When men abuse women, the victim’s stories often stay hidden until they’re ready to be told. As Devorah Goldstein shares a story of hope, she spreads a message of healing.
Author’s Note: Being a survivor of sexual abuse is an extremely traumatic journey. One of the most significant parts of my personal healing has been meeting others who too were abused or assaulted and hearing their story. Another significant aspect of my healing has been writing. I met a woman who offered me the unique opportunity to combine them both, and this article is the wondrous outcome.
Decades ago a strange thing happened to me. The biggest treasure in my life was cruelly ripped off from me and created havoc within a deep part of me, my pride. Maybe it just turned pride into its own synonym of shame. One way or the other, I was too proud to tell him the truth of the rape. It is too late now, for he will never know. My years are evident by the crinkles on my face, and he has long been gone. But it is not too late to tell the story of my rape and how I let it destroy my relationship with the man I loved.
Pride had always been front and center in my heart. It shaped the way I felt about my looks, Jewishness, Torah observance, and defined my feelings on the innermost part of me, my virginity. Being fully put together was of utmost importance to me and I took the means to never show a trace of being hurt as it may contaminate the perfectly proud me.
My sun-kissed creamy skin and unruly tight black curls turned many a man’s eye. Sexual companions were an arm length away, even while I was engaged to be married. To my embarrassment, I will reveal that during my engagement period one man’s eyes caught my own. This man, Asa (pseudonym), and I agreed to meet in a secluded spot to enjoy a little company. I did this knowing full well that my fiancé must never find out. Of course going all the way would never happen, but a little fun wouldn’t breach the Torah commandant of knowing a man in carnal knowledge before matrimony.
I awaited Asa at the arranged time at the arranged place. My hair was made up as best I could make it, and my heart fluttered when he approached. Fully trusting him to go as far as I was comfortable with, I felt angry when the exact opposite happened. The touch wasn’t as I imagined, it felt much too real, much too cold. The laughter on his face showed me the true feelings he harbored for me, the need for control, conquest, and superiority.
Anger welled inside of me like never before. Here was a man whose body figure was more dominant than my own, a friend whose smile used to make me feel at ease, ripping me of my dignity, ripping me of my clothes, and ripping me of my virginity.
I yelled at him. So he beat me. I kicked at him, and got thrown to the ground. It happened so fast, it lasted too long. The way he grappled my body shot fury into my heart. This body’s mine! This body is for my fiancé. It was never supposed to go this far! The strength I had that night is beyond me. My fury at his betrayal had me yelling and kicking, fighting to preserve my dignity. And yet he won.
I no longer stood before Asa. Only my body stood there bruised, raw, and accessible, no longer as precious as it used to be. It stood there until it was pushed to the ground and left crying bitterly for all that it was and all it could no longer be.
Disturbing thoughts ran through my mind as I contemplated whether to tell my fiancé of the rape. I knew that I was the one who had agreed to meet at that spot, anticipating a companion for sexual pleasure. Carnal knowledge before matrimony is taught in the Torah as a sinful act, but rape is carnal knowledge too, so did that mean that I had sinned before G-d? In contrast to the disturbances I knew that I had never really wanted to know Asa in the way he now knew me. Though, even with this thought and others that came to my defense, my mind kept inflicting feelings of shame and reasoning itself by saying that I had handed him the opportunity like a mother hands her milk to a suckling infant.
After the wicked Asa, my brightness shined no longer for I was disgraced with another man’s semen and could no longer be the upright women that I used to be. The thought of facing my fiancé in this broken state broke me even further. Yet I could-not avoid telling him because when the wedding night would come he would see that my innermost part had been ruptured. Deciding to hold on to my pride and not allow my lover to see me shattered, I broke off the engagement, even-though he would have never held me accountable as I did hold myself. But everything I held so dear was taken away the night cruelty came upon me.
However, after many years of shame residing in my heart I came to realize that a person’s grace can never be stolen. Asa disgraced me by beating me and raping me. My mistake was that I allowed his disgrace to become my own. The shame belonged to him and to him alone. The intention I held was to meet his lips with my own and not to entwine our bodies into one. Shame is a natural response to rape, even though it doesn’t belong there. It played a game with me, starting with him and then passing it along to my thoughts, feelings, and relationships, sticking no matter how hard I tried to rid of it.
The shame game is coming to an end right now. He started it off and he will finish with it. Take the shame Asa; it is your turn now.
Photo Credit: Michelle Brea/Flickr