Yesterday I came across a phrase in Facebook that really made me feel very uneasy. Someone commented someone else’s status being a “Facebook rape” as it obviously involved one person having got access to someone else’s page and adding a status there. In this case the status and the comments after were all made in a jokey kind of way. I understood the humour of the status as did the person whose page it was added to, but we both wished the commentators would have used other words to make fun of it.
The phrase has been churning in my mind since reading the comment, refusing to go away. My just having finished a novel by Karin Slaughter did not help matters. Normally reading a crime/mystery novel where the crime is a rape does not produce this kind of turmoil in me. It is the way it is referred to and written about, that makes the difference. When it happens in a well written and well researched novel, with well developed characters, although I feel for the characters and get really involved in the story, it does not cause the same turmoil as the joking about rape does. (A badly written or a badly researched novel just makes me angry or annoyed. You Can’t Hide by Karen Rose is one of those. In that novel a psychopath is presented as a schizophrenic – really bad research mudding the waters about schizophrenia.)
Rape and any kind of sexual abuse is still very common in our society. Karin Slaughter writes at the end of the novel Triptych (the one I just finished) that: “In the United States of America, it is estimated that every minute, 1.3 women are raped.” The havoc these kinds of attacks on people cause to an individual and to the whole family often lasts a lifetime. My own experiences have somehow fallen into the murky waters of my memory only occasionally surfacing causing varied amounts of pain, humiliation and shaking of hands. The earlier one happening over 45 years ago is the more painful one, the one that I find it difficult to write about even now. The marital rape happening regularly over the five or so years I remained in the marriage is much easier to write about. The amount of actual physical violence or the threat of it was very present in my marriage and not really at all in the childhood event. The marital rape was and feels even now a kind of mundane event as it happened regularly every other night regardless of how I felt physically or emotionally. It was bad and it still feels bad, but it was one of those things that I had to learn to accept as a married woman, I thought. I did not even know that it could have been classified as rape until after I had left my ex husband. I now know it was rape because I submitted to it out of fear; if I did not, violence followed. (And just an aside – I never knew what an orgasm was until long after I had left my ex husband, never having experienced it before then, never even having heard the word.)
The havoc caused by rape is very individual. Some people get over it easier than others. It does not mean that they would not feel violated in the same way, they just can cope with these events easier (they might find something else really difficult). I think I have on the whole been able to deal with my experiences and continue my life and enjoy my life fairly well. My first born daughter, on the other hand, slowly fell to pieces and for some years our lives were full of pain and suffering.
My daughter had moved away from home when the first rape happened and the second one happened when she was visiting her father’s family in their country. Both happened in very similar circumstances a couple of years apart. In both cases she woke up at night with a man on top of her not being able to push them off and neither of them accepting no as an answer when she woke up. Although my daughter was never quite her old self after the first rape her mental health deteriorated faster after the second one. She started experimenting with some drugs, never actually becoming a heavy user. As far as I know she used ecstacy and LSD when attending some raves or music events. She managed to finish her university studies achieving an upper second class degree.
I knew she was not really coping with life and paid for her to have counselling. Eventually she moved back to live with me and my youngest daughter, who was only ten then, and that was when I finally saw how bad things were. Her mind was full of violence and rape. She saw all people around us as rapists. She asked her little sister one morning if I had had “penetrative sex with her at night”? The little one did not understand what it meant and asked me. She reported rapes and murders she heard being committed in the houses and flats around our house to the police either by telephone or by person at the police station. I got telephone calls from the police asking me to go and take her home.
I tried to get help from my doctor who told me that as she was an adult she had to go and register at the surgery and then they can help us. I could not persuade my daughter to do it. Finally a friend who visited and realised what was going on told me about a mental health helpline. She said I could call them without having to go through my doctor. I did that after my daughter told me that she wished I was dead. She wanted to kill me and would dance on my grave. The call resulted in a visit from three doctors to come and assess my daughter. Although I had told the helpline (like I had told my doctor) what had been going on, my daughter managed to behave quite reasonably and she was only assessed as having a thought disorder. So nothing was done and things continued as before at home. After three more assessment, one bungled attempt to take her to a hospital, and another with the help from the police, she was taken to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and put on medication. After six months she came home and we had a social worker coming to see her initially once a week and then once a month and eventually stopping altogether.
I moved with my youngest daughter here six years ago. My oldest daughter was by then doing well on medication. She rented her own flat and got a job in a garden centre. She is studying horticulture by correspondence while working part time in that same garden centre. Her medication was slowly reduced and a few months ago it was stopped altogether. And she is now pregnant. I am going to be a grandmother in a few months time. My daughter does not remember all the horrible things she did and said when she was really ill and I like it that way. However, I keep wondering sometimes where it all came from. How could she love me so much when she is well and hate me so much when she was ill? And all the time I keep watching and listening to see that she stays really well and trying not show anyone that I do so. And sometimes I am scared by the violent thoughts I have about those men who raped my beautiful daughter.