Ready or Not: My War At Home

By Shelley F. Diamond, Ph.D.

Shelley F. Diamond, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. Her healing as a rape survivor included participating in a rape survivors' support group, learning self-defense skills at Impact Bay Area, using Eugene Gendlin's Focusing technique, and writing in her journal.

Back in the early 1970's,

I watched the Vietnam war on the evening news,

"Walter Cronkite reporting…"

Rape is war at home for girls and women.

We get drafted and fight on a different kind of battlefield.

On beds, on floors, on couches, on pavement, under trees.

On our backs, on our knees, on all fours.

The day before October 12, 1973,

I was a 16 year old virgin,

Who had kissed and touched

and even snuggled naked once.

But I was waiting for someone special,

Someone I thought I would recognize when we met.
Dreamed day and night about how my first time would happen,

Certain this beautiful fantasy would come true,

Someday, when I was ready.

To wait until I felt ready,

That was the most important thing.

But when it happened, I wasn't ready.

I wasn't ready at all.

I tried to explain this to my rapist.

No, no, this can't happen this way.

This isn't supposed to happen this way.

This isn't right. My first time is going to be special.

I'm waiting for the right one. I'm not ready yet.

My rapist laughed at me.

You're a fool, he said, with contempt in his voice,

maybe the contempt of someone who had once been such a fool.

You're the kind of girl who will never be ready.

You're the kind of girl who has to be forced into it.

Your pretty dreams are silly, that's not reality.

This is what sex is.
Get used to it.

His words echoed in my ears as I fell back in shock, in surrender.

This is what sex is? Get used to it?

THIS? This is sex? No, that's impossible.

This is an attack by some kind of monster.

This is someone trying to kill me.

This is the worst pain I ever felt.

This is….. This is…. Unimaginable. No words for this.

I became paralyzed. I could not move. I could not talk.

I left my body.

I looked down from the ceiling and saw the monster attacking me.

Saw my body convulsing in uncontrollable dry heave spasms.

Saw my mouth frozen open in a silent scream, sobbing soundlessly.

Time stopped.

Time shattered as I did, into pieces.

I remember thinking "So that's why no one talks about sex,

They don't want you to know how horrible it is until it's too late"

And I thought about that strange phrase

"Lie back and think of the Queen"

Now I understood what it meant.

It meant lay there and think of something else,

Anything that will distract you from this brutal assault,

This war, this battlefield that you must get used to.

I condemned myself.

How stupid I was to think that sex had something to do with love.

How stupid I was to think that sex had something to do with

two people wanting to be connected to each other

in every possible way.

My beautiful dream exploded before my eyes.

But in the original moments of violation, in a split second,

Just before I said goodbye to it,

I unconsciously and instinctively buried my dream,

and the innocent me who dreamed that dream.

Buried them alive,

In a very very tiny space deep inside myself.

With guards and a fortress instantly surrounding them.

Mental barricades of rage and outrage and defiant self-protection,

Maybe the strongest walls ever made.

You may think you're doing this to ME,

but you're only doing it to my body.

I am not my body.

I am locked into an incredibly small space inside my body,

and I will remain there forever if necessary.

No one will touch me, no one will touch

the real me inside.

I will protect myself from anything and anyone that tries to reach me.

I locked myself in a secret compartment,

Behind a door without a key,

Inside a wall I forgot that I built.

And there I stayed, hidden for safekeeping,

Hidden even from myself.

I crossed over into the nightmare

that was the opposite of my dream.

For about 20 years, through all the sexual encounters that I endured, with men and women, I felt nothing.

Nothing they did to my body touched me.

For I was not my body.

Finally, I met a man willing to take the time,

more than 5 years it took,

to gradually forge a path to that tiny space inside me.

Slowly, I learned I could say No, say Stop, anytime,

take breaks, take a nap, talk, laugh, tell jokes.

Nothing urgent, no emergencies, no obligations.

Gradually, I recognized that a door was there,

Realized the wall was there,

Remembered I was in there, the missing piece of me inside the wall.

The guards had been vigilant,

they had held fast all those years since that night.

Waiting for further notice. Waiting to feel safe enough

To let down the self-protective barricades.

Suddenly I burst into tears of joy.

My rapist was wrong.

He had said I would never be ready.

But he was wrong.

After all that time, I recognized how it feels to be ready.

So to those who understand my story,

I bring word:

It is possible to survive, to find your way back,

To reconnect all the pieces of yourself,

To slowly let yourself feel again and connect with others.

It takes a long time.

But it's possible.

Don't give up hope.

Be patient.

There will come a time when you are ready.

Published 2006 in Voices Rooted in Truth Shake the Sky: A Decade of Artists Against Rape. Edited by San Francisco Women Against Rape for their 10th Annual Benefit.