Yesterday I realised I missed the ring, and as you can imagine this filled me with feelings of alarm, shame, and confusion. Why on earth would I miss such a place?
I know I miss the children, so so much. I hear so many people say you lose contact with childhood friends but they have no concept of ‘lose contact.’ I have no idea if some of my friends are even alive still, if they are alive, are they still in the ring? I only ever knew their first name, and in any case that won’t have actually been their name, so I can’t even try to regain contact with them. Some didn’t make it. I am plagued by grief for children who didn’t exist on paper, and guilt for being one of the lucky ones who did exist on paper, and did survive. I miss them. I miss their smiles. I miss playing with the children, and I miss crying with them.
But yesterday, I missed the environment, and that’s just downright weird. I scolded myself, there is absolutely nothing about a ritual ring that you should miss. I felt utterly ashamed of myself; how could I miss a place like that? So many people suffered, I’m supposed to be grateful for surviving, and yet here I was, feeling lost and wishing I was back there?
And there was my answer: feeling lost.
We all instinctively look for what is familiar when we are feeling lost or overwhelmed or stressed etc. Maybe you go to your Mum’s for her legendary roast dinners you associate with a calm Sunday afternoon as a child, I don’t know. But what is familiar to me is not safety, not freedom, not a safe life. This is still far too new and alien for me to even dare call ‘familiar’. 20 years doesn’t fade overnight, and it’s not like I’ve been safe for years either. It’s not like I feel completely safe anyway. I’m not sure I ever will.
So, familiar to me is the ritual ring. Familiar to me is abuse, and trauma, and fear, and dark humour, and lullabies at night-time, and calmly washing blood off of me…familiar is checking myself out in the mirror the next day, seeing where the bruises are, applying cover-up, wearing appropriate clothes…
But the most familiar part of my life? Rape.
Home, the ring, forced prostitution…the abuse was all different in nature in purpose and type.
But rape was consistent. Rape was everywhere. Rape was my life until I was 19. Even after that, rape happened, the abusers didn’t let me go that quickly, but I at least could acknowledge that rape didn’t have to be my life. 19 feels like the age where I started to realise that rape was not okay, that abuse was not okay, and that I deserved more than that. 2 years later, I finally feel that realisation and I’m terrified of it ever happening to me again.
But before then? Life = rape.
Now, when I moved away from home, one thing I struggled with was my perception of rape. If anyone around me was raped, I was horrified, distraught for them and full of compassion. If I were raped? I barely reacted. I’d feel down, sore, but my friends and I can recount several times where I walked straight to a lecture immediately after, or exam even (yes really), white and shaking, sore, sometimes bruised…another time covered in mud as my friend carried me to the car…but almost immediately carrying on with life as normal. Certainly by the next day I felt fine, relatively speaking. Looking back, I’ve no idea what this was like for my friends to watch – it was so normal for me that it hardly occurred to me what it must be like to witness, and I’m now so sorry, and so grateful they never turned their backs and gently tried to help me see I didn’t deserve such brutality.
Rape was life, all through my life. It was singularly the most consistent aspect of my childhood and teenage years, and that’s frankly sick and heartbreaking, not that it felt that way at the time. I had to view rape therefore as ‘okay’ – not nice, not good, but okay. Why? Because if I was going to survive, and keep my head intact, and not become so overwhelmed by the horror of everything that I committed suicide, then I could not view my life as anything other than ‘okay.’ At the time it felt ‘okay’ with some truly horrific moments, but not once did I actually believe my life was ‘not okay.’ As rape was my life, and I needed to see my life as ‘okay’ so that I remained sane, I therefore had to categorise me being raped as ‘okay.’ I hope that makes sense. It only properly hit me yesterday, and has made a sense of so much for me, particularly the struggle I had in trying to believe everyone when they told me that it wasn’t okay for me to be raped. To believe them, I had to accept my life wasn’t okay either. And that is monumentally difficult.
In order to survive, I had to believe it was okay for me to be raped, because I had to believe my life was okay. That is how I stayed sane. That is how the most consistent aspect of my life didn’t traumatise me so much that I gave up and collapsed. Life was ‘okay’ with some awful moments.
Now? Now I’m a total mess. Because I not only ‘know’ rape is not okay, I also feel it. My friends have consistently told me for the last 4 years that rape is not okay, and not once have they tried to force their ideologies onto me. They’ve just been endlessly gentle, compassionate, and solid with their belief that it really is not okay. The abusers, meanwhile, forced their ideas onto me in brutal and horrifying ways – their beliefs trapped themselves inside me because I was in too much pain to fight it, and often I needed to believe what they were saying (rape is okay) in order to survive. Because my friends have never forced me to share their beliefs, I’ve felt safer to trust them rather than to simply hold their beliefs. I trust them, and now I feel the same – me being raped was not okay.
It was not okay for me to raped. It was not okay for my entire childhood to consist of rape, and that to be the part of my life that I could rely on for a sense of consistency. It’s twisted that I relied on rape for a sense of consistency. It hurts beyond words that I had to see it as ‘okay’ because it was such a fundamental part of my life that it had become my life, and therefore to view it was ‘not okay’ was to walk into suicide.
And so now I’m overwhelmed. I’m truly, staggeringly overwhelmed. Because rape was not okay. My life was not okay. Bang. There goes that pretty little bubble lived in, that I know longer require because I’m no longer fighting to survive. My life was not all bad; there were some good moments, however tainted, and there were some beyond evil moments, and there were some average moments….but rape, rape was consistent. My life was not okay. For 20 years, my life was not okay. It was beyond ‘not okay’. It was wrong.
How on earth do I recover from this realisation? I’ve suddenly realised that my entire life, that I had convinced yourself was ‘okay’ with some shit bits, was in fact so sickeningly twisted and wrong. I am clinging to the precious memories throughout it, like holding my baby girl, but in reality I should never have had to hold my baby girl. I was a child myself. I wouldn’t change that for a moment, my god I loved her so much, but still…the cause was rape. There it is again.
I feel like I’m staring at a tsunami of horror and pain, like the memories are about to crash onto me, and how can I survive that? How?! I’m telling my panic you survived it once, you can survive it now. But I survived it once because I dissociated, and convinced myself of lies like ‘rape is okay’. None of that is happening now. Can I survive it again when my coping strategies are so redundant?!
I’m trying to look at the tsunami and see it also as a wave of survival…that it’s as much a symbol of my strength and resilience (which I can no longer deny I have, because the reality it my life was not okay but I’m still here), as it is a symbol of my horrific past filled with pain and terror.
That doesn’t really make it any less scary to look at though.
The realisation that my life was anything but okay is heartbreaking. The pain is so intense its actually physical. Earlier it felt like someone had driven a knife through my throat, the pain was so extreme my eyes filled and I tried screaming, but couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe. I ended up on my knees, gasping, my eyes pouring with tears, and shaking violently. This was emotional pain and yet my whole body was contorted with it. Right now, I feel like I’m about to break down in floods of tears but can’t quite do it yet; like my body is gearing itself up, because God knows how many tears need to be cried, how many hundreds or thousands of times I was raped, without the tears for the rest of the dangerous horror that went with it. I mean, this is it. Rape was safe. All of us in there were half-relieved when were ‘only raped.’ What kind of hideous childhood is that, where rape is safe?!
I’m staggered, and overwhelmed, and heartbroken. I’m hurting, and feeling very fragile, and the reason I was missing the ring is because of all of this intense emotion. I’m missing the ring because I’m missing a mindset where rape is ‘okay’. I wasn’t overwhelmed then. It didn’t hurt so much.
But that’s a lie too, really. It did hurt that much, I just dissociated the pain so the older me could process it and soothe myself when I was safe.
And that’s where I am now. Missing the ring out of panic, but not really missing it. Missing dissociation, perhaps? But knowing I’m safe and more enriched this way. Missing the lie that my life was okay?
Missing a childhood I will never have? A safe, loving one?
Missing the love and support I never had?
Missing rape? Is that it?
No…none of that, not really.
I’m not really missing any of it. Except feeling strong. I miss the sensation of looking at a tsunami, and not feeling pure terror, but feeling strength and determination. I don’t feel so strong anymore. I feel very fragile, and hurting. Like the little girl in me has finally shown herself, and all the hurt and vulnerability that I went through when I was so small is finally on the surface and needs to be comforted and protected…
And taught that rape is not life anymore, and god it should never have been…. 😥