Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I am Strong but Fragile - What Rape Does to Your Life

My entire life has been full of tragedies and sadness.  I am not saying that for pity, PLEASE don't ever feel sorry for me, that would make me a victim again and it took years to get over.

This post is to try and explain how feeling unsafe as a child, being molested and raped and raped again as a teen, can cause a young woman's life to take a turn towards ugliness and sorrow.  It presents three paths:

- the path to hating men and sex
- the path to being strong and overcoming
- the path to believing that sex = love and becoming a slut promiscuous and looking for love through sex, never trusting men, always feeling used, never experiencing true intimacy

I walked down the third path until my late 20's when I chose to end that cycle and become strong.  Then at age 30 I accidentally got pregnant, and although I had had multiple abortions in my youth, this time it was never a question.  I was going to be the best damn mother in the world.

I didn't date for 11 years.  Met a guy, he hurt me and I fell right back into path number three, minus the sexual promiscuity.  I didn't think I would EVER be able to trust a man.  It took years to get to a place that I could open my heart and accept true love.  Then I was hurt again. 

So when people make light of sexual abuse and rape, I get furious.  Some of us are scarred for life by the events of our past, that does not make us weak, it makes us human.  Humans naturally do whatever they can to protect themselves, to cope.

So when you are talking to a woman who appears to be strong and handling her past sexual abuse/rape well, know that if she is, she's rare.  Inside she probably hurts to this very day.  She may wonder if she will ever be "normal" and experience relationships with men that are healthy.  She may find comfort reaching out to others, she may be in denial, she may just continue to look for true love.  I still believe it exists, I just don't know if it exists for me or not.


Anonymous said...

Wow..excellent description of how I feel. I just wasn't able to pull it out of myslef.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Thank you for writing this. Maybe my husband will finally understand, he doesn't like to talk about it but its important to me that he understand.

Bar L. said...


Thank you both for commenting here, you have no idea how much it means to me. This was a hard one to write. Sometimes I ask myself WHY DO I PUT MYSELF OUT THERE LIKE THIS?

Then in comes a comment like one of yours and I am reminded.

Carrie said...

your so right some times I dont think people get it its like ohh shes over it by now we can talk and joke about it in front of her everyday for me is a battle to keep these emotions in check and you know that better than any one


Anonymous said...

It's hard reading what you wrote, because i am still going through this. I've been through it since i was 4 years old, and since then there are not as severe cases, but no one understands. And this must have taken a lot of courage, and i am glad that someone understands. No girl, no one deserves this kind of behaivor or actions towards them, and thank you for writing this. You are a strong woman.

Bar L. said...

Anon #3, Thank you so much. My heart is breaking for you right now. You are strong too, but just because we are strong doesn't mean we don't hurt or that we don't need each other. Feel free to contact me at my email if you ever want to talk. You are not alone.

KrippledWarrior said...

I've been reading your blogs. And this one grabbed me by the heart. People equate sex with love and become confused by rape, thinking it has something to do with lust. Sex during rape is about domination and power. There is no love, lust or physical attraction involved. I came to this realization when one of my male shipmates was gang raped by three locals during a port visit in Fiji.

JoAnn said...

Thank you for sharing and letting me know that I am not alone as I fight the same battle.

I admire your strength

Bar L. said...

JoAnn, thank you so very much, its comments like yours that keep me going here.

JoAnn said...

When I read this I felt like you were in my head speaking through me. This is the first time I have ever spoken with someone that truly feels like I do. My abuse began at 5, I am now 44 years old and still feel the pain and it truly does affect my relationships with men. I have too lived a life with sadness and always wondered if I would ever truly know the feeling of happiness. I have a fear of losing, I have 3 grown children and it took me awhile to allow them the freedom to live their own lives because I think I was holding on to the only thing that couldnt be taken from me. I believe it was meant for me to read your blog. Thank you so much for your courage to put down your feelings into words, I have always be to afraid to do that.

Bar L. said...

Joann, I wish I could give you a hug right now...to thank you for sharing this. I am honored that my blog touched you. Wow. It makes it all so worthwhile. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Barbara, I deeply admire your courage and compassion. I hope that sharing what you have and reaching out to others like this will help you on your own road to a happier and more peaceful life. As hard as it may be for you sometimes, please continue with your message that rape and sexual abuse damage lives forever. -Anonymous male

Prudence said...

I've been nodding all through this. Agreeing with it, particularly the promiscuity. I am married and I love my husband and he loves me, but I don't ever feel like I "make love" any more. I never have done, since I was raped. Although I actually have only recently worked out that what did the real damage to me was not the rape (as at least this can be separated off as a wrong event) but the sex I had soon afterwards with other blokes. Technically consensual, but unhealthy because I wouldn't have been that promiscuous if it hadn't have been for the rape and I would have respectfully declined these men. I would have had more self respect and I would not have made myself into the "scarlet woman" which I became. I still have problems now because of these decisions. Even though I am married and happy enough, I still find that I'm unable to say no to male advances. I have to rely on them not making those advances or on me being in an position where I cannot accept them, because I just would do. It's crazy. It makes me feel helpless and guilty.

Sunshine said...

I just want to say that this is also an exact reflection of my experience. I'm in a relationship now, trying to learn to trust again, slowly, and it is hard. Extra hard because I can't find a way to explain to my guy how my past behaviour was shaped by being harmed by other men.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and how it reflects the belief that my primary use is as a sex toy for men, which I know is not true, but sometimes feels true.

I guess it is an ongoing processs of sorting all of it out. Thanks for contributing (I especially like the reminder that much of this is self-protection and coping. Which means I can find other, more helpful coping and protection strategies).

Prudence said...


It has taken the fact that I very nearly lost my husband recently because he noticed me being pushed into sexual behaviour with another man, which I didn't think he'd noticed. I was drunk admittedly, so it was all a bit confusing, but I spent the majority of the night telling a bloke to get lost and eventually by the end of the night I was snogging him and worse. And yet I knew I didn't fancy him and I didn't want it. This is what's so confusing, that it seems like I make a choice to be unfaithful. But it doesn't feel like any kind of choice. I'm right back there again every time.

Anyway, this has caused the need for positive action. He was hurt and rightly so. It's not about me anymore, it's about my husband too.

I resolved to treat every single advance from any bloke other than my husband from now on as an unwelcome advance. No blurred lines. No being nice to them any more. I don't care if I'm rude, if I get into fights, if I cause a scene anymore.

It's my right to stand up for myself and if I can't do it quietly I'll do it loudly.

Of course this is all smoke at the moment...

Bar L. said...

Prudence and Sunshine,

Thank you ladies, for adding your voices here. It means so much to me when someone can read and relate. Just being validated and understood can help healing.

Both your comments are so important I am going to respond to them both below.

Bar L. said...

Prudence, it sounds like our experiences are very similar, but I never married so have only had to deal with boyfriends.

I have a question for you - do you find that men seem to just sense something "different" about you? For example, men I don't even know will approach me in a way that ASSUMES I will accept their advances (and I often do). Yet, many of my female friends have never been approached is that way. Its like they put off a vibe that says "respect me" and I put off a vibe that says "you don't have to respect me" even though I WANT and deserve respect. It has nothing to do with looks, or flirting or the way I dress. Its something that has never left me and I hate it.

Bar L. said...

Sunshine, I am glad you found this blog. I can totally relate to what you're saying. You and Prudence both sound like strong, wise women and that are working through all this. It will get easier as time goes on, no matter how young you were when it happened.

If you ever want to talk privately just send an email.

Alot of people don't understand how helpful it is to talk about this.

Prudence said...


Yes!! Yes that's it. I do very much feel like that. Like I have something tattoed on my head which I can never see myself.
Sometimes it makes me feel powerful and sexy, but mostly I just feel like I'm somehow missing a layer of protection which other women seem to naturally have, that I'm somehow welcoming, and that in turn makes it seem like it's my doing and ultimately my fault. It seems that there is a sense of inevitability, that I cannot fight what those blokes intend.
I'm hoping I can change this though. It's down to me to do this I think.

E-mail: said...

Ladies, I've enjoyed ALL of your comments, and can identify with some of the same disorders as a result of a brutal rape.

Promiscuity was not one of them. Just the opposite happened to me -- frigidity. True intimacy is impossible for me. Although I enjoy sex with my husband, there's something disgusting to me about letting him "know" that I enjoy sex. Wierd huh. Why do I hide it?

We are all survivors though, and I'm so thankful women are TALKING. When I was raped, I thought I must be the only one in the world. The shame and guilt consumed me.

Prudence said...

I've done a lot of talking Georgia Girl, it really helps just to say what has happened to you. I kept so many aspects of it secret because I thought they made me look culpable or stupid or like I was lying. I've only recently realised that people would form opinions anyway, so I shouldn't fear that and should feel free to voice my "shame".

You can come and read my story anytime you like over on my blog:


It's not a very coherent place I'm afraid. My posts are rather long and you do have to piece it together from all the posts there, but feel free to browse, any of you, anytime.

I don't want fame or recognition I'd just feel great if some people were benefitting from my words.

Pru :-)

Anonymous said...

You understand! Thank you. I am still on path three. I want what everyone around me has. I can get dates, but can't accept love. I am so afraid of being hurt that I end up leaving first. I'm 36 and my bio clock is ticking. I don't want to give up motherhood just because my own childhood was so unthinkable. I don't want to wake up alone the rest of my life. I was seeing a therapist who didn't get it. What a waste of money.

Prudence said...

I'm glad someone new has posted here as I had forgotten where I had been all those weeks ago and this discussion has become more relevant to me just in the last few days.
So I've been thinking about how rape led to promiscuity and how if I hadn't been raped then I wouldn't have been that person who couldn't value sex any more. But I'm in danger of falling into a state of panic over this as I can't help feeling now that if I didn't really want to sleep with all those men, and if I acknowledge that a lot of what looks to be harmless flirting on the surface is actually me trying to diffuse any advances without saying "no", then it's going to be so easy to suddenly and overwhelmingly feel like I've been attacked over and over again, instead of me having chosen to do those things. And not only that, but I know that "his" face has been in my head so many times when I've had sex, so it feels on some level like sex his always been a battle for me and it's hard to not feel the force of years of battling as something suddenly very repressive - built on me not having a choice.

I don't know if I'm explaining very well, but how do we deal with unravelling these things so many years afterwards when it leads us to realise what our actions really covered up, especially where this can leave us feeling suddenly like we've been systematically violated over and over again?

Of course I use "us" but maybe this isn't something which many people feel?

Bar L. said...

Prudence, please write me, I really want to talk to you about this. I am sorry you are struggling through this, I want to listen and hopefully help in some way...


Eve said...

I was forced to take baths with my brother for many years beyond an appropriate age. We mutually explored each other for years years. When we got to a certain age (14/12) we knew it was "wrong" and I was afraid of being caught by our parents. That's when everything changed. He began raping me. I didn't think of it as rape because I played a role in our previous sexual activity, but looking back, I know now it was rape because I said no, I begged him, I hated it. He became violent and mean and talked down to me from that point on. When I became pregnant at age 14 (he was 16) he said he'd kill me if I told our parents (I think they knew). I lied and said it was "some boy". I was called a slut and a whore. I was forced to have the child and give her up for adoption. I've never had another child. I've never had a healthy relationship. I still don't know who to blame. It's been years since I've spoken to anyone in my family. I never talk about this. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was raped.

klariot said...

true enough... i don't feel like trusting a man, or a fiend guy... i was raped at 19 yrs old. no boyfriends since then... i never been in a relationship before. and i dont even know if i could still have a real relationship after what happened to me.

Bar L. said...


I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you, I wish I could sit down and talk to you.

I want you to have a life, this is so unfair and wrong. Have you had counseling? The person (or persons) who did this have probably went on with their life but you have lost yours.

Please write me sometime if you want to talk about it. You CAN have your life back. You will have to work for it (unfair again) but it will be worth it.

Sending you good thoughts and hopes for your future. I am going to go read your blog now.

Anonymous said...

iv just read , its strange to hear i am not alone, im just begining to deal with my abuse, it started when i was 3, i am not strong and dont know what to do with my feelings, i hurt everyday, i remember everyday, ,

Bar L. said...


My heart breaks when I read your words...I am so sorry that your innocence, your precious childhood, was corrupted at such an early age. You say you are just beginning to deal with it and that you are not strong. You WILL BE strong as you continue to deal with it in whatever way works best for you, and learn to not let it define you or rob you of your present and future. I know these are just words on a page and I hope I don't make is sound like its "easy". Its not easy, its hard, it hurts and it is NOT FAIR that on top of the abuse you have to work through all that it did to you. I do believe that you will get stronger as time goes on. The fact that you want to deal with it says that you will. Oh, I'm so sorry. I wish I had something helpful to say. I really don't other than I care and I'm sitting here crying for you right now even though I don't know you.

Anonymous said...

thank you, i dont know what to do now.i dont know who to talk to i dont know where to turn, i want to die everyday

Bar L. said...

Anon, if you feel comfortable emailing me, I would love to listen and offer anything I can to help. There is also a wonderful online community called Pandora's Project. In their forums you will find that you are not alone, you will see hope from other women who have survived and moved on with their lives and you will get the understanding and empathy only available from OTHERS THAT HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE SAME THING.

here is the link to their site and a description:


Pandora's Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information, support, and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their friends and family. We have been devoted to recovery and healing since 1999.

Pandora's Project offers peer support to anyone who has been a victim of rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse through our online support group, Pandora's Aquarium. We believe that connecting with other rape and sexual abuse survivors is an important part of healing. Our online support group includes a message board, chat room, and blogs. It is free to join and is safely moderated by a diverse group of survivors.

If you are in crisis or need professional support now, check out these resources to find the help you deserve: Crisis Support & Hotlines

Pandora's Project is staffed entirely by volunteers. To make a tax-deductible donation to support our work, please visit our donations page.

I care about you, I honestly do. I am here for you any time.

Anonymous said...

thank you. could i please email you

Bar L. said...

sorry, I should have included my email!


Aaron aka Frank said...

Hi Barbara

As I have remarked in another post, my partner was abused as a child by her father. Today she conducts herself well and can live a normal life. She still suffers and may never fully heal, but I am a listening ear to her and always let her vent her feelings if they arise. I haven't suffered myself but I can understand her emotions and am always there to offer a shoulder to cry on.

For her, the most helpful thing she did was to change her name to her mother's maiden name (who also suffered abuse as a child). Dropping his surname also cut the shackles that tied her to her past, and she was finally able to move on.

Thank you again, and to all the survivors who post their stories. Maybe one day we will live in a world free of this sickening crime.

Aaron aka Frank said...

I'd like to add another note: I read the message from JoAnn who said she held onto her kids longer because she felt she was holding on to the only thing that couldnt be taken from her. I'd like to borrow a paragraph from the movie "V For Vendetta", the story of Valerie:

"Our integrity sells for so little, but it's all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free. [...] It is small and fragile and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us."

Something to think about.

Bar L. said...


I'm so glad you found my blog and added your comments. I think your partner was wise to change her name - what a good idea, I am going to suggest that to women I meet in the future that have suffered the same horror.

The quote from "V For Vendetta" is awesome! I have never seen the movie and now need to just for that quote. You would not believe how relevant it is to my current situation. I think I will post it on my other blog today, thank you!!!

Kali said...

WHY do you put yourself out there like this? Please be reminded yet once again just what an inspiration you are to some girl in Virginia who's an addict.

Chachi said...

Reading all the post brings tears to my eyes. Some post open up old wounds.
I grew up in an abusive home both physical and sexual abuse. I have a burn scar given to me at two yrs old and my first horrific memory of sexual abuse was at 4. I grew up in a home where a moral compass just didnt exist. After years of battleing the shame, guilt, I am left with the inability to fully trust anyone (except my children). Even then I keep (them) my children at distance.

The comment someone made about never feeling normal (its true).
Rape , sexual abuse is never easy to talk about. Whats worse their are stupid people (idiots) who actually think we provoke it. I ask how does a 4 year provoke rape. I can sympathize with all of you. I have never had a normal relationship... I always end it before it gets too close. I hope none of you women wind up like me.
I've worked hard to give my kids a Good Life. And was overprotective.

I can only find peace by being alone. Relationships scare me. I hate being hugged or touched and at the same time I want to be with someone. I'm 49 and for me Love never existed. People who have never been raped say things like
Why dont you just get over it. I they grew up in a home where I was abused multiple times. Just to be violated again as a adult then they would understand. The pain never leaves you it is somehow embedded. Like my burn scar the skin is healed but the scar forever remains.

Bar L. said...

Chachi, thank you so much for opening up and sharing this. Its so true. I know many women that would agree with you about not having a normal love life. You're life has been far worse than most!!! To be abused like that at HOME by the people that were suppose to be protecting you from harm...I congratulate you for being able to live as normally as you have. My heart breaks at the thought of what you've been through. I'm so sorry.

Keep in touch if you want to.