TW: Rape, CSA, Internalized Guilt
It’s that time of year again. When I was raped, it was not what you normally expect. I wasn’t penetrated. I was forced to penetrate. For a trans woman, that can be worse. I wasn’t on HRT yet, but I was out and I was presenting.
I’m not a “good” rape victim. That’s why I waited almost a week to tell anyone, and it’s why I didn’t tell anyone how it happened for almost six months. I am, if anything, the straw victim that most rape apologists look for. I not only literally walked myself into it, I had already negotiated for and participated in sex acts with the same stranger that did it.
That fact resonated so hard with me that for the first night, I believed it was OK and that I had enjoyed it and participated fully. It wasn’t until late the next afternoon that I admitted to myself how much fear motivated that response. Fear, and a lifetime of being taught that when things I “chose” went wrong that it was somehow my fault.
The long and short of it was that I was trapped in a space I felt I couldn’t leave, and the only way I could be sure the person would let me pass was by doing what they wanted. They never even saw my face and I didn’t see theirs. All they had to do was decide to do something without checking and then prevent me from leaving.
That was enough. It was the most violent thing I ever experienced, and I was someone who experienced CSA. The one thing I will say about that is that grooming ultimately made it feel less like an assault in the moment. It does its own damage, but it didn’t prepare me for the shock and the sudden panic that lasted for twenty-one months. It didn’t prepare me for the way it would separate me from my body, either, or for how that would affect everything from my physical strength to my ability to feel pleasure when touched.
In just the last few weeks, I have returned to myself in a way I am just now coming to understand. I’ve had breaks before, and I’ve had to start over. I’ve felt for months like I was walking underwater because of medical PTSD, academic stress and dissociation, abuse-related derealization, and even dysphoria-induced depersonalization. Nothing compares to the complete shattering and rebuilding that I have just experienced.
I will never be able to articulate the level of difference and the profundity of the experience, but reflect on this: I am a highly communicative and well-organized multiple personality system with a high degree of skill at explaining how my interior politics work. I’ve listened to all of myself as much as I needed to, so I could communicate through a profound denial that had me refusing to admit that some of my own thoughts actually existed because they came from a different me.
And this was the most profoundly identity-shattering thing I have ever experienced. My sexual orientation changed. On top of that, being trans, I got to experience a large number of bigoted women explaining to me that their transphobia isn’t, really, because their trauma is about my equipment even though they do accept me as a woman. It’s been an invalidating experience when I go into survivor spaces, and it’s why I haven’t spent a lot of time in them.
I’m never going to forget how people reacted. The partner who left me alone overnight a week after I asked to be watched for suicidal behavior. The workplace that started interrogating my use of the women’s room immediately after that. The friends who never checked in when my ability to check my emotions and make rational arguments suddenly shifted.
I’m also never going to forget the people who listened. The ones who assured me that I did not ask for it. The ones who helped me discover that the shift in my orientation wasn’t just trauma, but an actual fundamental change to who I am that owes at least as much to transition as it does to trauma.
It’s been two years. I can’t put a clock on it for anyone else, but if you’re the kind of person who needs to see a victim expose herself to you and then explain how long it took, you can use this number to reflect on your own choices about who you believe and who you don’t. You might also want to think about those women you wrote off because they suddenly started lashing out at you for no reason.
I just now recognize myself in the mirror for the first time in my life, and I just now recognize my own thoughts as being distinctly mine and not caused by that night for the first time in two years.
Thank you, to those of you who supported me. For those of you who want to start, my link is below. I’m proud to announce that I have twice weekly work queued up for the next five weeks. I might not be up to working full time yet, but I am at least working. I love you all.