by Robyn Hammontree
I have found myself thinking this week that I wish I had never been a victim of sexual assault and domestic violence because it would make me a less difficult human being. It would make me less angry and less scared. More trusting and easily intimate. Perhaps more forgiving, perhaps more understanding of God’s love. That maybe if I was less difficult, it would be easier for people to love me, easier for people to understand me, easier for people to listen to my stories and believe them.
So, you see, it wasn’t just my virginity that was taken from me when I was raped. It wasn’t just bruises that formed when I was hit. It wasn’t just my dignity that was broken when I was slammed into a wall in a room full of people and called a “fucking ungrateful bitch” because I asked him to leave. It wasn’t just those four years I was robbed of happiness.
And Tuesday, it wasn’t just loss I felt.
Can you understand what it is like to have your spirit taken? Do you know what it is like to walk around feeling too empty and too full? To have rage you cannot contain and yet can’t quite feel fully because dammit, you’ve never been an angry person?
Do you know what it is like to have someone who loves you celebrate the victory of the worldview that took everything you had inside? That put everything back all jumbled up so it would bubble to the surface even during the best moments of your life?
Because, if you’re willing to listen, I can tell you what it feels like.
I can tell you about hiding under chairs for safety, of hiding behind locked doors I prayed would hold but didn’t. I can tell you about the way the words float back and create knots in my stomach tight enough to make me vomit. I can tell you about police officers asking him if everything was OK and walking away as I wept and whispered “help” to no avail.
I can tell you exactly what if feels like to live through that and hear men on TV rank bodies as if they are empty vessels without souls.
Do you know what it feels like when your soul shudders? To know how many others are out there who view me the way these men do? Will you let me tell you?
I understand you didn’t mean to break me with your beliefs. At my best I get that this was not your intention, that perhaps this was just for your own protection. But can I just mention that you don’t have to mean to do something to do it? That you don’t have to live through something to pursue a fuller understanding of it? That the fear doesn’t have to be yours to be real? That unacknowledged wounds never heal?
So, here’s the deal. No one wishes I were less difficult than I do. I can’t undo what I’ve been through. So all that’s left is to cherish the gift it has left me with: the ability to acknowledge the experience of others as truth, the gift of feeling deeply, the silence necessary to listen, the pain that sees the pain in others. I am grateful for these gifts, and the friends who love me for them.
I cannot and will not change so it is easier for anyone to love me.