Sitting in my therapists waiting room, I cannot stop shaking. Today I am going to try to tell her the thing that I have never been able to discuss with anyone properly. Ever.
But I am afraid. Really afraid. For it is something that constantly brings me shame and embarrassment. Something that continues to eat me up inside. Something I have tried to write about before but I couldn’t manage the detail. I wrote to make sure others knew they were not alone. I wrote to convince myself I was not to blame but it didn’t work. I still feel to blame. I still feel ashamed and embarrassed. I still feel the most isolated I ever have.
It is time to share this. I need to know that I am not alone in the world. I need to know I am not to blame. I need to know if he was right when he told me “I liked it” because I didn’t. I didn’t like it. I never liked it. I am so confused.
But how do I tell her? I cannot say the words for they make me disgusting. My mind races. What if she thinks I am disgusting? What if she hates me? What if she thinks it is my fault and never wants to help me again?
But what if she can help me?
With her now my hands are shaking, fiddling with my pin. I want to use it to help me feel better and yet, I don’t want to use it because I know, deep down, that it won’t really help me. I hand her my pin and the others I have too.
As I sit on the floor, knees curled to my chest, a huge cushion nearby for if I need to hide, she can see that I am clearly much more an anxious than usual. So I explain, there is something I have to tell her but I just don’t know how to.
I tell her I am embarrassed, ashamed, too afraid that she will hate me. She reassures me, her calming voice and nature making me believe her when she says she will never think what he did to me was my fault.
I have to try. I have to try and tell her.
Knowing I absolutely cannot say the words, I write them on a page in my notebook, rip it out and fold it over. Instead of me saying it, she can read it. I try to pass it to her but my hand won’t move. Frozen to the spot, too afraid to pass the note.
I am shaking now, breathing heavily, panicking. “It’s OK” she whispers, as I believe I may burst into tears at any moment. Finally I reach my hand to her and she takes the note. She reads it; “my body reacted and he said I liked it”
Embarrassed, ashamed, I curl myself tighter into a ball in the corner and pull the huge cushion towards me. My hair is pulled in front of my face and I look straight ahead, too afraid to make eye contact and see her reaction. Tears fill my eyes as I once again struggle to breathe.
“It’s OK” she whispers once again, telling me I am brave for sharing my secret with her.
“You are not alone” she says as she explains that many victims of sexual assault and rape experience the same thing. Body reactions. Physical reactions. Pleasurable reactions.
“It does not mean you liked it” she says. “Are you sure?” I whisper. She replies yes, firmly.
I am so embarrassed that I can barely look up from the floor as she begins to explain. During a sexual assault, a victims body self-lubricates. This is not for pleasure, but is for survival. It is to stop it hurting so much when the perpetrator thrusts his penis or other objects into the victim. It is not pleasure. It is survival. Survival.
It is not a reaction to pleasure. It is a reaction to protect us. However, this is also out of our control. A lack of control is what abusers thrive on. They use it as their power. They tell the victim that we like what they are doing to us because our bodies react to it. They pleasure us for their own benefit but to also make our bodies react – orgasm – so that they can use it against us. They instil in us that we liked what they were doing because our bodies liked it. They tell us that our bodies reaction is a form of consent.
I did not consent! I did not like what he was doing. I did not liked being raped.
Genital reaction does not indicate consent. It also doesn’t mean that the victim was not threatened. It certainly does not mean that the victim was asking for it!
Body impulses occur because it is a natural response. Self-lubrication occurs to protect us from the pain of the abusers penis, and anything else they choose to use, being rammed into us. It is not for pleasure. Not at all.
These impulses, the lubrication, are a physiological defence mechanism. The same way that fear and shock make us freeze. Freezing does not mean we are consenting, it means we are trying to survive. We are surviving being raped. We freeze and withdraw mentally to survive.
Unless you have been raped you will never understand. I hope you never understand.
These involuntary impulses make our recovery much more difficult. Self-doubt brings shame and embarrassment. Confusion makes us question ourselves; how can our body enjoy something our mind cannot? Did our body betray us? Is it normal? Are we normal? Are we bad? Did we deserve it? Was it our fault? What if the police or jury think it is our fault?
Panic sets in once again as my therapist is explaining everything to me. I only hear certain words; self-lubrication, rape, abuse, sexual assault. I cannot focus. This is all too real. This is too scary. Too painful.
“Are you 100% sure this wasn’t my fault?” I ask her. “Absolutely” she replies, firmly but kindly.
I am scared now, unsure how to react, unsure how to process. My body wasn’t just betraying me as I thought. It was trying to protect me. It was trying to save me.
Our session gradually comes to an end as she tells me to try to process things and we will talk more again next week. She is comforting, kind, calming.
Once the session is over and I am back in the waiting room, I burst into tears.
For years and years and years, I have blamed myself. His voice in my head, telling me that I asked for it, that I enjoyed it. I have grown to hate myself and have convinced myself that I am disgusting. I have carried shame and embarrassment for over twenty years. I have been isolated in disgust. Sadness and confusion have consumed me and I have come to believe I am not normal. That I deserved what he did to me because I am disgusting.
I have a lot to process after today. The shame and embarrassment will not leave me right away but today I learned that I am normal. I am not alone. Other survivors feel like me. Their bodies reacted too.
I still feel shame. I still feel embarrassed. Neither will leave me without a lot more help from my therapist.
The truth is, I am afraid to share this part of my story for fear of people thinking differently of me. They may hate me. They may think I am disgusting. They may never understand. But I am glad of that because that means they have not been through what I have. I am glad because I would never wish my experiences on anybody.
I am terrified of sharing this piece but I have to, not only for myself, but to also make sure that other survivors never have to feel the isolation I have felt my whole life.
I still have a lot to think about, process and get my head around. I believe I may have more to say after my next session. But one thing is for sure, this is normal. I am normal. I am a victim. I am a survivor.
The truth is my body didn’t really betray me, though I know I will have many more days where I feel like it has. My body was in fact trying to protect me, to save me.
It survived the only way it knew how.
So yes, my body reacted, but it didn’t react because it liked it…… it reacted to save my life!
Thanks for reading
**Image is my own**