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The Elephant in the Room "Your questions about my rape"


The Elephant in the Room "Your questions about my rape"

WARNING; Elephants are heavy, and so is this weeks blog.

I finally saw him; there he was, a very large elephant sitting in the center of the room. Lately I've been wondering why many of you have been tiptoeing around me; then I realized it wasn't me you were trying to avoid; it was the elephant. 

At last, a few of you start out a conversation with a question. "Annamarie, I've been wondering..." or "Annamarie, can I ask you something?" Ah-ha, now I can clearly see the elephant and I understand your possible trepidation. Thank you to those friends who stripped away the coverings around this big packaderm and addressed me directly. For those of you who don't know me quite as well, please know I am an open book who enjoys sharing; especially when the sharing will help someone else.

What is this elephant? The elephant is the recent sentencing of the rapist Brock Allen Turner for the rape of a young girl on the campus of Stanford University. I am appalled by the six-month sentence he received. I am further disheartened and disgusted with the news his sentence will likely be served in under three months. 

I am in awe of this young woman for her bravery, poise and conviction to tell the truth in the light of the public eye. I honor her wherewithal and ability to withstand the public scrutiny that initially challenged her honesty and credibility. However, from personal experience I know she is not finished. The scars from this attack will be with her forever. I am living  proof this experience doesn't have to destroy your dreams or aspirations, but like me, she will need help; she isn't going to heal as fast as some people might expect. 

The stigma "against" the victim of rape has thankfully changed since my rape in 1977 but we still have a long, long way to go. As a society, we must learn to absolve the victim of any responsibility for the crime. The way a victim is dressed or their demeanor has nothing to do with the act of violence they endure....EVER.  We need to increase the punishment and condemnation of the rapist and communicate to all of society the unacceptability of this act. It is NEVER acceptable.

The statistics for being raped is astounding. It's estimated that one in five woman will be raped in their lifetime and one in seventy-one men. In the military the numbers are one in three women will be raped during their time of service.  With these staggering numbers it is no wonder the pains surrounding the scars from a rape are reignited with the assault of another person.

To answer some of the questions I've recently received:

Yes...I twinge with pain for this young woman and with the pathetic sentence this rapist received, I am reminded of the unjust system we have in place to punish this heinous act. 

Yes...I can personally relate with this young woman being raped twice. First raped by the attacker and next raped by the system she believed would protect her and provide justice. To this day, I'm fighting the Veterans Administration for the unjust treatment I received only days after my attack. 

No...I will never be totally free of the memories from the rape; sadly, neither will she. BUT I know she will persevere with the love and support of her family and surrounding community.

No... these memories will not prevent me from experiencing all the love and joy this life has to offer.

Yes...the elephant in the room can sometimes be very large. Please don't let him get so large you don't feel comfortable to talk with me about anything. If you don't talk with me, it means the rapist continues to hurt me. I won't let that happen

Please face the difficult subjects in life head on; discuss them with the people you love. Don't let the elephant sit on top of any conversation. Talking openly allows us to connect with one another on a deeper level.

When an elephant walks into the room and you don't feel as though you have enough room to openly discuss something with a friend or loved one; shrink it.







Viewer Discretion Advised...I'm a little naked in this blog


Viewer Discretion Advised...I'm a little naked in this blog

     Following my rape and wrongful discharge from the Air Force in 1977, the “One Size Fits All” counseling I received never addressed the specific needs of a rape victim. Although they served me well at the age of nineteen, the skills I developed on my own turned out to be more damaging than I could have ever predicted. Anger and resentment were becoming familiar tastes in my mouth yet I masked them in a variety of artificial behaviors. Despite living a life that follows Jesus Christ and believing in absolution for the true believer, I had a silent wish for my rapist that was also harming me. Holding on to the desire for quiet revenge was etching a groove on my soul as it played over and over again.  I didn’t want my rapist to wait until the day he died to seek forgiveness; I silently hoped pain would befall him while he is here and alive on earth. I wanted him to know what it feels like to see someone in his family hurt. It’s this specific belief that turned into a coping skill that gave me peace until the day I was confronted head-on with love and compassion.

     I was traveling so frequently to speak and give seminars that close friendships near my home were very rare. Thankfully, I was at a neighborhood woman’s club meeting when I met a special woman and our personalities immediately clicked. Lunch was scheduled and we were both excited to get to know each other better and become friends. Sitting in the middle of the restaurant and anxious to discover all about the other, we started to laugh when we simultaneously began to ask the same questions. I said, “You go first and tell me all about yourself”. While she began to share and I asked questions, I felt the emotional earthquake begin in my soul. Her son is in prison for rape. I can hear her voice; I see her lips move; but, it’s the loud crumbling noise coming from the tumbling and collapse of my coping skills that is most distracting. In an earthquake I would have run to stand under a door frame but in my psyche there is no place to run; no table where I can crawl and hide. My physical senses were heightened and I became fixated with the texture of the white napkin draped across my lap. I thought I was going to rub a hole in the fabric as I rolled it between my thumb and finger tips. Suddenly the sound made by the droplets of water trickling down the outside of my water glass caught my attention. I watched her tears pour from her eyes and I felt the blood from my face as it drained down into my chest; leaving me pasty and pale. The cold groves etched by years of misdirected coping were softened while she shared her pain and heartache; I could never wish harm upon her. It was clear to me she was also a victim and like me, she was suffering. It is this exact moment where our two worlds collide with incredible force. 

     I sat motionless and contemplated how far I was willing to open myself up to her. It doesn’t matter if someone is in physical or emotional pain; I am overwhelmingly driven to give them comfort. My way of comforting usually starts with a touch; I wanted to touch her; I needed to touch her and wipe away her tears. I was prepared to use this opportunity to share my experience of rape and reach out to touch her hand but then she says, “It really bothers me when a women claims rape and they actually haven’t been.” It was all I could do to resist falling back upon my outdated coping skill and closing myself off to a new friendship. Thankfully I used this opportunity to heal two hearts at one time. With one deep breath I was filled with the courage to reach across the table and take her hand. To this day, I am amazed by how quickly the tear drops streaming down my face turned into rivers and poured out my heart to my new friend. It was such a joy to finally shatter and adjust a misaligned coping skill.

     I have a great compassion and true understanding for the nineteen year old girl who lives inside me. I accept that my private bitterness “was” a coping skill I needed “at that time” to survive; I was doing the best I could to make it through a day. I have been very good friends with this woman for over a decade; we smile and reminisce about the specific moment we looked at each other across the table and found such a common bond.

     Take a moment to review the defenses and walls you’ve built up due to a bad experience. Open yourself up to discover who you are “today” and see if your old beliefs still benefit you. Be willing to explore and change who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow…….you are likely to make a new friend.

I really look forward to your comments.