Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rape as a form of theft: Part 1/2 (Healing Exercise)

This exercise was taken from Matt Atkinson's Resurrection After Rape: A guide to transforming from Victim to Survivor. In this therapy exercise, Atkinson asks that you answer the question, "If rape is a form of theft, what did it steal?" This particular exercise can be found on Page 70 of his manual.

The things that immediately come to mind – my sense of 
self and self-esteem, for example – are the very things Atkinson instructs readers to avoid. He refers to these phrases as "cataclysmic phrases" that do not reflect the truth; in other words, he is suggesting that these qualities can be regained. He recommends doing this exercise by considering more specific, concrete answers.

For me, following his instructions for the task certainly makes this exercise more difficult because when I think back to that night, the emotional components are what start screaming at me. But then again, I guess that’s the author’s point J Here goes!
  • Rape stole the new outfit I was wearing that night (striped corduroy pants and a beige long-sleeved blouse) because I could no longer wear it after that night, or bear to look at it for that matter. When I took a leave of absence from school to “heal,” my mother kept questioning me why I wasn't wearing “that cute little outfit I just bought you.” I tried to hold onto it as long as I could, but I had to dump the pants almost immediately. Seeing them hanging in my closet – washed, pressed, and nicely folded on the hanger – almost seemed like a cruel reminder that the only evidence left from that night was my tainted inner self. I know this sounds ridiculous (and perhaps psychotic), but it almost felt like those multi-colored striped pants were laughing at me.
  • Rape stole my sophomore spring semester of college, as I had to take a medical leave of absence. 
  • Rape stole my college GPA for a two-year period. It was insanely difficult to concentrate following that night, even after I returned to school after my semester off. Not to mention, I was taking numerous medications for anxiety and depression that lowered my cognitive stamina and overall ability to complete schoolwork. I remember being in the library my junior year of college and just laying my head in my book and crying because I couldn’t make sense of any of the words in my text book. They were there – I could read them and make sense out of the individual words – but I couldn’t connect them and extract any sort of overall meaning from them.
  • Rape stole many nights of sleep.
  • Rape stole much daylight, as it was frequently difficult to get out of bed or away from the T.V.
  • Rape stole the purity of my first experience with sexual intercourse. I wanted my first time having sexual intercourse to be special and with the person with whom I would spend the rest of my life. Instead, I wasn’t even aware my first experience with sexual intercourse was occurring.  Not only did I want to be present and participating in my first time, but I also wanted it to be special. I wanted there to be eye contact. I wanted to be walked through it verbally. I wanted the funny, cute awkwardness you hear about. I wanted it to be slow and memorable and involve kissing and the words, “I love you.” My rapist robbed me of all those things. At the very least, I wanted to know that it was taking place.
  • Rape stole last year’s high school and college reunion. I attended my first high school reunion, but it was very triggering to see his snake-like face with that stupid sly grin {UGH!!!!!!}. And the way he says hi to me like it’s no big deal to him. Like nothing ever happened. Like he is completely clueless that I had to leave school because of him {UGH!!!!!}. I hate that smile, I hate those teeth, and I especially hate his gross tongue with its weird texture I can’t seem to forget. I hate how although I don't speak or respond to him, these encounters leave me feeling so weak and vulnerable. Like I've done something terribly wrong.
  • Rape also stole many sexual experiences with my now husband. Particularly during our first two years of being sexually active, I would often end up in tears or angry. When I wasn’t in tears or angry, I was attempting to hide how vulnerable and violated I felt. Often times after sex, I had to roll over on my side to hide the tears streaming down my face because the voice inside my head was calling me a “whore.”
  • Rape also stole the day after the first time I had sex with my now husband. I remember we were sitting at lunch, and he kept telling me how much he loved me and how much it meant to him that I chose to share that physical experience with him. Instead of his kind words making me feel happy, I felt distant and annoyed. Every time he said it, I would feel angry and disgusted because it felt that he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, not what he actually felt. I immediately began thinking that he was going to turn my decision to have sex with him into a way to manipulate and control me. My then boyfriend (now husband) felt closer to me after our first time having sex, but I felt extremely distant and wanted to push him away.
  • Rape has stolen a lot of money from my family due to huge therapy fees and my week long “honeymoon” in the psychiatric ward. In addition, I visited the emergency room at least twice that I can remember due to panic attacks, and once I had an ambulance come to a hotel where I was staying due to an extreme panic attack. My parents actually called 911 that night because the strange way my body was reacting made them concerned that something was wrong with my health. No one realized until the emergency personnel showed up that I was only having a panic attack.
  • Rape stole many laughs, particularly during the first two years following my rape.
  • Rape stole my old relationship with my dad. For whatever reason, perhaps I’ll explore this notion in a later post, my relationship/perspective of and sense of comfort around my dad has never been the same since I was raped. I can't exactly pinpoint why at this point.
  • Rape stole my trip to England for my 21st birthday. I was planning to visit my friends who were living abroad. The day before I was supposed to leave, I had a routine blood test, which revealed that my electrolytes had fallen to such dangerously low levels that I was below the point where many people have seizures. The electrolyte problem was caused by a medication I had been taking for my “bipolar disorder” (a.k.a. Rape Trauma Syndrome or PTSD).
  • Rape stole many fun nights in college. Thankfully, my rapist went abroad, which enabled me to gain enough courage to come back to school. Once he returned, it was brutal trying to have a normal social life knowing that I could bump into him at any time. As a result, I frequently opted out of attending certain parties because our friends overlapped so much.
  • This sounds ridiculous, but rape stole Mole sauce from me. During a date in high school at a Mexican restaurant, my rapist ordered a meat dish with mole sauce. Still to this day, whenever I see it on a menu at a Mexican restaurant, I feel a tinge of anxiety, vulnerability, and emptiness. It’s enough to keep me from ever wanting to order whatever dish.
  • Rape stole from me many normal interactions with guys. Following my rape, I had some strange, chaotic things running through my head that often left me acting strangely and wondering about it later. I continued to feel out of control until my rapist graduated. Once he graduated, I felt a sense of relief, and my grades immediately shot back up. However, I continued to struggle with unprocessed emotions, but I just became better at repressing the hurt.


  1. I just now saw this post, I am sorry I am just now responding to it.

    All of those things make a lot of sense, even the Mole sauce.

    I am really sorry for all of these things that he stole/affected in your life. (((hug)))

    I might try to do this exercise. No promises though. Again I am really sorry he took so much.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It really means a lot. Please, no worries about not responding sooner. Please feel free to respond or not respond to any of my posts - of course, when you do respond, I always appreciate your feedback! If you decide to do this exercise, I hope you find it helpful. It really makes you think, which can be a really good thing but also difficult. Have you read Matt Atkinson's "Resurrection After Rape"? If not, you might want to check it out - it has a lot of insightful information and a series of therapy activities to help with healing. Thanks again for your support. xxx

  2. I haven't read it but I have heard of it. I tried to sit down and write but I am still having that block. It's getting o my nerves.

    1. I bet that is really, really frustrating. Are you trying to write about a particular thing? Or, are you trying to just get anything out? Sometimes I feel similarly in therapy - like there's tons of stuff running through my mind, but I can't grab onto any one thing long enough to get it out. The longer it goes on, the more frustrated I become. For me, I think it's something that kicks in (avoidance coping strategy, I guess) to prevent me from talking about things that are really upsetting. Sending you lots of positive energy in hoping that you get over this writer's block soon. I know it's hard, but please try to be gentle with yourself - it will come. xxx

  3. It is a means of avoiding in order to cope.

    1. I'm sorry I'm short on words, but sending you these (((((Jaime)))))