I’ve felt a little fragile the past couple of days. Whilst I’m definitely not moaning about having a job (yay!), I am just a little exhausted from four full-on days in the world of employment. Especially after spending the past three months doing very little in the way of work. Ahem.
Closer to the bone, yesterday I read a story in our esteemed [*cough*] local rag about a politician accused of rape. I have no idea if he’s innocent or guilty. He says he’s not, she says he is.
And the media is just a shit heap of innuendo and twisted fabrication, so I choose not to take sides at all.
But what haunts me are quotes from the woman who accused him. They are disturbingly familiar in more ways than one. I think they acted as a bit of a trigger, if ever so mildly.
“I can’t have a relationship. I can’t go out. It’s like I’m a ghost,” she said. “I feel abused.” Before reporting the case she had “got to the point where I wouldn’t go out, I wouldn’t watch TV, I had a complete breakdown, I couldn’t hold a job.”
“I was spiralling downwards… Because I was spiralling, I pushed everyone away.”
“When I first went to the psychiatrist, I burst out crying. I said, maybe I deserved it. I said I don’t know what to do.”
“I have flashbacks, I can’t sleep, when anything reminds me of him, especially the smell, the body odour.”
I’ve been in all of these places and more.
There’s no doubt in my mind this woman suffered some kind of trauma – there’s a wince of truth behind them, their meter. An energy I recognise.
Whatever happened, I hope she gets the help and care she needs.
For the other thing I noted in what I read was that of a presiding victim mentality.
There’s a very subtle flavour there, referring her entire life and experience back to the (alleged) perpetrator. As though the incident also included being strung up with puppet strings, and he is the puppet master.
It’s a view of the world where she’s not in control. Her physical and emotional life can be upended without warning. It’s very unsettling and disempowering.
And… it’s also a place of being ‘stuck’ – possibly for a very long time.
There’s no healing there, no moving forwards. The longer one stays in this place, the harder it is to get out.
This is what I sense behind her words, and it terrifies me still. The Stuckness.
Possibly because it’s not so long ago that I had a rental in that part of the world.
Without wanting to sound harsh… for most people (some circumstances I’m sure are tougher than others), it is completely achievable to climb out of that “victim” state of mind.
None of us have to stay there although many people buy property there and call it home.
I didn’t escape unscathed. Definitely not – I dove headlong into the abode of Stuckness. I’m not sure if it was being stuck or the PTSD that came along first – but they’re definitely related and feed each other jealously.
However, I’m not criticising myself or anyone else. The way people get through traumatic experiences is completely unique. It should take exactly as long as it takes. Using whatever tools work.
There was a point at which I started to take responsibility for my own actions, and began to separate them from the trauma. Making choices based on what I could control instead of what I couldn’t.
Suddenly I was able to clearly see Andre as a very troubled person, and whilst I was unfortunately in the way when he lashed out, what he did really had nothing to do with me.
He no longer appeared in my memories as so frightening. Although the imprint of his angry eyes remained burned into my retinas – only recently fading into the background.
So yeah, whilst the “symptoms” remained and continued to spew a warped story, my view expanded to see the bigger picture. I took myself out of the central position of “victim star of the piece”.
It’s not the one-size-cures-all pill I know many of us would love, but it’s a start.
Great points here, Svasti. It reminded me, though, of this, that I read yesterday at salon.com, in which a rape victim’s climb out was held against her (which harkens back to the traditional idea, still popular in a lot of countries, that failing to die of shame from being raped means a woman wasn’t a proper lady in the first place):
Thanks to a DNA sample, Anthony Francis was caught and convicted seven years after he raped a 19-year-old girl in Reading, England. In arguing for a lenient sentence, lawyer Colin McCarraher presented Facebook photos of the victim looking lively, sociable and functional. The pictures were presumably from after the attack took place, but McCarraher admitted he had no clue when the pictures were actually taken. He told the judge: “What we have is a person who has post traumatic stress but is quite capable of going out and having a good time at a fancy dress party.” Caught! Red-handed! A rape victim wearing a fancy dress! Yes, she allegedly dared to continue on living — even enjoying — her life seven years after being raped.
That is, after trying to kill herself in 2003.
But since she didn’t succeed and may or may not have attended “a fancy dress party” after her attack, I guess she owes her rapist a thank-you for not permanently (and literally) destroying her life? Not in the judge’s eyes, thankfully. Francis was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
As for McCarraher? The public has ruled him guilty of embodying the nastiest of lawyer stereotypes. Labor M.P. Martin Salter said it best: “This quite extraordinary and callous attempt by the defense barrister to suggest that rape victims are not entitled to a life of their own is a shameful act and does no credit to our criminal justice system.”
Thanks Jay, for your fantastic addition to my post.
For every smile that I took, every party I forced myself to go to – or was beguiled by well meaning friends to attend – behind that facade was a broken person. Held together by sticky tape and a prayer.
How can people go on and at least pretend to be enjoying life? Because they have to.
Eventually life wants to move you in that direction anyway. You can refuse to submit, and hurt forever more. But that doesn’t help anyone, especially yourself.
Or you can try, ever so carefully, to move forwards. Its not perfect, but there is some relief in that…
Being able to see and view a bigger picture is key to becoming unstuck from the “victim stance.” Absolutely, key!!! But, it isn’t easy because then you feel the stuff you’ve been really defending against.
CC – oh to be sure. And how!