When you have suffered the most humiliating thing you can imagine, being sexually abused by someone, and not feeling you can tell anyone, is a terrible burden to carry. Many people – more women than men, carry this burden. But keeping it secret, and not telling others is even more damaging, in the long term.
I’m realising this, as my own abuse in the past, has memories coming back to me, and they’re not happy memories of good times drinking with friends. They are memories of unwanted sexual acts forced on me, and with me not feeling able to stop them, feeling trapped and unable to do anything other than dissociate, and hope it stops soon. That was many years ago, all of it.
Keeping on going, hiding away from the horror that had happened, starting from digital rape from a ‘friend of the family’ at the age of around seven, then various teenage years events when I was looking for love, but getting more abuse, really, I’m now understanding. It’s taken the ‘alleged’ rapes in Parliament House in Canberra, for this issue to really hit me properly, as I can see the enormity of what I suffered. Happily married for over thirty years, but with things in my head I’d gladly not have.
One thing I’ve found has helped me was writing about it, and sharing the poetry I wrote about it, another thing is gathering a group of friends who understand, because they understand, having suffered in various ways at the hands of a man, or men, too. When we get together, we don’t talk about these things non stop, or even at all, just being together is enough, safety numbers, and with a maturity and understanding that comes as we travel from young woman to mother to mature lady, to older woman.
We now dress up mostly for ourselves, and our woman friends, not for men, and if we attract the gaze of a man, we hope we can deal with it in a way that feels good, not disagreeable. But of course, men are men, and even in our older years, there are men out there who will still not keep their penis out of things … Sex still happens, sometimes, and we can all hope the only sex is consensual, but you can never be sure of that.
Talking about this things, raising awareness, teaching others, these are useful ways to discuss things with other women, and sometimes men perhaps who understand. Together one day, maybe rape will be understood as a crime against both the body of another person, and against a just society. But we are all a long way away from that point …