spend a few years after that cathartic moment with my girlfriend to be freed of rape trauma. It didn’t bother me as much, it still made me sad to think about but it wasn’t interfering with my sexuality anymore. And then I got traumatized about it again, only in a much more intense way. I spent six weeks in a Montreal psych ward, yes we all know this, I talk about it a lot, I rage about it a lot, but people don’t know the number one reason I hated the experience, hated the hospital, hated the people who sent me there, and spent three years after wards wanting to die.
It was a mixed ward. I was really pissed about this fact, because during my time there I spent every single day in the company of a patient who kept wanting to rape me. I tried to talk to staff about this problem only to be brushed off all the time as a silly paranoid loon. He got moved to another ward and I was relieved, until I was moved to the same ward, a tiny yellow affair for people who are dangerous or wanting to snuff it. (I was the latter) I think the only way I survived was by attaching myself to tough dudes who basically protected me. I had some female friends too, but I mostly spent time around guys who were benevolent and protective of me. They kept falling in love with me, but whatever.
There was one other triggering event which totally shocked me. It was my first night there, well, the first night I wasn’t handcuffed, restrained, and in chemical restraints. I was falling asleep when suddenly two orderlies just walked into my room with a flashlight and made me take a pill which turned out to be a meltable Zyprexa (because you can’t tongue it if it melts immediately). I was appalled that they would disregard something so obviously triggering to sexual assault survivors, especially for those people who were abused as children.
And then there was the four point restraints trigger, yeah, that was fucked too.
So essentially I still carry a lot of rape trauma with me. And ironically now it’s because I was put in a place that was supposed to “heal” me. I’m pretty sure I’m healing from the “healing” now, I’m doing a lot better than the first year After The Psych Ward. It’s bizarre, people expected me to come out of there and be cheery and grateful and “fixed”, and then were confused when I walked around like an angry zombie and screamed every time someone grabbed my wrist or suddenly touched or grabbed me.
But I still remember the lover who was there for me when I disclosed, I never really got to thank her. She probably was the main reason I have a healthy happy attitude about sex again.
The last time she and I had sex we listened to a Tori Amos album, From The Choirgirl Hotel. She was a boy, and it was really great. I didn’t know it would be the last time, I doubt she did either, but it was a nice note to go out on.
Tori Amos inspires me, and probably a lot of other survivors, because she’s spoken about her experience and yet has not let it define who she is. She shows survivors that there is life after rape, that people can heal, and that they can still find/create and be beauty afterwards.
She cofounded RAINN, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. She is also the inspiration for the survivor run site Welcome To Barbados.
Maybe you’re wondering why I’m talking about this here. I guess I’m just tired of feeling secretive about it, because that implies shame and I don’t want to feel ashamed of myself. Those other fuckers can feel ashamed. I also recently read someone accused of rape who reclassified it as a grey area misunderstanding, and as someone who was a victim of what some might try to call a “grey area misunderstanding” I can honestly tell you rape has no fucking grey area.
I was going to post a video of Me and A Gun or Little Earthquakes, but Hey Jupiter seemed to fit better.
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You might want to consider adding this to the carnival against sexual violence – see here – where the organizer wants submissions by tonight.
I’m sorry recovery’s been so hard for you and appreciate that you shared your story. Thanks.