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Gail: Hello, everybody. This is Gail Kraft from The Empowering Process podcast. And we’re going to talk a little bit today about a serious subject and that is the shame of rape. There will be a few shame series that you’ll be hearing from me and it will be a panel format. Today, I have two guests in my panel, but we have four stories. Not everybody is comfortable about talking about the things that happened to them, because the shame is still there, there’s still a little fear, there’s a little concern. And maybe even this is not believable, because some of the stories, and they’re true, they write books about them, they create TV programs about it; it seems like fiction.
So we’re going to touch on a little bit of fiction and a little bit about the shame of rape. If this is a harsh subject for you to listen to, please go on to another podcast, because we’re going to talk about some very serious situations. And when we talk about rape, there is situational rape, which is you fall in, and I’m going to tell you about mine, which were situational. And then there’s systemic, that means it’s within your family.
It could be your father, your brother, your uncle, your grandfather, the neighbor next door, your minister, it could be the bus driver. These are all stories that clients of mine have come to me with. These are real facts, that people that you trust, and the people that you go to for protection and for guidance as a child could very well be predators. And so let’s talk a little bit about that, if you will.
So I will tell the stories and then we’ll circle back, and we’ll talk about some healing. And then we’ll circle back and I will give you the name of a few places nationally that you could go to for help. And we will talk about, in some of the stories, about being turned down for help. Keep going anyway. So the first story, of course, as I said, is going to be about me. And I’ve had two situations that I had to deal with, one as a teenager, and one as an older adult. In fact, I was a grandmother. So age does not matter.
And as a teenager, fortunately for me, the boy involved was really after power more so than rape. And he was walking me home from where I hung out. I was a gang kid, I hung out in Boston; the boys walked us home, so we’d get home “safely”. And on the way, he pulled me into an alley. And as he is ripping off my clothes, I started fighting with him, and he was strangling me. And when I got to the point where I was ready to die, I gave up, and I actually gave myself up to death. And he stopped.
And I was literally able to talk myself out of being raped because he was looking for power, not the physical act of rape. And so I gave into the power, I gave into what he wanted, but was not raped. Very fortunate. We will talk about the ending of that story some other time. But later on, I, like I said, came from the Boston area, came from the northeast, and I moved to beautiful San Diego. And while I was there, a gentleman I used to date called to say he was coming out to the west coast. His sister was getting married and he thought he would stop by to see me, spend a little time, and then fly out for her wedding.
This is a gentleman I dated. This was a gentleman I trusted. When he came, now he’s in my home, and what started off as consensual sex turned into me fighting and saying, “No, enough. Stop,” and him not. It was brutal. It was harsh. It was abusive. But I will tell you, at the end, I literally got up, washed up, and left my own home. I had no clue what to do. Do you go to the police on something like that? I invited him into my house. He was staying overnight. What do you do? Literally, needless to say, I drove him home the next morning or dropped him off at the airport and said, “See ya, don’t call me again, we’re done.”
But those are normal, believe it or not, situations. We’re now going to talk a little bit about normal situations that are outside the boundaries of belief. And the first one we’re going to talk about and I’m going to read the stories, is guest number two. Okay. Guest number two, at the age of nine, was raped by a nine year old, an eight year old, and their seven year old sisters, three siblings ganged up on her. She allowed the oldest to rape her. And then again, a few months later, when he threatened to do the same thing to her younger sister who was seven at the time.
She lost a dear friend because the oldest bragged about doing those things with her that only “grownups” are supposed to do. To be honest, she didn’t even have a word for what happened. She was nine, folks. Until two years later, when she was finally told. Two years later, she wrote a fictionalized version during an English class, and the teacher turned her nose up at it. And therefore, guest number two felt even more shame. Shame of what happened, shame that she tried to tell her story and was told it was not believable.
Yet a few years later, she was brave enough to submit the story again. And actually, it was published and she won an award for it. But that’s not the end. This is a case of chronic rape. And she was raped again as an adult, while a Mormon. She was actually roofied and this is not an unusual story. She had a roommate who was just adorable. She was sweet and completely naïve to anything evil. But that made her feel like she had to watch out for her, she needed to be the protector. And this roommate was dating a gentleman who was not good news at all. So she wouldn’t let her go to his place alone. So she went with her.
And one night he roofied her. She doesn’t remember being able to hear anything. She couldn’t move on. She could hear but she couldn’t move. Couldn’t even make more than a grunting sound, the room was spinning. So she kept her eyes closed. And she was just left there. She wasn’t drinking, but she still got roofied. She was a Mormon, she was sticking to her beliefs. Her roommate was leaving and the gentleman said that guest number two was just really tired and he’d let her crash there for the night. So the roommate left. She did scream, “No!” in her head but she was roofied.
She remembers him picking her up and carrying her, being pressured; his body against hers. She remembers the penetration but not being able to move at all. She was terrified. Then she remembers waking up in his bed without anything on, not even a sheet. She told her bishop and he shamed her for it, actually told her that it was her fault and that she couldn’t partake in sacrament because of what she had allowed to happen. He even encouraged her to go on a date with this man to see if she could make things right in the eyes of God. We’ll stop there.
She did leave being Mormon. She did have other situations in her life, where she was still giving out that victim signal. She still got into unhealthy sexual situations, until most recently when she finally decided to take control of her life. So we’re going to talk some more about a few other stories in boundaries that don’t even exist. Before we go to the next two stories, I want to remind you that as a child, you trust your parents, you trust adults, to raise you, to protect you, and to be there for you. These models are the people who create your belief systems. These models are the people who give you your boundaries. What hope does a child have when they are the victim of continual sexual abuse?
I’ve had a client who worked with me whose grandfather would give her money after each encounter. Do you think she had problems with money? Absolutely. Do you think her family knew? Absolutely. But they turned away, “Oh, that’s just him being him.”
Let’s talk about the next situation. In this other situation, this person came from a wealthy family, a highly educated family, an internationally traveled family. It was not unusual for them to go skiing in the Alps and to go to Greece for a swim. However, from birth, she was not wanted, and she was just an item. Her father continually raped her and her brother continually raped her.
Her mother sent her away because she was in the way of the relationship between her and her husband. She didn’t understand. And when she was sent away, she was sent away in Europe, and did not speak the language. So again, was pushed away and ignored. She had no one to turn to. She didn’t even know whether this was right or wrong. This type of abuse continued until she was 18 and found herself pregnant, and in an abortion clinic. It was at that time that a gentleman came into her life to save her. And because of him, she was able to step back and get out of the entangled situation she was in. How did she deal with it? We will talk about that in the next segment.
Guest number three is another case of structural and continual sexual abuse. And I have to remind you, that when it is systemic within the family, there’s often other abuses going on as well. We are just focusing today on the sexual component but it’s always compounded with other forms of abuse, which will be discussed at another time. Guest number three’s situation is her father. And this was him expressing his version of love. And so as a child, she grew up with repeated sexual encounters with the man who was meant to be there to protect her and keep her safe. The man who is supposed to teach her what love with another man is supposed to be like, the person who is supposed to teach her what is right, and what is wrong.
And as a result, this child grew up not knowing what healthy sexual boundaries were all about. And so can you imagine her first encounter with a boyfriend at 13. Of course, there was a sexual encounter. She thought that was love. Imagine again, at 14 and again at 15, until she realized that she was being ridiculed and abused and she started questioning what was going on. Through her childhood, she was internalizing what was happening. She understood at a subjective level that this didn’t seem right. But who could she turn to? Who could she talk to? Did anyone even recognize what was going on?
As a child, her mother came from a family of sexual abuse and so did not even recognize that her child had the same issues that she was dealing with. And in fact, as a teenager, we all act out as a teenager, but sexually abused teenagers, even more so. And so therefore, they were seen as problem children, rather than children with a problem. And so her mother just saw her as a problem child and pushed her away even more. She ran into again, another situation, as a young adult in her first job, where she was roofied by her boss and raped. Why does this happened? Because the vibes that these women are giving out is that it is okay, because they don’t understand anything more, even though they are starting to learn that something’s not quite right.
Where do you go? What is right? What are the boundaries? What is healthy? What is not? What do you do about it? Guest number three did go to authorities, did seek help, and at every turn was turned away. “Nope, this did not happen.” Or even when she was in a youth service group, the gentleman running that was a friend of hers, with benefits. Again, guest number three is building a healthy relationship, has found how to create healthy boundaries, and is an advocate for women and also children that are facing the same dilemma.
So with that, those are just some true examples of what goes on around us, day in and day out. We’re going to talk a little bit, our guests will talk about how they saved themselves, how they discovered that there was help that they needed to get; that they were going to keep looking until they found the help. And what they’re doing today, to live a healthy life with creating strong boundaries to keep themselves safe. And the trick is building boundaries, not walls.
And so we’ll go back to me, like I said, I didn’t have to build or have boundary issues with the teenage issue. I was a gang kid and the gang took care of whatever was going on. That was my family and that’s who I turned to. But as an older adult, I had no one to turn to, after being raped by a gentleman I trusted. And it’s usually someone that you trust. Right? And so I do lack trust, still, with intimacy with men. I have many male friends. I adore their company. They’re fantastic to hang around. But will I be intimate ever again? I would say at this point, probably not. But that’s my boundary, not the boundaries of the guests that we’re going to talk to.
The other person that I talked to… and then our two guests are going to talk about their stories of coming through this in a healthy way. The other person that I spoke to did not have a healthy solution. She became a multiple personality, in order to hide from the pain and in order to deal with what was going on. It took her years to figure out how to manage those personalities. In fact, years before she even found out that was her issue. And when she became older, she started to lose control. She never did solve or resolve all of her issues. She did… her and her brother, he apologized, they resolved their issues.
Her and her mother resolved their issues because her mother, of course, ignored what was going on. She’s definitely the queen of denial. But her father, no, she did not ever want to face that. And so she’s recently passed and she took this pain with her, and did have a beautiful husband and a beautiful son, but had many struggles that were not necessary, if she could have resolved some of the pain she went through. And guest number two, if you are comfortable pulling yourself off of mute, tell us a little bit about building healthy boundaries and living a healthier sexual life.
Guest 2: I am comfortable coming out and discussing this. So, honestly, I ended up in a really tough cycle for a very long time. I ended up in what some people call the drama triangle, where you have the persecutor, the rescuer, and the victim. And I was constantly in that victim modality and attracting men to me, who wanted to be “the white knight”. And it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago, that I was able to break free from that kind of mentality. So I had men in my life, and I had long term relationships with these men who just wanted to use me sexually and discard me.
I was engaged to one who cheated on me and I should have been fine with that, in his mind. I was dating long term, another one and had just moved in with one who wanted to fantasize about my teenage daughter, and that was really my wake up call. And it was at that point that I realized that something was so wrong and so broken inside myself that I really needed to work on me, and I needed to figure out why I kept attracting these type of people. And so I did, I locked myself away. And I was able to really sit with myself and kind of sort through my own emotions and what was going on.
And I’ve actually just recently gotten into another relationship. And this one, I’ve been very cautious with, I make sure my boundaries are followed. I had boundaries that I had set for myself before I got into any other kind of relationship because I knew I needed to feel safe for me, regardless of who came into my life, and I knew that if anybody crosses boundaries that they were not for me. And I think that was really what’s helped me and what’s really pushed me to where I need to be.
Gail: And it sounds like you did this on your own, but you didn’t, you sought outside help. You were referred to certain books that you read and actually practice.
Guest 2: When I realized that something was so wrong with the relationship that I left, that I could not take it, like there was something inside me that broke so hard, and so deep. When this individual asked for what he asked for, and in the time that he asked for it. He actually asked for it during sex while I was holding his erect penis. And I broke, like, I physically felt something inside me break and shatter. I remember standing up and butt naked, walking into the bathroom and just closing myself in, and vomiting. And it took me two or three weeks to get my exit strategy and my exit plan.
And I called family and told them what had happened. I called two of my best friends who had always been there for me. I hadn’t really talked to them, because what happens in those type of relationships is they try to isolate you so they cut you off from your support systems. I didn’t tell them exactly what had happened but I gave them the gist of some of the other things that had been going on. And that gave me the strength to leave and I did, I left. I drove halfway across the country with a fully loaded car and my kids.
Gail: And so when you got there, your goal was to heal. And who did you reach out to for healing?
Guest 2: To start with, no one, because I didn’t know I could. I may have been living with family at the time, but I didn’t even really sit with them. And so, very slowly and piece by piece, it started to fall into place. After a couple of weeks, I finally told my mom what had happened. She encouraged me to go to emergency counseling. I told them what had happened. They got me in touch with a women’s support group. After probably a month of being there, I reached out to one of those friends and it was a gentleman friend, and I didn’t think I’d ever feel comfortable. I wasn’t even comfortable around my own dad and my own brother because of what had happened.
And he and I started small, he was quite a ways away, so I knew nothing could ever happen. And we started with just text messaging, and getting me comfortable with text messaging. And from there we went on to voice clips, not even full phone conversations, little voice clips here and there. And that got me comfortable just hearing a male voice. So it was really baby steps all along the way. Until I got to the point where I was comfortable around men. Now, I’m still not comfortable being hugged by anyone except for the individual I’m dating right now. Like, I’m not even comfortable with my own brother hugging me.
Gail: And so you’re currently engaging certain practices and you’re working with a coach, and you’re working with him, who also is working on his own issues, but works with you. So you have a system that you’ve put in place and that’s the key. As much as you started, and I call that by yourself time, licking your wounds, and we all… I encourage licking your wounds. And then getting help because you want to not be rah rah, where you seeking help.
Guest 2: Yes. And I am a writer. And one of the things that I have done is I took novel writer’s course at the Notional Novel Writer’s retread, which takes place in November, National Novel Writing Month, and I spent that whole month writing a fictionalized piece about what happened. And that also helped with my healing, because it’s a way to get it out safely and to distance yourself from it because I made it fictional. I gave the characters different names, I gave them different locations. I gave them all of this because I didn’t want it to be me, I wanted it to be somebody else. And I wanted to feel safe in telling it. And so the story did morph into something different. It took some of the same premises, but it did morph into something different so that I could examine it, and look at this and say, “Wow. That really was not okay and that really is wrong.”
Gail: But forgiving yourself as well.
Guest 2: Yes.
Gail: Right, because especially as a child. So guest number two is the nine year old, folks, and just that series of events led to a lifetime of not understanding that you’re even giving off those vibes. I’d like to go to guest number three. And guest number three also sent me some poems that she used to heal through and I’ll read one of them when she is done. But as guest number two said, writing is very healing. I’ve used writing, especially poetry, guest number two, to work through things. It’s a beautiful process. But tell us, guest number three, about your healing process and where you’re at right now. If you want, there you go.
Guest 3: Yeah, so my healing process has been pretty scattered and all over the place. It started with not even realizing that I was healing. I had lived at a shelter, a women’s abuse shelter, for eight months. And I had left there and started working a full time job, and keeping my self together was always really helpful. But it really, I guess, started when I, funny enough, entered into a relationship with just a really, really amazing man. He has taught me so much about respect and love, and what it really means to be loved and makes sure that I always am making the choices for myself. And things are always what I want, and what I need, above and beyond.
And at first it felt weird because I just thought, “What’s wrong with him?” But I started to catch on, I’m like, “Oh, this is what love is. This is what respect and care is.” I’d never had someone pay so much attention to my wants and my needs, and that was just really eye opening for me. Recently, I have started therapy and that has been very validating in my experiences. For a long time, a lot of the issues that I did have in my relationship, of course, because it’s nice to find a great relationship, but of course, the baggage comes along with it. And that’s our own work that we have to sort out.
But just doing things for myself, starting therapy, not letting fear hold me back from living my life, has been really helpful for me in my healing process. In terms of actually looking at what’s happened, it’s just very recently started to unravel and I’ve been able to step aside and look at it for what it is. And at times, it still doesn’t feel like it’s my life, because it’s just been my life. But, yeah, I’d say the biggest thing for me in my healing journey that was really helpful is just not allowing fear to get in the way of doing the things that I really want for myself and not allowing these things to take over, because I realize that I’m safe now.
And I mean, to live in a fearful mindset constantly is exhausting, and it just completely takes away from the progress that I’m trying to make in my life. And I believe that healing is possible. I think, just surrounding yourself with good people, and learning about what boundaries are and what healthy relationships are, and just attaining this knowledge that was just something that I didn’t have for a really long time, has been what’s been the most helpful, because then I can see what should be, and then what was. And I can start to see where I may have made unhealthy choices for myself by accident because of the lack of awareness. So that’s sort of where I’m at now.
Also, I didn’t want to hold men responsible as a whole, because that’s really unfair. And I’m sure there’s women out there who can cause harm to men as well, even though it’s less heard of. But I started working with a coach, who is a man and he’s a very gentle soul. And then I have my boyfriend, my partner who’s the same, so just so much respect and love there. And then funny enough, even working with a massage therapist who’s a man that is just a really slow moving, gentle soul, very respectful, like these things are all very healing. And allow me to see that when you have proper boundaries or what it’s supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to feel like, moving through life without being victimized, without being looked at in a sexual way, yeah, it’s definitely an eye opener, and very therapeutic.
Gail: Yeah, it’s really an amazing, amazing journey that you’re on, both of you. The path to healing, it is painful because you face both what has happened and your own contribution, and how that is affecting you now. So I’m not one to to delve or dwell on the past but if that’s affecting you today, you have to take a look at how you’re responding today. And does that have to do with the current reality? And if not, then you need to heal the past. So it stops coming forward and affecting what’s going on today, so that you can love and enjoy what’s happening today. Anything else, guest number two? I would like to read your poem in a second.
Guest 2: I mean, the only last thing that I would say that is the most important is that for a long time, I allowed the shame to keep me silent. But it was in speaking that allowed me to find the resources and ways to help.
Gail: And that’s not always easy, is it?
Guest 2: It’s not, no.
Gail: Sometimes you think you have a resource and they turn out not to be a resource at all, which we heard with guest number two, and I know guest number three, you have the same type of issues where you were turned away or told, “There’s nothing we can do for you,” or, “Nah, that really couldn’t have been happening.”
Guest 3: Yeah, I guess you’re the only one at the end of the day that’s really going to fight to the death for yourself. So you’ve just got to keep on trekking through and just not give up.
Gail: Because the resources are out there, you just need to find them. So I’m going to read poem number two, and it’s Pretty Girl Feelings.
Life is hard and it’s no joke.
You think it was fun to be raped and be choked?
None cares for the pain of a pretty girl.
They all assume I’ve lived in a Barbie’s world.
They only miss you when you’re gone.
I guess I’ll try again when I respond.
Get over it. Stop crying about it. But it’s not that easy.
Being tossed around, made my stomach queasy.
No time to be sensitive. No time to be myself.
Who is this girl? Who, with her sleazy self.
I was deprived of loved and died inside.
Just thrown to the curb, put out on the side.
Looking for love in all the wrong places.
Confused by trying to read all their faces.
They looked at me like something was missing.
Never tried helping, just sat there dissing?
Why are you better? Why more deserving?
Why, when I ask questions, you’re always swerving?
I just want to know.
I just want to see what you all see, when you look at me.
I’m not just broken. I’m not just fixed.
I’m something in between and caught in the mix.
I hurt, I’m in pain with nothing to gain.
I think about poisoning myself through my veins.
But I’m better than that and I’m better than you.
For at least I’d sit down and try to review,
how to be kinder, and how to be wiser.
I’d searched the world for a stabilizer.
The poison I feel deep in my soul tells me that it’s time to go.
It’s not my place, this world, you see, I have no home, no family.
Lonely and sad. I’m always mad.
When I’m gone, trust I’ll be glad.
And that was when guest number three was in a very, very dark place. So there’s so much more we could talk about, so many more examples that I could give to you about the damage that it’s done through this hidden epidemic. And it is true that 9 out of 10 girls or women or more have had to deal with rape or sexual abuse of some sort. 9 out of 10. If you need help, I will give you some national contacts. And there is Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, RAINN, that you can go to. National Sexual Assault telephone hotline. They have a directory. It’s the national directory, folks and there’s only 279 organizations listed; a national directory. Go there and see if there’s a place close to you.
YWCA, they have Rape Survivors and support that survivors need and they extend the support to families. YWCA is a great place to go to if you need support and guidance, and you don’t know what to do. And believe it or not, the United Way the United Way’s job is to support nonprofits. They know the nonprofits in your area. You call them, they will be there for you. And for those of you who are adults and you see somebody who is in pain and is hiding, reach out your hand to them and sit quietly. And let them know that you’ll listen without judgment, and that you will help them find a pathway to healing. It’s our job as sisters, to support sisters, 9 out of 10 of us have had this kind of experience. I am not saying boys have not. That can be a whole other segment because I absolutely know of many men who have had to experience this as well. Right now, we’re talking about the shame of rape, for women in particular.