When I was around 12 years old, I was raped by a family member. I wasn’t sure at the time what exactly that meant; I didn’t know or really understand the word or concept of “rape.”
My parents knew. Maybe everyone eventually knew. I don’t know.
My mom has a submissive personality and is afraid of conflict. My father… I never saw him express anything but disapproval and anger over trivia. In some ways, my father scared me as much as the man who raped me.
Years went by, and I had to survive as if nothing had happened. My friends, my family, and everyone I know have lived and evolved since then. I feel like I have grown up and am still living in a small prison cell, like a lifer.
If I don’t have insomnia, I sleep and I know that the next morning I will wake up in my cell with a life sentence. I haven’t really succeeded in anything, neither my professional life, nor my romantic life, nor even managed to be at peace with myself (except very momentarily, when I binge on alcohol and drugs; I know that this is not a solution, and I struggle to moderate myself).
What’s left for me? I am not one to despair completely. I struggle. I want to live, I want to feel the way a simple, imperfect woman can feel, free, light and joyful.
But that’s not what happens to me. I go from one relationship to another where I get raped again and again, figuratively this time. I am indeed consenting. Like a prostitute who doesn’t get paid, I offer my body to men who don’t really respect me, who don’t really love me, and worse, often to crooks, narcissists, manipulators…
When I look at myself naked in the mirror, I ask myself why I have to drag this body with me. Why do I have to carry my own cross, and hold the bars of my jail with both hands? How can I change this abused body for another intact, innocent, healthy one? Sometimes I don’t know if I have an infected body or a broken soul. I don’t know what to do.
I am alone, in a solitude that the average person could not even imagine. Not everyone can fathom the feelings of a lifer who is wavering between hope and despair. After years, believe me, if you don’t die or fall into irreversible mental illness, you simply survive. You eat, you defecate, you sleep. You can even play sports. You can even keep trying to live. But my past keeps coming back to haunt me, to haunt me in my head and in my flesh.
I have a few close friends who know. But I can’t talk to them about it all the time, over and over again… Who would want to be a friend of a black, dark girl whose soul is in hell, and whose body is so dirty, so disgusting. I don’t know if one day I will be able to find my dignity, my right to exist without fear, without problems, without bitterness, without anger.
I live alone, in terrifying isolation. In my moments of sobriety and wisdom, I tell myself that if it’s true that I can’t get rid of my body, maybe I could try to change my soul, my mind. My body reminds me of how it was raped; I even remember his breath. This body is the one that was raped, I have to understand that this is a reality that is already fixed and unchangeable. Tomorrow I will wake up with the same body, or at least with the same memories of that body.
That leaves us with the mind. Do you think I haven’t understood that my problem, my tragedy, can only be solved in the field of psychology and psychotherapy? Do you think I have not consulted, very often in secrecy? Did it help me? Yes, of course, it helped me, and how could I know anyway? Yes, I learned a lot about myself. Maybe without psychological help, I would be dead already. You can send a psychotherapist into a lifer’s cell, but it won’t take away the rods that are there, physically there.
I constantly feel alone, in need of a reassuring presence, in need of a sense of lasting peace. In my moments of weakness and madness, I don’t feel like talking about psychological issues anymore inside my prison cell. I prefer to see the bars explode, I even prefer my body to be damaged so that I can escape and survive.
And I have indeed mistreated this body. I have stuffed it with food, and then I have let it starve, I have hidden it, I have ignored it, I have stuffed it with smoke and poisons, I have used it to please men, I have exhibited it like a worthless object… I have tried everything. It is still there, still the same: a body that has been raped.
I tried sports. I tried to perfect it… I even managed to have a body that people find beautiful, but I still live in it, I still feel it: it is still my body.
In the last few years, I have become interested in spirituality, personal development, and the science of happiness. I try to inhabit my body in a gentle and conscious way. I touch myself and tell myself that I love myself. I am interested in the teachings of the great spiritual masters, I try to understand and practice the great wisdom of acceptance and letting go. I try to open my hands little by little to release the bars of my prison. I am succeeding… little by little… I crawl like a child learning to walk. I stand up, and then sometimes I fall down again. Through the tears, the despair, and the crises, I can feel the air going in and out of my lungs. I can laugh, I can see that there is beauty in the world. And then the dark images reappear. I shut down, isolate myself, regain my strength, and continue my struggle. Life is hard enough for everyone. But I am climbing the mountain of life with a ball and chain. I will make it…
And even if I don’t make it, I will at least have tried to live. Even if I don’t make it, I will have at least tried to find harmony between my body and my head. I just want to change the way my mind connects to my body. I practice the yoga of a raped woman.