Jane Doe Speaks…
You’ll see I’m no Jane Doe. I have already come out publicly with my real name and story. My name is not Jane but all of a sudden in the last two years I’ve been the victim of a crime that will never go punished and can claim this new non-identity. The truth is some days it claims me. It’s not easy to explain how rape changes you, how an event, a horrific one even continues on in a brain that’s forever logged it, filed it and kept it for safety reasons, for reasons I can’t override even if I wanted to.
I am tired already of this identity but to not claim it would be a disservice to my future in healing and to those I could possibly advocate for in the future. Only 3 people know all the details I can recall of my rape and two are therapists and one is a police officer. Some people don’t want to know, some people do. Theres many things survivors fear when revealing their individual story but one of them is having to offer the details to close family and friends. I, for one, have never been able to remember every single detail because I left my body during the rape and dissociated. But my body remembers everything. When I first started dealing with my rape, more than 15 months after it happened, I would get what I learned were called body memories.
[n. the ability of the body to store memories unconsciously. It has a sensory recollection of traumatic experiences related to pain, discomfort, tension, and arousal. The hypothesis is that, despite infantile amnesia, the body itself experiences a sensorimotor encoding of each traumatic event.]
I was watching Orange Is The New Black back in December last year and there’s a rape scene in a van that brought on my first body memory. I thought I was going crazy. I was alone. No one was there with me. Why did I feel like my rape was happening all over again? My natural instinct is to look away when confronted with something that can trigger me but I didn’t. There was something different about this scene. The director Jesse Peretz’s simple, bold decision to keep the camera close and steady on Manning’s face rattled me. The struggle is over, and she has lost. She is trapped in a box of the camera’s static frame, her head inching back-and-forth along the horizontal plane of the backseat of a prison van, a lone tear trailing down her cheek as her attacker thrusts from behind — greasy and grunting, dipping in and out of view. As long as she has no escape, as long as she must endure this horrible thing happening to her, we, the audience, had no choice but to stay with her. I think they captured the lifelessness that happens when you decide to stop fighting. I had watched myself being raped that night, completely lifeless and utterly helpless to do anything but to wait for it to be over. The body memory was a way to start connecting what my brain could remember with what my body clearly did.
It’s been a crazy year in recovery. So many ups and downs. One of the most rewarding things about using my voice, putting a face and name to break the silence has been people’s response to coming out as a rape survivor. You hear statistics and know there’s many of us out there but it’s different when they tell you “me, too” it’s life altering. The down side is the silence of those closest to you. There could be so many reasons for that silence, you figure it’s because they don’t want to burden you by talking about it, or that it’s awkward, but sometimes you can’t help but feel like they just want you to get over it already. This is a life sentence, I will never have the ability to not be a survivor of rape ever in my life again. So I hope people see that I try and make the best of it with how public I am about it. The insidious shame I’ve seen coiled so tightly around some survivors kills me. When they exclaim they could have fought harder it breaks me. I’m trying like hell to change the face of rape victim from shameful to a face of victory. None of us ever asked for this. The shame is not ours, it belongs solely to our perpetrators and those who support them.
I have no idea what I’m doing, but I won’t stop, so if me talking about rape makes you uncomfortable I suggest you ask yourself why and try listening again in my next post.