Dispatches from Disassociated America

Dispatches from Disassociated America

When I was 14 years old, I was raped.

It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened. Not to get over it, not at all, just to wrap my head around the idea that it had happened. The process of incorporating “rape victim” into my identity included disassociation, reckless behavior, a suicide attempt, and fleeing. Many, in fact, nearly all, of my friends from “back home” had no idea why I so thoroughly abandoned them when I went off to college. I didn’t call. I didn’t write. I didn’t come back.

I was gone. It was easier than knowing I was in the same place as the person who assaulted me. And the people who knew he had assaulted me, his friends. Hugely popular boys. Men, now, that are still in my wider circle of acquaintances in that town.

Around the same time I finally managed to accept what had happened to me, and that it did not DEFINE me, I met a guy. He was… troubled. But cute. And CRAZY about me. Crazy in general, it turned out. We had many meaningful conversations, deep talks, where we each talked about what we’d been through. Although I wasn’t specific, I told him I’d been raped. He was accepting but still somehow dismissive of my experience. And then, one night, when I had invited him into my home, he raped me. He used my emotional trauma as ammunition against me, to manipulate and shame me. And when he left, I was gone.

I had disassociated entirely. I lay on my bed, the blankets in a heap on the floor, where he’d left them in the middle of a tantrum. I stayed there, naked on the bed, cold and vacant for three days, while my phone rang and rang and rang.

First it was my boss, trying to figure out where I was. Then it was him, apologizing, asking to see me. And back and forth they went, my boss and my assailant. By the time I was able to pull myself from the bed, I was fired. And he was in my building, let in by a well meaning neighbor who recognized him.

For those of you who have not been the victims of sexual violence, this probably won’t make a lot of sense, but that is what the last two days have been like over here.

I am out of my bed for the first time, actually out of my bed (although still pajamas and without a proper bra or anything like that), and the world feels flat and fake. Small. It feels like a prop of the world.

This is how it feels when your brain detaches itself from reality, because reality it too painful. I am writing to you from inside a PTSD disassociated state, one familiar enough to me that I can observe it.

Here’s what I can tell you about it: It’s a not a good place, but it feels like a safe place. It feels warm, and comfortable, and I don’t have to feel anything at all. I don’t have to feel rage that a man who advocates sexual assault is going to be president. I don’t have to feel dismay that what I’m going through right now is, in the words of our president-elect, “weakness,” because PTSD is a symptom of weakness for him. He said these things, and I don’t have it in my to bother googling the sources for you. If you doubt it, do it yourself.

I am in a good place in that I am not in the real world, and I am here because the real world is something I cannot fathom. Yet.

But as I always do, I will get there. I will get out of this fuzzy place without corners or edges or feelings and I will be mad.

I will be mad enough to build a sign ten times my oft-stolen Hillary Clinton lawn sign with the phone number for a local rape crisis hotline.

I will be mad enough to donate every cent that would go to my chocolate drawer to the ACLU every month. (That’s no small sum, btw.)

I will be mad enough to sign up to escort women through abortion clinic picket lines.

I will also be determined.

Determined to make sure my children get the best Jewish education they can, so they grow up KNOWING a dangerous demagogue who targets outsiders. So they will grow up knowing that anyone who votes for hatred and division in the name of God is wrong, and backwards, and does not represent any kind of moral authority.

I will be determined to speak to everyone, everywhere, about how Obamacare has saved my family. About how when M was unemployed and had brain cancer and we had infant twins, we went tens of thousands of dollars into debt to maintain the Cobra insurance we could get, because the alternative was none of us ever being able to be insured again. I will tell them how it feels to sit with your brain cancer patient husband as each of you feed a preemie twin and discuss the possibility that the Republican congress will vote against extending the SNAP benefits that kept us alive.

This fog, this lack of connection to the world, it has gotten me through some hard places before. It got me through M’s diagnosis. It got me through the first months of life with preemie twins. It got me through two rapes and a suicide attempt.

The brain detaches when it cannot handle reality, and that is where I am. And if you dare tell me I’m overreacting, stop right now and look up how many hate crimes people are experiencing in these first two days of a Trump America. How many women are being threatened. How many Muslims are being assaulted. How many Jews are being targeted with swastikas spray painted on their homes and businesses. How many Latinx are being screamed at by angry crowds to get out of their country.

Go ahead and google how many trans youth have tried to kill themselves in this first forty eight hours.

When I told my second rapist what happened to me, I trusted him enough to understand I was vulnerable.

Now, I’ve spent the last year telling America how vulnerable I am. How bad this could be for me, and for people like me.

And America has responded by exploiting my worst fears, my deepest traumas.

I feel as shaky and numb climbing out of bed today as I did in the days after my second rape, full of guilt that I didn’t do more, full of sorrow, full of pain.

I will do something positive with all this. I know I will. I have done so much to give my previous traumas meaning with the work I do. And while I am not, cannot ever be, and will not ever be grateful to have had these experiences, I know I can use them.

I can use the election of Donald Trump. I don’t know how yet, but I will find a way.

Until then, please, be gentle with each other. Don’t tell people to “come together,” because you are asking people who are truly wronged to set their feelings aside and sing Kumbaya with somebody who has been rooting for their pain, VOTING for their pain.

It is too soon for togetherness. What we need is a moment of silence. And then what we need is to find a way to fight this. Together.

I don’t think most Trump supporters really understand what they’ve done. But they will. I have no doubt, Trump will have them reap what they have sown.

And hopefully, my brain will have cleared and my heart will have calmed and I will be able to explain to them there is still something they can do about it.


Read more about surviving sexual violence here: The Different You Don’t Know Between ‘Normal’ and ‘Right’
Read my latest post here: The October 2016 SuperMommy Digest

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