These are the kind of words I used to save for Tumblr, under "private".
Don't get me wrong: it's been a while since I opened up on the Internet for the first time. I wrote blogposts. I signed petitions. I stood up with other survivors. I shared my story, along with 100 other French women, online and then in a book. I am not ashamed of what happened, and never will be.
But I would like to stop being "the raped woman". Especially for the young woman I see every day in the mirror.
I'm not blaming anyone. I knew what to expect, right from the beginning; when my friends knew, when my mother knew, when I started writing about it because it was the only way to stay sane. Speaking out kept me alive. Telling people was in the name of full disclosure: I have nothing to hide, take me as I am. I am strong enough. I'll get through it.
The truth is I've put myself in a cage I am struggling to escape from.
It's difficult to find the right balance between speaking out and admitting it's eating you alive.
My professional life never really "suffered" from the trauma but my personal life has been a minefield for years. Not in the way you may think, though. Not always, anyway.
I let the rape define me. I let it become my new identity. It was written on my face when making new friends, new romances. Hours of discussion, in the name of the aforementioned full disclosure, for the sake of being strong. The most powerful irony is that I thought I talked about it because it was way behind me, when I was simply using it like a shield: take me as I am, but I beg you not to get closer. If you get closer, well, I warned you. I am a damaged good. I am your own risk. I'm a bomb, bound to explode. Any minute now.
Needless to say, when you push people most of them fall and never come back.
I was a rape victim. Nothing else. Period.
And as a rape victim there was no place for happiness. How can you be happy when a part of you dies and you spend the rest of your life pretending it's still there? How can you make someone happy? Is there a space to heal? Do I have the right to heal? How do I get happy when I'm so angry at the world for asking me to be "Me"? "Me" doesn't even exist anymore. Wiped out, erased. The only way to cope is that "new" identity I brought everywhere. Because I thought I couldn't be more than that.
I am a rape victim.
I would love to tell you I had an epiphany, that I saw the truth, left the tunnel and now preach for a better world, whilst smiling all the time. Actually I just slowly reinvent myself, putting pieces together, like a puzzle. Except the pieces are different now.
I am a writer.
A loyal friend.
A funny girlfriend (if the lovely man I share my life with says so, it must be true, somehow)
A great cook.
An avid reader. An occasional singer. A music lover. A comics collector. A con-goer. A dreamer.
I am stubborn. I am passionate. I am a worrier. I am a semi-optimist.
It's what I want to tell myself when I look in the mirror.
And I'm never, ever going to shut up.
It's what I want to tell every single survivor, male or female, out there.
You have the right to speak out.
You have the right to heal.
You have the right to be happy.
You are more than your rape.