The stain never goes away. Never. You can’t drink it away, you can’t scrub it away, you can’t pretend it away, therapy and medication can only do so much. The stain is always there. Even if you somehow manage to drug yourself enough and so many times that the original memories of it are gone, the hole is there, and you know the shape of it and the feel of it as well as you used to know the smell of their breath and the feel of their hands. It’s kind of like having the bed to yourself right after the end of a long-term relationship, in that the person is gone, but their absence might as well be them due to all the emotions it triggers.
I’m not doing a great job of explaining this. You are forever marked. You either have the memories, or the hole where the memories used to be, or you have them repressed (but never well enough to get away from triggers, because they’re everywhere, only this way you don’t understand why you feel panic and shame and hate and all of that when certain things happen, only that you do, so you get another healthy helping of helplessness…). There will always be triggers, and the only thing that will change is the intensity of the response, and this isn’t always predictable. Sometimes a trigger that you think you’ve overcome (or as close as you can get to that) hits you like it’s the first week after. Out of fucking nowhere. And you might never figure out why. The next day, the same trigger might do next to nothing. It’s infuriating.
Then we have sex. Male victim of a male monster, here. Too passive and I feel like a victim again, too aggressive and I feel like a rapist, even if the person states in no uncertain terms they prefer it a certain way and I’m into it at the time. Sometimes it just hits me after, and that’s always fun. Explain why I’m suddenly upset and ruin the mood? Hide it and have to wear a mask in front of one of the few people I’ve allowed to get this close? Neither are appealing choices. Have a person who already understands and loves me and is fine with it? Yeah, okay, assuming I believe them, which is hard enough, I now have someone who is dealing with something they shouldn’t have to because I had to deal with something I shouldn’t have had to, and even if they say they don’t mind and they love me and all the other “right responses”, the guilt is still there. Why choose me, when there are other partners without these hangups? Maybe I avoid these situations entirely? Well, now I’m unfulfilled sexually. He’s still in control, because his crime is still influencing what I do, and don’t do, and seek out, and avoid. No appealing choices. Even not playing isn’t the winning move, because every move of every piece is on a board that will FOREVER have his fucking mark on it, because of what happened.
Or maybe you go the casual-sex, fuck-everyone, rape-isn’t-as-big-a-deal-if-sex-isn’t route. You can’t fuck it away. That feeling of empowerment some people get from this? That’s still in relation to the original act that made you, rather us, choose this. No choice in a vacuum, no future decision unmarked by what came before, as far as sex goes.
Then there’s the whole thing where many predators were victims themselves. Yes, most victims don’t go on to become monsters, but knowing this stuff is like knowing you have a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism: yeah, forewarned is forearmed, and it won’t happen to you, but maybe one month you drink a bit too much, or you find yourself looking at stuff that, while totally legal, is still perhaps leaning a bit too uncomfortably in the direction of that potential you. For clarification, no, not child pron or drawn images of children or anything like that, just bdsm and fresh-18 stuff. There are lines I don’t cross. But then I wonder, did he have lines he didn’t cross, and he just kept leaning and and leaning and leaning until he fell face-fucking-first into that abyss? So you stop and go vanilla, or cold turkey. Again, the control is still there. You still feel the hand, the weight, as it influences your decisions. There is no getting away from it.
Oh, and the response to unexpected physical contact. No, I don’t dislike you (probably, I mean, fuck some people), I might even love you, but that brief moment where you startled me and I looked like I wanted to hurt you? I didn’t, I wanted to hurt him, but for that moment you were him, even though you weren’t. Over two decades of therapy and I’ve mostly been able to work through this with relationships, but sleeping over is still something that needs work at first. I’ve gotten pretty good at pretending to be asleep, partly from watching other people sleep (creepy, I know), because if I wake up and I see someone within arm’s reach of me, near me in that vulnerable state, and I don’t immediately know who they are and that they’re “safe” and all that shit? My brain sees Him. So the first handful of nights I spend “sleeping” next to someone, I’m lying. I’m lying to them, right after they let me get that close to them, and I’m spending hours and hours trying to train myself to instantly react “Person X good, person X not going to hurt you” just so I can fall asleep holding them or in their arms.
You know, I thought this would be cathartic. It’s not. Sometimes it is, but not right now. Think I’m done for tonight.