Consider this your trigger warning for sexual assault, violence, and general scumbag shit.
It was a bright Sunday morning.
While I was planning to spend my Sunday morning the same way I spend every Sunday morning – working, of course – there was a minor protest going on a few feet away from my desk.
“Don’t you want to come out here with me? That new show on A&E is starting now.”
Eddy pretty much resented the fact that I would spend weekends working instead of spending even a little time folded up on the couch with him, so I gave in.
The show he was referring to was the season opener for Bates Motel, which aims to create and illustrate a back story to Norman Bates and the story of Psycho, a movie I’d never seen. And, though I’m not a movie person, I do like thrillers… and figured it’d be an opportunity for me to pick up the flick and watch it with him later that week. See? Gotta find ways to win.
The show started.
I won’t spoil too much of it, but hell. It’s at least 3-4 weeks into the show by now. If you were gonna watch, you would’ve by now.
Norma buys a hotel and a gorgeous home for Norman and herself, from a foreclosure sale. A member of the family who once owned the property, a slovenly, drunk scumbag named Keith, shows up on their front lawn trying to size them up. A showdown between Norma and Keith ensues, and Norma sends him scurrying off with his tail tucked between his legs.
Later in the show, during Norma’s evening when she’s alone, Keith breaks into her home. Obviously still drunk, Keith comes in armed with handcuffs, duct tape, and an agenda. He tells Norma, very plainly, “This house is mine, and everything in this house… is mine.”
At this point, while watching, I put my hand to my chin. Not in shock, but in preparation for screaming. I could feel my blood running cold – if I were completely honest, my fingers and hands feel cold while I’m typing right now – and I felt paralyzed. Literally, incapable of moving.
He took the duct tape, and covered her mouth. He pinned her down onto the table, and handcuffed her arm to the table’s leg.
And he began to rape her.
My jaw slowly dropped open, and I only know this because my hand went from feeling chin, to feeling lips. My eyes rolled over to Eddy, whose expression read more like guilt than shock or sadness or disgust. He’d begged me to come out and watch the show with him, and I knew he now resented having me come out with him. He stared at the floor, lips tight, head slightly tilted. It was the kind of face you make when you just want to say “Damn, man,” but you can’t.
The shit couldn’t cut to commercial quick enough.
I was in shock. I felt violated. Not in a “why wasn’t there a warning?!” kind of way; remember, I came to the episode late, and would’ve missed a warning even if there was one. It was just too reminiscent. It wasn’t deja vu as much as it was like watching a nightmare. And, while I’m sure there’s artistic value in accomplishing making me say that, there’s also… terror in feeling what I’d felt that morning.
Commercials for toilet paper, trashy processed food and detergent came across the screen, and I couldn’t move. Eddy watched me like a hawk. A minute passed, and finally, there was a sign of life: a single tear rolled down my cheek. He left the room to grab a tissue for me, but when he returned, my shirt was soaked. A steady stream of tears fell. No sounds, no sobs… just tears. I didn’t want to alert the little one to the fact that Mommy was crying.
He took me by the hand, and pulled me into the bedroom. There? Full blown sobbing commenced. His shirt, soaked. Tissue box, emptied. It’s been a long time since I cried that hard. My blood pressure actually dropped. My entire body felt cold. I’m pretty sure he held me for an hour before I moved again.
I spent the afternoon just… talking. About everything. Aside from the occasional checking-in-on-the-kid, I just needed to talk. He was there to listen. By that evening, I’d felt like I understood more about myself and what I’d been through, and how it affected me.
But the real beauty of it all, was that Eddy reminded me of how I used to understand these feelings – I didn’t – and how I used to handle these feelings – I binged like there was no tomorrow.
I went through so much of my life without the self-awareness I have now. Knowing how I think, how I feel, how certain situations make me feel, respecting my intuition, and protecting myself from situations that challenge that in unhealthy ways… those are art forms. I used to lament the fact that I didn’t write these kinds of deep, thought-provoking, story-telling posts anymore, but that was actually a sign of my progress – my journey is actually a journey. I’m healing.
Recovery is hard. And, as much as it makes me cringe to say it, being a survivor is hard. So few people actually understand rape culture, so few organizations provide pervasive support and counseling to people who can’t afford it (read: my broke ass), that there’s no wide-spread understanding of how to support someone through this kind of trauma. We still, as a culture, frown upon psychiatric help – the very people most capable of teaching the coping mechanisms that survivors need. I needed it, and thank heavens for the sorority sister who gave me her insight when I was most vulnerable.
Recovering from my experiences has been hard, but I am infinitely grateful. Grateful for my sense of self, my self-awareness, my sense of self-compassion, and my understanding of how to cope with these triggering moments when they arise. Recovery is hard… but without this process, I don’t know where I’d be.