Riches and Rhymes

The Poetry and Writing of Janis Gaines

Category: Rape

Rape: Victim or Survivor?

Reading tonight on Facebook, and this article about a college girl’s experience dealing with date rape and the labels people use (survivor vs victim) prompted this response from me.

The line that resonated with me from the article was this one: “We ignore the responsibility to help them recover.” In my opinion, the word survivor implies that you’re somehow “over it.” You’ve survived; life moves on. Usually, no visible scars are left, but internal ones may be abundant.

Recovery can take a lifetime. Much like a war veteran may survive violent battles with a terrorist and have lifelong post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), many rape victims/survivors have similar ongoing struggles, and yet their is little acknowledgement, validation, or support for them. It’s still a crime that nobody wants to talk about and few know how to help. What label you use is just semantics. This is a person who lives with an often unshakable grief, unimaginable triggers, and who needs continual love and support. They’ve lived through their own personal terror attack, and life is never quite the same.

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More from me on my experience with this topic…

Wishing I Had Cancer – a reflection about my rape experience

“The Boiler Room” – a poem I wrote to express some of my feelings about this experience. This deserves its own extended post someday soon.

“That was so holy…” – another previous reflection I wrote about my rape experience.

Cosmopolitan Magazine Article
This article highlights the some of the details of what happened

Dateline  – “Through the Pouring Rain”
This show features two other survivors of the same attacker; my specific story is not mentioned here.

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© November 17, 2015
Tryon, NC

 

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Wishing I Had Cancer

I wrote this tonight as a response to a Facebook post on Bruce Feiler’s page. He had asked what’s the best thing to do when something tragic happens to someone. Should you reach out and help or leave people alone to deal with personal things in private, etc? Some people posted great stories of kindnesses that others have shown. While I am healed of this event at this time in my life, both the challenges and victories are not forgotten. I have always thought I would write more about this experience, and one day I will. For now, I’m just cataloging certain thoughts here as they come to me.

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I was attacked by a serial rapist 15 years ago, and it turned my whole life upside down; I was already struggling desperately as a new single mom of three. During the same season a fellow teacher had cancer. The whole school rallied around this teacher, with prayers and constant support and fund-raising. No one wants to talk about rape. They don’t want to bring it up, don’t want to hurt your feelings, don’t know what to say, but all of this just reinforces the shame and the silence and discounts the inner wounds that no one acknowledges and ignores the reality of the ongoing healing process. Everyone openly celebrated every little success and his eventual recovery; I remember thinking no one has any idea that it’s a total miracle that I got out of bed today, showed up, was a great teacher, and an amazing mom — all on my own. I remember wishing I had cancer.

Jeremiah 8:11 – “They have healed the wounds of my people lightly…” (NIV)

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Some media about the event; again, just cataloging resources for myself, mainly.

Cosmo Article
Dateline  – “Through the Pouring Rain”
This show features two other survivors of the same attacker; my specific story is not mentioned here.

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“The Boiler Room” is a poem I wrote directly about my feelings about this experience. This deserves its own extended post someday soon.

“That was so holy…” is another writing reflection I wrote about my rape experience.

 

@Asheville, NC
January 13, 2015

“That was so holy…”

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“That was so holy,” he choked through his tears. He was weeping for my pain. Three days earlier a man had broken into my home in the middle of the night and raped me at gunpoint. And yet, on Sunday, I was at the Vineyard Airport Church in Nashville, dancing before the Lord with great passion and abandon, truly grateful to be alive and free to worship that way. Normally, I and a few other women would dance, unobtrusively, sometimes with banners, in the back of the auditorium. This wasn’t about being seen, but about loving Him, expressing it, feeling it — heart, soul, mind, and strength. For me, it was always about victory.

But on this Sunday, the worship leader had called the dancers to the front. And afterwards, this man approached me. He honored me with his words and with his tears. For a moment, he bore my burden, one that would become heavier over the ensuing weeks and years as the aftermath of rape would prove to be just as rude and merciless as the act. In time and through circumstances, I no longer danced. I had to learn again how to live in the world and trust God, and only just recently has dance returned to me — in baby steps.  When I remember that time, now so long ago, I am encouraged by his words that spoke life to me that day, unexpectedly, sacredly, reminding me that my life matters. That was so holy.

*** I shared this post with my friend today and he said this, which honors me all over again: Yes, i remember very well. Such extraordinary freedom in your refusal to be devastated by hell itself. Thank you, Jonathan, you have a way with love and words. ~ Janis

© October 18, 2013
Asheville, NC