Thursday, January 7, 2010

Four-Letter Words

I have been working on this post for two years now, since I first launched Short and Sweet. I knew I would write it one day, but I was never quite sure how. I know once I hit that publish button, there will be no turning back.

But I realized something today while reading a post by Wagatwe at Change Happens: my hesitation wasn't because I was afraid of retaliation or because I was worried this post might change how people--future friends or employers--think of me. I was hesitant because I didn't want to make my readers uncomfortable.

And that's exactly why I should publish this post.

Three years ago I was raped.

I am not the same person I was three years ago, and I will never be that person again. After the rape, my life changed, my goals changed, and the person I wanted to be changed.

I don't hide this information from others. In fact, if you Google my name, you will find a letter to the editor describing the help I found at Boston University and a video interview I participated in with my fellow student and friend Felicity Tan. If you dig deeper, you'll find even more.

But I am not as open about the rape as I would like to be, either. At times, I do treat it like something I should be ashamed of.

About a year ago, I quietly confided in a friend and coworker that I was worried I might break down on the second anniversary of the assault, and I would not be able to explain it to my coworkers. Jesus, she said, I didn't realize it was that big of a deal. Suddenly, she was worried that this awful thing in my past had turned me into something like a sand castle that might crumble at high tide, and she was uncomfortable. What was she supposed to do?

I shouldn't have been surprised at her response--there was a major project due--but I was hurt: I made it this far to survive, I can certainly make sure our client receives their first-class audit on time, tears or no tears.

People make assumptions about rape survivors. They are fragile. Something is wrong with their heads. Maybe they're liars. They must hate men, or women. They'll be set off at the tiniest little thing. You'll need to pick up the slack. They want you to fix them. They are broken.

I am not broken.

Rape is traumatic. Rape changes you, and it changes the people in your life.

Yes, in the months following the assault I went through hell. But I kept going.

I survived.

This is something I should be proud of, something I should be shouting from the rooftops, but I don't. We don't talk about rape among friends, let alone acquaintances and co-workers. It is something private, something we should keep to ourselves because once people know, they know, and they don't know what to do.

People--friends!--treat you differently after they find out you are a rape survivor. In my case, some people were just a little quieter around me, while others would stop mid-conversation if I was around. Some people stopped talking to me completely, afraid I might infect them or that I was somehow less capable. When I admitted my fear of crying at work, my co-worker, someone I knew from college who had seen me at my worst, was worried I would be unable to fulfill my duties at work, and she wasn't sure how to react.

This same friend had seen me tackle 22 hours of classes and an internship on top of officer duties, and she saw me graduate with honors, but when I brought up the anniversary of the rape, she thought I would not be able to handle my responsibilities anymore.

According to RAINN, 1-in-6 women and 1-in-33 men are survivors of sexual assault. Chances are, you know someone who was raped, and chances are, you see them go to work everyday, be it waiting tables or leading companies. Survivors are soldiers and teachers and librarians and CEOs. Surviving rape does not mean you are suddenly no longer qualified to lead these lives.

I was raped, and I was changed, but I am strong and this tragedy will not stop me from success.

So maybe, now that you know I've been raped, if your friend or your coworker tells you he or she is a survivor, you'll know that you don't need to fix him or her. You really don't need to do anything but listen and maybe be glad that you were trusted.

Grabbing a coffee together at lunch couldn't hurt, either.

Thank you to the SAFER blog, who inspired this post, and to bloggers like Victoria Placeo, Holly Desimone, Marcella Chester and others who gave me strength.

5 comments: to “ Four-Letter Words

  • Lori
    12:35 AM  

    Anyone who thinks you're incapable is crazy(hell, you're amazing), and you deserve better support than you got from your coworker. And as the above poster said, if an employer doesn't want to hire you because someone committed a crime against you, they're not worth your or anyone else's time.

  • Wagatwe
    1:08 AM  

    I'm so glad that I inspired you! This post is very well written and the points you brought up cannot be said enough. I'm sorry your friend reacted like that, but I hope with awesome people like you out there slowly everyone will learn how to be properly supportive to others!

    In solidarity,

  • Anonymous
    8:32 AM  

    Excellent post - people do have a hard time knowing how to react in certain situations, and it's good to remind them that, no matter what has happened to you, you're still a person.

  • Holly/Admin
    2:57 PM  

    Thank you for your courage, and amazing spirit!

  • Seattle Kim D
    3:28 AM  

    I really admire your stregth. It must have been very intimidating to be this open and share such a personal detail about your life, but I appreciate you taking that risk as it will help a lot of women.

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