I learned that not all danger is overwhelming, that not all fear is terror, that’s Judith again. I find myself permanently in a state of readiness for attack, but it is not out of fear. It is rather out of a grim determination that no one else will ever take control of my body ever again. I am in control now and that is the way it will stay. I know exactly what I will do if someone ever tries to attack me and I feel sorry for that person.
In Judith’s book, Trauma and Recovery, it states that, once the survivor no longer feels possessed by the traumatic past, she is in possession of herself. Her task becomes to become the person that she wants to be. In that process, she draws upon those aspects of herself that she most values from the time from before the trauma, from the experience of the trauma and also from the recovery. Integrating all of these elements, she creates a new self, both ideally and in actuality.
I realise, slowly, that as I am writing I am becoming not a “victim” or a “survivor” but just more of me.
I find myself as I walk along the green pastures with the sun shining and the horses surrounding me as friends do. The dirt on me is real earth, not the superficial sweat and grime from the city. I see the yellow, purple and orange flowers blooming along our path. I am consciously redefining who I am and becoming more comfortable with that person.
Being back in PE gives me peace. The quietness of sleeping late, horse riding, writing, spending time with my mom, my stepdad and my dogs allows a steady certainty to form inside of me. When I reflect on who I am, I have an image of a rock at the beach. Waves wash over me. While before the rape, I was malleable, more eager to please. Now I am stronger and more sure of who I am. As Judith Herman states, I can recognise the positive aspects that came out of being raped while also acknowledging that they came at too great a price. Sometimes I am scared of not being seen as ‘the victim’ anymore. When you are the victim, people make special allowances for you. It’s hard to move out of this space, to take the step towards self-actualisation that tells people that you are stronger now. That, even though you aren’t okay every single day, you are more okay than not okay.
I miss my friend. I miss her company and her heart. I miss laughing with her. I message her and tell her that. She tells me she is doing well. I hope it is the truth.
I go back to Cape Town to throw my sister a Flapper-themed Bachelorette party with her friend Natalie. We hold it at her flat. As usual, I go overboard. I order about twenty-five vintage cupcakes, food platters and at least one champagne bottle for each girl and a couple to spare. I wanted to hire fire jugglers and an ice bar but Natalie convinced me that was going too far. Natalie and I decorate with dried roses, candle-light, a giant champagne bottle and fairy lights. I printed pictures from the 1920s which we put up everywhere. I also download authentic 1920s music which we play through an iPod dock. We make up party packs for all the girls who will come, sweeties and long cigarette holders with cigarettes. I also buy my sister an outfit especially for the occasion.
Six of us gather on Natalie’s balcony, chatting, laughing, smoking and drinking champagne. We are all dressed in our 1920s finest. We pose for photos and toast to Janah and George.
“So, what was his pick-up line?” Natalie asks.
Janah is blooming as a result of all the attention.
“He said, ‘aren’t you tired of men leaving you, because I never will.’”
Simple, direct, honest, cutting through all the bullshit layers of being young and confused. As the night goes on, we do burlesque dancing. We play the “how well does Janah know George” game and I show them the monkey that George told me he thinks Janah looks like.
When we go out, a man tries to flirt with Janah, “I’m getting married!” she shouts at him.