People - Melissa's Story
Rape fades to normality
has been treated like a toilet all her life, as a child, as a teenage girl and
now as a woman she has been raped sometimes daily by whatever male wants to use
She is thirty, with
a slight figure and a quiet presence. She spoke of a male and female boarding
house where she is residing. "Its getting a bit much," she says "there
is always a guy wanting something sexual, night after night."
left home because of sexual abuse at the age of 15. On the streets, she would
pair up with a guy for protection. I guess, at least she got to chose which guy
it would be and have some influence over what happened sexually and when, as they
were 'in a relationship.'
she is off the streets, there is no boyfriend at the moment and the boarding house
is taking its toll.
I asked if anyone at the boarding
house had ever forced themselves upon her. She explains that over the years she
has learnt that either violence or rape follows refusal.
experience of life has been as the victim of regular
sexual exploitation from
one male or another.
What you or
I understand as rape, does not apply
as the rapes add up, the violence adds
up and she is now at a point where she copes by not resisting the sexual advances
and rationalizing to herself that once a week is a good week, instead of once
It's hard to describe
what it is like being in Melissa's presence. She is extremely shy, hiding in the
background and avoiding attention from anyone
she flies under the radar.
talk quietly and slowly together about the boarding house as she maps out her
plan of how and when she will move away from it. Her
plan is daring, it means she will make a choice and take action against what her
attackers want by quietly disappearing.
didn't need anything from me, she just wanted to say her plan out loud and tell
me of how it will work out for her. I just said
"It's going to be really good when you do it, isn't it?" Affirming her
plan and that things will work out for her.
We have to be so careful with
people like Melissa not to stride into their lives and make decisions for them
or take power away from them because we don't know what is best for her. Only
Melissa knows what her next step should be, what goals she should set in her life
and what she needs to do to survive.
are just there, being present in a way that is gentle and open. Being present
with people in pain is done without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
dominic dot mapstone at gmail dot com