What takes so long: 7 Stages of Adjustment to Healing from Sexual Violence

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Oh, so that’s what that is for

So, I’m watching tv the other day.  There is a show on that I like about people who work on a rescue unit in large city.  The squad goes to help a guy who was injured on the job.

This character who was working on a construction site, somehow had a long metal rod passing right through.  The funny thing about the entire scene is that when the   ambulance arrives and the guy is acting like he has nothing more than a splinter.

So then I’m  thinking.  Okay, so shock must be one way that we are protected from what is really going on.  I see.  Had this guy freaked out (like I wouldv’e) he might have bled to death.  Or even worse he might fallen to the ground and there might be more internal damage.

911, right?

There are so many mysteries and complexities about how the body deals with injury or trauma.

I think of things like this when I hear people say, “What would take a victim or rape so long to come forward?

I get what their getting at.  When my home was robbed a long time ago I called the police first.

Then family. So I could cry.

You gotta understand, reporting rape is nothing like reporting other types of crime.

I always try to explain this to folks but I’m hoping that someone can help me.

That Night (based on a true Survior’s journey)

What takes so long?

I remember meeting a woman I’ll call Tricia.  Tricia and I talked about a secret that she had been carrying around.

This secret was an anchor and so was the man who turned her life from sweet to sour.

12 years earlier Tricia brought home a colleague. He was a co-worker named Justin.  Justin was Tricia’s first adult crush.

Now when the music got romantic, the lights low, and there was closeness, Tricia wasn’t mad.  Sigh.  But then for some reason she remembered that she didn’t want to go too far.

She promised herself that this time it wouldn’t physical before everything else was set.

Justin raped Tricia that night.

7 Common Stages of Healing, (Tricia’s timeline)

1.  Shock

Complete inability to believe that you have been assaulted

I had seen stuff about rapeon tv and read about it.   I have friends who have been raped.   This stuff happens to women who cry and get teary over little stuff.  I’m an athlete. And for some reason I just kept repeating my entire name over and over. 

Time period:  Immediately following the rape           Time span:  1 week

2.  Denial

It didn’t happen.

I wasn’t raped.  Maybe I’m thinking it was rape and it wasn’t.  I remember visiting the library all of the time just to look up rape.  I needed to know the definition of it.  For a long time nearly everything that I found was either for women who were raped by a stranger late one night or for college girls.  I wasn’t either one.   

Time period:  6 weeks following the rape                   Time span:  2 months -13 years

It wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Maybe things got out of hand a bit.  I’m making a big deal out of nothing.  It wasn’t even rape.  Who gets raped in their own apartment?  I actually know Justin.  I even had a crush on him.

Time period:  Immediately following the rape           Time span: 13 years

Besides, that is Justin, he doesn’t have to rape anyone.  See this is what all of my friends were saying. 

Time period:  Immediately following the rape           Time span: 3 years

3.  Anger & Cofusion

Why Me?

My mother should have been stronger.  If my mother had not been so quiet and passive perhaps I would have learned how to be stronger.

Time period:  2 years after the rape    Time span:  7 months, then Thanksgiving came along

When father’s day came around and all I could think was, “Why did my father shelter me?”  This never would have happened if I wasn’t so stupid.  My father shouldn’t have been so overprotective.

Time period:  3 years after the rape   Time span: 9 months- 1 year (They started talking when he got really ill.)

And why did I let my friends talk me into going out with him?  Perhaps they weren’t real friends.

Time period:  3 weeks after the rape               Time span:  3 years

I gained a lot of weight.  If I had not looked attractive then perhaps this would never have happened.

Time period:  6 weeks after the rape               Time span:  11 years

4.  Bargaining

I’ll act like this didn’t happen and then I don’t have to deal with this.

I will put this behind me. When I went to church I took in the message of shaking the dust off of my feet and moving forward.  

Time period:  Immediately following the rape           Time span:  12 years

I forgave him.  That’s what they said you should do.  That was the key to moving forward.  Well, that and letting it go.

Time period: 4 years beyond the rape             Time span:  4 years

I worked on forgetting.  I concentrated hard on forgetting.  I stayed so busy that I couldn’t help but forget about it.

Time period:  Immediately following the rape           Time span: 12 years

5.  Crisis

Unpredictable, Varies by individual

Nightmares.  I got insomnia because I was afraid of the nightmares that were waiting for me.  I would see it happening over and over again.  It felt real.  I would wake up glad that it wasn’t real but what about the pain?

Time period:  Immediately following the rape                       Time span: Ongoing monitoring

Some nights I felt suicidal.  I couldn’t carry this much pain.

Time period:  6 weeks after the rape                                       Time span: Ongoing monitoring

I was feeling really sad for no real reason.  I cried easily if I was sad.  Other times I was just pissed off at everyone. 

Time period:  One week following the rape                           Time span: Ongoing monitoring

Forget relationships.  It was hard for any person to be involved with me with everything that I was feeling.

Time period: 1 year following the rape                                   Time span: Ongoing monitoring

Even though I forgave him, I hated myself.

Time period:  3 weeks after the rape                                       Time span:  Ongoing monitoring

6.  Recovery

Only after the wound is acknowledged, cleaned, and dressed, can it begin to heal.

Time period:  12 years after the rape                          Time span:  Ongoing monitoring

7.  Integration

I accept that something terrible happened to me.

I feel no shame or guilt.  I know that belongs to Justin.  I’m proud of myself for surviving.  

 I am selective about with who talk about the whole “thing” with but it’s not like I’m in hiding anymore.  I know that it might take me a lifetime to heal.  But it is worth it! I am worth it!

Time period:  12 years after the rape                          Time span: Ongoing monitoring

Nearly every person who has survived sexual violence is usually in one of these stages. In a lot of cases, victims go between stages more than once.  This is normal.  Healing takes as long as it takes.

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