When I went in to report my rape, a girl I’d met through another friend — a sweet, slender, small blonde girl who barely knew me — offered to come, so I wouldn’t be alone.
She’s noted on the card the police handed me after.
Witness: [HER LAST NAME]
I have many people I consider close friends, but this girl I’d known for maybe five days — this sweet, slender, small girl — was the one who went with me.
After, she told me she’d had a friend who’d been raped, but never reported it. That her friend dated the rapist for years — long past the statute of limitations for reporting the crime. That her friend had loved the rapist, even as he grew more and more abusive. Emotionally, at first. Then physically. Then he cheated on her. Over and over. But her friend — the friend who had been raped — stayed through it all.
I imagine this girl — the friend — and I feel as though I could have become her.
I’ve been doing research on denial and repression. I mean, we’ve all seen movies or TV shows about people with “repressed memories” or “split personality disorder.” Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve got either one of those issues to worry about. I’m pretty damn cognizant of my surroundings — to an annoying degree, some would say — and so I really doubt I’d be able to “peace out” through a brutal physical attack (like being mauled by a bear, for example), or create a whole separate persona to deal with my shit for me.
But in psychoanalysis, there’s this thing called “primal regression.” Basically, it makes it so that a scenario, a memory, that is unacceptable to the conscious mind is prevented from entering into the conscious mind.
Freud categorized it into several stages. And, to be honest, I’ve never particularly been a fangirl when it comes to Freud. He seemed way too hung up on the idea that all children want to have sex with their parents. I’ve read Bettelheim’s “The Uses of Enchantment” and it was definitely interesting from an historical perspective, but it made every single fairy tale about Cinderella wanting to marry her father or something, and I think fairy tales are messed up enough as it is without throwing Oedipal analyses in there, too.
Anyway — rambling. The point of this post is the concept of denial. Repression as defense mechanism. I’ve been reading through emails and journals and pretty much anything and everything I can track down that has to do with this case — this rape case — and I’m saddened to see now, in black and white, things I just did not let myself see at the time.
This is evidently a pretty well-documented strategy employed by the unconscious mind of victims to manipulate or distort reality or memory in order to defend and maintain a socially acceptable self-image.
In 1977, George Vaillant categorized levels of defense:
- The first is a pathological defense, through psychotic denial and delusional projection.
- The second is an immature defense, through fantasy, projection, passive aggression, and acting out.
- The third is a neurotic defense, through intellectualization, reaction formation, disassociation, displacement, and repression.
- The fourth is a mature defense, through humor, sublimation, suppression, altruism, and anticipation.
I’d say my reactions were a mix of three and four — over-intellectualizing and over-analyzing bad behavior only to forgive it (altruism); disassociating myself from bad memories or triggers; repressing, repressing, repressing — with a little bit of two thrown in (projection and passive aggression).
I projected a lot of stuff that just wasn’t there onto my rapist’s character. I can recall a letter I wrote him for his 21st birthday — which he celebrated on the other side of the country and went out of his way to ask me not to attend — in which I associated him with a whole bunch of romantic qualities and said all his actions were driven by his desire to be “noble.” One of the kindest, most beautiful things I have written in my entire life, if I do say so myself. Like a love letter from an Austen novel.
His reaction? When I finally tracked him down by phone to ask what he thought of it? “It was nice. Thanks. A real nice letter.”
I need fucking therapy. The truth is, I can’t afford it right now. And I know I could probably apply to the state for, I don’t know, food stamps you cash in for minutes with a psychiatrist. But the process seems so daunting, I just kind of curl up in a ball on the floor of my bathroom and sob.
I’ve read somewhere that tears are the result of toxic build-up in your brain. So I’ve been crying a lot, trying to detoxify.
And I’ve been trying to accept what I denied or repressed or sublimated or intellectualized away. I’ve been trying, but the pain of it, the onslaught of pain all at once, is almost soul crushing. No wonder that girl — the friend of the sweet, slender, small blonde girl — stayed with her rapist after all that abuse. Years and years and years of abuse.
If she’d accepted the reality of it, how could she stand to live?