triggered: reliving the trauma of sexual violence
*Trigger warning: rape, violence*
As I recounted the detail of his expression – cold and determined – I felt the room slip away.
‘Was he looking at you?’
‘No. It was like he was looking through me, to something else.’
I remembered his eyes for the first time, piercing the bedhead behind me. He was focused, controlled. Seeking the power and gratification he so desired.
As I recalled these details my chest began to constrict and my skin went clammy.
I could hear, ‘For my theme song, my leather black jeans on. My by any means on, pardon I’m getting my scream on.’ I remember the song on repeat as we sped towards the hotel: my own wannabe wolf.
I hear faintly: ‘Kelsey, it’s okay. What you’re experiencing is the mental, emotional and physical sensations that you felt when the assault occurred.’
These words sent a wave of panic through my body and I needed to escape. I felt a cold chill and my breathing hastened. My fists clenched and knuckles white as I remember hitting him away, screaming for him to stop.
‘You’ve remembered a lot of detail, I’m guessing more than you’ve been able until this point.’
I nod. It’s only now that I realise the tears falling down my chin. I desperately try to calm my sobs, but my breath becomes even more difficult to catch and I fall deeper into panic.
‘Four in the morning, and I’m zonin’, I think I’m possessed, it’s an omen. I keep it 300, like the Romans, 300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?’
I’d been triggered.
I realised then that I had not dealt with the rape: that what I was experiencing now and in the months ahead was delayed trauma. I found this counselling session to be incredibly overwhelming, yet it helped me to identify what coping mechanisms worked best for me to help control the terror I was reliving and any terror I would experience in the future. While I felt more equipped to cope, my anxiety heightened. For the next fortnight I was increasingly aware of my surroundings and of any male in my presence. I could not switch the light off until early morning. I was scared to fall asleep and I avoided being alone.
Two weeks later, Gone Girl.
Amazing Amy began to fake her own rape. That all too familiar sensation grappled my chest, as she pressed herself to the glass door and screamed for help. ‘Turn it off, this is disgusting,’ I said breathlessly to my brother. ‘Turn it off, TURN IT OFF,’ I yelled.
The reality is now that, like any survivor of violence, I will be triggered and experience trauma in the future. It is important for people to understand that the terror and fear does not end once the violence ends. It continues. Silence of this trauma or pain can be particularly damning. I am incredibly grateful for the support I received from CASA to work through the rape. I share these experiences not to trap women in victimisation but to recognise, that hopefully, with time and tailored support these triggers can be less destructive and the sensation of powerlessness and absolute vulnerability can fade. At least this is my experience and it is my desperate hope for other survivors.
This piece was first published on Kelsey’s blog, Be Bold Be Fierce and has been republished at Lip with permission. You can read more of Kelsey’s words here and join her on Twitter here.