Childhood Trauma, Rape & The Burden of Abuse on Relationships
Rape. Nobody can apologize enough for RAPING you, as he did two years later when they met at a wedding. Her body froze. With that one apology, she was to put that night behind her, all the anger and disgust. But this is not how it goes. It is the soreness of living in a body someone thought was worth violating that kills you. The numbing silence. The inaudible reproach.
She decided to bury the ghouls that came with those nightmares, thinking casual relationships would help her forget. Thinking the same sex that was used to abuse her would heal her. One man after another. But there was no settling, no satisfaction, no healing. The heavy drinking and smoking that ensued gave her a tough face. An illusion of freedom, that she could lead a normal life like everybody else but she knew something inside would never be washed away by beer and cigarettes. She knew. You always know.
The men who happily offered their opportunistic members only said they loved her fire, not her. Said they could barely control themselves around her. She became the doormat they stepped on after a long muddy day when they needed deliverance from life’s tasking oddities. And she showed up, like a pawn.
Each encounter pasted a layer of thicker tar onto her sturdy mask. She hid and hid and hid until she could barely recognize herself anymore. She morphed into an artist of her own undoing. The buzz of work, quick sex, liquor and intoxicating giddiness, consumed her existence. When you camouflage long enough your obscurity becomes your truth. You begin to believe your lies. You battle your depression like a clueless sage monking his way to the grave.
Some people never come back.
Junot Díaz wrote something that later haunted him. He said, “No one can hide forever. Eventually what used to hold back the truth doesn’t work anymore. You run out of escapes, you run out of exits, you run out of gambits, you run out of luck. Eventually, the past finds you.”
Three things could happen when you get here: you commit suicide, ask for help or continue masking the cyclone.
This is the story of many sexually abused women living in the torment of their untold narratives for the fear of what more they could lose if they came out. We birthed this irate monster that fuels quietude as a coping mechanism. And yet, this deeply patriarchal construct does not only destroy women.
Effects of Childhood Trauma on a Man
I lacked my father’s affirmation growing up. I was the family’s disgrace too stubborn to be good for anything. I never attained enough grades to his satisfaction. Never a “you have tried, keep going” remark in his grueling assessments. Except for the most creative Success Card I received while sitting for my KCPE. Which covered all his mistakes.
A tumultuous adolescence dried my emotional reservoirs. I barely had any love left for myself. My heart was thirsty for safety, for warmth, for peace, for companionship. I thought self-destructing would be the best way out. I tried it, and that too, because I was such a terrific failure at everything, did not suffice.
I thought I had survived the unworthy sensibilities that come with growing up in a violent home. But after my first sexual encounter at 20, everything went downhill. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder followed me into my relationships. I looked for love, assertion, closure, and verification in women’s bodies. God, did I crash into them. God, did I shadow them with my profuse misery.
I thought I could heal from anything if I was good in bed. If I made women orgasm. If they patted my chest with approval. If they called me cute little pet names. Baby. Hun. Sweety. Handsome. My Love. If they wore to pleasure me. If they dared cross unsafe streets to come for sex in my house at wee hours. If I flirted like a con. If they sucked up to my bullshit. I thought.
This debasing desolation was taking my life down the drain. And I was taking those women with me. Women who offered me their bodies as experiments to the search for my liberation. Women who wanted to stay through it all but I didn’t allow them. Women who were lost like me. Women.
And son, if you don’t wake up from this slumber you kill a lot of people. You are a suicide bomber. And for you, as it is for the rest, there’ll be no virgins waiting in heaven.
It goes on and on. You have to decide if this is how you shall live your life. If the wreck of your body will be the ocean women drown. You have to decide.
In January 2015 I gave it all up. My parents were on another verge of divorce. This time I pleaded with them to talk. Daddy was hearing none of it. Mama was sickly and he said, “Your mother could die in August.”
That was it. I was done.
He didn’t care, didn’t want to. It was his way or no one’s.
I cuddled my bones in the bedroom that evening, kneeling, crying and praying to God. Admitting that I could not do it alone. I put a Gospel Hiphop playlist from Richie Records. And read C. S. Lewis. I gave it all up. Everything I did not have control over.
This was the year I met the 30-year-old woman who disappeared on me after a wondrous and life-changing one-night stand. She left me with word that I should love an adult to know what love means. She knew what she was saying. Loving adults is the most difficult thing you will ever have to do in your life.
I had two bruising relationships after that, but I kept working to better myself. Sometimes you meet people who are where you’re from, and you think you can save them and still keep them, but their pain overwhelms them and they wash you away like you washed other people in your past. And you’re left in shackles. Nas said in his 1994 Illmatic album, “Life’s a bitch and then you die!”
This is not just my story. It is the story of many men who do not have Facebook accounts, whom you sit with in matatus and next to in church. Men who show up for football matches and those wallowing in bars, luxuriating their problems with puffs and loud painful music.
In all this rubble, people still want to get into fulfilling relationships. Many times without working on themselves. When you are young, romantic relationships are like fancy cars on Need For Speed (NFS). Fast, flashy, and fondling. Then you grow older and replace the f’s with stability, soundness, and sobriety. Less sin, less sadness. But you still want more sex.
If you’re lucky, and hell-bent on settling, you’ll meet your person. Many of us want to. Though often forgetting that functional relationships are built on blood and sweat. Not someone killing you. But acknowledging you can’t experience happiness if you want to hold on to your old self. You can’t be comfortable with keeping secrets from your partner, thinking they will be the doctors to your childhood trauma. You have to ask yourself what you are willing to give, how much you’re willing to give it and how far you’re willing to go – and inquire within your conscience whether your resolution is fair for the other person.
Why do you want a relationship?
Do you want to get into a relationship just to feel good? You have to ask why you want it. A lot of us are never quite prepared for the sacrifice such commitments come with. You have to undergo a transformation. It is the most difficult part – to have to open your wounds to somebody, laying bare your gaping unsexiness. And giving them the liberty to choose what to do with these uneasy truths.
You have to work on your pain to be a better person. To scrap off the mask and deal with your throbs. Rumi said, “The cure for the pain is in the pain.”
You have to overcome the pain. You have to incapacitate it. You have to free yourself. Free yourself!