Healing from Sexual Assault

The rape incident

I was raped on June 22, 1989. I was just 15 years old when I had to deal with the total violation of my being on a sexual, emotional, and physical level. The betrayal by my girlfriends that same night, which led to my getting raped, broke my heart and further shattered my little world.

I was invited to a party by a much older guy, who had been expressing interest in me for a few months. I kind of liked the attention from a distance, but I did not feel right about going to his private party, especially alone. He belonged to a gang of small-time crooks, known for their parties and rebellious attitude. A good girlfriend of mine called me, and upon finding out about this “cool” party, decided to drive me and to bring along our three other girlfriends. I felt only slightly better about going with them; my intuition just kept on pushing me to stay home.

The party ended up being a gathering between myself, my four girlfriends, the guy in question, and two or three of his friends. I drank some wine for the first time of my life, which intoxicated me to a point where I did not recognize my behavior. My girlfriends were sitting on the couch, with fake smiles, and they seemed quite far away. I was sitting on the guy’s lap, something I would never do under normal circumstances, and getting all the attention from his two friends.

I remember my conscious self being reduced to a little voice of awareness about my surroundings, with my vision getting dimmer and blurrier. I remember feeling uneasy, somewhat scared, and not wanting to be on this guy’s lap, but not wanting to displease or offend him either. I was usually someone on my guard, vigilant to the point of paranoia, and I had never even dated before, much less had sex with anyone. It didn’t take long for me to feel poisoned physically, and I went to the bathroom where I spent a long time with my head in the toilet bowl, vomiting my guts out. I was not able to get up.

I heard my girlfriends leave, and tell me through the bathroom door, giggling, that they were going out for a little while. I could not talk, I was too sick, and full of vomit, but I recall trying to tell them to not leave me there, alone. “We’ll be back shortly”, was the last thing I heard.

I must have fallen asleep in the toilet bowl, because the next time I remember being aware of my body, I was getting dragged across a floor, and then I found myself on a bed, in the dark. I hoped for a minute I would be left alone, able to recuperate from this intoxication.

Then, I realized that this man I knew, my “friend”, was on top of me, penetrating me; he was already there. I gained enough presence of mind to realize that I did not have the physical strength to push him off of me. I barely could feel my body, as if I had been anesthetized; the only thing I felt was the weight of his body on mine. I remember thinking I was not going to be a virgin anymore, that I had just been soiled, and that I would have to get over this rape later on.

At that point in my life, I dealt with each abusive blow, betrayal and assault in the same way: I would add it to my list of things to deal with later on, because during any of those moments all I could think of was survival. It was overwhelming to keep going through major traumas regularly, such as getting committed to a mental asylum by mother against my will. To add insult to injury, my family, and most adults who were in my life, would just deny what was happening to me, and claim I was making it all up.

I remember feeling sadness that this rape would make my list of incidents to get over yet longer. I already felt burdened by my life, the whole 15 years of it at the time. Intense self-loathing came up as well, especially about my inability to defend myself, and self-blame for not having stayed home, safe and sound. I also could not understand how this man was “getting off” since I was so dirty, filthy, sick, and dead-like. Before I could drift off into fantasy land, to pretend that I had stayed home, and that this was just a nightmare, he got off of me, and lay down next to me.

I can’t recall if we actually talked or not; I just went along with him until he got up when he heard some noise in the house---some people had arrived. I was left in the dark by myself, but not for long, because a couple of mean-spirited girls came in the room, lit the light, and spent some time pretending to look at pictures on the wall, with little smiles on their faces. They obviously enjoyed the humiliation I was enduring, as I just tried to keep my eyes closed as best I could.

I finally made it home before dawn. In the morning, with my head down, I told my mother what had happened to me. She replied with obvious repulsion that it would have been better to find myself in a hotel room, but not in public, for my first time! Appearances have always been a big deal for my parents…

The Aftermath…

I spent the whole summer at my dad’s house (my parents were divorced by then), vomiting everyday on myself, and walking around like a zombie. I had lost the taste for life. I hated myself so much that my body needed to purge every afternoon. I was dying inside and wanted to die.

The hardest part for me to deal with then, and later on, was not the actual physical rape, but the fact that I had not fought back, and, yet worse, that I had dealt with the rapist in a civil way, as if he and I would, in so doing, transcend the ugliness of the situation. It took me years to want to go back there to this summer of 89, and to want to confront my memories, and heal my pain.

By the end of August of that same year, I returned to Canada where my mother lived, to start college. I had graduated high school in June, and I had hoped that summer to be a special time for me since it is not everyday that one finishes high school at 15 years of age.

I started to hang out with a madam-type in that same group of small town delinquents, and at some point I shared with her what had happened. She was the one who first theorized that something had been put in my wine, and that I had been raped. I was not sure, and remained confused for years, since I was looking outside of me for authentication and support.

My new friend was a rising star in the group and the word got around about our friendship. Since the girls who had betrayed were still around, trying to climb the echelons in that gang, I received a phone-call from the one former friend whom I had been closest to. I guess she wanted “closure” on what had happened, and we had not talked since the incident in June.

We talked briefly in her car, and she denied any fault on her and their part, and was visibly getting upset at having to feel any blame. She claimed that she thought that I had wanted to stay there with the guy, since I had been openly flirting with him. Her response to my asking her why she would leave me sick in the toilet bowl despite my having asked her for help was to ask me to get out of her car, which I did. In general, people know deep down inside when they have done wrong; they may deny it until their death, but they know somewhere inside of them.

Healing sexual trauma

The first obstacle to my being able to heal myself was that I felt that I needed others to validate me and my pain. Part of the brainwashing I received as a child from my parents was that I was a melodramatic liar, who just sought attention by any means possible, and that I was never a victim: it was all my imagination.

Even after I started to become conscious of the fact that I could not continue to lead such a self-destructive life, I still avoided going back to the time I was raped, because the nasty voice I had in my head let me know that I was not a victim, but a manipulator. I doubted myself even more, and did not feel “worthy” of claiming to be a victim.

I feel I should emphasise here that I am writing this article to shed some light on the issue of rape, which hopefully will inspire others to overcome the effects of sexual assault in a healing way. I feel that going to court is very rarely the way to go, especially long after the incident, when one really wants to heal. There are cases in which the legal system can help to some extent, but in general, the courts prolong the pain, and deal with rape in such a way that the victim does not get out of the victim mode and labelling. This is not to say that rapists should go unpunished, but my goal here is to empower healing of rape and other issues, so that in the end, the rape is transformed into a powerful learning experience among the many we may have had in our life.

Back to healing: I should have turned inside earlier, and taken a real look at my life and the way I viewed my vulva and sexuality. My lifestyle and behaviour and the way I viewed myself had become more and more unhealthy. I had a fear of intimacy and was completely closed off to any physical contact. I hated my vulva to a point where I focused, intently, regularly, on shaving it all off, accompanied by regular nightmares of giant cockroaches raping me. Since the body and emotions are deeply connected, I ended up having stinging pain in my vagina for several years, without having an actual visible infection.

Donia hissing

The last obstacle to my letting myself go back to the rape to confront it and deal with it in a healthy way is that this incident did not fit my mental image of myself, the one I projected in the outside world. I saw myself as a warrior, a tough broad, and there hadn’t been enough violence and blood. I had been essentially passive, lying alone in a filthy room, smelling of vomit, numb to everything going on. Where was the “glory” in that? Had there been at least some violence, I would have felt like “a worthy victim”, one who could not have fought back.

The moral of this story is that if you have the willingness and intention to help yourself, you have everything you need. You are the one who is living your life, and nobody else knows as you do what you have been through and what you need to heal. A cat doesn’t ask permission to lick its wounds, and neither should you.

I was able to eventually turn the situation around by going back to the incident to feel and express the emotions, the energy, and the pain that came up inside of me. As I was revisiting the rape, I did so from a more conscious and especially self-compassionate perspective. It did not take long for my vulva juices to return to normal, and have my energy flow nicely and healthily in that area of my body.

Years later, although I had healed the emotional and physical aspects of my rape, I still had the humiliating images in my head, especially of the two girls walking in the room just to laugh at me. A healer in France pointed out that I needed to release these images. His healing session, which consisted of holding my head, and telling me to put these images into a big balloon which would then fly away, was not helpful to me, and nor did I like his energy. Nonetheless, his point about the images needing to be released was important.

I did realize that I needed to cleanse myself from the entire humiliation on a mental level since I was still replaying those images consciously. They affected my opinion of myself, and my self-worth, quite negatively. Just like with the emotions or pain in the body, the mind also needs to circulate; nothing should stay static and frozen in time and space.

Don’t force yourself, but do start to WANT to go there, slowly, until you are taken back to the haunting memories. Try to stay present, and not evade the memories. Let whatever wishes to come up, come up, including strange sounds. It all needs to come out, circulate, and be heard.

“I have seen this film already, quite a few times, and this is what happens”, is what I was finally able to tell myself. The pictures needed to flow, and not be frozen or denied. No longer are they parasites in my psyche; rather they are part of my own life movie, and they are now accepted and fully integrated in a balanced way in my life experience.

You will know you have healed the images associated with your rape, or any trauma, when you are able to look at them from a conscious observer position without judgements, just a clear assessment accompanied by compassionate understanding for what you went through. At last, you have accepted what the experience taught you, and your body and emotions are tranquil.

To recognise the fact of rape(s) in your life, and to identify yourself with rape are not the same.

While every case is unique, rape is essentially a violation of your body, sexually and otherwise. It is the imposition of one’s will and body over yours. There are different forms and degrees of rape, including date rape and marital rape, but I feel that it is primarily an issue to be resolved and healed within oneself.

One should not identify with rape too strongly, except when one is in the midst of overcoming the effects in a healing way. Identifying with rape too strongly gives it more power than it should have. This is especially true when the identification carries the judgement that one is marked for life by having been raped. No!

Everything can be cleansed, and begun again from a clean slate.

“Hi, my name is Donia, and I am a rape survivor.”
I cannot imagine introducing myself in such a way. I am not criticising the rape survivors’ groups at all; many times this sort of therapy is crucial, temporarily, to kick-starting the recovery process. What I am saying is that there is time and space for feeling and being the rape survivor, and there is also an equally important time to let go of this label, and to truly move on.

What is the point of real healing if you cannot transform and transcend the traumas? Am I only about my victim side? Isn’t there so much more about me than having survived rape? We need to be careful with the words by which we identify ourselves, because, after enough repetition and labeling, we start believing in those very words, and we become them, we embody them and we are severely limited by them.

I have known a few women who thought they got over having been raped, but they had not. They had moved on but without healing the deep pains, instead putting a band-aid on the wound. One of them had been gang-raped at 8 years of age, and by her mid-thirties, she was extremely promiscuous, barely able to be satisfied outside of rage sex or divisive sex (e.g. sleeping with her girlfriend’s boyfriend), and behaving in such a way that was damaging to her own heart, and to her true desire for love and children. Furthermore, her vulva was so dry that penetration during intercourse, which was the only thing she liked sexually with men, could often be quite painful.

So yes, there are long-term if not life-long consequences to being raped, but, if we really want to heal it, we can, and we need to go beyond the healing crisis, which is only a beginning. We need to be thorough with our inner selves in order to get to the point where we can and will remove those wounds from our body, and marks from our soul. As you are healing yourself from the damage of sexual assault, you will attract more people who will mirror what and where you are inside, and not have people simply push the painful buttons because of the compressed negativity and pain you carry. As my dad used to say, most people are like dogs: if they smell fear in you, they will go after you.

In my case, my self-hatred and nasty judgements against myself and my rape were so intense, that I had a friend who told me once, after I had allowed myself to share it with him briefly: “Yeah, well I don’t think there was blood or anything heavy. So it wasn’t that bad for you.” He then proceeded to describe me his long-term fantasy to get raped in a violent way. This is the same and former friend who once told me, upon finding out I had attempted suicide twice, that “suicide was for cowards.”

As painful as these sorts of comments are, they can help you indirectly, by making you realise and feel the depth and the extent of your own held beliefs and judgements against yourself.
Having said this, I would not recommend confiding in this type of person when we get victimised. You need to be strong and grounded to be around such cold, judgmental people, who make it their business to use your weaknesses against you and take no responsibility for what motivates their heartless reflections. In my case, I should not have shared with my mother what happened to me the night I was raped.
When we get raped or victimised, we are extremely fragile, our defences are down, and we have a tendency to sponge up words, fast and often unconsciously. It is important that we open up ONLY to the right people, and if we don’t have an outlet or a support through anyone we know, then taking refuge in nature, such as sitting by a tree, or going to the water, is the next best thing to do.

It is true that most, if not all, of the sex we know today is about domination and lies in one form or another. In that sense, I can empathise with women and men who have felt raped while in a seemingly “casual sex” situation.

This is why you need to trust yourself, and validate your own impression of any situation. If you feel you have been raped, then that in itself is what is important. Your feelings are your starting point.

Suggested Readings:

Emotional Intelligence

Visceral Reaction

Here and Now

KA Healing Retreats, between Caponga Beach and Cascavel in Ceara, Brazil