“You save yourself or you remain unsaved”
Alice Sebold – Lucky
Truth time here. A handful of people in my real life know about my experience of male violence. It is not something I am ashamed of, I just tend not to share my experiences freely.
When I have shared in real life, my reasons for telling have varied: to gain support, understanding. To shock, to scare, to challenge. Or often to give a voice to the memories that I hold with in my body, my mind and my heart.
Yet in recent years, and certainly on this blog, I am talking more openly and frequently than ever before. This is because it no longer haunts me. Moreover, the reactions of others will no longer shape how I feel about myself.
Reactions to disclosure vary greatly and have very much affected me. Disbelief which shapes my self-doubt. Minimising which supported my own dismissal. Uncaring which led me to believe that what had happened was unimportant. Anger: at me, at him, at everyone – which to be frank scared and angered me. Then pity, shame – that I was somehow damaged, less-than. Fascination – as if I am a project. Finally, admiration. It was this last one I could never quite understand. Being a survivor seemed to have a status that I could have never foreseen. A sense of pride to be associated with me. I survived years of horrific violence from childhood to now and I don’t know how I did it. It wasn’t down to bravery: I just didn’t know what else to do. I considered suicide but couldn’t make it past the thought, for reasons unknown. I feel an imposter when I am ‘awarded’ with awe.
I don’t write this to silence those of you that have reacted to my disclosures: most of which have been so incredibly supportive, loving and respectful. I guess I need to share that all I need is to have my voice heard. Support, empathy, care, and belief are all incredibly important, but the fact that I can still speak and be heard is paramount. It’s a hard thing to do, to just listen, which is why I am cautious about who I talk to. Just know that if it is too much, I will understand.
I’m still here. Despite the best efforts of some very abusive men, I’m still here. I’m here because at the time, I had no other options. I’m still here today because in the end, I chose to save myself.
This post was inspired by a passage from a painful and powerful book. Lucky is a true life account of Alice Sebold’s experience of rape. It is a must-read for so many reasons (I can’t stress enough how incredible this book is). There are so many parallels with her frame of reference to my own. It is this excerpt that inspired this post.
“After telling the hard facts to anyone from lover to friend, I have changed in their eyes. Often it is awe or admiration, sometimes it is repulsion, once or twice it has been fury hurled directly at me for reasons I remain unsure of. Some men and lesbians see it as a turn-on or a mission, as if by sexualizing our relationship they can pull me back from the wreckage of that day. Of course, their best efforts are largely useless. No one can pull anyone back from anywhere.
You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”