Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Past Tense of Abuse

A few weeks ago, I compared the rape of 15-year-old Maya, to that of male assault. She’s a major figure in the novel, Beartown. Today I finished reading the sequel, Us Against You.

It’s now months after her rape and the author shows us her heart—and her pain.
When people talk about rape, they always do so in the past tense. She “was.” She “suffered.” She “went through.”

But she didn’t go through it, she’s still going through it. She wasn’t raped, she’s still being raped. For Kevin it lasted a matter of minutes, but for her it never ends. It feels as though she’s going to dream about that running track every night of her life. And she kills [Kevin] there, every time. And wakes up her nails dug into her hands and scream in her mouth.

Anxiety. It’s an invisible ruler.[1]
Obviously, I made a comparison and realized the relevance. For us men, our assault remains present tense for a long, long time.

Once my memories of childhood rape came back to me, I relived them for months. I’m glad no one said to me, “that was the past. Just move on.” I couldn’t have moved on any faster.

Until we start healing inside, there is no moving on and no past tense. We feel it, and like Maya, we live and re-live it.

For me, it took more than a year before the worst flashbacks and memories stopped tugging at me. But gradually the healing showed. I can now say that my abuse has become past tense. Still back there, but no longer controlling my emotions.

Perhaps I’m not fully healed, but I keep getting a little closer to that goal. I rarely feel the pain—at least not the way I did “back then.”

I still hear from survivors who may not use the present tense, but it’s obvious, it’s still part of them. I want every survivor to live in the past tense. Even better, to live in the past perfect tense—an action fully completed in the past.

For a long time I lived in the present tense of pain. 
Now I’m experiencing it as a past event 
and getting closer to it being a past-perfect tense. 

[1] Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (Atria Books, 2017), page 255.


Dan said...

Wow. Being vulnerable again is work. Daily work. Opening up and being honest...telling someone how you feel gently....not reacting......choosing to not let the past control you.....trying to not be defensive all the time.....attempting to not become stuck, not bringing up the past mistakes of others when you want someone to pay....forgiving, letting go of anger, bitterness, hate etc. All in a days work for someone who suffered early childhood sexual abuse.

Unknown said...

Dan. I'm a little late in responding to your comment.
I was truly saddened to read your words. You must be in terrible pain. You expressed so well what many of us have gone through (or are still going through). Don't give up. Keep forging ahead. It DOES get easier.