What does getting over it look like?

Trigger warning: this post is about rape, and the experience of dealing with that. 

A couple of years ago, I was raped. I have also had sex in the past which could be termed coercive. These pieces of information are usually not important; these experiences do not tend to infringe on my day-to-day life. I am privileged in that respect: the sex I have now, I thoroughly enjoy, and I do not think much about what happened in the past. One could say, I’ve got over it.

And that’s all well and good apart from the times when I realise that perhaps I haven’t quite got over it. There are times when I realise why so many feminist bloggers put a trigger warning above articles about rape; those little times where I feel an anger and sadness that is personal rather than political at a sad tale of rape or an infuriating case of rape apologism.

Another time, there was a small incident in which a lover did something in their sleep. I was halfway across the room and somewhere between anxious and utterly fucking furious before I had even properly woken up. When the lover woke up due to me very loudly failing at rolling a cigarette between sobs, they were understandably rather baffled.

It was the sort of thing which was a fairly neutral incident, and looking back, kind of funny. The lover in question was fast asleep, unresponsible for their actions, and someone I know and trust. Rationally, it was nothing. Yet the mood I found myself after this sleepy farce was the kind where I could have easily gone on the offence.

It made me realise: am I really over what happened to me a few years ago? My reaction to the situation was not warranted in the slightest; it was an overreaction which had been thoroughly coloured by previous experience, despite the fact that it was unrelated to my previous experience. It was an old scar itching.
I wonder if I am over it, or if I had just papered over the cracks. Am I really all right? Can I expect, one day, for those cracks to be filled completely and for things to not bother me as much as any other person who had not experienced what I have? Or is this occasional overreaction going to be the best that I will ever be?
I hope it is not, I fervently do, yet I suspect that it is.

If “being over it” is the ability to lead a life where I am usually untroubled by painful memories, then I am over it. If “being over it” is a return to completely normal, no hair trigger reaction, no prickle of personal outrage, as though nothing had ever happened at all, then I am not over it at all.

It a way, what happened to me made me the angry feminist that I am today. It is that occasional flash of anger, a deep empathy and understanding for other rape survivors, which makes me determined to kick and scream and fight for a future where rape is a thing of the past. If even at my level of peace, I am not over it, what of the many women who are not so lucky as to be where I am.

Yet I wish to be normal. I wish for the scar to fade completely. It feels like a weakness to me. If I, the lucky one, am not completely OK, what for the others who have been through what I have and worse?

Getting over it. I’d love to do that. If only I knew what that even looked like.

25 thoughts on “What does getting over it look like?”

  1. ‘There are times when I realise why so many feminist bloggers put a trigger warning above articles about rape; those little times where I feel an anger and sadness that is personal rather than political at a sad tale of rape or an infuriating case of rape apologism.’

    BUt why is personal sadness something to be warned against, protected against? Life is full of sadnesses and pain, and trauma. we can’t put a trigger warning on it. It treats ‘women’ – though why women are treated as the only victims of rape is another question – as children who can’t cope with life’s knocks.

    When I was assaulted by an ex, my determination to not be a victim was what got me through.

    1. Good for you; I don’t want to be a victim either. Doesn’t stop this happening. When does it stop?

      As for trigger warnings, I would prefer to see them used more broadly. I firmly believe that people should have a choice about whether they want to read on with something.

      1. I’d better put a trigger warning on my whole blog then!

        I think trigger warnings are just another example of the idiocy of where feminism has got to. I thought feminist women were supposed to be strong!

        It doesn’t stop. Life includes violence. Look around you if you can bear it, there is violence everywhere. We just have to find ways to talk about it and deal with it sensibly instead of pathologising people.

      2. I really appreciate trigger warnings when I find them, especially if I am feeling anxious or have recently had a bad experience in real life. I wish that they would pass from feminist blogs to newspapers – sometimes I read really upsetting articles that I’d prefer to have been given the opportunity to approach in a better frame of mind.

        There are a lot of things feminists are ‘supposed’ to be, QRG, but we can’t always be them, no matter how hard we try. Don’t belittle us for failing to live up to our own ideals – feminists are just ordinary women doing our best, who sometimes need a little help.

    2. When I read stuff about the politics of sex I am quite often struck with a reoccurring thought, I’m going to try and put it into writing here, but I’m not an academic so I can’t promise it’ll come across very well.

      Feminist attitudes often seem to me to be quite prescriptive, you are a feminist so therefore you have to be strong, monogamy is the oppression of the patriarchy so you have to be in an open relationship, enjoying cooking isn’t allowed, staying at home with your children isn’t allowed, having an epidural during labour isn’t allowed etc etc.

      I just read you essay about rape culture and I think you make a valid and tragic point about rape often being considered a more valid form of violence, and I’m glad that you found that determination worked for you. But there are many of us who have had experiences that have left us feeling violated, those experiences have been unique to us and we all have our own ways of dealing with them. In the same way that feminism shouldn’t categorize experiences in ways that makes some of them more valid than others it shouldn’t tell us how to feel. It should give us the confidence and the freedom to experience our emotions regardless of the constraints of gender/society or what is considered the right way to respond. I was raped as a teenager and I’m generally okay with it so long as I don’t unexpectedly come into contact with someone who smells of special brew, on the other hand I have a friend who has never been in a consensual sexual relationship as a result of being raped.

      I applaud Stavver’s decision to put the trigger warning at the top of this post, particularly considering its vague title, I’m glad I didn’t read it at work.

  2. Well maybe writing about it is part of that process. What confuses the hell out of me is that I was raped and that I only told one person about it partly because of guilt. I had an argument with me then boyfriend and went round to see a ‘friend’ I passed out at his and he had sex with me whilst I was semi conscious. Even though if anyone else told me this story I would be incensed, devastated that they felt guilty and I was and am a feminist it still felt a bit like my fault and an infidelity. Why? Like you, in some ways I am mostly over this but I think if I could truly feel the anger about what happened to me then I would be nearer to over it. Thanks for writing about your experience. It was very helpful for me to read it.

  3. When we get asked when we’re going to ‘get over it’, I think people basically mean they want us to stop having complicated emotions, talking about it and other things they find inconvenient. It happened, it was real, and it’s always going to be a part of our experience and affect the way we are – I know damn well that when I’ve finished typing I’ll be going to check the locks on the front door for the tenth time this evening. I also know that this is not silly, it’s not weak, and I don’t need to apologise. As a survivor I find it hard not to feel that I’m causing trouble for others and even harder to be kind to myself… I don’t know, maybe rather than getting over it our end goal needs to be loving and accepting ourselves.

  4. I know hannah and you give yourselves and each other so much help that it actually is hurtful to other people not included in your little bubble. But I will leave you to your self help group. My article is being published on the Good Men Project so someone will read it, and there will be no trigger warning on it!

  5. I don’t think we ever “get over” any major experience. We’d be stupid not to learn from it, if only a case of once bitten twice shy. I’ve never been raped, but I have been beaten so badly I needed stitches & was effectively blind for a week, with my eyes blacked & swollen – & while I don’t have nightmares or flashbacks about it I have modified my behaviour a lot – I’m a lot more wary, & a lot more ready to “get my retaliation in first” if someone kicks off.

  6. I think there’s as much strength in being able to admit that something caused you, and continues to cause you, a great deal of pain and anguish than there is in putting that pain behind you. No one person is the same; we all react differently to trauma, we all cope in different ways, and I personally think it’s a good thing that people respect that by putting trigger warnings. I am lucky. I have never been sexually assaulted, I don’t need a trigger warning. But its presence neither impedes nor offends me; why should it?

  7. trigger warnings offend me because they assume that certain types of violence (usually sexual, usually against women) are worse and more upsetting than others.

    This blog includes posts about murder, homophobia, abortion, AIDS, why are those issues not upsetting for people affected? why is sexual assault in a special category all of its own?

  8. But QRG, is it really harming you in any way for that little line of text pre-blogpost to exist? Whereas it may well save someone (male, female or trans, because it isn’t just women who are triggered by rape) a whole lot of anguish? I can’t see the problem, myself. I see trigger warnings for eating disorders, assault, child abuse, even genocide – and this is within fanfiction communities, not just traditional “feminist” spaces. It’s not hurting anyone to warn for it.

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