[Trigger warning; rape. I suppose that goes without saying]
This post is quite long, and is about my recent experience with rape, trauma, and moving through it. It’s a hard thing to write about, both because it’s a vulnerable, and relatively fresh wound for me, and because I’ve struggled to find the right tone.
A tone that feels true and honest, that captures what happened, how it felt, and how it’s changed and impacted me. A tone that respects that being raped is a horrible and awful thing that no one should have to go through, but that also acknowledges that whilst yes it was bad, it hasn’t ruined my life.
I feel caught between the shock and hurt of it, as if I can pinpoint the exact moment that everything changed, and finding it strange that one man could ruin my life. As if he was that powerful, or important, that his failings would become mine.
He was stronger than me. That’s it.
What I hope to express in this post is simply my reality, my experience of what happened, and how I’ve found, and continue to find, my way out.
My reasons for writing and publishing this is firstly to be witnessed by my community. Something powerful happens when your tender parts are seen and received by the people around you.
For those of you who don’t know me, or maybe we haven’t spoken in a while, I’m a healer living in Bali. I work with energy, run online courses, and work 1-2-1 with clients. I mention this as it becomes relevant later, in how I processed and approached this trauma, and I think a little bit of context would help.
The second reason is because trauma is often overwhelming, and is often something we can only address years after the event. This is still new and quite alive for me, and I want to speak about it from inside it.
And finally I wanted to write this for anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation. Who has been hurt, isn’t sure what to do about it, and might benefit from knowing that someone is right there with them.
I’ve asked a few people to read this before publishing it, and they said I should warn you that it can be hard to read. I start by describing to you what happened, in quite a bit of detail, more a real-time account of how I experienced it, rather than just telling that it happened, which I think can be hard to read.
It starts off quite graphic, but I think moves from that to an exploration in trauma, healing, and coming out the other side. In that sense I hope it’s hopeful and life-affirming, rather than only being harsh and difficult. I feel hopeful, strong, and like I’ve risen from the ashes, so I hope that comes across.
I also talk about how at times I wanted to kill myself. I’m not suicidal, I just notice that feeling trauma makes me very quickly jump to “I should kill myself”. It’s not something I would really do, and if you are feeling suicidal, or have had something traumatic happen and worry you might be triggered, it could be a good idea to skip this article, and instead reach out to a loved one or call a hotline for help and support.
Ok, disclaimers done, let’s get into it.
So, here we go….
At the beginning of February I was raped.
It was a case of it being consensual until it wasn’t, until he was hurting me and wouldn’t stop, and then it really, really wasn’t consensual at all. Which, I hear, is the most common way rape happens.
We started having anal sex, no preparation, he just went straight for it. He was ready, so I must be too. It hurt, I jumped and screamed, and asked him to slow down.
He didn’t. He kept penetrating me at his pace. No slowing down.
This is when it stopped being sex and became rape.
I tried to move myself away, to get him out of me. He wouldn’t let me move. Holding me down, and continuing to force himself inside me.
I told him to stop. Again and again.
I tried to push him off me. I remember being there, on my knees, chest on the bed, trying to push him off, or at least a little bit out, with one arm behind me pushing him back, and burying my head into the other.
At one point he stopped thrusting, leaned his weight onto my back, and adopted a more poking action asking me if I could feel that. Going in deeper with every jab. Of course I could feel it.
By now I was lying on my belly, almost falling off the bed, just wanting it to stop.
He’d grab my head with both hands, putting his weight on my head as if trying to crush it, and go harder. Using me to give him more leverage to continue hurting me.
I told him over and over to stop. That it hurt. That he was hurting me.
He also told me to “Stop”. To stop trying to push him off, to stop resisting.
I said I needed to go to the bathroom.
He said I could go once he’d cum.
Every now and then he’d stop thrusting, and pin me down. I’d squirm, and try to maneuver my body into a position that would at least minimise the pain. He’d see me doing this and just watch, as if it were a game.
I told him “Please stop, you’re hurting me”.
He didn’t care and didn’t stop.
Nothing worked. Not my words, not the sounds of my pain, not my obvious desire to stop, not my body trying to get away, not pushing him. Nothing worked.
He continued. Aware that I was in pain, that I wanted to stop, and not minding. Maybe even getting off on it.
Suddenly, I realised what was happening, that he wasn’t going to stop, that this wasn’t a misunderstanding, that he knew he was hurting me and that I wanted to stop, but didn’t care. I remember thinking to myself “Oh my God, I’m being raped. I can’t get this to stop. What do I do?”
I lay there, pinned down, unable to move. Unable to make him stop. Unable to do anything but stop resisting, and begrudgingly accept what was happening.
Not consenting to it. Not enjoying it. Just no longer resisting. Waiting for it to stop, rather than trying to make it stop.
Afterwards I was shocked and dazed. I sat there for about 10 minutes unable to speak, shaking slightly. He just watched me and didn’t say anything.
When I could speak, we had a normal conversation, “How was your Christmas? kind of stuff. I think I needed it to feel normal in some way, to let my nervous system calm down.
As I left he said something about having to change the sheets as they had blood, my blood, on them.
“I did tell you to stop”.
Oh My God, What Just Happened?
Since then it’s been a rollercoaster.
The next day I woke up raw and confused. Wondering what had happened. I’ve had rough sex before, including with this guy, but this was different. Something felt wrong.
I started Googling definitions of rape; partner rape, acquaintance rape, unwanted oral, vaginal, or anal penetration, with force, nonconsensual, continuing despite requests to stop, consent being withdrawn.
By every definition I could find it was rape.
I asked him to stop and he didn’t. I told him I was in pain and he continued.
Beyond all definitions, I could feel in my body that something wasn’t right.
I started crying and shaking. Slowly at first, then quite intensely. No story, no words, just tears. Just the shock, sadness, and hurt that was in my body. A traumatised nervous system, and the aftermath of having your body relentlessly penetrated against your will.
Why didn’t he stop? I told him to stop. It was obvious that I was in pain.
I told a friend in Bali, then I told my mum. Then I had a client.
A strange sequence of events, from Googling rape and crying like an animal, to holding someone else and guiding them through their shit.
In hindsight it was good to have clients straight away as something in me made sure I was ok for the sessions, something in me held itself so that I could hold others, and that showed me that trauma wasn’t the only thing I was able to feel.
I also felt weirdly defiant, as if I never had to do anything I didn’t want to ever again. As if my quota got used up that night, as if I no longer owed anything to anyone, and had carte blanche to please myself.
The experience of trauma is intense, I find it makes me feel like my life is ruined and want to kill myself, so having a few clients was actually a lifeline, showing me that despair and suicidal thoughts weren’t the only thing I could feel. I could also feel contained, capable, and focused.
It’s difficult to write about this because so much of it wordless. The way we experience traumatic events is often wordless too, which makes speaking about them, be it to friends or family or trying to prove it in a court of law, very difficult. It’s not rational, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t follow a neat little line.
It’s hard to talk about trauma because the part of you, or me, that uses words, that understands time, and sequencing of events, isn’t really there.
It’s physical, it’s visceral, it’s somatic, it’s emotional, it’s violent, it’s overwhelming, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s intense. And it’s hard to put into words.
So whilst I might not have the words to fully describe how it felt, I can tell you what the aftermath looks like.
It looks like lying in bed, shaking. It looks like crying, and crying, and crying. It looks like being constantly on edge. It looks like a background feeling of dis-ease.
It looks like not wanting to be touched, even by well-meaning friends.
It looks like a loss of freedom. Like my world just got smaller.
It looks like feeling unsafe, wondering if I can prevent this from happening again. It looks like shaking my fist at the sky and demanding to know why this happened, why was this asked of me, it’s too much.
It looks like finding refuge in my room, holding myself close, and falling apart, unraveling at the seams. It looks like talking to people for hours on end, trying to make sense of what happened.
It looks like rejoicing in pockets of clarity, and being weirdly productive in that one hour that I feel ok.
It looks like smoking more cigarettes a day than I’d like to admit, and being grateful for the crutch and respite they provided.
It looks like feeling damaged, ruined, like I’ll be too much hard work for anyone in the future, and that I might never move on from here.
It looks like being able to meet people in their pain more deeply than I could before. Facebook posts about breakups going straight to my heart, feeling what they’re feeling, and be able to join them for a moment.
It looks like feeling raw and vulnerable, like I have no skin, and that anything that is too much can push me into a day of crying.
This was my reality in the days after it happened. Swinging from a strange sense of defiance to complete ruin and despair. From holding others to barely being able to hold myself. To driving past the place that it happened to prove myself that I could, to breaking down in tears if people stood close to me in a shop.
It looks like feeling numb sometimes, as well. For all the tears and shaking, I’ve also had phases of complete numbness, where I almost have to look back over texts I wrote in the depths of it to remember that something happened.
My left foot was also numb for a long time, it’s been coming back to life as I move through this, but doesn’t feel quite the same as it did before.
I found the numbness the hardest to be with. Whilst it provided a break from the intensity, it also made me feel like I was losing myself. Like I would reach out and not quite be able to locate or find myself. Like something was slipping away. It felt scary to not be able to feel myself.
For the first week or so I was in crisis mode; defiance, despair, tears, living life moment-to-moment, not knowing what was coming next. It was exhausting, but also weirdly alive, like I only had to worry about myself and what I was doing right now, everything else ceased to be important.
So, it was disturbing to feel so numb. To suddenly not feel sad, or hurt, or unsure. Like it all disappeared. No more tears, no more crying outbursts.
It was weird. I felt locked out of it, and also wondered if that was it. Was that all there was to it? A week of distress and then I’m done? Had I processed being raped in a week? That must be a record, and if so where do I go to get my pat on the head for being the best rape victim there ever was?
I, obviously, was not done. Not at all. The numbness thawed out, and the trauma was still there.
It was actually a relief, feeling so numb made me feel like I was losing myself, and it felt better to be intimate with myself in pain, than distant but feeling ok.
It very much came in phases and waves, each new movement having a different flavour.
At first the trauma was very somatic, all in the body. It was probably a lot of shock, not specific to the event, just shock and adrenaline that needed to move. Then it became more mental, wanting to understand why this happened. Then emotional, and a sense of feeling lost and disoriented.
About 2 weeks after it happened I went to stay with a woman my mum knows, who was also in Bali.
I was scared.
I thought it might be great, and be just the normal, human kindness I needed. Cups of tea and chatting about everything and nothing. Or, it might be awful. We might not get on, she might make demands of me, I might feel trapped.
I looked her up online, and found articles she’d written about consent, sexuality, and giving and taking, and figured if she could write that it was worth giving it a go. Worst case scenario it’s awful, I get super triggered, and see where I still have healing to do.
So I set out to meet her, the journey was long but fine, and I enjoy long drives on my trusty little scoot-scoot. In the last 10 minutes of the journey it poured down, I arrived soaked, a bit tired, fragile, and unsure of what I was getting myself into.
We started getting to know each other. She was a Sexological Bodyworker spending a few months in Bali to write a memoir. I told her what had happened, I don’t remember if I cried. I assume I did a bit. It was strange to tell a stranger, but also good to be witnessed.
For it to be there amongst the daily happenings, to be a big deal and a nothing deal, to take up space and to fade into the background.
What I didn’t realise until the next day was that the rain had broken my computer. I hadn’t even thought to check and now my computer wouldn’t turn on.
Later that day I spoke to my mum, who said I felt very ungrounded to her, and could I ground myself, which I did. We hung up, and I thought that was the end of it.
It was not.
About 10 minutes after grounding more into my body, I freaked out. Coming back into my body meant coming back into the trauma and shock that was held there. So long as I was hovering around in my head I didn’t feel it, coming back into my body meant it was all there to greet me with a slap around the face.
It was late, and I lay in bed lamenting my lot. My computer breaking felt like salt in my wounds. First you take away my autonomy over my body, now you take away my ability to work and look after myself. What next? Would you like a limb? An organ perhaps? What more do you want from me?
I obviously thought about killing myself, as that is my go to thought when it comes to trauma.
I’m weirdly practical though, and decided that I didn’t know what I’d do with, and it wouldn’t be nice to kill yourself when you’re a guest in someone else’s house, so I decided to hold off.
The next day I had an emotional hangover, but was ok. In that outburst more had been felt, moved, and released. That seems to be the process for me, get triggered, cry like a wild animal, want to kill myself, wake up feeling freer and clearer.
I also had a session with a lovely healer friend, where I had an image of myself as a matriarch. I’ve always seen myself as the last dot on my lineage, not the beginning of a new one, and felt that whilst this wasn’t what I would have chosen, I did get to choose how to handle it.
That in many ways this wasn’t the first time I’d encountered unrelenting male dominance that just wanted what it wanted, with no regard for me. This was the most extreme expression of it, but not the first time it had made its way into my life.
I saw this event as an impossible to ignore expression of the violence and abuse in my lineage; my alcoholic, Irish, amateur boxer grandfather who used to knock my grandma about and was known to keep going long after the fight had been won. My Indian Kashmiri Pandit grandfather, the minor prince who had set his brother on fire (accidently, but he died) during Diwali, changed the law in the UK, and was happy to let people think that his then-teenage daughter (my mum) was his lover.
I felt like my world had been burnt to the ground, just as they burn the rice fields after a harvest here in Bali in order to start again.
My field had been violently and non-consensually burnt to cinders, which meant I had to start again. And as there was nothing there, I could decide what I wanted to plant. Consciously and on purpose.
What kind of world did I want to create, what kind of inheritance did I want to offer my future offspring? Did I want to continue this cycle, or take a step in a different direction, to choose again, to change the story?
Suddenly my sadness and poor me feeling changed. It went from being “Why is this happening to me” to “Bring it on. I want it. I can not only take it, I can transform it. I can turn shit into gold. Violence in peace, I bet I can even turn rape into love. I can take what came before me, that which has never been felt, that which has never been expressed, I can take it all, and I can feel it. I can move it. And I can start something new”.
I keep coming back to the image of Medusa.
We know her as the snake-haired monster of nightmares, turning everyone who even glances her way into stone. What we might not know is that she was a priestess at The Temple of Athena.
After being raped by Poseidon in the temple, Athena promptly cast her out and transformed her, turning her hair to snakes, and cursed her that anyone who looked at her be turned to stone.
This is common in acts of rape, and trauma in general. We shut down, we harden, where connection would heal, we feel cast out, rejected by ourselves, sometimes by our community, and perhaps even God.
Cut off from the intimacy that would actually heal us, we become hardened, disconnected, and the trauma stays with us, and destroys us from the inside.
Often what happens next can actually make the trauma worse. You tell someone and they say it was your fault, your parents tell you can never speak of this as it’s too shameful, it gets dismissed or downplayed, which only confounds the impact of the traumatic event.
We don’t know what to do with trauma in our society. That’s starting to change, but for the most part we seem to want to get away from trauma when we encounter it, be it in ourselves or another.
That trauma that has cemented itself within us, then triggers others. My trauma kicks off your trauma, hence the turning others to stone, until all we find reflected back to us is trauma, turning the world into a cold, loveless, hostile place.
What we really need is connection, softness, intimacy, and care, but all too often rape victims, and traumatised people in general, are met with coldness; petrified, both in the sense of being scared, and becoming hardened.
Of course there are many ways to interpret her story, and the tale of the priestess being raped and then cast out as she’s no longer a virgin is pretty common. You could use this to critique how we view virginity, “purity” in women, or how we respond to rape victims in general.
There’s something about it being your own goddess who abandons you that is particularly harsh.
Perhaps in this sense the goddess is a metaphor for our relationship to ourselves. Athena cast out Medusa in her time of need, and we often do that to ourselves too. Perhaps we only feel able to love ourselves if we are “pure”, finding it harder to hold ourselves in the dark, hurt, traumatised places. A sense of conditional self-love, a self-abandonment in our own times of need.
The trauma causes us to shut down, to be frozen in the moment it happened, and to continue living that moment for as long as it stays unresolved within us. There’s a stoney quality to trauma. It locks us in and keeps others out. Often the people who most need help are the hardest help. Pain can harden us, our hearts break closed, and we carry the monstrosity of the attack within us.
I’m finding this experience is making me more empathetic, more able to hold people in their own pain, and meet them in the places that hurt. Rather than destroying my capacity for healing work, and casting me out of the temple, I think it will make me a more compassionate healer, who has been there, intimately knows what it’s like, and has found a way out.
The Edgy Part
“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.” – John of The Cross
This is the part that I’m actually the most nervous to write, it feels the most vulnerable, the most exposing, the most likely to upset or anger you, and the part where I might lose you in terms of perspectives, spirituality, and how I handle things. Where I might get less relatable, and where the spiritual lens through which I perceived this event might be triggering, sound weird, or make me seem delusional and like I’m justifying what happened to me.
Writing about what happened feels quite easy, the question is how much detail to go into, talking about trauma feels slightly impersonal, like it’s interesting more than revealing, describing the aftermath feels like something to which everyone can, in their own way, relate. We’ve all had nights of crying ourselves to sleep, I would assume more of us have thought about suicide than we’d normally admit, and we can all relate to feeling hurt and in pain.
This part really feels like letting you in and sharing something of myself that might not be well-received, and might not be welcome.
But it also feels important, so please know that this is my perspective on my experience. I’m not suggesting that anyone else should feel this way, or that I’m objectively right, or that it’s some “love+light” spiritual bypass cop out.
I kept coming back to quotes like the one above from John of The Cross, or the poem Tired of Speaking Sweetly by Hafiz, in which he tells us that The Beloved wants to lock us in a room, practice his drop kick, and drag us around ripping from our grasp all the toys that bring us no joy.
That’s what I feel like I’ve been through. God worked my soul in secret because I for sure would have put a stop to it otherwise. The Beloved knocked me around the room.
Even Amma, my Guru, I have to assume didn’t desert me, and instead held me in her auspices whilst taking on the mood of Kali, which is too a part of the Divine Mother. It’s easy to attribute the good to Amma’s Grace, but is this too held within her Grace, or did she suddenly forget me, or decide to look away?
Perhaps that’s why many religions have fearsome, scary gods, so that even the bad can be held within the Divine. The Dancer and The Destroyer, the warm mother and the sword-wielding dark one, the giver and the taker of life. The alternative seems to be to divide the world up into God and Not-God, leaving us alone and abandoned when shit happens, asking what we did wrong, or why God hates us.
This whole experience has felt like a challenge; a challenge to meet myself in the depths of my pain, a challenge to stay present to trauma, a challenge to feel everything that arises, and most of all a challenge to embody and really live perspectives that I like to think I hold.
A living koan, that can stump and perplex me, but also evolve me. That doesn’t always make sense, that requires me to go beyond where I currently am in order to make sense of it.
It’s one thing for me to quote Rumi about how “out beyond right and wrong there is a field, I will meet you there” when nothing’s happened. It’s another thing entirely to stay in that field after being raped.
I’ve led meditation calls on how life will choose the cheapest way to get something done, it might be expensive, but it is the cheapest way available. Is that just something I can talk about, and expect others to go along with, or is it a perspective I can truly hold and embody, and can I do it now?
I’ve written about how life is the sound of one clapping, that there’s nothing that isn’t the one hand clapping, nothing is separate from that, not the good, not the bad. Can I hold that perspective, that me being raped is not apart from the one hand clapping, but rather is too part of it, or is that only a perspective I can hold in good times, or in theory, and it crumbles under pressure?
I also had premonitions of being raped, starting a few months before it happened. This isn’t an image I’ve ever had before, but it came in the same as other intuitive hits I get, as a self-contained story that comes as a pulse. The details were different, but the outcome was the same. In a strange way I’d already planned how I’d handle it; who I’d tell, that I’d treat it as a trauma that needed to be cleared from my body, it wouldn’t change who I was as a person or ruin my life.
A slightly disturbing thought, that I found it hard to sit with for too long, was that I was glad it was this guy who did it because it was easy for me to cut him off and have nothing to do with him, if it had been someone that I was more invested in it would have been much harder to do that, and then I’d have had the trauma plus the relationship to deal with. This way it happened, I blocked him on everything, and have hardly thought about him since.
A family friend said she’d had an image of me being gang raped in India, and whenever I’d thought about going to India (which was my plan for the winter) I saw myself lying in a hospital bed so decided not to go.
If this had to happen, it was in fact the cheapest way.
I looked up my astrology for the night it happened and had a Sun opposite Pluto transit, which isdescribed as meaning“Change may be forced upon you, … The aim is to transform for the better. To evolve your soul so that you may live a better life and experience more satisfaction. It is most common that this would occur through a close relationship, such as a family member, close friend or partner.”
Now I’m of course not saying that what happened was right, or that the guy did me a favour and I should thank him, nothing like that.
I know it was wrong. Obviously. It’s very clear to me that he should have stopped.
But, it’s also clear to me that to engage in the right/wrong, good/bad perspective for too long causes me to contract, and isn’t in alignment with the way I live and experience the rest of my life.
It makes me feel like a victim, it makes me feel like being raped is bigger than I am. It makes me feel powerless, and it makes me feel stuck reliving a horrible experience.
I’m not a victim, being raped is in no way bigger than I am. I am the biggest, realest, most important thing in my room, not this rape. I’m not powerless, and I don’t need to relive this experience. Living it the first time was enough.
In spiritual circles there can be a tendency to either spiritually bypass and jump straight to the super spiritual answer we hope will get us cosmic brownie points (but ignores the human), or to not live our spirituality, for it to just be a theory or philosophy that makes us sound smart but is dropped when it’s time to live it.
My experience has been that you have to go through it. You have to cry, and shake, and grieve. You have to respect and honour the human that is hurting. You have to tell people who will say “What a fucking cunt, would it be weird if I flew to Bali with just a baseball bat?”.
But once I felt it, once I cried all my tears, once I’d spoken about it until I had no more words, once I’d planned my revenge fantasies, I had to drop it.
I had to drop it. Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that I had to wake up from it.
I can’t keep living it. I can’t define myself in relation to something that someone else did. That is a stain on his soul, his shame, his sin to carry. Not mine.
I’ve never actually wished that this hadn’t happened. Not because I like it, but because to do so would put me in opposition with reality, and add suffering to my pain. It would pit my little mind against the vast Universe – a fight I’m never going to win – and distract me from where I’m needed, which is with my tender human, not in the Court Room of Cosmic Justice.
It’s been a huge act of self-love to not go into conflict with reality, to accept what happened and tend to myself, to be there 100% in my hours of need, to acknowledge that yes it happened as quickly as possible and support myself from there.
This is the truth that feels harder to share. That there can be many things that are true at the same time.
That it was a horrible, awful, bad, and wrong thing to have happened. And it’s in the past and has less charge every day. That if I hadn’t written about it soon after it happened I’d be foggy on and slightly disinterested in the details by now.
That it was hugely traumatising. And that trauma can move and pass.
That it’s life changing, and not at the same time.
(I really don’t want you to feel like I’m telling you how to feel if something like this has happened to you. Maybe what I’m saying sounds like bullshit, or like it invalidates your experience, or downplays what happened. That’s really not my intention. In the thick of it, it feels awful. I know. It makes me want to kill myself, so it’s really not that I haven’t felt what you might be feeling, or been to the places you might go.
It’s just that that’s not all that’s true for me. I don’t think this will ruin my life. Change yes, but ruin, absolutely not. So if what I’m saying sounds like bullshit, that’s fine. Leave it, close the page and look at something else, stay loyal to yourself and your experience.
If it resonates, that’s great.)
What has helped?
There have been so many things that have helped, and I really want to share what’s worked for me, in case it might help you too.
The most helpful thing was telling people, and telling them quickly. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, tell someone.
You need support, connection, love. Keeping it inside just makes what happened to you fester. Tell someone that you know loves you, and let them help you. If you don’t know who that should be, call a rape hotline. I called one and they were really helpful and kind, and it was a relief to talk to a stranger who was compassionate but not emotionally invested.
There’s nothing for you to be ashamed of. Why should you be ashamed for something someone else did? Don’t hold onto that, share it, let it move out, let your family and friends (or a therapist, or helpline) support you. It’s too much to carry on your own.
You need to not be the only person who knows about this. Yes saying the words makes it real, but making it real means you can start to deal with it. Harsh reality rather than haunting nightmare.
Your pain and hurt need to be witnessed. You need to be witnessed, held, and supported. I know it can be scary, you don’t want to say the words out loud, telling someone else makes it real. But it happened. Horrible and horrific as it was, it happened, and it needs to move out. You can’t hold all of this.
Keeping it within you just means you live it for longer. It stays inside you, festering, fucking you from the inside.
TRE is really helpful at releasing the stress and trauma in your body. The one I’ve done the most is lying on my back, with my knees out, feet touching (in Supta Baddha Konasana for the yogis out there). You slowly bring your knees up, inch by inch, and hold it for a few minutes.
After a while your legs will start to shake. Let them shake, and know that by shaking you’re helping to move the trauma that is locked in your body. This is a great thing to do anyway as we all have some amount of trauma stored in our bodies.
What has been great for me about The Wheel of Consent.t is that after what happened I felt like my old understanding of consent had been smashed, and I needed something else to take its place.
We usually think of consent as just “Yes” or “No” but the Wheel of Consent breaks it into four quadrants, asking “Who is this for?”.
Many people think they’re giving when they’re taking, or that they’re receiving when they’re allowing, and I’ve found this map has given me a more nuanced understanding of consent, that I can bring with me in all relationships, be they sexual or platonic.
The Body Keeps the Score
This book is like a manual for being human. Bessel Van Der Kolk goes into great detail to explore and explain trauma, from big events like rape, war, or a car crash, to the more daily traumas so many of us experience (like having absent parents, and what that does to us in the long run).
I found that reading it so soon after a traumatic event helped explain what happened. Why I couldn’t speak after it happened, why I felt on edge all the time, why little things triggered me. It made me feel normal in what I was experiencing and gave me something of a map to understand my visceral experience.
It also showed me how much pre-existing trauma I had, from childhood and life after that. My dad was an alcoholic and that was obviously traumatic so it helped illuminate things I carry from my childhood, as well as other events that happen in life.
Now this was super scary but really beneficial. I knew immediately it would be a good thing to do, but it took me about 5 weeks to feel ready. And even when I did feel ready it was hard.
I went to a place I know well, now was not the time to try new things, and explained what had happened to the staff, so that the masseuse would know to be gentle and also wouldn’t be totally taken by surprise if I freaked out.
By “explained what happened” I actually mean sat outside the spa for about 30 minutes building up the courage, and then cried in the reception as I explained. They were very sweet and understanding, and the masseuse took my hand, and was incredibly kind and gentle.
In the end it was a really good experience. It was important to bring safe, consensual touch back to my body. During the massage I had to keep reminding myself that I was safe, that she wasn’t going to hurt me, and that I was in control and could stop it at any time I wanted.
Work with people and get help
When you’re ready, work with someone.
Depending on your needs and what’s available to you find a therapist, a healer, a support group. There are lots of modalities out there as well that are specific to trauma.
I’ve heard great things about Somatic Experiencing by Peter Levine, and have done EMDR by myself usingYoutube videoswhich really helps too.
As I’m in Bali, I couldn’t attend any of the support groups, or see therapists that are available in the UK, so I can’t vouch for them but I know they exist and would be worth checking out.
Chakrubs make crystal sex toys, which can be a great way to re-engage with yourself in a sexual way, that feels safe and gentle. The toys are super beautiful, and are more about exploring and caring for yourself than pressuring yourself to get off.
They’re made from crystals, and you can choose from various shapes and sizes. They also sell Yoni Eggs which have been great for me. I started using them years ago and found they made my period pains go away, and more recently have been a way for me to bring my attention to a sensitive part of my body in a way that feels like it honours me.
Even if you haven’t been sexually abused, you might like to engage with yourself in a sexual, safe, and sacred way.
Creating Safer Space is an online course for practitioners (therapists, yoga teachers, healers) to hold space for trauma. So many of us are traumatised, so if you work with people in a healing context it’s likely that you will have clients or students who walk into the room with unresolved trauma, and being able to create and hold a space for that is a real gift you can offer.
I also found it was really helpful for me in terms of holding space for myself, and that everything she shared can be applied to looking after yourself too. If your traumatised client might have difficulty opening up or feeling safe, so might your traumatised You, and the more you can understand and be compassionate to both clients and yourself, the better.
Listening to myself
Deeply. Like my life depends on it. Listening to myself in every moment, and trusting yourself to know what I need. I found listening to my breath was a great way to go. Did my breath feel free and expansive, or tight and contracted?
In this situation how is my breath? With this person, how is my breath? With this thought or idea, how is my breath?
One of my biggest experiences throughout all of this was that my will and consent were so explicitly violated that it became imperative for me to prioritise what I wanted, what made me feel safe, and to have a highly consensual relationship with myself. To build that consent within me.
For example, I’m normally a pretty good meditator. I’m comfortable in the silence, enjoy silent retreats, and have a pretty calm mind. But for weeks after it happened I couldn’t meditate for even a couple of minutes. Everytime I closed my eyes and went quiet I was greeted by the jangling of my nervous system, stress, and agitation.
I know the received wisdom might be to power through, sit with the discomfort, do it no matter how hard it is. But that didn’t feel right to me. It felt like violating my own consent, and until my nervous system was calmer, until I could sit comfortably and breath, I chose not to meditate.
Now that everything has calmed down I can sit in silence with myself again, no problem. But it was important to me to listen to myself and not violate myself just because meditation is “good”.
Point being, listen to yourself. And check in regularly. Meditation might not be the thing for you now, but it might be in a month or two. There’s no rush, and it’s more important to deeply listen to yourself and rebuild a consensual relationship with yourself, where your needs and safety matter, than to do what is “good” or “right” according to received wisdom.
Know there’ll be ups and down
Healing is not linear, my friend. It’s cyclical. It goes in layers. It comes up when it feels safe and held. Somethings can only be brought about when the context is right.
So don’t expect yourself to handle this in a straight line. Some days you’ll feel fine, and wonder if you’re making a big deal out of it. Other days you’ll feel awful and wonder if you’ll ever smile again.
You’ll think you’re over it and then something happens and you’re back in it. You’ll tell the story to people, sometimes sobbing as if it’s still happening, and sometimes very factually as if it’s information.
All you can do, I think, is change your relationship with feeling shit. When waves of trauma come in, I just see it as a chance to hold and heal that which is already there, and that if I can feel and hold it now, it can be released and move, and I will feel more freedom in my system.
That if I can meet what comes up, then me and the uncomfortable feeling can both be liberated from each other.
Try not to make assumptions
When it first happened I had all these assumptions about what it meant.
It’s taken me a long time to write this, and I’ve written a lot of versions of it. When I look back at what I wrote 6 weeks ago or so, it’s full of assumptions about what I “know”. I know I’ll have to do this, I know I won’t be able to do that.
It turns out they’re not true.
I thought the next time I’d have sex after being raped would be a huge deal, that would require big, serious conversations and explanations into what happened. Everything I’d read implied there would be tears, flashbacks, more trauma.
But it wasn’t a big deal at all. At all. For me it was more curiosity, like “I wonder what will happen… Will I be fine and have fun, will I freak out and cry? I don’t know, but we’ll find out soon”.
So it might be a big deal for you, it might not. Get comfortable with “I don’t know”. It leaves your options much more open and gives space for your way, rather than how other people have experienced it.
(And you don’t have to do my curious thing. That’s my way. It felt right to me to do it this way, out of curiosity and really not liking the fact that the last time I’d had sex I was raped and wanting a new “last time” as it were, but if that doesn’t feel good to you, don’t do it).
That’s a very good question.
Now what, indeed.
In some ways everything has changed, in other ways everything is the same. I’m the same, but different, but the same, but also different.
Certain themes, let’s call them, have been highlighted to me; consent, boundaries, dominance, trauma.
They were part of my life before, but now the contrast has been turned up, and I feel much more interested and attuned to these themes.
Self-love, intimacy, safety, and connection have also been highlighted and brought to my attention. Again, not my first introduction, but they make themselves more known now.
Being raped was always one of the worst things I could have imagined. Then it happened. And I’m still here.
Whilst it’s horrible finding yourself so powerless and abused, I’ve found something weirdly empowering in finding that I’m still here. I’m still me. I still like who I am. To see how resilient I am, but also how soft I can stay. That I can find deeper compassion and connection, rather than losing myself.
One of the things that had always put me off offering healing sessions was not knowing how I’d hold someone who came to me telling me they’d been raped. I imagined I’d be like “Woah, you should see someone about that” and they’d reply “I am. YOU!”.
I didn’t know if I could hold and meet someone in that kind of hurt.
Now I know I can.
I didn’t have a choice in what happened, but I do have a choice in where I go from here. In what I let it do to me, in what I decide it means, in how I interpret this experience.
I have more trust in my family and friends. We all handled this incredibly well. I remember how scared I was to tell my brother, and how compassionate and present he was, telling me he’d support whatever I decided to do, be it going on medication or fucking a hundred guys if that made me feel better.
My mum being so far and yet so close, holding me in her heart and talking to me every day for hours, having to judge my mood and match my pace.
My dad opening up about his own traumas and flashbacks. My friends being there and holding my hand in the darkness. The extended community that supported my family so they could support me. That in this moment I was all of their daughters.
I choose to see it as a shit experience that closes out a chapter.
Almost like in a video game where you have to fight the boss in order to complete the level. “Ahh, I see you have some experience with a certain quality of the unrelenting masculine that doesn’t care about you and just takes what it wants. Well, here’s an extreme expression. What will you do with that?”
In closing a chapter it does feel like the end of one life. But that’s ok, I’ve already lived that life. A new life starts. A new life in which I’m a little wiser, a lot more tender, and way less naive and innocent. A descent into The Underworld to meet the darkness, to walk into the fire, to offer myself up to flames and let myself burn.
And to return, scarred but transformed. Knowing what I’m made of, knowing that I can’t be can’t be taken away from me, knowing that I am mine.
Being raped was the end of a chapter, but not of me.
So dear friend, thank you for letting me take you on this journey. Thank you for witnessing me, for feeling me, for putting yourself in my shoes, and for being with me.
If you enjoyed, well maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word, if you felt something reading this, please share or send to anyone you think would find it useful.
Going through this has shown me what a big deal it is, how it breaks you, burns you, and turns your world upside down, but also that you can come through it. I didn’t find much out there about coming through it. I know it’s a fine line to walk between saying “Yes this is awful” and “It’s not the end of you”. It seems like saying you’ll be ok invalidates the pain.
I want to acknowledge your pain whilst also validating your strength, your courage, your tenderness, your heart, your softness, your power, and your ability to rise.
If you’re going through some stuff and would like to work together, get in touch and let’s see what we can do.