I first want to address something, I worry that some might see my blog as a rant against men. It is not, it is merely that 9 of 10 rape victims are women. I know many men who are strong examples of a good man, and it is those men who I pray will help effect a change both by example and by word. I also want to acknowledge and reach out to men who are victims, because I understand that their struggle is in some ways even greater than that of a female victim. The new definition of rape according to the FBI's UCR has finally addressed the fact that men can also be raped, in addition to removing a lot of the loopholes in past definitions.
I also want to thank everyone for the ever increasing support, it has touched me deeply and been a much needed encouragement.
For the last few years I have been avoiding classes about criminology and criminal psychology because I didn't think I could handle being in a room full of strangers and discuss rape or domestic violence in a clinical/academic context- at least not without a complete freak out. But this past fall, I decided I was tired of missing out on the classes/subjects that I love and decided to take Deviant Behavior as a litmus test. If I could handle it, then I would get back to criminology; if not then I'd have to change to history. As the day for the rape lecture/discussion approached, I thought of more and more ways the class could go badly, running the gamut from re-traumatizing me and me running out of class like a hot mess never able to return to campus to making national headlines for beating up a male classmate for his ignorant opinions. The class before we started covering rape, the teacher played a film (Tough Guise 2) as part of our class on assault/homicide. I was prepared emotionally for hearing some about domestic violence (another trigger for my PTSD), but not rape. The film covered research that addressed the increase in male violence in recent years, and suddenly I found myself in a dark room surrounded by strangers watching footage of the football players-turned-rapists in Ohio talking about how they had just raped a girl and laughing about it as though they were reminiscing about a really great game from last season. I froze, my pulse sky rocketed, my breathing was uncontrollably fast, and my hands were shaking; I wanted to tough it out because I knew making a mad dash out of the room would be identifying myself as a survivor to everyone in the room, I didn't want to be seen as weak and pitiful. I finally had to give in and bolt. I sat on the floor in the hallway and tried to calm myself down, but I knew the smiling faces of the rapists would be in my head for a while. I emailed my teacher to explain my sudden exit and to give her a heads up that I had PTSD from rape and domestic violence (I felt she should know what was going on should things go poorly and I started throwing punches, seemed like the decent thing to do--HA!), so I was a bit concerned about being in the class for the discussions. She could not have been more understanding, and she told me to not come to either rape class because there was no telling what comments would be made and it could be very upsetting to a survivor. But something she said struck a chord in me, "Hopefully, one day, we will be able to talk openly about it without the victim-blaming and fear of not being believed. What an empowering day that will be!" I read that and I knew that seemingly far off day was actually going to be my next day of class; I was going to not only be in the classroom, I was going to participate in the discussion as a survivor. Though I did decide to not go for a film (The Bro Code) that included a reenactment of a rape and other similar visuals, I was not only there for the 75 minute discussion on rape but also an active participant in the discussion. Thankfully, I was not re-traumatized, nor did I beat up anyone :) Giving the teacher a heads up on my past helped keep the discussion civil, we were able to put our strong opinions out there but were kept just short of it turning into a heated debate; I have never felt stronger than when that class was over, I was elated! I had faced my biggest fear and not only survived but thrived.
I'd love to pretend that I was completely unaffected by the class, but that'd be a lie. I did struggle for a couple days after that class, but as long as I kept busy working in the yard or diving into half a season of The Mentalist I was able to keep the flashbacks and anxiety at bay. I had some strong supporters to turn to when things got overwhelming, and to them I cannot begin to express my gratitude for all their patience, understanding, and support. I know there are times that I have been frantic and desperate, grasping for anything to numb the pain and fear, and that it has probably been insanely difficult for them at times. But they have stood by me despite my middle of the night texts, out of nowhere freak outs, my periodic depression, my at times debilitating social anxiety, and all the other ups and downs, and for that I am eternally grateful.