Though I've mentioned it briefly before, this was a really hard post to write. Warning: it contains language and subject matter that may be triggering for people who've experienced traumas. To make myself feel better, and probably alienate my readers in the process, I will be interspersing inappropriately amusing photographs.
It's my defense mechanism.
For forty minutes I've been sitting here, and I've written two sentences. Wow. Okay. There is just no good angle from which to tackle this, is there. This is kind of disjointed.
When I was an adolescent, I was raped four times.
Talking about it doesn't make you feel better, but not talking about it is like living in hell.
The thing about rape is that it shatters your psyche. It isn't just a physical violation, it's a violation of every level of your personhood at once. Emotional, sexual, relational, spiritual.
The first time, I was a thirteen year old boy. He was eighteen or nineteen, I think. It was on a church trip. Nobody knew, for years.
The church didn't do much when they found out, years later, three more rapes later; asked him to leave the congregation. I don't think they did anything else. I'm not sure why: afraid the scandal would hurt the congregation, maybe, or hurt me. Perhaps they wanted him to have a chance to repent. It's a damn shame that forgiveness and indulgence get confused so often. There's no inconsistency in forgiving a man and still demanding that he be disciplined.
For a year after that, I believed there was no such thing as free will. At the time, I thought it was just the logical outworking of my Calvinism, and it was. But it was also a reaction. I didn't want there to be a me that that had happened to; but if it happened to a thing, a puppet, that wasn't so bad. Looking back, I'm stunned at my own callousness.
On the credit side, that is a beard for the ages.
I started thinking about killing myself when I was fourteen. I was too scared to do it, but I fantasized about it for hours at a time. The thought recurred every few months at least, until my conversion to the Catholic faith. I've never seriously entertained the idea since.
The second, third, and fourth times were when I was sixteen. They stopped because we were caught. I got yelled at, twice, the second time by my therapist (not the therapist I have now). I felt I was to blame; no one told me any different.
I started cutting after that. It lasted for maybe a year. I think I only told two people; I gave my pocketknife to one of them. I pretty much quit after that, barring an episode when I was twenty, shortly before converting, where I beat myself against a brick wall, after hearing a talk about chastity at a campus ministry I was involved in.
I still have a very complicated relationship to touch. It's my primary love language; I crave it like I crave water when I'm thirsty. And yet, if I'm touched unexpectedly, I jump as if I've been shocked. I think this, far more than being gay, is also a root of my ambivalence about sex.
I don't know why it's from Star Trek, just go with it.
The thoughts I had about myself -- self-hatred is weirdly addictive -- would be unreadable if they weren't indescribable. Even recollecting some of the words makes me almost dizzy: filthy, ugly, piece of shit, worthless, disgusting, slut. I remember once thinking vindictively of myself, after a cutting session, There, the outside matches the inside.
All this is part of why Victor literally saved my life. Without trying to, and without knowing he was doing it. He actually believed that God loved people, and he showed me love -- and this is important -- without thinking about it. It was just the natural thing to do, as far as he was concerned. The idea that I could be -- was -- an object of love ... I can't describe the change.
The same thing, curiously, has happened again over the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure why, but I've awakened recently to the fact that there are people in my life who, for whatever reason, give a shit about whether I live or die, and are not always secretly waiting for me to get the hell out so that they can have a relieving break from my presence. The thing is -- and this will probably sound strange to my sane readers, if there are any -- that concept blows my mind. The idea that somebody would want me around, me the person, is so alien to my mind that, most of the time, I literally can't believe it.
Please note that, as grateful as I am both for love and the power to accept it, this still applies. Sorry for any mixed signals.
Being raped turns you into a thing in the most degrading sense: sex, which is supposed to be (among other things) perhaps the most intimately personal act of embrace, is made into a vehicle for predation, for using someone like a thing and throwing them away like a thing, treating their very personhood as if it didn't exist. You're wanted exclusively for your physical mechanics.
In a way, this confirms my rejection of ex-gay theory twice over. My homoerotic desires and impulses predate the rapes, for one thing; for another, if this were really the formative influence, then frankly, ex-gay stuff should have worked for me, and it absolutely didn't.
Why talk about it? In my experience, and in that of the handful of other victims I've known, being able to talk about it is a prerequisite for survival. That which is not acknowledged cannot be healed. And seeing someone else talk about proves two things: first, that survival is possible; and second, that it can be talked about -- there are safe people in the world, people who get it.
In addition to that, the responses I've sometimes heard (secondhand -- I've been spared most of these, thank God) leave me flabbergasted by their heartless stupidity. Blaming the victim for being manipulative or provocative? Yeah, because kids are sexually alluring all the time, and they certainly understand the gravity of the situation, which is why it's their responsibility and not that of the adult.
Neil Patrick Harris, on the other hand, I make no apology for.
Saying to just forgive it and move on? Forgive, absolutely, but there is no such thing as just forgiving: Christ didn't just forgive His executioners; He forgave them. That is an act of heroic compassion, powered by Divine grace -- that is, by the life of God, manifest in us. And as for moving on, what the fuck kind of advice is that to give somebody who has to grieve their own innocence? If I can trust my own experience, you don't move on, you pick up the shattered pieces of your psyche and build a new one. And that takes years. And the task defeats some of us.
Talking about it can help restrain some of the idiotic, cruel replies some people make. I tend to think a lot of those replies are fueled more by the fact that the subject makes people uncomfortable than by anything to do with wisdom or charity. If there's one thing everybody seems to hate, it's not knowing what to say; and when it comes to this, a lot of people don't know what to say. Which would be fine, if it were admitted.
Not least because a lot of times what we need is not advice, but just someone there with us, showing that they don't think we're a thing and they don't think we're ugly. That we're wanted, and worth wanting.
And if touch as a love language doesn't come naturally, just pretend that we're in an adaptation of a Stephen King novel that inexplicably doesn't seem to take place in New England, and you need to reassure yourself that reality is still there. But try not to think about the leech thing.