How I went from being a rape victim to a survivor
Jakarta / Tue, August 7, 2018 / 01:51 pm
In answering, I wish I can just refer to the following words: If you’re a rape victim, then you are also a survivor. Automatically.
Every second you choose to keep on going, even though it feels like the breath gets knocked out of you anytime anything remotely related to the incident comes up, that is surviving.
Every second you’re living as a rape victim, you are also a survivor.
Those words are something I wholeheartedly believe in now, but not I didn’t always.
I was raped at a very young age; so young that I cannot remember exactly how old I was, only that it must have been before I was 9 because that was the last time I lived in that neighborhood.
I was also raped twice, by two separate people. Yes, they were both people I knew. One, a university-aged neighbor who would always play with the kids in the bloc, slowly gaining our trust before he started molesting each of us one by one – sometimes, even when we were together.
Nothing makes you support sexual education in Indonesian schools more than the experience of having yourself and your two best friends molested – each of us casually talking about the weird experience afterwards, because none of us understood the severity of the long-term damage it would have on our mental and physical health.
One day, the molestation turned into full-blown rape. We didn’t tell our parents about it, because our university-aged neighbor friend told us not to. We weren’t told that our bodies belonged only to ourselves and no one should be allowed to touch it when we haven’t explicitly told them they can. And by no one, I mean not even our own family members.
I say that because the second person who raped me was a family member. Don’t ask me who; I have blocked this second incident so strongly that the only things I remember are the room, the time of day and waking up to a distant uncle/cousin/relative pushing down on me saying “just close your eyes and enjoy it”.
Here, I will remind you that I was not even 9 years old, so I did as I was told. But this time, I was fully aware that this is a repeat of that experience with the university-aged neighbor who I no longer trusted.
To this day, I have never tried finding out who this family member was, mostly because I’m not sure I could handle it if I found out.
So how do you recover from something like that?
Rape is not something you will ever completely recover from, and the first step to getting better is accepting that. It does not mean you are weak, it does not mean you are less, it does not mean you are broken goods. It just means that this experience will stay with you and impact how you are as a person – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Even when you have moments where you feel weak and less and broken – it’s okay to be feeling like that, but remember that they are just moments and you, as a person, are more than your current feelings.
The rape will break you down, over and over. Even after you think you’ve completely healed, the memories come back sometimes like a bullet train straight to your chest and you find yourself unable to function.
If there’s one thing I know I’m an absolute pro at, it’s crying. Loudly, silently, angrily, calmly, spontaneously, intentionally – I have cried in all the ways one could cry to get most of this pain out of me. It’s been almost 20 years and I still cry to cope with any emotional overload.
It’s not all submissive – I have also dreamed of revenge fantasies where all the people who sexually assaulted me suddenly died a mysterious death. The point is, you will be inclined to a certain coping strategy, and as long as it helps you cope and as much as possible, and does not cause others harm, please, please keep doing it.
Efforts at acceptance – tick. Coping strategy – tick. This final thing may be where it gets tricky: processing what happened. That means talking about it. That means talking about how you feel – no matter how ashamed you are of those feelings. The more you talk about how you feel the rape impacted you, the more you will heal.
The problem I ran into is that I had nobody to talk to about what happened to me as a child. When the #MeToo movement hit Indonesia, I posted. Nobody asked. I tried talking to some friends about it, but after a while, I sensed they were uncomfortable – mostly because they didn’t know what to say.
I can understand. If it hadn’t happened to me, I probably wouldn’t know what to say either. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to talk about it.
My savior was the numerous online blogs and forums and public figures who would be so open in sharing their experiences. This was all I depended on until I could earn enough money to see a non-judgmental therapist.
But you’d be surprised at how many kind strangers there are in the world. One public figure would always answer my direct messages and even checked on me from time to time to make sure I was still doing okay. Reach out – it may not happen in your first few tries, but eventually you will find someone who will be there for you and help you through all this.
At the very least, I want you to know you are not alone in feeling this pain. It doesn’t matter how little you think you’ve become. If you’re reading this, you are a survivor – and that’s all you need to be. (kes)
This piece is published under a pseudonym to protect the writer’s identity. The Jakarta Post has attained proof of identity from the writer.