One of the worst things that can happen to anyone is to have their bodies and private spaces violated. But what takes the cake for being the lowest of lows is when this violation is done at a ‘safe’ space by somebody who is ‘safe’ and trustworthy. Being in an abusive relationship – whether it’s physically, mentally or emotionally – is a trauma that never ends.
As somebody who was in a relationship that left me worse for wear, both physically and mentally, I ended up as an extremely insecure and underconfident person. I’d left the relationship and my ex behind me but I was still carrying my scars with me, every minute of every day. No matter where I went, all I felt was betrayal, pain and discomfort. I forgot the sting of the slap and the agony of an arm-twist but I could not let go of the way I felt when all of it was happening – helpless and alone. Being a ‘survivor’ became my identity, not for the world; but, for myself. I wasn’t a bright, beautiful, talented young girl anymore, I was just a survivor.
That’s the thing about domestic violence – it leaves you vulnerable because the one person who was supposed to stand by you is the very person who broke your trust and ultimately, you. Relationships become a struggle and you shy away from even the slightest touch – not sure which one is a consoling pat on the back, or when it might turn into pain.
Trauma, no matter what kind, leaves you with a very mixed bag of feelings. You feel everything everyone else does but you cannot acknowledge these feelings anymore because these ‘feelings’ are what got you into trouble the last time. So even if you crave intimacy again, you’ll run back to the comfort of your own company instead of venturing out into the big bad world.
But, what happens when love comes back and you want to be intimate again? One day, you may come across somebody who, despite your resistance, disarms you. Or you may be ready to break down the walls on your own. Because the need to be with another human and to be touched intimately may just become greater than your fear. In a tremendous display of courage, you might end up in a room with someone but as you undress, all that you can think about is the last person you let into your personal space. But you want this so bad, you don’t stop. Momentarily, you will get lost in how amazing it feels to have someone else’s lips on yours and for them to worship your body.
Once it’s over, and the high is gone, reality sets in. You’re still battling your demons inside your head but suddenly, there is hope. You feel you can conquer them. This time you don’t need another person to help you because you are stronger now. You’re older and you know better. So you don’t run from a life battle; you face your enemies – your own body and mind. And that is how you know you’re healing.
At the end of the day, the truth is that getting close to somebody else, or having sex with them for a survivor, isn’t the biggest hurdle. Trusting people again is. Making sure you’re never that vulnerable again and to stand up for yourself is a task. But it’s a task worth doing well. And one thing I know now for sure, my personal space is mine to protect. Ain’t no waiting for a ‘knight in shining armour’!