31 January 2011

Post 310: Scars

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. ISBN: 9781934813324.

There is a really great moment between Kendra and her therapist Carolyn when Kendra asks Carolyn why she didn't tell her she was a rape survivor. It's a good question for several reasons and a bad one for several others. The reason that Carolyn gives for not telling Kendra is that it was not a professional thing to do to give Kendra that information. This is correct on several levels. For one, it might impair Kendra's ability to focus on her own issues and how to move past them. However, Kendra brought up a good point that it might have helped her move past her own pain to know that someone she knew was a survivor of rape and was now a healthy and happy person. I'm going to tell you about some of my own experiences with survivor stories and how they have affected me.

I don't recall if it was every semester, or only every fall semester, but Antioch College regularly held Take Back the Night events. These ranged from the poignant and touching to the vaguely annoying for those of us trying to study (some events included going around at night through the dorms making lots of noise and chanting). One year I decided I would participate in any way I could. There was going to be an open mic night for people to tell their stories and several people I knew would be speaking. I wanted to go to support them. Little did I know that there would be so many people I knew, all with terrible, terrible stories. These were strong women and men, all of whom I admired greatly and who contributed to the community.

Their voices made me want to tell my own story. At first I didn't know how to start, in some ways I felt that my experience wasn't really a rape, but that is something that I think many people feel, especially those who are raped by people they know (that's most of them). Speaking out and telling people my story was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done. It hurt. It hurt more than the realization that this person who said he loved me never did and was manipulating me into doing things he knew I didn't want to do because I was young and inexperienced and would do it if he asked enough. And when I was done I felt better. I felt relief when no one came up to me and said, "that's not rape." In some ways it was a validation of my experiences, and that what happened to me was wrong even if I was not physically forced to do it.

When everyone was done speaking we were supposed to go on that Take Back the Night walk. I can't remember if I joined or not. I think I was still a bit in shock from the catharsis of telling my own story and the frustration of knowing that so many people I knew had been hurt in similar ways. The good news is that most of the people who spoke were happy individuals for the most part. It is hard not to let an event like that affect the rest of your life, but these people made their lives about more than their traumatic experience.

I don't think it is necessary for every rape survivor to tell their story in public. There is still stigma attached to the victim, which is sad and depressing. But if you are ready, and you want to tell your story so that people know that it can happen to anyone, there are places where you can tell it anonymously. And I would encourage everyone to remember that chances are they know someone who has been raped and to be open to receive that story if said person decides to tell you.

Great review from another reading Amy over at Amy Reads.
LibsNote: Received free copy from Sisters in Crime booth at ALA 2010.
If you're wondering why I didn't cover the obvious topics, it's because I've already posted about my personal experiences with cutting and (in my case, statutory,) rape.
Oh, um, if you saw a post for First Contact pop up in your reader yesterday, sorry about that, I hit publish too soon. The edited version will be on the blog in a couple of days.


  1. It takes courage to open yourself up to people, but I think it's so important. Congrats on being able to do so, and I hope the experience was cathartic enough to stay with you for a long time.

  2. Thanks Trisha,
    It definitely was. It was probably one of the moments I really fell in love with the community at Antioch and was able to forgive myself and realize what my ex had actually done to me.


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