I think you may have noticed that the concept of the personal being political, if you will, is one that I have become a lot more interested in exploring lately. Perhaps it has something to do with BFP’s rethinking walking series inspiring me (though of course I don’t claim we’re necessarily doing even remotely the same thing), but whatever it is, it seems to have connected with a lot of you, too.
Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is the concept of sexual assault and the “healing” that comes afterward.
Healing is a loaded term to me. This was really hit home when a few weeks back I was at a concert for Third Eye Blind, who was my favorite band as a teenager, and they played the song “Wounded,” which is written to a rape survivor. I hadn’t heard it in years, but at about 15-16, I loved it. But the minute the line “the bruises that you feel will heal” came out, I was filled with rage. Don’t tell me, or anyone else, that they’re going to “heal,” fucker. (And this is totally putting aside for the purposes of this post several other major issues with the song.)
But I assure you, this post isn’t about bands from the 90s failing to do some 101 before writing a song; because I see the basic sentiment, if not as clumsily phrased, coming from fellow assault survivors wishing healing for others, or in literature from anti-violence organizations, talking about the healing process that follows an assault.
Now, I’m not trying to call anyone out here in particular. In fact, I’m sure that if someone wanted to go through my archives, you might find me hoping that a survivor finds a way to heal. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t doubt it. So my point isn’t “what would possess anyone to say such a thing?”
But the question it raises is this: can we really say that survivors heal? Do we heal?
I know that not all survivors suffer from some sort of post-traumatic stress. I cannot speak to those experiences. In fact, I cannot speak to a single experience that is not my own. But I sure as hell know that almost 11 years later, I definitely don’t feel “healed.” Better, certainly. I don’t think about being raped every day, after all. But I don’t know when I will. I don’t know if and how it will happen. Subconsciously, it also affects my relationships with regards to trust; I know this.
So healed? Healed? No. No, I am not fucking healed. And while I wouldn’t begrudge finding out someday that I’m wrong, I’ve basically accepted that “healed” is something I’m never going to be.
In short, I am okay. I have been okay for some time, and I will be okay. But I will never be the way I was pre-rape, or “get over it.” To go back to this “bruising” metaphor — you can’t see the bruises unless you look for them, and they don’t hurt in just general life. But if you press on them, fuck yeah, there’s pain.
And yet, at some point, the idea of “healing” clearly was important to me. When I loved the song referenced above, I hadn’t yet come to terms with the fact that I had been raped; I just knew that I had metaphorical bruises, and I wanted so badly for them to heal. Was the concept that they would damaging in the long run? Or was it in some way helpful? I honestly don’t know.
Further, I think to myself, I have surgery scars. They long ago closed, and have left my abdomen to never again look as it once did. But still, we consider those scars healed.
Is that what healing really is? Is it not being open and raw and constantly painful? And if it is, are we really expecting too little? I mean, there has to be an area in between saying that survivors of abuse are forever broken and untouchable, and saying that survivors are as they once were, right?
I don’t know the answers to most these questions, but I am interested in talking about them.
What does healing mean to you? Do you think that you ever will heal? Do you feel that you have healed? If so, what does that look like? Has the thought of healing been helpful to you (or the opposite)? What do you think of when you hear about the healing process for survivors? How do your personal experiences/identities that intersect with that of an abuse survivor (i.e. race, disability, gender identity, etc.) inform this understanding? Is there a better word that we can use? What do you think the word “healing” conveys to non-survivors about the experience? What does it convey to you?
This thread is open to any and all survivors of any type of abuse (provided they follow the rest of the comment policy), whether it be rape, other sexual assault, childhood abuse, intimate partner violence, and so on. Others are free to read along, but I ask that you respect the space and this request.