When Bruce Banner shows up to the crazy scene in the Avengers movie, Steve Rogers says, "Now might be a really good time for you to get angry." Without missing a beat, Bruce says, "That's my secret, Captain, I'm always angry" and immediately transforms into the great green Hulk.
My secret is not that I am always angry, it's that I am always scared. Like Bruce, I do a good job at holding that strong emotion inside and only allowing it to be evident at certain times, but the truth remains: fear is always there. When fear takes over, I don't turn into a great green guy with super power; I shrink into a small camouflaged girl with super anxiety. I don't join the fight; I run from it.
When I am in the grocery store and someone stops behind me, I freeze.
When I am alone with a guy, I am frozen.
When it's just me and two or more guys, my insides are panicking.
When a guy stands too close to me, I'm freaking out.
When a guy puts his hands one me, my whole body shuts down.
When a guy is angry, I am scared he's going to hit me.
When a guy is calm, I am scared he's going to touch me.
I don't wear short skirts very often because when I do, my fear response is heightened dramatically. I don't wear low cut shirts for the same reason. I am incredibly self-conscious and I will do what I can to not draw attention to myself... or my body. This is likely the reason I am such a jeans-and-t-shirt girl; it's the safest thing I can wear.
The question is, why? Why am I always scared?
I am the 1 of 3 women who will experience some type of sexual violence in their lifetime. Think about that. I am describing what 33% of the female population possibly feel. I know I am not alone in my fears, which is both a comfort and a sadness. Everywhere we go there are women who are scared but yet put on a tough exterior to hide their fears.
It's sad we do that instead of talking about it.
It's sad that there is likely only one or two places where we actually feel safe.
It's sad that there are so many of us.
It's sad there are so many people who don't understand why we can be so jumpy, so anxious, so guarded, so hyper-vigilant, so scared.
It's sad there are so many women who need counselling but will never receive it.
It's sad that so many of us will be re-victimized. The first time I was sexually assaulted was at 13 years old (I had 2 close calls before that - but for the grace of God). Since that time, I have been violated in some way or another by ten people, one of which is a woman.
I'm not writing about this to get a "poor you" response. Please, don't pity me. Like I said, I am one of many, many, many women who have been sexually violated. I am speaking for all of us.
We have been victimized, but we are not victims. It's not our fault. We didn't ask for it, we didn't choose it, and we didn't want it. We are strong women who have survived some awful things happening to us. We get up everyday and go about our lives, often acting as though we are fine. We are learning to set boundaries. We are rebuilding the door to our property that was violently broken down (see that post here).
We are rising from the ashes. What are living proof that what was meant to harm us is now being used for good - to save many people from loneliness, isolation, defeat.
Is everyday a struggle? Yes, it can be. Thankfully, I am working hard on my recovery. I have support people, support groups, a supportive counsellor, and an internal drive to not live as a victim.
My prayer is that all of us who have been violated (guys included) will find a safe place to begin the healing process and safe people who will journey with us.
You are not alone.
We need to hear your story.