SURVIVING THE MEMORIES SITE FOR SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
SHARON'S STORY

Written by Sharon Katzir / Union, New Jersey

Every now and again the horror movie that was my life begins to play in my mind. There are no particular triggers. I am unsure from where the thoughts come, but they come and linger for awhile, then disappear as abruptly as they came, leaving my wounds somewhat open and my mind aware of everything around me.

I do not know why he started, why he did what he did. I know I did nothing wrong, and not once after it was over did I blame myself for what he did to me. I never questioned the reality of what happened: the betrayal of trust, the loss of innocence, a fear of all that was familiar...that was so long ago.

My story starts on a Monday in February 1994, during mid-winter break. I was a senior in high school looking forward to graduation. Early one morning after my mother had left for work and my sister and her friends were asleep in the basement, I greeted my boyfriend at the door. He'd come for breakfast, but he arrived angry and I did not know why. We ended up in my room. I am not sure how it started; I just remember him forcing me to go down on him. He pushed me down onto my bed and violently ripped off my shorts and pushed up my shirt. I was not used to this sort of behavior from him in our year and three months together and was very afraid of what would come next. He slammed himself into me and withdrew, forcing me to go down on him again. I begged him to stop, and he did, just before he ejaculated all over me. He slapped me across the face for crying, but then he apologized.

 What made me believe I was worthy of nothing more than I'd gotten? What made me believe I was so low? I walked around on eggshells for the next few weeks, careful and conscious of my every action, word, and breath so as not to upset him again. This was not enough, because one day in gym class my girlfriends and I were gossiping and not paying attention. He watched the teachers comment on our behavior and gave me a silent look that told me I was "misbehaving." Later he said that the physical education teachers would not take him seriously if his girlfriend could not behave in class.

I should not have gone back to my house that day for lunch, but I could not make any excuses; he went with me. Once we arrived, he headed down to the basement. I thought it was strange because he generally did not make himself at home in my house. My mother did not like him and disapproved of our relationship. He and my younger sister disliked each other.

I am not sure how I ended up down there, or why he started, but the next thing I knew, I was on the floor and he was raping me, again. When he was done, he wanted me to call the police but I could not bring myself to do so. He was scared that I would tell somebody and wanted to kill himself. He locked me in the bathroom so I would not see, but my shrieks changed his mind. We went back to school, and I told my guidance counselor what had happened. But when I realized she would call the police, I quickly changed my story and said, "I do not remember saying 'no.'" I told him that I made up a story to the guidance counselor about an argument with my mother. He seemed satisfied.  Another week or two went by before he injured himself while weightlifting after school in the weight room. The next morning he came to my house and complained about the pain. When I offered him aspirin he hit my face so hard that I flew across the room. He screamed that I knew nothing about pain, but that I would make him feel better.

He forced himself into my mouth, then decided that was boring and ordered me to pull down my pants. Paralyzed with fear, I did as I was told. I cried out in pain as he rammed himself into me. He yelled that I was not tight enough for him and told me to get on my knees.

I remember him licking his thumb and shoving it through my rectum. He seemed pleased, took his thumb out and put his penis in. I felt as if I was being torn in two, and I screamed for him to stop. After what seemed like an eternity, he did, and hit me across the face again and told me I was worthless.

I moved across the room into a corner, and even now, I close my eyes and see it clearly. The last assault occurred almost exactly a year after I had lost my virginity to him. Looking back, I realize that I had sex with him mostly because of pressure. I had been curious, but it was not something I necessarily wanted. I obliged even if it didn't feel right being intimate with him; I just wanted to keep the peace between us if we were to be together.

He knew he was doing something wrong. After each assault, he apologized profusely and told me to call the police. But I found myself making excuses for his behavior. I had started a mental checklist in health class, during a unit on domestic violence and sexual assault. I convinced myself that the incidents could not be rape since he was my boyfriend and he loved me. He would never try to control me, so he wouldn't rape me, and besides, I told myself, we are learning about this in class so there is no way that it can possibly apply to me. I was wrong on all counts.

When I confronted him about what he was doing to me, he simply looked at me and told me that he had called a crisis intervention center and was told that his behavior was normal. I interrogated him about this, asking whether he told them everything, and again, he insisted that his behavior was normal. I knew then there was nothing normal about his behavior. I called a local rape crisis center and told them what I had endured. I realized I needed to get away from him.

 About a month after the last assault, I found the courage to leave. I told him our relationship was over when he called, that he did not need to pick me up the next morning to take me to school. He did not take the news well, but I believed that he would kill me if I didn't leave him. I hid from him in school and screened my answering machine.

 As I started telling my story, I learned that everyone around me knew what was going on. My mother had her suspicions, but I often ignored her concerns. My friends knew he was never right for me. My teachers knew what had happened and excused me for cutting classes and skipping school in the hopes of avoiding him.

I entered counseling and went to the police. I filed charges but I told the officers that I would rather him go into counseling than endure a trial. Soon after, he stopped going to school. And I stopped going to counseling; I believed I had healed. Little did I know at the time that I was just in denial.

 A little over a year ago, I decided the time had come to accept my past and share my story to those who would listen. The closure I thought I had felt back in 1994 was false, and I broke my silence. Previous attempts in discussing the rapes in passing conversation resulted in boyfriends, friends, and even members of my own family telling me that I should just "get over it" because "it happened so long ago." This time was different. The first person I told was myself. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and looked at my reflection. "I was raped."

In July of 2000, I sat down with my current boyfriend, Marc, and showed him a notebook in which I had written a detailed account of each assault. He read it silently. I was prepared for the usual reaction of "you need help, you need to get over it." But instead, he said, "I am so sorry that this happened to you, and I would give anything to take it away. But you need to deal with this. You need to heal from this, and you cannot keep running away from this." I was relieved. Having such support from somebody gave me the courage to delve into my past and start to heal.

I found support online as I looked into reopening the legal case. I went back and read my original police report. I wanted to know whether anything had come of the charges, whether I could still prosecute, and see whether he had been charged with rape since.

At age 23, more than six years after the assaults, I re-entered counseling and learned that prosecution may not bring closure; that my rapist suffering will not make it go away; and that there may not necessarily be any revenge for his actions. I am learning to put my faith in karma and hope that one day he will be punished for his sins in a way that the legal system couldn't punish him.

I journeyed through nightmares and flashbacks, through the physical pain of feeling my body being torn in two. I heard my own screams in my head. I saw the movie in my mind with myself as the dubious star each time I closed my eyes. I would take my showers in the dark so as not to look in the mirror, and scald myself with the hot water because that alone gave me comfort. Through each retelling of my story, I began to draw a picture of myself at 17.

At that time, I needed someone to love me, to care about me and to be consistent with me. My divorced parents were living their own lives, and the negative stability I received from him was better than instability in general. I learned that I was angry with myself for not getting out, for allowing the rapes to continue a second and then third time. I am still learning how to forgive myself for not knowing any better at 17. I came to the realization that even if I had broken up with him sooner, there was still great possibility that he would have raped me anyway.

I explored my sexuality as well. I had been in two long-term relationships since my assaults, not including my present relationship. I very often had what I call "obligatory" or "apathetic sex." My body seemed to be completely disconnected from my mind, from my heart. Sex to me was nothing more than an act to keep my then boyfriends happy. On the other hand, I would just count the seconds until it was over.

When I got involved with Marc, the level of trust we shared deepened and I was able to talk to him about my rapes, about how lost and scared I felt, and how much disdain I had toward my body. I withdrew from him sexually, disgusted with the notion of him seeing me naked. I could not even look at my own body, and I certainly did not want him to see me in the nude. He told me once that he wanted us both to be completely present in spirit, mind and body when we are intimate, and seeing the respect he had for me, I told him that I did not want to have the same "apathetic" sex that I had had in the past. I wanted each encounter to be special and meaningful. Never once have I felt obligated or pressured to be intimate with him, and through his patience and my therapy, I am slowly becoming more comfortable with myself.

I learned that the word "rape" makes many people uncomfortable. People cannot handle hearing a word that forces them to think of violation in the most intimate form. I see discomfort in the eyes of listeners as they shift and look the other way, and I feel the awkward silence that sinks in between myself and someone else when I tell them, "I was raped." I see the awkwardness in my own reflection when I tell myself, "I was raped."

I have spent many nights questioning why I was raped, but I often forget to give myself credit for getting out. I was raped three times, but not four. I broke away from him and continue to tell my story. I graduated college and am pursuing my master's degree. I am in a very caring and loving relationship, and I have a job that I love, working with children. I have come to accept that my assaults are a part of me, and I learn each day to use that part of me to help others. For the human spirit to endure, we must be able to turn even the most negative and horrific events into something positive and acceptable.

I have learned how to be a survivor as opposed to a victim. Hatred will not make an assault disappear, nor will revenge. The hardest part about rape is acceptance. Survivors learn lessons from the assault, grow from them and move on without getting caught up in the fear and darkness of their experiences. Survivors eventually reach a higher plane where they can see the attacks from different levels of understanding.

The statistics on rape victims are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, 683,000 women are raped each year, and 84 percent of the victims do not report the crime to the police. Rape is a silent crime ridden with guilt and shame as well as anger and fear. For these reasons, many stories remain untold. I hope that as my story continues to be heard, that others will break their own silence. As victims tell their stories, they will become survivors. As the fear of telling melts away, so will the shame of the crime. The best revenge on my attacker is for him to know that not only will I not forget, but I will also continue to survive.

Dear X,

 I am trying once again to write a letter to you that may or may not say everything I want to say. I don't think I can ever say enough to you--no matter how much hate I could project onto you, no matter how much misery I could wish on you, no matter how much loneliness and depression I want for you, somehow it will never be enough, but do not misinterpret what I say: I do not wish you dead, in fact, I wish you a long misery-ridden life--a life in which you will never be able to look at yourself in the mirror without feeling disgust, a life in which you can never enjoy intimacy with another human being without feeling dirty and disgusting afterward, a life of insomnia, because the images you see when you close your eyes are too horrifying for anyone else to see let alone live through, a life in which certain favorite songs trigger such anger, hurt and frustration that you are driven to the point that raging tears are your only release; a life in which any one of the above trigger such physical pain that you feel your insides being torn out piece by piece. I wish you feel so disgusted with yourself that burning yourself in a hot shower only gives you the image of sterile cleanliness but in reality does nothing. I wish you nervousness and insecurity, that you pull your hair out at the root and bite your nails down to the cuticles.

 I wish you all these things that I continue to live with, I wish you moral battles and inner conflicts.

 You raped me. There is no magical thing that I can say or do to change that. Nothing will make it go away. No punishment, no retribution. I have conceded to the notion that there is no justice; there is no fairness. This was not an easy concession to make, and in fact, it is still difficult to accept. There is no reason that I should be victimized time and again for your anger at something for which I take neither responsibility nor blame. I am not ashamed of what happened to me, I will tell my story to anyone that will listen and if this helps just one person, I may be slightly more okay with having been raped. Not to say that I want to be okay, or is that to say that I will either forgive you or accept these assaults: I will do neither.

 Forgiveness would come too easy. Forgiveness is something you would expect, demand and take without it being given to you, just like you demanded and took me, and expected me to do whatever you commanded. In fact, I am willing to bet that you actually believe that I forgive you, that I'd forgiven you a long time ago. I want you to know that this will never happen. There is nothing to forgive you for. You used to say to me "if you were sorry you wouldn't have said it" well, I will hold that against you--if YOU were sorry, you wouldn't have done it. Rest assured, forgiveness will not happen. Forgiving you would ease the turmoil I wish for you and that is something I do not want to happen.

Nor will I ever be okay with what you did. Being okay with being raped, accepting rape as a part of my life allows you to win. Accepting rape. That sounds like Sharon at age 17. I will not accept anything--acceptance is similar to settling and I will not settle for having been raped. I will settle for nothing. I will never accept it, if I do then I will also need to forgive you, and, as I said, forgiveness is clearly out of the question. You raped me. You caused me so much pain and nothing will change that. I know that you know this and I hope you never feel a moment's peace within yourself because of this but at the same time I don't want you to think I've stopped living--I haven't. In fact, I am so far from the person I was. I am much stronger, more assertive, less trusting, less open. I am much more independent and I'll be damned if I credit any of this to you.

 I will tell everyone what you did to me. I will continue to do so until the day I die. I wish you the peace of a storm on the ocean, the love of no one, yourself included, the discomfort in aloneness, the career of an inmate on work release, the comfort of a homeless man on the streets in winter and a home rivaling only the worst of the cardboard boxes in December in New York, and the meal of a soup kitchen's food scraps.

I keep looking for an explanation; a reason and I found it today: something in your background made you determined to control another human being, and you made your mind up that it would be me, regardless of whether we stayed together or we broke up much earlier.

 Not that this explains or justifies what was done, not that this is even a valid reason, but all things being equal, the simplest explanation is the truest, and the explanation is this--you are a deranged, unhealthy fucked-up asshole son of a bitch. I suppose I will have to accept this.

 I have people who are helping me in dealing with this, and it's really not right that I need to lean on them, but unlike you, they will not tear me down so they can rebuild me the way they want to. They know all about you and share my hatred for you, and they are letting me work through this--support. Something you never thought I would have--imagine that.

Several people I know suggested that I write you this letter. Some of them are survivors and did the same thing. They told me that it helps. I am not certain what it is that I am looking for in writing this, maybe all I want is to have the final word in this--my way of saying Fuck You to you. My way of letting you know how much anger and hatred I continue to harbor for you. My way of castrating you because I cannot relate to anyone on a sexual level. My way of deafening you because I cannot listen to certain types of music, my way of blinding you because I cannot look at myself.

 I hate you. You are a rapist. You hurt me. You nearly destroyed me. I am still recovering from what you did and it is a process. I will never forgive you. I will never give you that satisfaction. I will never forget--these memories keep me on the edge. They serve as my conscience.

 I am trying to make this into something positive. I realized that at the very least I can now identify an asshole on site. I read people much more clearly than I did before, I can sense who to trust and who not to trust. It's as if I have developed a sixth sense about my surroundings, although I cannot stand silence. I hate being alone, I attribute this to you--the positives because in order to be healthy one must see good as well as bad, and the negatives because human nature just dictates that. Do not mistake this for forgiveness or acceptance--I already told you that's not happening.

 You are a rapist. You will live your life knowing this. You will look in the mirror and I can only hope that you feel the pain of sodomy, you gag on the smell of your own sweat and cringe at the screaming of others and writhe at the thought of having your ass torn apart from the insides out just like you did to me.

 I hope you learn what it feels like to be hit and go flying across the room and into the wall and to be told that you cannot empathize with the emotions of another.

 I hope you can never sit in silence or in darkness and that something must constantly distract you because anything that doesn't will terrify you.

 I hope you never know love, beauty or laughter, that you never enjoy Christmas or a snowfall, that you never see the beauty in autumn or the miracle of spring. I hope you miss out on all the beauty that life has to offer, because if you can only do this, you have at the very least begun to pay for what you did to me. You will never pay your debt to me, not through a miserable life, not through a lonely death. But in my own sadistic way, perhaps I can take a little comfort in your pathetic misery.

 You raped me. The last time you did was on March 19, 1994. You did it deliberately to punish me. I know this because you TOLD me so--you told me that this was my punishment for YOUR anger. I hope that you spend the rest of your life in fear of the anger of others. I will never forget those experiences, they will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I must find a way to live with them in as much harmony as I can. I hope this is something that you never find.

Sharon

*Author’s note:

This story was originally published on In the Fray.com.  Since then, I have married my rock who saw me through my flashbacks, and now have been a survivor for 10 ½ years… quite the milestone on my part.  Each morning I wake up…some days not remembering, not even thinking, until a song may come on the radio, or some insignificant reminder of the past may come back to haunt me.  At times, I can go weeks without a reminder, only to be woken from a dream that terrorized my sleep.  I still cannot sleep in dark silence.

Has my rape had an effect on my life?  Without a doubt.  Will it affect me forever?  I grapple with that question as I continue to struggle with my memories.  I have found, however, that now I own my experience rather than having my experience own me.  There is a certain liberating feeling in that, and I feel in some small way that maybe I am victorious. 

My journey to wholeness has been trying, and will continue to prove challenging on some days.  This I accept, and even welcome.  I now realize I am the sum total of my parts, and I may not be where I am today without all my experiences.  The journey is difficult, yet in the end, will prove to be the most amazing experience.  I have learned so much about myself and the strength I have within.  This strength has helped me in more ways than I can count.  I have seen the depths of hell.  I have lived there.  I have been a prisoner of my mind, my body, and my soul.  I have placed myself at the mercy of others.  I have learned to trust, to love, and to accept safety.  Perhaps, one day, I will learn to be comfortable in silent darkness.  Until then, I continue to travel, and to remain victorious.

Sharon Diamondstein
sharonfranck@yahoo.com
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you"
~ Maya Angelou
 
 
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