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Ravaged Continued

Just a follow-up on my knee surgery…it is now 4.5 weeks from surgery.  All is well.  I am walking 3 miles most days and back to a bit of weight lifting.  It all feels good.  I just cannot move the knee sideways at all.  My bent is to over-do it.  If I do well though, doc said I might not have to do physical therapy!  Wouldn’t that be great? 

OK, well, I began to write about the four stages of recovery a survivor goes through or gets stuck in.  There are a lot of walking-wounded around.  I have a diagram of what that looks like for my book.  Anyway, I will continue from last time:

As a defense mechanism, shock is perfectly natural.  But sometimes, a rape survivor will remain in shock.  This may be true if : you have never understood that you are a survivor of SV; you have understood you’re a survivor, but have blamed yourself; or if you have never told anyone what happened to you.

Shock then is a conscious or unconscious sense of going numb in order to get through something horrific.  It is a God-given survival mechanism.  Shock offers a way to escape the trauma, a season to allow the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual systems gone haywire to begin to settle into a reorganization process.  Webster’s definitions for the word shock rumble with all the weird and devastating characteristics of the experience of the rape survivor.  In addition to whatever overt physical damage she may have suffered, the violent event will impact her mind and emotions as “a violent shake or jar: concussion…a disturbance of equilibrium or permanence…a sudden or violent disturbance of the mental or emotional faculties…struck with surprise, terror, horror, or disgust…to collide violently.”  He writes that “shock suggests the violent impact on the mind or emotions of an unexpected, over-whelming event that comes as a blow.  [Webster’s New World Dictionary. Cleveland: Williams Collins Publishers, Inc., 1979, 1315].

In my experience treating survivors, denial is usually part of the shock stage.  I often wondered after my own rape: Did this really happen?  I feel fine.  This can’t be happening to me!  Everything and everyone seemed surreal for a while.  Going in and out of denial often involves a feeling of physical or emotional numbness.  Feelings of terror may fill in the gaps between numbness.  I could not be left alone for the first two weeks after the rape.  In fact, I do not recall anything about my children–talking to them or caring for them–for days afterwards.  Nor do I remember noticing any kind of emotional response from my husband.  No one was available to comfort, hold, talk to me, or take me somewhere else.  Extended family members never figured into the  picture.  My then-husband went to bed as if nothing unusual had happened and went right to sleep.  Was that his way of going into shock?  Was it lack of education?  Was it evidence of an emotional blockage to care about me?  The answers only lie with him. 

When I couldn’t sleep, I literally sat up wide-eyed all night in utter terror on the exact spot I had just been raped, staring at the door.  I expected my attacker to return any moment and carry out his threat to come back and kill me if I told on him.  This may seem irrational with my husband beside me, but the response of family members has a dynamic impact on the aftermath and recovery process.  My then-husband seemed to be telling me, I will ignore this so you should too.  If an idea like this becomes permanently accepted, shock can become a permanent condition, a set up for eventual further disintegration of the survivor and her relationships.

To be continued…

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