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Sunday, July 30, 2017

"Roles:" an Autobiography

      I have often thought of the saying, to paraphrase  "All the worlds a stage and all the people actors."  I thought that statement was stupid, I didn't connect to it.  But then I was working on a talk about roles, that I was going to give in conjunction with a project I've been working on for around 20 years.
      The project was a book (nonfiction), about being a survivor of a sexual abuse/assault.   The book would include others who have lived through such ordeals.   This would also include incest survivors and include help for men as well as women.  So for book publicity, I would have a little speech prepared, and it would go a little something like this:

      In life, we play many roles.  When we are children, we are son's, daughters, brothers, sisters nieces, nephews, grandsons, or granddaughters, and students.  When we grow up, our roles change.  We become mothers and fathers, Aunts and Uncles.   Grandparents later on.  Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers, Firemen... And we dream about these roles when we grow up.  What we want to be when we "Grew up."  
     Nobody ever says, "I want to be a rape survivor when I grow up."   Yet that is a role that Robert Patton forced on me at knife-point in November 1994.    It's a role that makes one of my many catastrophic changes in my life. What he did to me, can never be undone, I will always be this role.   

     However,  now I do not let it define me, it is in my past.  What got me to this point, was the day I stood in court, giving an "impact statement."  This is when a survivor (or someone else) can read to the court, before sentencing.    I stood up and told Patton exactly what he did to me, and how he changed me for all time.   Then I read a poem that told him in part that I had been in a prison, the poison of what he did trapped in a wound that nobody else could see.   Yet, now he would be the prisoner, and that I was free.   With those words, I was free.
    That day was 12 years ago, and so much has passed.   Both of my parents are now gone, but I'm so happy they were there that day.   What happened to me, also forced roles on them.  Roles that they were not prepared for, parents of a rape survivor.  That night, was only the second time that I ever saw my dad cry, and it would be the last.   I felt worse for my parents that night in the hospital than I did for myself.  I had to put aside my pain and fear to help them.   The guilt that they didn't keep me safe, haunted them for a long time.  I didn't get that at first, but after a time, I grew to understand somewhat.  But it didn't make it any easier for me to cope with that knowledge for a long time.

      I was not alone in bearing this role, I had 36 other women who bare the same scars.. my sisters, linked by a role not everyone can understand.   Rape takes away everything, your sense of safety, sense of self.  Security is gone, and you look over your shoulder and become over sensitized to sounds, and casual touch becomes like a brand.  PTSD is real for us.

     But once I gave my impact statement, I was free from his shadow, his presence.    While I can never forget or forgive, I can cut that binding of power that he held over me for 10 years.   I do not feel a damned thing for him now.   I'll never forgive him, but I've let go of the anger.

      I've never identified with the role of victim, but I feel more powerful being called a "Survivor," for that is what he didn't do to me, he didn't define me.  Once he left that night, I won.