Falling In Love After Rape

Writing by Sophie Rose // Photography by Amin Sharifi

CW: Rape

Honestly

I want to end this on a good note

Really, I do

I want to give you a beacon of hope

Yes, you’ll be able to trust again

Yes, you’ll be able to date again

Yes, you’ll find love again

Yes, you’ll feel worthy of being loved again

But

Honestly

I don’t know any of that for sure right now

So I guess I’m writing this to explain a bit what things have been like since the rape

And to commiserate with you

Because I’m sure I’m not alone in the

Frustration

Anger

Self-loathing

Anxiety

That creep in anytime I try to be vulnerable

I was raped about twenty-one months ago. People know that it’s changed me, and how I interact with men day-to-day, but I realized recently that ultimately the way it’s changed me most, is in the way I approach love.

Which doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface, maybe, because love wasn’t present, in any context, on that night.

I think it’s the intimacy and the beauty and the pain and the joy that I associate with love. The trauma has dulled those emotions for me. It’s made me forget, a bit, what it’s like to fall in love. It’s made me feel like everyone else is moving ahead in their lives and I’m stuck here in this stunted place. I can’t even blame anyone for not wanting me. Because I’m cold now, cynical, and nervous, and maybe too needy. Because my focus has been on trying to stay upright as I fight my way through hell.

Because you need to understand that before the rape I was the mushiest, most romantic girl. I loved love more than anything in the world. I loved the tentative beginnings of it, the moment that I knew it was there, the moment I said it, the moment he said it, the times I could feel my throat all full up with it. I even loved falling out of love. I relished something about that sharp, unique, common sadness. I had loved hard enough, I had experienced enough happiness that I could physically and acutely feel the loss in the form of a breathless, jagged gap in my chest.

I was never afraid of getting hurt. There was never a question of risk, of trust. If things went badly, they went badly. The good times would always, always be worth the pain. If I felt something for a person, if I decided that I wanted them, if they decided they wanted me, that was it. I’d be all in. Nothing could actually go wrong, because if it ever felt hard or miserable it meant that something else had gone incredibly right. I loved romcoms, was obsessed with Valentine’s Day and planning birthday surprises, would put hours and hours of energy into thoughtful letters, into decorating someone’s room, into figuring out how to rent out a movie theatre for my boyfriend to play video games with his friends.

They say we each need to learn our partner’s love language, because there are five that are possible (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch) but really I think I adhered to all five. I accepted all of them and I gave all of them back.

The concept of professional life always took a backseat. I always said it didn’t matter much to me if I ended up with my “dream job” – as long as I had someone I loved to come home to at the end of the day. I couldn’t understand people who said they wouldn’t move for love. Even as I watched my parents fall out of love, I believed in it wholeheartedly. I don’t, now. Because so much of what I’ve been through hasn’t made sense. The idea of someone falling in love with me now, with who I am now, doesn’t make sense.

My important dating landmarks: a timeline

December 2009 – December 2010: first relationship (first kiss)

January 2011 – March 2012: second relationship (first sex)

March 2012 – December 2013: serious of trysts

January 2014 – May 2016: third relationship

October 2016: raped

April 2017: ready to not assume that every man I talk to will rape me

May 2017: realizing online dating is not an option for me

June 2017: ready to not assume that every man I am alone with will rape me

July 2017: first post-rape crush

August 2017: first post-rape crush in my bedroom, I asked him at one point to “wait,” he didn’t wait

September 2017 – April 2018: flirted only with, got involved only with men I knew were ultimately emotionally or physically unavailable

April 2018: cut off all connections, stopped trying to date

May 2018: randomly met man; instant vibe, comfortable, happy

June 2018: same man; fun, exciting, sexy

Early July 2018: I trust this man, is this what hope feels like, I can’t remember

All this to say that dating is hard for anyone. But it’s especially hard after you’ve been assaulted. Because all those things we’re told are the building blocks of a healthy relationship – trust, intimacy, communication – are so close to impossible for survivors to develop with someone they don’t know.

From October 2016 to now I’ve had four jobs. I can’t seem to hold one down.

I worry and worry and worry about my heart. As much as I still crave love I don’t believe in the giddy magic of it anymore because I don’t believe in the inherent goodness of humans anymore. And it’s really, really tough for me now to come to terms with that. To remember how I was before and recognize how I am now and realize I can’t snap my fingers and go back.

“Just change your mindset about it! Have faith in people! Go meet someone else! It’s all in your attitude! Trust me trust me trust me”

It’s not easy like that

You need to earn my faith in you

All of you

Are guilty until proven innocent

At this point it boils down to

Will you pity me?

When you learn about my trauma will you condescend to me, coddle me, fetishize my pain? Turn me into your flavour of the month, your DIY project, until you’ve satisfied your saviour complex, made me your mission to be accomplished, score, you won, patting yourself on the back and slipping away with a smile and a breezy kiss on my cheek?

or

Will you problematize me?

When you learn about my trauma will you step back, slowly, surely, creeping on eggshells, eyes, pitying, wide, afraid a wrong step will set me off, afraid if you blink I’ll go insane, shushing me before I speak in hopes you’ll quell any memory of the trauma you are (quick to remind me you are) not responsible for, waiting until my back is turned and all you’ve left is a woozy woody-scented letter of regret on my bedside table?

Are there men out there who can accept my past without letting it impede our future?

Shit, can I even do that?

Part of the reason men have fallen in love with me before is that romanticism I had, my intense empathy, how much I loved love. How open and vulnerable I was and how ready I was to show my affection. It was endearing, I heard. Charming.

Now though

I mean

How the hell am I supposed to get vulnerable?

When beyond the usual up and downs of early adulthood

There’s this whole extra layer underneath it, this trauma I need to contest with

When just being not-sad or not-angry or not-numb when I wake up sometimes feels like the biggest effort

And yet

This man

May – July man

My heart went all warm when I met him

I didn’t feel the inexorable brick in my chest, the one that’s made it hard for me to breathe since October 2016

I lost my phone during our first date and that should have made me panic but it didn’t, things felt fine, they felt like they would be okay because he was there

And I was so grateful for that innately calming and comforting presence he has

And for how easy and fiery our chemistry is

And for how quickly he became my friend

But our communication’s been off

And I need the communication because without the communication it’s not a conversation it’s just someone making decisions

It’s a person making choices about my life

(maybe I’m doing something that makes people think they can decide to change my life because if something happens more than twice it’s a pattern, not a coincidence, right)

Yeah I’ve got trauma all up in me and my psyche

Maybe you’re thinking ‘it’s too soon’ for me to date

But man it feels like forever I’ve been out of this game

And I’m tired of hearing I need to be patient and that it takes time

How much time is time?

At what point do I stop feeling like I fail because I am still being punished for what happened to me that one night?

At what point will my skin feel comfortable on my body?

See, I told you

This isn’t a nice tidy wrap up

We all know healing isn’t linear but

Shouldn’t the baseline lift a little bit, even if it still wants to waver and fluctuate

Higher enough, better enough that we don’t scare everyone away?

I just know that writing helps me process

I don’t know how to fix this

But maybe you do and if you do, please let me know

Or maybe you don’t either but

At least we’re all here in the same boat

For now

But hopefully not for much longer

Maybe I do remember what hope feels like

[share]

Amin Sharifi

Photographer by passion, collecting thousand word stories to share. Perhaps, you’ll someday find yourself telling stories to his lens that you never could find the words for.

Sophie Rose

A girl trying to make her way in this crazy world (currently Toronto). Her heart is split amongst the lovely people who’ve allowed her into their lives. She’s writing a book about them, and this. If you want to be a part of it, email info@ramonamag.com about this piece and they’ll help get you in touch.

 

4 responses to “Falling In Love After Rape

  1. I’m up texting my bff who I know is sleep because I can’t. I sent a long text message about what I’m thinking and realizing my turning point against love and all things love related. I was raped nov 29, 2016…nothing has been the same. I’m single and I question myself my worth my value. I don’t trust love, it’s practically impossible for me to open my heart because I think all men are out to get me to hurt me. I googled is it possible to fall in love after being raped; because right now I just don’t believe in love…for me. Which angers me because as you stated how were prior to being raped, I was that same way. My friends would call me Cupid’s child because I loved love. Now I hang my head low.

  2. Your post has left me in tears because of how much I can relate to this….this is such a long process for me to get through this and after accepting the pain from the rape and now trying to be back in the world with guys it’s so hard. It’s like you like someone but you don’t want to burden them with all your flaws and horrible past…it’s hard to emotionally connect and to explain why I don’t like any physical touch. Even a hug makes me uncomfortable. But I know with each day gets a little better and I try to push myself everyday. I don’t depend on anyone else for support because the best support should come from the fight within to prove to yourself you are a strong woman.

  3. Well having gone through this hell I went to see this rape counsellor and I’ve learned the key to all this. It’s to stop hating one side of you and to join up both the victim side of you with your survivor side. I’m feeling for the first time ever since the incident that I’d like to take a real risk with my feelings. Before this I just went through the motions and felt pretty numb. I know if I fall this will likely be more devastating than before but I’m done with what I call living like the living dead. I see a lot of people that have not been raped but who are the living dead. This new relationship is worth it I can feel so maybe it’s timing and allowing the new you out? I quite like the new bold and direct me! It’s good not to have to pretend anymore x

  4. I can relate to this so much. It makes me feel less alone in the world. I don’t know what to do. I feel I don’t deserve the ideal of love I was once in love with. It’s not just worrying they’ll hurt me, it’s feeling I don’t deserve their empathy or love. It’s as though when I try to date, I don’t have to say a word, they can see the damage, the stained parts threaded through my soul, and I can’t hide. It feels like a nightmare. Sometimes I see it in my head like some kind of replay and it won’t go away. It was 2011 and I still haven’t healed. Some days are good, others… I feel empty, a shell with no heart to take love even if I tried.

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