You are not alone, and not a freak

When you start a blog, you realise you can become incredibly narcissistic – you get given a page full of statistics where you can see how many people have been reading your thoughts, which posts they choose to read, and all other sorts of interesting data. It’s fascinating, but be reassured – there is no way to find out who these readers actually are. Most fascinating – and heartbreaking – for me is that WordPress also tells me which search engine terms brought readers to the site. The terms that I see most often are about women trying to understand their own behaviour following a rape:

“Why promiscuous after rape?”

“Freak promiscuity after rape”

“Abnormal rape promiscuity”

are just some of the terms I had yesterday. As we all know by now, these women are not abnormal freaks – they’re reacting in a really common way. Indulging in promiscuity is absolutely one of the most common ways to respond to sexual abuse, and the reasons why women do so can vary: trying to turn sex into a meaningless act, attempting to regain control over men or their own sexuality or – as I think was the case for me – as a method of self harm. A book I read once noted that a rape victim sleeping around is like a victim of knife crime repeatedly stabbing themselves in the thigh. When you factor in how many survivors have physical pain in their pelvic region after an attack, you really start to understand the point.

The problem is that we’re still not very good at talking about it, and that is phenomenally isolating. One of the panic attacks I had was brought on when I was trying to find out – just like the women above – if I was a freak for having lots of sex after being raped. Other aspects of my sexual experience changed too; my turn-ons were different and my body responded differently. I searched and searched and searched and couldn’t find the answers that I was looking for. I got so frustrated and felt so alone that I ended up hyperventilating and calling a friend to help calm me down.

We need to be better at providing information about this sort of thing – and not just clinical facts (although that is desperately needed) but also anecdotes and personal testimonies. That panic attack was one of the driving forces behind me starting this blog – so that women who google in despair can feel less alone. And that’s why it’s fantastic when I come across blogs by amazing women writing about their own experiences of rape and recovery. So this post is, if you like, the WordPress equivalent of a Twitter #ff (That’s Follow Friday, for those not in the know).

Healing Wounds is a great new blog being written by someone I’ve come to know as a friend in the online world. Her strides in recovery have grown hugely in the last year – and her writing’s pretty ace too.

Life in a Pickle is written by another phenomenal woman. She writes about her own experiences and how rape is treated in the media, as well as taking a look at police and legal processes. Funny and moving, you should check it out.

Finally, I suggest you take a look at the message boards at After Silence. This charity was started to give women a forum to speak to other survivors, and it’s a great way to connect with people or start talking about your experiences that might be less scary than telling close friends or relatives.

On the topic of not being alone… I’m just about to complete my training on a scheme where sexual abuse victims support other survivors, and the women I train alongside are fabulous. Yesterday, I had a crappy day with crappy news. But last night I stood on the corner of a south London street with some of these amazing survivors, and we laughed until we cried – and then I danced the whole way home. Gosh, life can be good.

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  1. #1 by gherkinette on August 18, 2011 - 12:44 pm

    Thank you so much for the mention. I feel very honoured. But although I write about my experiences, I am no expert. In fact deep down I thought I was a freak about some of the things I’ve felt about myself, especially sexually, since my experience of rape. And then I read your blog and a big weight lifted for me…and I have one less thing to worry about now. Which feels like a really good unexpected present!

    Whoever gets you as their supporter is very lucky…

  2. #3 by Vicky on August 24, 2011 - 11:54 pm

    Thank you so much for your kind words!

    I too remember how isolated I felt – for so long I thought I was alone, that no one really understood me. I thought I was abnormal in how I was reacting to my rape. I felt so ashamed. It felt like I was being told by society to keep quiet with how I reacted, that people didn’t want to hear. I felt completely alone in the world.

    Then I read your article and realised I wasn’t. You were a huge help for me, finally talking to someone who understood exactly where I was coming from and didn’t judge me. You listened, and you were there. As you may know, at the same time as I started talking with you, I also found God. Both Him and you helped me find the strength to look back at what happened and to open up, and the courage to face tomorrow. I can’t thank you enough for that.

    As gherkinette said – whoever gets you as their supporter is extremely lucky!

    • #4 by Dija on February 7, 2012 - 4:40 am

      Although I feel alone right now, your blog has shown me that my feelings aren’t uncommon and that I’m not a ‘freak’ for reacting the way I have done. With time I hope I can show strength like you and help other women and men who have had a similar experience to mine. Thank you.

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