After the assault, I struggled with every bit of life. I was a skinny 19-year-old in the summer of 1985, and bikinis at the beach were a natural way of life. Sunbathing was the latest fad to darken me up. I was never one for showing my goods, but I traditionally wore a two-piece or bikini until the scar. That scar was a constant reminder of everything I had lost. As hard as I tried to hold on to every bit of the old me, I seemed to lose the battle with every passing day. For a while, I continued to wear my two-piece suits. Until the curiosity of others left me feeling even more guilty and ashamed. I would first notice their eyes turn down towards my belly. I knew the questions would begin next. Same questions. “How’d you get that?” “What happened to you”? I would clammer and freeze. I would feel that tinge of shame, then it would rise to guilt, embarrassment, and finally anger. Total hopelessness
I could have answered the questions better. But, unfortunately, I did not have the tools to verbalize what had happened. Typically, and for many years, I would answer that I had been in an accident. An accident!
I didn’t have the strength to share the truth. Sharing the truth meant a hurtful response from the inquisitor. I couldn’t risk that. I’d had plenty of those, and it just hurt too much. Down to the core, the kind that is hard to forget. The words spoken back hit like daggers. Those words stuck like a fly to a glue trap, eventually invading my soul to the point of hot and fast tears. This meant I’d need to find a hiding place to shed them.
I’ve realized that, by nature, people are just curious beings. Curious and annoying. From the first moments after the assault, I felt ashamed. The feeling that I had done something to cause this.
Shame, embarrassment, and guilt covered me for too many years, and I just never seemed to be able to escape it. I should have known better. I should have fought back. What if I had run? I shouldn’t have been alone, I shouldn’t have needed help, and I never should have sought help or used a pay phone. I was the cause! I knew it, and I felt it from everyone around me. They knew it too.
Above is another excerpt from the book Susan Schuenemann is in process of writing.