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Cruel words destroy the soulLife and death are in the power of the tongue…Proverbs 18:21

I had quite an epiphany last night while watching ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’. Generally, I avoid graphic television programs and movies that trigger my trauma reactions, as I clearly don’t handle them well. (Frankly, I’m not sure a society that ‘expects’ its members to handle images of violence, particularly sexual violence, is a healthy one, but that’s a topic for a whole new series of posts.)

The episode revolved around a college fraternity with a history of its privileged male students, who come from wealthy homes, raping inexperienced young female students, usually employing brutal gang rape strategies. As heinous as that crime is, what followed in its wake was almost worse – a complicated system of set-ups and cover-ups that effectively silenced the victims and neatly flipped each situation onto its back so that the young woman would be portrayed as the guilty party. In order to protect the ‘good’ name of their privileged white male population (whose families donated generously to college funds and sat on its board of directors), all members of campus staff were complicit in deflecting the finger of accusation from the perpetrators onto the victims. Hundreds of young male students embarked on a campaign of humiliation and degradation in order to destroy the reputations of the girls and protect their mates. Unsurprisingly, a number of these young women were driven out of their minds, and one particularly sensitive soul to suicide, by the blaming, shaming and disbelief of their truth. This is the facet of the story I can relate to so well. It enrages me more than the rape itself, as peculiar as that must seem.

Violation of the body is a horror no human being should ever experience – but it is the rape of the soul that is the real killer. When a body is violated it is treated as an object to be devoured and discarded; the pain it endures is disregarded and the wounds that remain are sometimes horrific. Yet, the body heals. At the same moment a body is being violated, the human spirit is also stripped of power and rendered mute; it is not only dehumanized but its divinity too, is brutally swept aside, no longer sacred, no longer unique in the eyes of its fellow travellers on this journey called life. It is humiliated, denigrated, shamed with a burning shame and finally, discarded like a piece of filth.

Power over others is weakness disguised as strength.” Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now.

A wounded soul rarely heals completely. To do so, it requires that other sacred human beings help to pick up the pieces and paste it back together again with compassion and the gentlest of love. It requires non-judgment from its fellow beings for the tattered state it knows itself to be in.

No physical rape needs to take place for the soul to be torn to shreds and tossed aside. It happens every day in so many appalling ways, in situations of oppression, discrimination, war, torture, and all kinds of abuse – physical, emotional, verbal and psychological. But when it does occur in association with a physical rape, the internal collapse that occurs follows the domino effect – as one domino clinks against another, momentum picks up and the final collapse is rapid and inevitable, leaving victims clutching at individual dominoes in a hopeless attempt to prevent their own spiritual and emotional demise.

The after-effects of physical rape too frequently follow this pattern.

‘She was drunk and at a frat party. She knew what that meant.’ (From the perpetrators.)

‘She said no…but in a No…please…don’t…stop…kind of way.’ (Again from the perpetrators.)

‘She came from a broken home and her grades weren’t up to standard. She’s troubled and looking for attention.’ (From the college dean.)

‘I advised her not to take it to the police; that they’d put her on the stand and destroy her reputation.’ (From the campus counsellor.)

‘She has a reputation. You know…she does it with everyone. We all know it.’ (From male students.)

‘She didn’t report it straight away. I told her no-one would believe her.’ (From the security guards.)

Before the victim can work out what’s going on, she’s no longer the victim and the perpetrators are no longer the perpetrators. She’s reeling from the rape itself, feeling violated, humiliated and ashamed. Now she has to deal with disbelief and accusations of her own culpability. Standing up for herself no longer seems an option – first she was stripped physically and now she is stripped of all self-respect, social support, belief in her integrity and even sanity. She doubts her own reality. Her spirit is laid bare and bleeding.

Referring back to the television program, it was the scene that occurred at the funeral of the young woman who suicided that unleashed so much of my own anguish. At that point, shocked into reflecting on their own actions and attitudes, hundreds of students, male and female, stood respectfully holding placards that showed their support, not just of this particular young rape victim, but for all rape victims, everywhere. They recognized some universal truths – that ‘no’ means ‘no’; that no matter how one dresses, it is not an invitation to rape; that the use of alcohol is not an indication that a girl is ‘loose’ and ‘asking for it’; that perpetrators must and will be held accountable; that socio-economic standing is no excuse for disrespect; and a great deal of other poignant messages that affected me to the core.

I was angry; angrier than I’ve been for a long while. I saw all those young people standing in solidarity to present a united, compassionate front for the victims of sexual abuse and I wondered where mine had been – where it ever was, and most disturbingly, where was it when I bared my soul to my ex-husband? When I told him what I went through, at the age of three, at the hands of my grandfather? Where was his compassion and protection, this man who vowed to honour and cherish me for the rest of my days?

I’ll tell you where it was…it was here, in the midst of his drunken rage: ‘You’re f…king sick! You’re f…king psycho! I love you but you’re f…king twisted! You’re crazier than my first wife and she was a f…king nut-job. I’m not your f…king grandfather. I didn’t sit you on my f…king knee when you were little and stick my f…king d..k inside you! Not all men are like that. I’m not like that!’

But yes you are! And that was my epiphany – my devastating epiphany. The man protesteth too much. For him to behold me in all my vulnerability, to contemplate my tiny self crying out in pain and fear, and to join the ranks of the victim bashers in such a sadistic way, means only one thing – that underneath it all; underneath all the protests, rationalisations, accusations of insanity (mine) and self-righteousness, is a man JUST LIKE MY GRANDFATHER. He joined in, more surely than a bystander watching a gang rape. He is complicit. He is guilty. He rubbed salt into the wounds; blamed and shamed me for my woundedness and proclaimed himself to be spotless.

I came face to face with the truth – a truth that had been lurking beneath the muddy waters of my consciousness for a number of years; a truth almost too shocking to face, and yet it now stands starkly before me.

My ex-husband is a spiritual rapist.

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