After Rape: A Guide for the Tormented

  The worst thing that was ever done to a person I know was committed by a man who claimed he loved his victim. “That was not rape,” he told her afterwards. He was in this regard highly unoriginal. Every rape survivor who has shared her story with me was also told by her rapist that what he did to her was not rape. The first months after my rape I would play macabre mind games with myself whenever I was left alone. I would, for example, ask myself at regular intervals: What punishment would be bad enough? Sometimes I would deliberately pose the question at a time of relative peace, to punish myself for allowing the memory of the evil to fade from the forefront of my attention. What punishment would be bad enough? What punishment would be bad enough? At two months out, I was able to make droll, dark quips about my little game with close friends. I would say that I wished I believed in hell so that I could believe he would burn forever, and I would add that faith in the possibility of eternal damnation is wasted on people who already have the comfort of a God. They would laugh and rub my back and tell me they were glad that we could make jokes. But in the skinless moments, when wit was beyond me, I would fantasize about one particular punishment. I wanted my rapist to think “That is a rapist” every time he saw his own reflection. I wanted the word to rise like bile in his throat every time he read his own byline. His condign punishment would have been the burning tang of his own evil present as a taste on his tongue.  Rape is like explosive ammunition. The

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