After a particularly uneventful day at the office, I get home and I don’t have anything to do. Glaring at me from my bedside table is Trauma and Recovery, the book that Dr. Adriaanse gave to me when I went to him right after I was raped.
It lies perfectly still, poised. Arrogant almost. I go to the bathroom and I can feel it calling me. Giving up, I grab it and sink into my bed while I read. This is the first time I meet Judith properly, and that bitch knows every single thought and emotion I’m feeling. I like to think of myself as an extremely important individual and here she is, describing exactly what I’m going through. Just in a much smarter way.
What’s comforting is knowing that you fit into a category, in my case, the PTSD category. You know that you are not the first person to be going through this. You know that you can survive. You know that there are steps you can take. There are a few things that strike me as I read this book. One of them is that when you speak publicly about your knowledge about rape, you are inviting the stigma of rape to be attached to you.
By writing this book, I invite the stigma of rape. The stigma of rape is that I am dirty, defiled, that I asked for it, that it’ll teach me to behave myself better, and maybe, if my vagina and I am lucky, some poor bastard will take us on in the future.
Well then, stigmatise away. My vagina and I can take it.
Something that really scares me is how vulnerable I am, and it scares me that no one else seems to realise it. Don’t they know that we can all die? Without any reason, without it making sense, without waiting to see if we’re ready, we can just… die. How do we all not go insane knowing that?
One night, Ashley, Mackenzie, Jessica and I are sitting on the balcony, sipping wine after work, as we often do. I have my back to the stairs that lead up from the garage. I am venting about my day. Jessica’s facing me.
“I spent the whole day reading the farming magazine. Did you know there are more than five different types of cow breeds? I do. I even know their names-“
“Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhh!” Jessica screams. The scream chills my blood and shatters my bones. It is a scream that means death.
I jump out of my chair. There is someone behind me. He is going to attack me. He is going to kill me.
“What?” I ask. A quick look, there’s nobody there.
She doesn’t say anything. She’s staring intently at the wall.
“There was a rat.”
I breathe again.
“Wow, that was such a big rat,” Mackenzie says.
I try to regain control over my body.
“Jessica, please don’t scream like that.” I feel shaken.
“I’m so sorry friend. It was so big!” she says, laughing now.
I am mad. You don’t scream like that unless your life is in danger. Life and death is real. Who cares about rats, they’re just animals, they can’t kill you or maim you or rape you. “You shouldn’t scream like that about rats.”
“It was a really big rat.”
But they don’t understand. They don’t know what it’s like to look into the eyes of someone who has no problem with taking your life; to know that, without feeling anything, they can. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
When I’m not mad or hyper-aroused or crying, I feel guilty. And according to Judith – you didn’t think she wouldn’t have something to say about this did you? – I feel guilty because I’m trying to turn what happened to me into a lesson so that I can take ownership of my life again. The guilt is supposed to make you wonder about whether or not you could have done something differently, which is a better option than realising you are helpless.
Well Judith, you’re trying your best here, but that’s not really why I feel guilty. I feel more guilty because of how I knew people respond to the rape than because of what I actually did or didn’t do.
“Of course it wasn’t your fault, you know that!” many people say to me, over and over again. Just saying this isn’t enough to make me feel better. Harsh judgments or refusing to engage with my guilt just make it worse. What I really need is someone who engages with me. I don’t want someone to say that I didn’t do anything wrong, I need someone to talk me through it, to engage with it and interact with it. I need someone who will share the burden with me.
April 21 is always really hard for me because it’s Roneldi’s birthday. Roneldi was my eldest sister and she passed away in a car accident in January of the year I turned fifteen. She would have been twenty-nine years old; she was nineteen when she died. The worst thing with Roneldi’s birthday is thinking about where she could have been now. If she would be married, where she would be living. If we would be getting along. Because for her last couple of years, we didn’t.
When I was about seven and my parents were still married, we moved to a smallholding. It was their dream house that they had designed and built from the ground up. When we moved in my two sisters and I shared one huge room but eventually partitions were put up between the different sections. I was in the middle and I didn’t like the walls going up. I liked having them on either side of me, always knowing what my sisters were doing. Every morning Roneldi’s alarm would go off, and we knew we could sleep for ten minutes before Janah’s went off and we had to get up. Now I had to wake myself up.