I feel so annoyed when doctors open my medical charts, and go through it, looking at me, with all seriousness, to ask me the same question. There is a question they want answered. They feel that it is the route to every bit of anxiety I suffer. Perhaps, this is it, this is what has been causing her stomach issues! They all think they have found the Holy Grail.
They take a deep breath, and they all scoot their doctor stool really close, they look at me straight in the eyes...
But first, prior to asking, they all want to kick my husband out of the room. He just cannot be present. There is no way that he could possibly know about my past, right? I mean, why would a man want to marry such a damaged woman. Joe knows. He knows about all of it. He knows more details than he probably wanted to know. He married me despite the truth. The last time he was at the Emergency Department with me, my surgeon spoke to both of us, stating that he wanted a female doctor to speak with me next. I just wanted someone to help. I was a little taken back when one of the top Colon Surgeons, who just performed surgery on me weeks ago, sent in a female Primary Care Physician to speak to me. I was there because I couldn't move my bowels for 3 weeks, had intense pain, and was vomiting uncontrollably for 16 hours straight. She looked at Joe and said, "I am sorry Mr. Calabrese I am going to ask you to leave". She was so serious. I turned to her and asked why. Joe was quick to respond with, "I am her husband". The doctor told me she had to talk to me about some personal matters and felt it was best if he wasn't present. I looked her straight in the eyes and said, "Are you about to ask me about being raped? If so, he has known the details for a long time. I share everything with my husband. He is my safe place." I saw she was taken back a bit, but then spoke to both of us. Wanting to know what treatments I received and whether this could all be stressed induced. They want to remove my husband from the room to make sure that I am also not still a victim of abuse. Many people who were once a victim, remain a victim, only to new perpetrators. I have to explain over and over that my husband is my best friend, my safe place.
I have come to expect the conversation. I haven't thought much about the rapes in years and years. Since my abdominal pain and bowel issues have become worse, suddenly it is the topic of conversation, and I am forced to revisit that part of my life every single time I see a doctor. You see, anal sex, forceful rape (vaginal or anal), sodomy, etc. can physically reek havoc on a rectum and colon. Trauma of any sort can lead to depression and anxiety, which can lead to digestive disorders. So basically, they all feel that perhaps my symptoms are due to unhealed past trauma. They all ask, "How do you feel now about your rape, and molestation, and sodomy that took place when you were just a young teen? Have you sought out counseling?" and I just once again shake my head and smile. This makes me stressed. I know how much I have healed. I know how I have moved forward, how I have forgiven, how I have found strength. I had my breakdowns long ago. I am now with a supportive husband. He was a friend first, before he was my lover, and we are so much stronger because of that. When I first visited the Cleveland Clinic, they were actually glad that Joe could not stay, and I would be attending my second day of doctor appointments solo. They used that as an opportunity to schedule me with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist then reported to the pain doctor in my presence. The way she emphasized the fact that I felt my husband was not controlling me, that he was "just the right amount of concerned, not too relaxed and not overly concerned", that he was not abusive, and that he was honest with me, kind of left me feeling annoyed. I understand that many, many women are in need a of a safe place, and need to be able to express honest answers to these questions, but it almost felt as if I was not being heard. I am annoyed that humans need to have these conversations at all, that people can not respect each other. That people hurt each other and betray trust. Personally though, I feel like no one sees past the "VICTIM ELISA" to who I am today. When it was time to leave, they kept telling me, that if I felt different, to make an appointment with them. No, my husband is not hitting me. No, I am not being the victim, and I am not crying out for help by fainting, bleeding, puking, and not pooping. Thanks!
When I was really young, I only went deep in to detail with a few select, close friends. One of my guy friends knew all of the emotions I went through. He knew all of the details of what had happened. He probably remembered things that I am forgetting even, and he took those details to the grave. We lost him a few years ago to illness. I slowly told more and more friends. I opened up to those who became close to me, partially because I was scared that if they found out the details from someone else, that they would only get partial truths.
Joe knew some of the details, and the moment we became a couple, I flooded him with the rest. I just never wanted to keep anything from him. I told him the important things, like: Where it happened. Why I was alone with these 3 individuals. How it unfolded. How scared I was. What they did to me exactly. I also went on to tell him small details, the "too much information details" like: How the rope felt when it cut in to my wrist, and that the rope was actually the line used for a main sheet on a laser sailboat. I told him what was said to me and who did what when. I told him what I was wearing, as every one wonders this. I had on a two piece tankini covered by jean shorts and a sweatshirt. We just got done racing sailboats all day long. I told him the way the floor of the van felt against various body parts (my back and stomach, and my knee when it was smashed in to it). I explained the way the air smelled, like sweaty men, dirty lake water, rust, duct tape and apple trees, and the aluminum smell of small boat masts. I also gave Joe permission to ask any question that came to mind. I promised him that it was OK to ask, and that I would answer honestly. I don't think he wants to know more. What he has heard has been painful enough for him.
I was raped in the back of an old van. It was a long van, with no seats other that the front seats. It was a van that originally had the 3 rows in back. The back windows were mostly covered by built in shelves, or hooks, and the supplies that were on them. The middle was empty, like an aisle where we would maneuver to get stuff or sit. They also stuck a laser sailboat kind of tipped on it's side in there at times, when only two people were riding in the van, so that they wouldn't have to tow it. The van was used for towing small sailboats on a rack trailer, and was full of everything needed for sailing, and small boat repair. We would all pile in and ride in the back. On the way to the race I sat in the back with a guy I had just met, and a female friend whom I had known since I was 9 years old. The two in the front seats were both males. The other girl that rode there with us, abandoned us when she ran in to one of her college friends, and decided to head home with them. I was left with the 3 guys. One I knew, the other two I had just met that day. This was before the days of cell phones. I was 14 years old. The van was full of center boards, rudders, tillers, rope and line of multiple thickness, cleats, duct tape (fixes every boat leak), and lots of other junk. After this, I could never bring myself to join the Racing Program at the sailing camp I attended, even though these guys were not part of it. They parked the van off of a dirt road, near the lake, among the apple trees on one of the guy's property. That is where everything changed for me. This is when I began lying to my parents. This is when I felt God had absolutely made a mistake. I never felt like I fit in among my family, or extended family, or school. The only places I felt like I belonged were at Youth to Youth conferences and when I was Sailing. This stole the sailing from me. Now that I have healed, I miss it deeply.
Some people comment on how brave I am for opening up. I don't feel that way. Everyone acts as if this should be kept a secret. If we make it safe for rape victims to open up, it will make it more difficult for rapist to get away with such acts. Perhaps they will question whether it is really worth the risk? I was victimized as a little girl, molested at the age of 5. I was a rape victim as a teen. That is what had happened to me. It is not who I am. It does not define me. It hasn't left me with unhealthy views of sexuality. I have healed. I think sex is a beautiful thing in a committed relationship, and I can appreciate the gift that we give to our partner by choosing to be open and intimate with them.
If you were a victim of rape, find your voice. It doesn't have to be a huge audience. Speak to a counselor, and then a close family member or friend, but just find your voice. Hiding the truth will only eat you up inside.