Next fall marks the ten-year anniversary of the day I was raped.
Though it does not haunt me daily like it used to, it still affects how I mother. Which leads me to question, why? Is this stunting the growth of my children? Is my baggage holding my family back?
I was only fourteen when someone decided to steal my virginity. My daughter will be four this coming April. I look into her eyes and see this beautiful love of exploration. This is the same love of exploration I had as a child. One my own mother cautioned me against. My Mom’s logic was if I wandered to the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, bad things will happen. But, with every adventure, I’d dare to take I’d gain knowledge of the world around me. I see my daughter craving this freedom.
I know part of this protective feeling stems from my maternal instincts, but to me, it’s more than that. I am constantly fighting letting go. If she is left with anyone, it’s a female that is blood-related or part of a school. I don’t trust a male with her (besides her father). I don’t let her run more than an arm’s length away unless we are in an empty park. The second she rounds a corner and I can’t see her, I start to tear up.
My mind constantly is flooded with this flashback of my incident, with my mind cruelly putting her in my place. Any slight second I do not have control over her safety, this image taunts me as if it has already become a reality. When I am able to see her again I find myself hugging her tightly as if to put a physical touch to the assurance of her well-being. I cling to my daughter.
My mother clung to me. She was a victim in her youth as well. Twenty years ago, she felt the same fears I do for my daughter. She probably had the same graphic thoughts each time I would tell her “I’ll be fine”. I understand her now more than ever but growing up with this tortured me.
I was held to different standards than my male counterparts. Most of my friends were guys, but I wasn’t allowed to be alone with them. My brother could be alone with anyone he’d like. I wasn’t allowed to even walk alone to the end of the street without a chaperone until the age of eighteen.
I see now that she just wanted to protect me and she was following her heart with how she raised me. My heart isn’t what is truly giving me these anxiety driven feelings. It is my fear. My nervous system is overwhelming trying to overpower my heart and entire brain. I shake anytime one of these episodes begin. My body will stiffen and make it almost impossible to move. I can not feel when I get this anxious, all I can do is weep. I have spent so much time already giving into this.
I have come to learn my “symptoms” of being a victim. I have tried to separate this identity with that of me being a mother. With time I have grown to see there is no reason to. Many of us, like my mother, try to hide that part of them when raising a child. It’s their way of moving forward, but now after experiencing this first hand, I see that it’s not that easy. I see that the only way to heal within the journey and not bring harm to my family is to embrace my past and anxieties like an old friend.
I am a victim who became a mother. There will always be internal battles with me trying to let go of my child and I know how my body will respond. I must be open with my children on why I have these fears, so they are aware of my emotional restraint. At the same time, I can not use it to control them. Children need to naturally grow and assert their independence; I refuse to stand in their way. Being aware of my physiological state will allow them to prosper.
Teaching them equally and honestly about the event will too. My daughter isn’t the only one that needs a safety speech. My son needs to be held to the same standards. They both will be told the story when the time is right, but until then I will our lessons will have a focus on empathy and equality to all individuals. This will be a base for them in becoming ample listeners and aware of others.
We live in a very verbally open world with many resources on the subject of rape and assault. It is no longer a subject that must be hidden. In fact, prevention and healing happens more when we talk about it with those who we love. If you have experienced any of this abuse and are currently feeling this internal tug of war, please seek help. This is perfectly normal and though your friends or family may not understand completely, there is always someone who will. You are not crazy if you have to see a psychologist. You are not a “control freak”. You are just broken in a different area than most and have to take a different path of recovery. There is no shame in taking the time for mental health. It is just as important as taking care of your family.
There is no shame in taking the time for mental health. It is just as important as taking care of your family.