Thirty-Seven Years Later and Healing from Rape- Chat Transcript
The Pandora's Aquarium chat room welcomed M.A. Walker as a guest speaker on January 26th 2013. M.A. Walker is the author of From My Lips to God's Ears and has now set out to help other rape victims find their voice too.
Moderator: We are delighted to have M.A. Walker
with us tonight. M.A. is the author of the book called "From my lips to
God's ear". She believes in speaking out about her experiences of rape
and the struggles she faced in order to help other survivors.
We'll begin by asking the questions already submitted and if we have time we might be able to take a few extra questions at the end of the chat. Thank you all for coming. M.A. if you are ready we can start now.
Question: I told my parents what happened and they didn't believe me. Were you silent because you thought your family wouldn't believe you?
M.A. Walker: I am sure my parents would have believed me if I had confided in them about my attack. I also think they would have insisted on seeking professional help for me. In hindsight you can't imagine how much I wish I had done just that. I can't help but wonder how much easier my life might have been if I had not kept everything a secret for so long.
The main reason I didn't tell my parents about the rape is because I did not want to bring embarrassment or shame on my family, and in my naive way of thinking I felt this was the best way to handle things. I loved my parents very much. They were well-known and respected in the community and I wanted to protect them from this type of public embarrassment. I felt so humiliated and degraded that I just wanted to forget about what had happened. However, the truth is you can't forget and the problem will not go away.
I knew that if I reported what had happened, then I would be interrogated by people I didn't know and I couldn't imagine describing my attack to a stranger. What if that person didn't believe me? My attacker had warned me not to say anything about what had happened or "the next time it would be worse". I took his threat very seriously. His threat frightened me into keeping silent. I realize now that is very common. At that moment, with that threat, my attacker took control of my life and I was accepting the consequences of living my life in fear.
I'm so sorry that your parents did not believe you. That probably is the case more times than we would like to think, especially if the attacker is someone known to the family. The parents don't want to believe that someone they know and trust would violate their child in such a terrible way. The most important thing I can say to you is that you did the right thing by confiding in your parents. Parents are usually the first people a young person will turn to for help. In your case that didn't turn out so well.
The second most important thing I want to say to you is that you still must tell someone, because your need for help increases as time goes on. There must be someone in your life you can turn to who will help you find professional help - a trusted friend, another relative, someone you work with. It is not too late. Pray and ask God to direct you and help you find the right people to help you deal with this tragedy. If you don't, I'm afraid your life will follow a path very similar to the one I described in my book. That is what I am trying to prevent by going public with my story.
Question: Were you still in school, if so, how did you cope with pretending you were okay?
M.A. Walker: Yes, I was in school. Looking back, I don't think you could say I coped very well at all. Life as I had known it stopped the moment of my attack. I became disengaged. I avoided my boyfriend and spent a lot of time alone. My parents were so worried and confused by my sudden change in behavior that they took me to a counselor. However, because I had already decided that I would never tell anyone about my attack, I did not co-operate with him. He misdiagnosed me as having a reading disability and predicted that I would not be particularly successful academically. I lived with that label for many years. As time went on I became more depressed and withdrawn. I didn't want to participate in the activities that had previously made me happy.
The one thing that gave me relief was the fact that I had studied music for many years and playing the piano brought a calming peace to me. Playing the piano was the one way I was able to participate in school functions and try to fit in. I felt comfortable doing that because people focused on the music, not the girl making the music.
Question: I was also raped by someone I knew and trusted. Is it really possible to forget this and move on with your life?
M.A. Walker: I can't imagine anyone would forget being raped. I think it will always be in your memory. The important thing to remember is that you have to decide if that event is going to define you and determine how you will live the rest of your life. If you focus on hate and revenge you will end up living with a victim mentality for the rest of your life. That is what I did and I can assure you it is a very self-destructive decision. You have to acknowledge that the rape did occur and understand that it was not your fault. Either you continue to punish yourself for something that someone else did to you, or you decide that you want to regain control of your life and seek healing and renewed hope.
You can't expect to do this without the professional help of a psychiatrist trained in dealing with this type of abuse.
Question: What happened to make you accept you needed to talk after so many years?
M.A. Walker: My life had become extremely tortured. I was so miserable and unhappy that I finally realized I couldn't go on living with all this emotional pain. I was so full of self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness that I even tried to end my own life on more than one occasion.
The catalyst that sent me in search of a psychiatrist was seeing my attacker many years after the event had happened. We were mature adults by then, except that he was happy whereas I was extremely miserable. His life was turning out as he had planned it would. He was married with a lovely family and a successful career whereas I was still living with my victim mentality, hating myself, and wishing I could find a way to end my tortured life. Everything just seemed to be so unfair. I began to acknowledge that I was living a life of self-imprisonment. I was crippled by fear, but the most frightening part was the fact that my suicidal thoughts were beginning to reoccur. I had reached such a level of desperation that I decided I had no other options.
I needed professional help. Something just had to change. I didn't have the energy to continue living that way any longer.
Question: Have you ever pressed charges against your attacker?
M.A. Walker: No, I have never pressed charges against him. He has never admitted that he raped me.
Question: Why didn't you want to press charges against him?
M.A. Walker: At the time of the attack I was young and scared to death. He had warned me that I must never tell anyone what had happened. I was afraid that he would retaliate against me or my family in some way and I didn't want to be responsible for them getting hurt. Both of our families were well-known and respected in the community and if I revealed what he had done to me it would result in causing hurt and public embarrassment for his family as well as mine. In my mind that was just going to cause a lot of hurt for a lot of innocent people. Things like this get very messy, and I didn't have the courage to go public with my story at the time that it happened. Revenge and punishment are not my motivators at this stage of my life. The time for that has passed. I now want to focus my energies on continuing to heal and working toward a brighter future.
Question: How were you able to trust someone enough to get help?
M.A. Walker: Learning to trust was a huge obstacle for me. It was the reason I waited for three decades before I finally sought help. I was afraid I might meet someone from Human Services that I knew and my secret might be revealed. I was afraid of the embarrassment and humiliation that would create. When life gets so burdensome that you can no longer bear up under the weight you are not left with many options. It took every ounce of courage I had to make that initial appointment to go for help – navigating through the system was challenging.
However, I can tell you honestly, it was the wisest choice I had made up until that point in my life. If only I had done it years earlier! If you are struggling to get the courage to seek help, I want to encourage you to do it now. Don't wait like I did, learn from my mistake. That is the main reason I agreed to publish [release] my book and reveal my secret to the world. If there is someone you are really comfortable with, why not ask that person to assist you in seeking the help of a trained psychiatrist? Your future happiness depends on this.
Question: Do you consider yourself healed?
M.A. Walker: I think healing in my case is an ongoing process. I have a much healthier mental state now and I credit the love and support of my parents and the compassionate counseling of my psychiatrist for helping me to get to this point. In my case, I had to learn to forgive my attacker for what he had done to me. By doing that I was finally taking away his control over my life. For me that was the first step in reclaiming my life and stop living with a victim mentality.
The need for forgiveness did not stop there. All my life I had hated my adolescent self for being so weak and vulnerable. I became self-abusive because unconsciously I wanted to kill that weak, helpless girl who was raped. I had to learn not only to love that helpless girl, but also to forgive her and not blame her for what had happened. Taking forgiveness one step further, I had to also forgive my adult self for all the self-destructive things I had done throughout the years. I had also created a lot of heartache and confusion in the lives of people who truly loved me and cared about me. I felt a lot of guilt about that as well.
As I learned to understand what had happened to me, and why I reacted the way I did, I sought God's forgiveness for my sinful mistakes. The cleansing relief that brought to my life helped me to show forgiveness to my attacker as well as my self. I am learning that forgiveness is so important to my well being. It has taken me many years to understand this. My psychiatrist, my Christian parents, a pastor and some trusted friends have all played a part in teaching me this valuable lesson.
Question: Did you feel responsible for the attack because you knew who it was?
M.A. Walker: I did spend a lot of time thinking about the attack and wondering if there was something that I did to cause it to happen. Research has shown that many rape victims assume that in some way they must be to blame for the attack, especially if the perpetrator was someone that they knew. The truth is you are not to blame for the rape; it is not your fault. It is wrong to assume the blame for something for which you are not responsible.
Question Were you able to keep seeing your boyfriend after the attack? Or did you break up with him?
M.A. Walker: I felt so humiliated and degraded because of my rape. I didn't want my boyfriend to know what had happened. I considered myself to be "damaged goods" and I guess I thought he wouldn't want to have anything to do with me if he knew about it. I became very withdrawn and depressed and spent a lot of time alone. I broke up with him, but he never really understood why and I couldn't tell him. I created a lot of hurt and confusion for him and he didn't know what to do. He felt rejected and thought I broke up with him because of something that he had done.
Question: Did your boyfriend know his friend was going to attack you?
M.A. Walker: My boyfriend, Geoff had no idea that his best friend was planning such a horrible attack. If he had any idea that Michel was capable of such an atrocity he would have done everything in his power to protect me.
Question: How long did it take you to write your book?
M.A. Walker: The writing of my book took six and a half years. There were interruptions during that time, but indeed it was a long process. In the spring of 2001, during my final visit with my psychiatrist, he predicted that someday I would write a book that would prove to be helpful to other rape victims. I scoffed at his prediction because I didn't even like to read books, so I couldn't imagine myself writing one.
My psychiatrist had explained that writing my story would serve as a self-help healing tool so I decided in November to begin writing. I never intended that my story would be released to the general public because it was not only extremely personal, it was also humiliating and very embarrassing. My original manuscript was almost 550 pages! I didn't have a pre-conceived plan for my writing, I just sat down one day and began to release all my pent-up rage, humiliation, hopelessness, sadness, and…eventually …hope. Knowing that no one would ever see it, I felt completely free to write in the most uninhibited way.
My room-mate (at that time) suggested that I look into having my manuscript bound into a book as a keepsake for having reached the end of this long and painful journey. Imagine my surprise when representatives from the publishing company encouraged me to publish my book for the general public! Like my psychiatrist, they felt my story had the voice of encouragement that other rape victims needed to hear. When the representatives from the publishing company finally convinced me to tell my story to the public I had to sort through almost 550 pages of the original manuscript to decide what parts I was willing to share and what parts would forever be kept secret. That was an extremely difficult task.
My hope is that by sharing my story others would learn from my experience and not make some of the mistakes that I did.
Question: What type of emotional support did you have while writing?
M.A. Walker: Although my psychiatrist had encouraged me to write about my experience, I was very reluctant to follow his advice. Later, my roommate (who was the only other person who knew about my rape) kept prompting me to follow the doctor's suggestion. I was no longer in therapy when I actually began the writing process. Many times I wanted to stop. It was hard to relive all those painful memories, but my roommate kept urging me to write the book. He felt it was important. Without his support and encouragement it is possible I never would have brought this project to completion.
Question: What was the most rewarding part about writing this book?
M.A. Walker: It gave me the closure I was longing for, and liberated me from the tortured life I had lived in for more than thirty years.
Question: Do you have plans for another book?
M.A. Walker: No, I have no plans for writing another book. This has been a very exhausting and time consuming assignment, and it is still not quite finished. I am presently working with a screenplay writer who is helping to write my story for the big screen. I am not sure when that work will be completed, but once it is finished I think it will be time to do something new with my life.
Question: Is your book aimed at women specifically? Can male survivors gain any benefit from reading her book?
M.A. Walker: My book is intended to provide insight to all victims of abuse. Gender is not the important issue here.
Question: Did you feel like you've made any significant steps in your healing?
M.A. Walker: Yes definitely!
Question:what does it mean to forgive the attacker? and how do you go about it?
M.A. Walker: The significant thing about forgiving my attacker is that I was taking away his control over my life. For so many years I had lived imprisoned in fear. Don't think for one minute that was an easy thing to do. I certainly could not have done it without the help of my psychiatrist. As you read through my book you will get a better idea of how that came about. I hope the screenplay will portray what I refer to as "a spiritual awakening" in more detail than you find in my book.
Question: I am struggling with being labeled as a "victim". How do I accept that the "r" happened and that I did do enough?
M.A. Walker: Here again I want to encourage you to seek professional counseling. Are you presently in therapy? Cruel as it sounds, you are a victim and you have to find a way (with help) to accept that. The next question is will you decide to live the rest of your life as a victim - that is what I did for over 30 years. Or will you regain control of your life again? Then you will be able to determine your own destiny. Right now it sounds like your attacker is in control of you and that is sad. It is also unfair.
Question: Is the book available for e book (kindle, nook, etc?)
M.A. Walker: MA Walker: Yes my book is available in paperback (ISBN 13: 978-1-4568-5667-0), Hardcover (ISBN 13: 978-1-4568-56668-7 and is available for any e-reader, Kindle, nook, Kobo (ISBN 13: 978-1-4568-5669-4), Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Barns and Noble, etc. or through my website: http://www.frommylipstogodsears.com, or my Publisher, Xlibris: http://www.Xlibris.com. Or you can order through my social media site. http://frommylipstog...wordpress.com/. Or you can follow me on Twitter: @MaryAnnWalker5 or on Facebook: http://www.facebook....maryann.walker3
Question: What would you recommend to a survivor who wants to share their story with the world as well, but maybe is too afraid (and doesn't have the resources or finances) to write and publish a book?
M.A. Walker: To answer that question, perhaps the thing for you to do is join a self-help group. You can lend understanding and sympathy to other victims and I expect that in return you will get support and healing from the others as well. Everyone does not need to be in a "big arena". Don't put yourself in a situation that will make you more uncomfortable than you already are. This is a long healing process that you are on. Once again I ask if you are receiving professional counseling. The person you must take care of first is YOU! I am sure, as the years go by, you will find opportunities to lend the hand of healing to other victims. Be careful. Just take one step at a time. Keep in touch with folks like us here in the chat room, we all hear your pain and will help in whatever way we can. You are not in this struggle alone - remember that.
Question: Did you find that what you went through made is harder for you to put yourself out there in the dating world, and if yes how did you overcome this?
M.A. Walker: Yes indeed. The rape really interfered with my personal relationships. As you read through my book you will see how I sabotaged later relationships that had the potential to help me get my life back on track. I wonder how things might have turned out if I had been under the help and guidance of a psychiatrist at that time. I lived such a self-destructive life for so long. That is what I hope I can help you and other victims to avoid. I don't want you to follow in my footsteps. A rape damages you. You can get help to heal, but it leaves a big scar that probably will never go away. That is why it is so unfair!
Moderator: M.A. thank you so much for spending time talking about your experiences with us we really appreciate it. M.A. Walker's book "From my lips to God's ears" is available from ww.amazon.com www.barnesandnoble.com and www.xlibris.com
As usual we will be posting a recap of tonight's chat on the board in the next few days. Thank you all for coming
Thank you M.A.
M.A. Walker: Thank you all! I've enjoyed having this opportunity to speak with all of you!
If you would like to suggest a topic or speaker for future guest speaker chats, please contact us!