WEATHER »

The Pain of Denial


Recovering the Memory of Rape

by Dorothy Segovia “If you want to find out why you have failed relationships, don’t look to your father, look to your first love.” I’m reading a book by Marion Woodman, twirling my hair around my finger, and reminiscing out loud. “Mike T., blond, athletic. Gene G. Another blond. Beelzebub (not his real name), he took me boogie boarding on Thanksgiving morning when I was 19. We always sent birthday cards, we, oh my God. Beelzebub raped me.”

It’s a terrible thing for your body to be feeling cute one minute and raped the next. Luckily I was lying on the couch at the time because when that memory traveled from my brain into my body, I knew that I was going down. I grabbed my cell and called Karen. No answer. Five no-answers led me to the rape crisis center. I was able to meet with them immediately.

The thing about cellular memory is that when it’s time, it’s time. My body knew that it was safe for me to remember the trauma. Really remember. Earlier that summer I had a dream about what happened, but I didn’t have any emotions about it.

I had met B for drinks at a bar that day. We had been friends more than 15 years, since I was in the sixth grade. He always had a big crush on me, but I didn’t return his feelings. He had long-term girlfriends, and we were pals. Several times we drank too much and passed out together in the same bed. Nothing sexual had ever happened. In fact, a sexual abuse incident had happened to his younger sister. He was appalled, empathetic, and angry. On this evening, I was too drunk to drive and crashed out in his room. He shared a place with his brother otherwise I might have slept on the couch.

After awhile, he began touching me, pleading “Come on.” I was pissed. I shoved him away, but you know how it is when you’re drunk. Danger alarms weren’t sounding in my head because Beelzebub was my friend. Being safe was without question. But it dawned on me that something different was happening, something that I didn’t want. I feebly pushed him.

“No, get away. What the fuck are you doing?” He kept repeating “Come on, why won’t you?”

The next thing I knew he shoved his narrow little weenie into me. Finally I stopped participating: no moving, no talking. Nothing. Then he stopped. I know that he didn’t ejaculate because I remember him pulling his still stiff penis out of me. I was relieved. I rolled to my side trying to sleep. I felt scared and incredibly sad. I couldn’t talk about it. The next morning B drove me to my car. The last time I heard from B was to get an invitation to his wedding, which I did not attend. The rape happened about 15 years ago. I reclaimed the memory last spring.

Emotional denial is like being in a horror movie that you are too frightened to watch. I kept leaving for popcorn during the scary parts. Once I had the courage to sit in the dark with the betrayal, there was nowhere else for the pain to go but into my body.

It breaks my heart that my childhood friend did this to me. Yet, it is easier to forgive him than myself. I have learned through counseling that women often blame themselves. How could we not? Growing up female in our rape culture taught me that men have license to say anything they want to about my body. I learned that I should be grateful, happy, flattered — anything but angry. In fact, when I went to lunch with a girlfriend to celebrate the fact that I had recovered a memory, I drew a crayon picture of a yelling woman on the butcher paper tablecloth. The waitress came by and said that she liked the angry girl. But my friend told me that if I was going to be angry then she wasn’t going to be able to be my friend during this process. Even women blame women. It was my fault because I drank too much. I climbed into his bed. By nature, guys are waiting for women to pass out so they can rape us without being accountable. I should have known better.

Belief in this psychic myth is why I stuffed down the memory. I live in a society that teaches its citizens that women’s bodies are not our own. Our bodies are for men: Television, music, films, and posters at the corner liquor store scream that women are sexually willing and waiting. I learned from teaching songwriting to young men that unless they are taking advantage of this, they are not real men. One such female bonanza is known across America as Spring Break.

The symptoms of my addictions that buried the rape were a cry from myself to listen to my Self. They were leading me to my wound. Through counseling, collage, and other expressive arts, I am healing this trauma. At 44 years old, I am now discovering that I am safe living in this world as a vibrant, beautiful woman. Healing means believing Marion Woodman when she writes: “What if your symptoms are trying to heal you?” I know my symptoms were trying to heal me.

My healing also means writing the truth. It means naming our cultural pain: the fact that one in four sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, and lovers have been raped. This means we are all feeling the pain. We don’t need to go to Iraq to fight a war. We have one right here. Rape itself is a symptom of cultural denial — the denial that we live with, accept, and condone the fact that half of our citizens are considered sexual prey.

Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center Crisis Intervention Training: Apr. 19-June 12, Mon. and Wed., 6-10 p.m. Certified Sexual Assault Counselors provide information and support to survivors of sexual violence, their family members, and friends, and can join the Speakers’ Bureau to help educate our community about preventing sexual assault. For more information and an application, call 963-6832 x28; the 24-Hour Bilingual, Confidential Hotline at 564-3696; or visit sbrapecrisiscenter.org.

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