The world seems to believe that rape is all about a sexual violation of another person. I suppose that I used to believe that as well. One day in April of 1982, my perspective got skewed for me. It was on that day that I became the victim of a gang rape. The interesting thing about it is that I had been molested twice as a child, but never understood what had happened to me until I was raped.
The last twenty-five years of my life have been a recovery period. Last year, something that I never expected to happen did. I got up one morning and read in the local news that my rapist’s son, living a good hour from where I live, had been shot at a party and was clinging to life in a local hospital. That was a very devastating event for me. I had prayed that my attackers would suffer merciless tragedy for more than twenty years, but when it happened in the form of watching their child dying I could only see my own children. I felt like I was the monster, more than them. It is a very strange feeling to realize that you do not want revenge anymore, with the cost so high. It was then that I could forgive them. I prayed for the boy, and he eventually was stabile enough to begin recovering from his injuries. They believe that he will walk again. I went to the hospital and sat quietly in a chair watching the boy’s mother, step-father and other family and friends grieving and praying, and consoling each other.
I look back now and realize that society allows rape to take too much from us. We give it the power to change our lives in more ways than it should. When we do that, we give power to the rapist. What is the solution to that dilemma? We do many things now that help to empower the victims of violent crime. The most important is to talk about the subject openly. This gives all victims a language from which to speak. I remember a time when I didn’t even know a word to describe having been molested. But when I went through therapy decades afterward, my sister said that I tried to tell her something about it when we were little. She didn’t understand at the time, being a year younger than I. Removing these sorts of barriers is the single most important weapon that we have against victimization.
Another important tool is finding a way to remove misunderstandings about guilt and blame. First of all, if you recover from the incident you can become a stronger person. Not because of what they did to you, but what you do with it. If you become pregnant, there is an added burden and a longer recovery. If you are seriously maimed you will have to over come additional obstacles, but if you are alive then you can recover. I thought for a long time that I would rather be dead. I was already a very depressed and suicidal young lady, so as far as I was concerned, there was no reason to recover. I spent my time taking risks and praying to lose. Then, as if God were saying to me “that’s enough self pity gal,” I began throwing up every morning . . . duh . . . morning sickness. Friends tried to get me to have an abortion, but I couldn’t. Now, that little puke maker is twenty years old and in college.
It wasn’t an easy decision to raise him, but it was one of the best I had ever made. The statistics that we are bombarded with about rape and molestation and the legacy that they leave in a person’s life, scared the hell out of me, so I finally sought counseling. Mind you, I was opposed to “psychology” because, like chiropractors, I considered them “voodoo” doctors with mail order diplomas. Of course that’s nonsense, but that was how I felt at the time. I didn’t even believe me so how would I trust another person to help? I completely believed that by some act of evil that the minute this baby was born, I would transform into a molester. I didn’t have any idea how, but I assumed that it was beyond my ability. I sincerely believed that regardless of my upbringing, or my intellect, or fundamental hatred for all predators. That is the gap in reasoning that all victims face. How did I go from being a completely normal person to being a monster?
Often, a rapist will make threats in order to keep their victim from reporting the crime. We desperately need to reinforce the public’s trust of our law enforcement agencies, and their trust of us. If we assume that a person is lying about a rape then how can we defend victims? An investigation can be conducted quietly to protect both parties until the crime is evident and charges pressed. It is not necessary to make suspicion public knowledge. In fact, every crime should be confidential until guilt is supported by evidence. It is frightening for a victim to hang themselves out there for criticism and ridicule when charges become public. I cannot understand why it needs to be a public event for a victim to come forward and go through the exams and questioning to charge rape. It is not necessary and it is not in the best interest of either the defense or prosecution to put the crime in the public eye, unless the defense hopes to add to the victim’s terror. That’s just another reason to keep things confidential. And there should be real consequences for breaking that confidentiality, fines and jail time regardless of conviction.
I believe that, although we hear about it more, the actual occurrences of rape must be diminishing. I wish that I felt that way about molestation, but it seems that predators are just finding more discreet means, like computers, and we are allowing the age and maturity lines of adolescents to become blurred. And children will always be the most vulnerable because it’s still up to us to teach them the language that they need to tell us that they have become a victim.