(Sorry…this one’s a little long! Bear with me please.)
I was chatting with some fellow survivors the other day and the talk turned to writing about our experiences with rape and sexual abuse. A few of us mentioned that we had blogs or had written stories. One person asked, “Why do you write? Does it help in your healing process? And how exactly?” I wasn’t sure how to answer just then, but the question has been stuck in my mind ever since.
One all too common effect of rape and abuse is shame and silence on the part of the victim. Every single survivor I have spoken with has mentioned this. They rarely tell. Anyone. A few of us have told one or two close friends, intimate partners. We are shrouded in silence. I’ve pondered this for a few days and I think the silence has a few effects.
I think originally, the silence is a protective cocoon, sheltering us from reliving these terrible events. The memories haunt us, day in and day out. Sometimes we can push them aside. Speaking of them gives them voice, power over us, brings them back to the surface. In the beginning, this can be positively unbearable. I know for me, if I didn’t speak of it, I could pretend it wasn’t there. I could pretend that my rape was just a really bad “first time” sexual experience.
Over time, the protective quality of the silence becomes something more. For me, I feel like I was able to hide behind layers of silence and denial. A “sweet candy coating” 🙂 On the outside, I was functioning well. I grew up, went to college, found a loving husband, got a good job, began a family. Just like everyone is “supposed” to do.
But I wasn’t like everyone else, was I? Inside was a frightened little girl, hiding behind an exterior I had developed. The silence went from being a blessed protection to a barrier keeping people from knowing the real me deep inside. I’ve always been profoundly shy. As I grew up, I have become good at “acting social”. I carry on conversations, laugh and joke with people, don’t appear shy at all. But I have few if any deep and true friends who know the real me inside. My husband is really the only one.
We’ve been together for 27 years, and he chipped away at that cocoon little by little. Each little detail of the real me that I exposed was costly. I was so afraid that seeing the whole me would be too much, too overwhelming for him, and that he would leave if he saw that person. When I finally told him the full story of the rape, it was like that coating cracked deeply and started to finally break away. And I found that, while it was terrifying, it was so freeing. That person inside had wanted to get out, longed for someone to really know her…the WHOLE her. All this time I had been thinking I was saving her, but I was holding her back.
It wasn’t long after that I started writing. At first, it was just for myself. Then a few years ago I was in a group at church. Part of our study included keeping a prayer journal. The verses and prayers that I journaled about kept coming back to the same topic…finding peace. It was then that I finally told the two women in the group about my story. Again, it was enormously scary and amazingly freeing at the same time.
Soon, I started writing this blog. It was a HUGE step in my healing process, decades in the making. That shell born of silence is still there, but it’s very crumbly now. And the real me inside is coming out. I’ve found myself so much happier, so much more confident than I’ve been in my whole life. I feel like I am starting over as a new person.
It may seem silly, but you know that awesome feeling you get at the end of the day…when you kick off your shoes, peel off the pantyhose and bra, and slip into your sweats?? Like you’re unbound and completely at ease? That is honestly the feeling I get when I write. I’m giving the real me a chance to finally stretch and see the world for herself. It’s a great feeling.
How about you? Why do you write?