Halloween Ghosts…

It has been a while since I have posted part of my story.  I have many new followers who may not have gone back far enough in my posts to read my story.  For those of you who are new, and may want to read my history, check here, and here, and here.

My relationship with Mark was always a turbulent one.  Looking back, I can see so many warning signs.  There were several episodes that in hindsight I can recognize as precursors to the rape that was to come.  One of these was a Halloween party.  So what better day to share this particular detail with you.  This day illustrates so well the attitude that Mark had toward me–his lack of regard for my feelings, his controlling nature, his cocky self-assurance, and his complete belief that I would acquiesce to anything he asked.  Sit down, get comfortable, and let me tell you a Halloween tale…

Mark and I had been invited to a Halloween party at the home of one of his friends.  More

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Broadblogs does an excellent job of showing the process of how a man “grooms” a woman for abuse. There are many aspects of Shane and Maggie’s relationship that I can relate to. She goes on to list some signs of an abuser: charm, jealousy, isolation, emotional abuse, control. Again, these were all present in my situation. It’s an important read.

BroadBlogs

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It’s not often – if ever – that you can witness a man grooming a woman to accept battering. We now have a visual record of how one man attempted it. And it may help to warn women away from potential abusers.

Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a grad student at Ohio University, had planned to study the stigma of being an ex-convict. While at a local Corn Festival she spotted a tattoo-covered man who was gently cuddling a cute little girl. She approached and asked him and his girlfriend if she could photograph them over a period of time for her project, and they agreed.

Our photographer had met the couple only about a month after they’d gotten together. Two and a half months later she photographed Shane as he battered Maggie in their home. And she had already amassed a photographic record of how he had groomed her for…

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Shame

(Extra special trigger warnings are perhaps needed)

If there was ever any doubt in my mind that what happened to me was truly a rape, the feelings provoked in me by simply seeing this picture make any and all doubt vanish.  Shame.  This light fixture, of all things, is my biggest trigger.  This light fixture has been burned more permanently into my mind than almost any image.

It was brighter.

The flowers were etched a little differently.

In my head I carry a perfect photo of a 1970s style, simple white frosted glass light cover.  It’s edges are fluted or rippled.  It’s hard to describe.  The flowers are etched, so they appear grayish when the light shines through them.  One light bulb is burned out.  Most houses had them in all their bedrooms.  Nothing  fancy.  A quick Google image search turned up this photo.  My heart started pounding; I began sweating.  My hands are still shaking a bit.  It’s been 20 minutes.

This light represents shame to me.  More

Fear

Fear seems to be a good place to start when discussing the emotions surrounding rape and domestic abuse. Fear was the foundation of the relationship I built with my rapist.  And it was there from the start, though I did not realize it.

Fear

When I first met Mark, I was an extremely shy and insecure 14-year-old.  My best friend introduced us.  He was a little older, very good-looking, more popular than I was.  I was nervous every time I saw him.  He was charming and friendly.  Once we were dating, he made it perfectly clear that I should be grateful to have him.  He told me how when he first saw me, he didn’t like that I was skinny and wore glasses.  But then I got contacts!  Lucky me.  Yes, I should have bolted right then, but what did I know.  I was 14.  These type of comments continued throughout our relationship, balanced out by compliments and loving talk.  One minute he was affectionate and caring, the next minute he was avoiding me in the halls of our school.  So the first fear was the fear of losing him.  My insecure teenaged self continuously questioned every word I said, every action I took.  What would he think?  Was this what he wanted?  Would this make him leave me?

The fear increased as the abuse escalated.  His offhand comments turned into rants.  Private rants turned into public ones.  Criticism turned into verbal abuse.  Finally, it turned physical.  Again, this escalated over time.  A push.  A shove into the bedpost.  Punching the wall next to me.  Finally hitting me.  Again, this was counterbalanced by kindness.  If you’ve been a victim of abuse, you know this pattern well.  The apology the next day.  The “But I love you, don’t leave”.  Now I was truly afraid for my safety.  I was afraid that if I left, he would hurt me.  This was a threat he used.  I was afraid to tell anyone, even my closest friends or my parents.

During our relationship, there was an ever-growing pressure for sexual acts that I was extremely uncomfortable with, being so very young.  He demanded that I do things for him.  Then he berated me when I didn’t “do them right”.  I was 14!!  What was I supposed to know?  He was furious every time I did turn him down.  Once, he took me to a family wedding.  We stayed at a relative’s house after the reception.  He took this opportunity to get me very drunk.  His hope was obviously that I would sleep with him.  Instead I got very sick.  His anger was unbelievable.  I had nowhere to go and no way to get away.  This was a last straw for him.  It was about a week later that the rape actually occurred.  Again, fear is what kept me from fighting back the way I wish I could have.  By this point, it wasn’t an option.  I was paralyzed by the fear.

Since mine was a date rape situation, there was no lasting fear of, say, going outside at night or walking in parking structures that I know often accompanies stranger rape.  But the fear does linger on long past the actual event.  There is a fear of running into Mark that stays with me to this day.  We were in the same circle of friends.  It was unavoidable for several years after we broke up, and was a constant source of anxiety.  I saw him at a grocery store about 5 years ago, and found myself shaking and crying in the car after I left.

I think the worst fear that this produced was a fear of other men.  I automatically assumed that everyone would be the same way.  This was basically my first experience with a boy, and I didn’t know any better.  Even with my husband, a very sweet and gentle man, it was several years before I finally was able to let my breath out and truly feel I was in safe hands.

I’m trying to break through my final fear.  The one I feel every time I’m about to hit publish 🙂  Thank you for listening and letting me fight back against the fear.

Cheated

I’ve had almost 30 years to process my abuse and rape. In that time I can’t even begin to tell you the range of emotions I have gone through. I’m going to try though. If you have been through something similar, you can imagine the list. My plan is to write a post about all of them. Some are harder than others to speak of, so I will start with an “easy” one 🙂

Cheated. It’s as simple as that. This person cheated me of my childhood, my innocence, and so much more.

It may seem silly, but I’ve seen a lot of “teen romance” movies. In these movies, the sweet and innocent cheerleader meets the wholesome and handsome captain of the football team. They fall deeply in love. In a montage of corny music and images of passionate kisses, they sweetly consummate their love. Yes, they are young, but their love is true and it is all wonderful and pure.

That is not how my “first time” went. At all. After months of pressure, Mark had finally had enough of my saying no. He decided not to take no for an answer anymore.  Nothing was sweet about it, nothing was pure. It was painful and forced and I was crying throughout. I bit my lip to keep from crying out loud, because I knew that would make him angrier. What kind of person can “make love” to someone who is weeping? How could he not know that this was horrible for me? Afterward, instead of a romantic scene of two people holding each other and gazing into each other’s eyes, he left to get a snack. I huddled on the bathroom floor with the shower running to cover my sobs.

Cheated. Of a first time with a wonderful person who loved me. Cheated, when I finally found that wonderful person, of giving myself to him unsullied, virtuous, whole. (Yes, I’m a bit old-fashioned. My husband waited to find the person he wanted to marry, and I couldn’t give him the same thing. My husband was cheated too.)

Cheated. In every relationship I had afterward, of the opportunity to look at that new person with trusting eyes.  Instead, I saw every man through the lens of rape.  It narrows your vision, that’s for sure.  And it’s not fair.

Yes, this isn’t the most powerful emotion that the rape caused, but it’s one that has hung on.  Only over time did I realize how much I had been cheated out of.  I want that sweet moment with the football captain, perhaps on prom night.  I grew up much too fast in that one day, and it was definitely not fair.

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