I was raped, sodomized, and beaten for six hours back in January 1987. Twenty-eight years ago. Initially, I knew what I “should” feel like, but didn’t really register much. But that wasn’t really anything new- I’d been pretty good about not registering specific feelings for a long time. As I’ve gotten older, and had more life experiences, the specific emotions have become much more identifiable. And unpleasant. I’ve been through enough therapy to recognize specific feelings, as well as have a greater understanding of what others go through who have been in similar situations. And sometimes, not so similar situations. Those can be triggers as well.
I had never been much of a crier. I’d boo hoo once in a while, but for the most part, I could suck things up and move on. That has changed. Some of that is from a good thing: I’ve been able to understand how other people feel with both good and bad events. That has been a huge ‘plus’ in so many ways, but it also makes my own memories and reactions that much more intense. I’m a regular faucet now whenever there’s anything that remotely sets off my own memories. Doesn’t even have to be all that similar. Just has to trigger a feeling of some sort.
With another parole protest going on, I’m even more on edge. For the most part, my daily functioning is ‘normal’. Movies and TV shows can be really tough. The news stories can be absolutely grueling. I feel SO badly for those who are violated and/or lose a significant part of their life. I have to ‘pace’ my exposure to the news. With TV and movies, I generally have seen most of the episodes before from several series, so know to ‘brace’ myself during specific scenes… but sometimes even that doesn’t work so well. In one episode of “Law & Order: SVU”, ‘Olivia’ walks out into the squad room after having been held hostage by a serial rapist/stalker who takes her out of the city to a seasonal house (that doesn’t belong to him). She beats the snot out of him, and has to make a statement. When she walks out into the squad room, it brings up all sorts of feelings of when I had to walk out of the apartment of my neighbor, after being raped. There were news stations/cameras and people lining the sidewalk, and looking at me. One of them lowered her camera, and looked down- giving me the first bit of dignity after that life-changing event. When ‘Olivia’ walks through that group of people, it stirs up so much.
Some would argue that watching such shows as “Law & Order: SVU” and “Criminal Minds” are poor choices given my background, but I disagree. In those shows, they show as much as they can about the impact that crime has on the survivors (I hate the term ‘victim’) and, they get the bad guy in 48 minutes. The good guys win. There are characters that include the ‘collateral damage’ of crimes against individuals. And sometimes, the shows are hard to watch. But it was much harder to live through an event that would be a plausible story line for those shows.
I’ve been much more ‘tender’ this time around with the parole protest. I’m getting so tired of them, but at the same time, I feel responsible to keep fighting to keep him locked up. He doesn’t deserve to be out. He agreed to a 60 year sentence in a plea bargain. He offends EVERY time he’s on parole. Since he was 18 years old, parole is just another opportunity to rack up more ‘victims’. I’m angry that the woman he attacked prior to attacking me just blew off sentencing. Had she made sure he got as much time as possible, I wouldn’t have been raped. I don’t want that same burden on my shoulders. I may not be able to control the decisions of the parole board, but I am involved. If they let him out, it’s on them.
In the meantime, I have to talk myself down now and then. And sometimes, I have to just let myself cry and feel whatever is going on. On good days, I write. And every day, I have to remember how much I have to be thankful for. PTSD isn’t something that gradually resolves in a predictable manner. It comes and goes when the triggers set something off that is associated with some memory or feeling. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just is.