When you are on the fence, the final reassurance can come from anywhere. Mine was a photo on Instagram. But that is near the end of this chapter. Let me backtrack a couple of decades. In 1974, I was raped. It happened the Thursday after Memorial Day. I have always grieved during the anniversary week.
Recently I have grown and changed in ways I didn’t think possible. With the dreaded week approaching, I decided I would do something different. I hit on the idea of blogging out the episodes leading up to and after the rape. I was super excited by the project. My therapist suggested maybe I could also find a way of celebrating, use the day to note my changes. I considered diner with my husband, ice cream with friends.
I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. Simultaneously the idea was electrifying and terrifying. It was all I could think of, the only action I could imagine taking. Part of me wanted to be talked out of it. I discussed it in private forums with other men in similar situations. My therapist enthusiastically supported it. Then I saw the photo. My trainer, Nick Deacon was visiting Austin and posted it. Behind him was a huge sign that spoke to me. I knew I was planning the right thing.
In therapy you tell your story, say what happened. For me, my history is a fragmented knot culminating in the rape. It’s always been extremely difficult for me to freely speak it. I struggled to dislodge my voice from beneath the shame. Only a few ever knew my secret.
The past few years I have worked on growing out of those restraints. I have an incredible support team that includes my husband, therapist, trainer and friends. Outside of that, the most powerful tool was hearing and reading other men’s stories. I started to recognize a common humanity in men I never dared to compare myself to. From them I learned to extend compassion towards myself.
I executed my plan first thing in the morning. It was simply a post on Facebook: “I was raped last night, 43 years ago. Today I celebrate RESURRECTION”. I expected to feel defiant for a few minutes and then be buried by kitty videos. That isn’t what happened. The response was massive and loving. Over and over people commented on my bravery and thanked me for breaking silence.
The following day, for the first time I identified myself as a Rape Survivor. I felt proud and empowered. To my surprize there is no hint of victim in the title. By outing myself, I was able to completely own my story, to claim publicly my triumph. That sign looming large behind my friend simply read “Live a Great Story”. I can now live mine fully and openly. And there is so much more to come.