Recently an adult victim of sexual violence told me that the name of the rapist in question is a common noun used daily in society. And though the violence occurred many years ago, the catastrophic trauma left in its wake is very much alive and continues to thrive in the insistent bleat of an ordinary word that will be forevermore a haunting to this victim. This is one of the life sentences imposed on a victim of sexual violence: the seemingly ordinary turns quietly, permanently treacherous.
The stars don’t often align, but when they do, I can go for maybe two weeks without being sucker punched by stories about an adoptee’s hunt to expose the mysterious woman (it is almost never the man) lurking within the lie of their love-and-lost fantasies. These tiresome, hackneyed dramas are a cheap way for the media to gain readership/viewership through arousing superficial emotional responses, as well as for those engaged in fantasy-peddling and propaganda for the purpose of the continued suppression of a woman’s right to agency over her body and her life. To indulge in the vernacular of our particular times, it is fake news to insinuate and perpetuate the falsehood that women who were victims of sexual violence and further victimized by unwanted, catastrophic pregnancies as a result, are waiting for a predator adoptee to further imprint the tentacles of that life-long, crippling trauma.
For victims of sexual violence, every day societal occurrences create minefields that we must learn to negotiate, hopefully with dignity. Over the holidays every one of us unknowingly interacted with a loved one wrestling with such shattering, hidden trauma. My friend had to listen over and over the “innocuous” name of the rapist. Another had to sit at Christmas dinner hoping not to hear about yet another adoptee on the hunt, because next time it might be her in a predator’s sights.
This is the legacy of trauma. This is what every victim lives with: the strangling tentacles of trauma that reach for us always.
So it is.