Sunday, 29 July 2012
Trigger warning: This post deals with the Reddit thread featuring confessions of rape and my responses to it. Please be aware of that before reading either it or linking to the original thread. I really really debated whether to publish this or not in case it ended up being more triggering than the original thread. But I decided to after reading this piece on the Guardian today where a majority of people decided to disregard the information because it's not the right kind of site (where have we all that line before?) to talk about it on, leading to a situation where they don't believe what victims say about rape or self confessed rapists say about rape so keen are they to pretend rape isn't an issue. I think the thread is genuine. It's too similar to accounts I've heard and read from victims and I just don't feel it can be brushed aside so easily. I decided the opportunity for education was there instead of just going 'la la la' a lot. You may decide this is an excellent opportunity to go make tea and eat cake instead. You know what's best for you.
Internet crazes come round like the moon after the sun. Mainly they are videos of people dancing or animals doing stupid things. Sometimes they are little games that waste time amusingly. The one thing they have in common is that everyone seems to be talking about them and they sweep the social networking sites unavoidably. On Friday, something much much more disturbing than even LOLCats was everywhere I looked. Reddit had posted a thread where people who have committed rape were encouraged to talk about their actions, motivations and thoughts.
Unsurprisingly, it's brutal. Reading it is like slamming into hot concrete face first as if you've tripped and fallen on a summer's day. It's so frank, so matter of fact, so honest. It shocked the shit of out me even though I went there having been explicitly told what it was like. I took several hours to go there, but like an scab that starts to itch I couldn't ignore it. I've never heard what a rapist has to say before (after the fact). I went there like the girl who ventures into a darkened cabin in the woods in a horror movie, knowing it was a bloody stupid idea but unable to stop myself but part of me really actually wanted to hear it because I couldn't believe it was worse than what my mind has come up with. So I peeked...
And lived to tell the tale. Once I'd got past the immediate feeling of losing my footing and going under the water, all that therapy kicked in and a mixture of my hours of CBT and the Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) I did for my phobias proved their mettle. My emotions were pinging like crazy and telling me to back away now, but my brain was saying 'this isn't the worst thing at all. You've been through much much worse and you're safe and in control. You can close the tab anytime' and I started to really read into it and unravel the visceral reaction I was having.
The highlighted opening comment I read first seemed so familar to me that it was like a deju vu that was so deep it reached my toes. The method wasn't the same, the man wasn't the same, but the actions and explanations were so similar, I could conjure the words up in the context of my own rape that night in the kitchen. It should have knocked me to the floor sobbing. Instead it made me sit up straight, unfurl my shoulders and look forward unflinchingly. For years I've known deep down that it wasn't my fault I was raped. It wasn't what I was wearing or what I'd been doing, but I've always ultimately felt that there is something inside me that makes this violence happen to me. Like a spark on a flint in certain lights, there is something that surfaces and is why I've had so many frightening overwhelming experiences with men and been raped twice. I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on it and it's too painful to ask other people what it might be. But it would explain why men treat me so aggressively while being nothing like it with other women. But reading this comment, for the first time since I was raped, it occurred to me that these assaults aren't something to do with me. They're something to do with the type of man who thinks and acts like this.
Like catching sight of a wild animal at night when you're both alone and freezing for a second, it gave me a flickering insight into the self justification of someone truly narcisstic and sociopathic. For every mea culpa, there was a quietly contained rage and self absorption I can't quite comprehend. It's whininess made dangerous, like the ultimate brattiness. This is a man who thinks he's special and unique and has a power contained within this and yet he sounds exactly like my rapist, who also thought he was he was special and unique, but in fact both are speaking and acting from an (albeit creepy) script complete with threats and suggestions that they are better, cleverer and more important that the regular folks who they think can't spot them as they go about life.
While it sits uncomfortably with me, it also broke the strange connection I've felt with my rapist since that night. Being raped is oddly intimate. And because intimacy is usually sold to us as something special and wonderful to be cherished, this twisting of it wrecks your head.
You're alone together. Quite likely no one knows where the hell you are. Rapists are skilled in separating you from your flock and getting you on your own. He's touching you. He can see you exposed. And he knows you're frightened. He can feel you sweat. He can feel you trembling. He can hear you catch your breath and try not to cry.
And he's almost certain it's unchartered territory and that he's claiming a place no one else has. It's still fairly rare to be raped more than once so he knows the chances are no one else has ever done this before and that your responses are as new to you as they are to him. No one else has threatened to kill you, shamed you and violated you like this until now (and since every rape is different, it's still new). He has all the power. Everything in this room depends on him. And that's what he takes away and what makes the risks worthwhile and drives him to do it again. He knows you'll always remember him and that he's changing your life from now on in.
I didn't know this when it was happening to me. It was all new to me and if I'm honest, I'd never thought about it before. I'd never needed to. It had never come into my life until then. But of course, he'd done it to other women and relished telling me as proof he could get away with anything. He'd spent years fixating and focusing on it. He'd put himself at the centre of his own world and wanted me as his cheerleader. I felt like a bunny in the headlights, turned only toward him and rooted to the spot because I'd put me as the main focus and never realised until reading the Reddit piece that I was in fact just one of the supporting cast. I was just one women of many and if he wasn't making me important, I didn't have to keep doing the same thing with him. After all, he's just a stereotypical sociopath not a special snowflake.
It should terrify me that men with such single mindedness and self absorption roam free amongst us, meaning that serial rapists blend into the crowd most of the time, but oddly it doesn't. I can't grasp the complexity of that and the abstract nature of it is as impossible to picture as imagining all the molecules there are in an item or how deep the sea really is. My fear is tied up in the picture I have of one person raping me and the images that replay in my mind despite my best efforts. This realisation that the whole thing is the opposite of the rom com trope of 'it's not you, it's me' helps me see my experience with my serial rapist differently. It's likely that other people with different life experiences and fears will read the Reddit thread in a different way and more disturbingly, but right now, it's made me think in another way which is more forgiving of myself and I feel oddly positive about having heard the rapist's voice clearly out in open instead of murmured in the shadows. I don't know if that positivity will be lasting or self doubt will creep in again, but with PTSD, a change really is as good as a rest and it's edifying to break the circle, even just for a while. This knowledge feels like power to me and I haven't felt very empowered for a long time....