I can’t decide which I hate worse – the atrocities done at Abu Ghraib prison, or the apologists who think that torture, including rape, can be excused.
Even the erstwhile “Lean Left” gets it awfully, awfully wrong, linking rape and threats of rape with homophobia and sexuality. Rape isn’t sex. It’s merely the most degrading and damaging thing you can do to another person. Worse, far worse than murder, or maiming or physical torture or psychological torture.
What is going to appear below the cut line is pretty heavy, you probably don’t want to read it.
I can call myself an expert on this because when I was young, I was a victim of several years of ever increasing physical and psychological abuse, which ended when I was about 15 years old. During the latter stages of this abuse, my abuser raped me at least twice.
I fervently wished either I or my abuser would just die. Not just during the abuse, but even for decades afterwards, by which time he was several thousand miles away and no longer a danger. I thought it was all behind me, in spite of the fact that at my wedding in 1997, he moved quickly and I flinched as if he were going to hit me.
Four or five years ago I let my mind wander back to that time, and found myself parked at the side of the road wracked by sobs. That’s when I sought therapy. And after three years I had a much better feeling for what happened both during and afterwards.
The abuse was, regretably, the single most important formative influence in my life. I developed defence mechanisms during the abuse time which unfortunately I didn’t or couldn’t turn off when it was no longer needed. The defence mechanisms were many and varied, and layered. My primary defence mechanism was a form of emotional “shut down” – by not allowing myself to experience any sort of emotional depth, I could keep the horror and humiliation of what happened at bay. And I realize that I’ve spent most of my life suffering from various forms of depression, self medicating through outdoor sports and other distractions. I’m no longer clinically depressed – I wouldn’t call myself “cheerful and chipper” except as a joke, but I think I’m coping a bit better. Because I spent most of my life emotionally shut-down, I never developed strong relationships with anybody, not even my family.
I tried to tell people about the abuse. When it was going on, I first told my father. That was a mistake – he sat my abuser down and gave him a good talking to, and then when the abuser was good and mad at me for daring to tell, he left us alone together for the rest of the evening. Needless to say I learned a pretty hard lesson that night about not telling my father. After that I just quietly prayed that someday the abuser would break a bone or something so my dad couldn’t ignore the signs any more. I then told a guidance counsellor at school – I used to spend hours crying my eyes out in the guidance office. God only knows why they never contacted dad. Maybe they did and he continued his policy of ignoring the evidence in front of him.
Many years ago, I tried to tell my first wife about the abuse that I suffered. Her reaction was “Everybody has parts of their childhood that sucked”. With compassion like that, can you see why she’s my ex-wife? Actually, that’s not fair – with the state (or more accurately – statelessness) of my emotions, it’s a wonder we stayed together as long as did. She had some pretty bad experiences in her childhood as well, and the amateur psychologist (I learned so much in three years of therapy) in me wonders if her coping mechanisms weren’t as big a factor in her life as mine were in mine. What’s more amazing is that Vicki stayed with me during the early years of our marriage – she’s pretty well adjusted and had a happy childhood. I tried to tell her about it as well.
But no matter who I tried to tell about it, I could never bring myself to tell them about the rapes. I knew theoretically that it wasn’t my fault and I had nothing to be ashamed of, but theory had nothing to do with it. I was ashamed. For 30 years, I never told anybody until I told my therapist. That’s the sort of damage that rape does to a person.