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Rape Trauma Syndrome; There is light at the end of the tunnel

I have thought about writing this post for a little while, I have learned about Rape Trauma Syndrome and could have approached in a way that is technical (These are the facts, guys) but you can Google the facts. They are there for anyone who wants to see the black and white thesis’s, but for anyone who has experienced it, it’s not black and white. Each person’s experience’s are different.

I was raped when I was fifteen and my life was difficult for a long time after. I sometimes wonder if this was because I kept it to myself for years and when I did explain what had happened I was given a nurse in the GP’s office to “talk to”. She would look at me very strange. I thought it was because maybe I felt I was a little crazy. No, I wasn’t, it turned out she wasn’t a qualified counselor, so much for that help!

I had difficulty concentrating at school, my grades went down. I became depressed and my teacher who thought she was a therapist as well, tried to help but made it so much worse, making me feel more isolated, even suicidal. I felt nauseous, my stomach never felt ‘settled’ and I lost weight which was not the best, as I was tall and skinny to start with, but my appetite left me, even junk food which every teenager loves didn’t interest me.

I wore black clothes outside of school, not because I turned goth, like everyone thought I had. I just didn’t have an interest in choosing clothes, lets face it black takes very little imagination, black always goes with black! I had little self-esteem and didn’t like the person who looked back at me in the mirror. I startled when people got too close suddenly and I still do this, it annoys my husband no end!

I found that when I’m in a stressful situation my mind will, as I call it ‘crash’. I will start a sentence when speaking and my mind will go blank, totally blank, but this I’ve learned is normal. You could think of it akin to driving a car. If you hit the gas, you go forward, if you hit reverse, well of course you go back, but if you hit both peddles your car it will jerk and stall. That what happens to the mind, you can’t go forward or back and Bam! You’ve stalled!

I know all of the above doesn’t happen to everyone, but I have had a few more incidents in life too. For some it is a one time event to recover from but mine then stalked me, so I think that it is this reason along with a few others that I have been left with some of the “kinks’ as I call them.

I understand victims (and I hate that word) suffer immediate symptoms and feelings following a rape which are:

  • Guilt: (Was it my fault? If only I had done… differently)

  • Trying to block it out: “It’s fine, everything is fine, stop making a big deal over it, it’s just life”

  • Loss of appetite: food just doesn’t appeal or over eating trying to compensate and trying to adjust emotions

  • Problems sleeping: can’t sleep or want to sleep more to avoid facing life

  • Flashbacks to the event and or nightmares

  • Feeling isolated.

  • Distrusting of people, especially those who may visually look like the offender.

  • Concentrating is difficult, can’t meet deadlines at work.

  • Think “I’m going crazy” or “I came into the room for something, but what? Can’t remember…”

  • Feel angry, think about retribution and revenge.

  • Mood swings: happy one minute, depressed another.

  • Fear of being alone: either on the streets or in the home, depending where the rape took place.

  • Crying out of nowhere, easily upset, or argumentative.

  • Feeling generally unwell, muscle aches, pains, bruises, run down.

  • Feeling distant with a lack of emotion towards anything.

  • Become either overly dependent or very independent (my mother said to me once she had made me too independent, it wasn’t her that made me this independent!)

  • Suddenly drinking a lot of alcohol to numb the pain or substance abuse. (neither are helpful and enforce a feeling of worthless and depression, both unhealthy)

These symptoms can last for a short amount of time or last for years depending on how soon the person who was violated steps forward and says “This happened to me”.

There is often a feeling of no control, this can then be followed with major changes, moving to a different state, county, change of jobs, change of appearance. This is all done under the attempt to regain control of one’s life.

It also depends on background, age, previous abuse issues, married or single. I have read it is difficult for married women as the husband has problems dealing with his issues on it too, and can sometimes blame his wife, again that word, sometimes.

Rape Trauma Syndrome is now also considered in some courts, not all, when and most importantly if it is taken to trial by the victim.

I want to say, there is light at the end of tunnel. I started to write as a healing tool, as I found when I met my husband, hewould ask me about my earlier years and not having thought about it for a long time I realized I had gaps in my memory and writing has helped bring them back to the surface. I don’t regret it. It’s a difficult journey sometimes, especially when a flashback happens. Like a candle sometimes we burn strong and at times waver a little, but will always have our own true light to guide us through.

I know that I’m lucky. I know that I am strong and I know that I’m also still very independent, but look on this as a good thing that I was blessed with, I know that something was taken from me, but also that it gave me a gift of independence too.

It is strange to think that something so horrible can be a gift and through it have learned not to take any BS from anyone any more.

I am attaching links to the bottom of this post, so people can understand it a little more.

If you know of anyone who is going through this at the moment, then direct them to the links and ask them to really seek help. They are not alone. They are not crazy. They do not need to be “put into a straightjacket and carted off!”. They need to heal with love and support, because this will help them through it. Knowing someone out there will love them, support them and truly understand them will help with the feeling of isolation and feeling disconnected from the world.

"The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love." Hubert H. Humphrey

"Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy." Sai Baba

I understand that no-one is ‘normal’ and we all have conflicts or issues to deal, but I feel I have found my ‘normal’ and I hope you find yours too.

A path to learning, to finding and being yourself again, just a different and wonderful you : )


Claire Cappetta
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