This year marks the tenth anniversary of my rape. And this year I will end my obsession with rape.
See , after what happened to me , so much of my private life became consumed by rape and the idea of rape. My art became littered with rape narratives and metaphors. I would write poems about women who were raped. My debut novel opens with a brutal and haunting rape scene . When I read the news I would always read the stories about rape or molestation.
And until a month ago I did not know how I had become this person. Yes, I did these things in private but I did them nonetheless. And I did not like that I needed to do it to feel whole. And I did not know why I did it.
But now I do and I want to share it with other women who may need to hear it.
It only took me ten years to get here, but now have the knowledge and power to free myself.
See I realized after much introspection that by creating characters who were assaulted and reading about other women, young and old , who had shared my fate, well it made me feel less odd. Somewhere in my mind nothing odd had happened to me , because it had happened and was still happening to so many others . That’s how reading about rape made me feel. It helped me cope. Everywhere in society women were being raped, and I found comfort in that.
But that was not right. My logical mind knew it. But my emotions needed the stories , the images. They made me feel like a part of a community of people who were just like me: broken, hurt, victimized and confused as to how we let it happen.
But that changes now. No more will I seek solace in the suffering of others . Their pain cannot be used to numb my own any longer. This year I let go.
What happened to me was unfortunate . More than unfortunate . But when it happens to other women it doesn’t make me more normal . Because nothing about rape is normal. This year I own that. Rape is abnormal but I was not the issue. I did not let it happen. I was not weak. Other women who are raped are not the issue. They did not let it happen. They are not weak. I don’t need to see rape as a normal occurrence to be O.K. Because what happened was not O.K. . But it also was not my fault .And now I know that, and believe that, 100 per cent . Now I finally own that reality and can move forward.
It only took ten years . But this year my obsession with rape ends. I do not need it . I take back the control he took from me, all those years ago. And now I know I am finally healed inside . Because I can say for the first time in a decade, I am in control and I do not need other women to be raped and attacked, so I feel less awkward.
In fact what would make rape less awkward is if men just stopped raping us. Women are not the issue. I am not the issue. And for the first time I can say I know that I never was.
As women we never need to find excuses for being sexually assaulted. It is not normal and we do not need to cope by acting like it is or was.
I know it’s hard to face what happened as an individual sometimes. I could not for years. For a decade I hid behind the collective pain of all rape victims . Any rape victim I could put my hands on. In books. In the news. Their pain helped me mask my own. But at some point we must face our own individual demons if we are to get better. There are professionals to help if these demons are too big for us alone . I never reached out to a professional to tackle my own issue . Maybe if I had, I could have healed more quickly.
Or maybe my art needed it. You know , the tortured writer. Maybe my pain worked for me in some way for a long time, and that’s why I kept it and kept feeding it. But at some point I needed to get better.
I believe we all do. Better is not the same for everyone who was raped . I acknowledge that . But this year I urge you to find your better . Seek it out whatever it is and wherever it is . Because we deserve it . There can be sound emotional health after rape. I urge you to find it , if you haven’t yet. And sometimes it doesn’t come in one piece. It may not all come for you this year. Yes , sometimes it’s a process. But we have to start it , if one day we want to finish it . And we can get better and be in control again. I promise you it’s possible. It may be a long , winding road , but it is possible my sisters. It is my dears.
Aretha Leah Welch
Another 28-year-old Rape Survivor