As the reality of moving to (yet another) new city set in, I couldn’t help but be excited to be leaving a piece of my past behind. No matter where in the world I am physically, it’s always felt like there’s never been any escaping my rape. It’s as if no amount of time or space between where I am and that night has ever been enough. It’s always lingering around the corner.
And now it’s not.
This time, I moved farther away. This time, I know no one in the city I now live in. No one here will look at me and automatically think “rape victim.” No one here will look at me and know about the worst thing that has ever happened to me. No one here knows him and nowhere here reminds me of him.
And yet, I can’t stop crying.
I am alone, in a city I don’t know, without any reminders of him or that night. I should be ecstatic. I should be jumping on my bed knowing that he doesn’t know where I am and, for the first time in so many years, I can live without looking over my shoulder. I have waited for this day for so long and now that it is finally here I am terrified. What if I’m not as strong as I think I am? What if my anxiety comes back full force? What if I fall apart?
A while ago, I stumbled upon a tweet from Ebonee Davis where she said, “It just occurred to me that many people are actually afraid to heal because their entire identity is centered around the trauma they’ve experienced. They have no idea who they are outside of trauma & that unknown can be terrified.”
All of who I know I am is centered around being a rape survivor. It’s been so long that I don’t remember who I was before the rape and before Chuck* ever came into my life. My rape forced me to grow into who I am today, and I love who I am, but so much of my identity is intertwined with my rape. For so long all I wanted was to not be “rape victim Jenny” anymore and now the time is here. Here, no one will know about my rape unless I tell them. It’s liberating.
But I don’t know who I am without it.