When we think of domestic abuse a few behaviours come to mind: hitting, kicking and punching; belittling speech, looks, and actions, and controlling who a person can associate with, what a person do, what a person can wear. We rarely talk about sexual assault as part of this abusive pattern, perhaps because, until fairly recently, rape in marriage was not an offense. The fact that it has only recently been acknowledged as an offense doesn’t mean it was acceptable to healthy men before that; healthy men have always regarded rape as an offensive and damaging act. In sharing these meditations from my book WITNESS, we come to the point where marital rape must be discussed because Sarah was raped by her husband Jamie.
Sarah and Jamie were happy to finally be in a place of financial stability. They had both been working regularly and able to relax and do more of the things they liked to do. When Sarah got a new job working for the Civil Service, they were both overjoyed. It would mean more money coming in and things would ease up even more. Things started to go wrong when Sarah returned from her second last week of training. She had always known how jealous Jamie was, but she had never given him any cause to be. When he surprised her by meeting her off the train, Sarah was delighted. Jamie was less than pleased when he saw her bid a cheery farewell to one of her co-workers, Bill, who was much younger than her, and good company. Jamie was very quiet as they traveled to their house; he accused her of sleeping with Bill later in the evening. Sarah was appalled at the suggestion, but Jamie wasn’t prepared to believe her.
Next morning, she was wakened early by Jamie, who was on top of her. In her sleepy state, she thought he was apologising by starting to make love to her, but he wasn’t. There were no kisses, or caresses, no loving looks or loving words, just Jamie thrusting himself into her, and hurting her; tearing her. When Sarah realised this was an assault, she knew there was no point to struggling with him, he would win and things would be worse, so she disconnected from her body feeling shamed. When he finished, he pulled himself out of her, and growled, “Get it sorted!”, and left the bedroom. She knew Jamie was marking his territory.
Sarah didn’t tell anyone about this until after she and Jamie divorced. She was ashamed, and felt it was her fault for becoming friendly with other men. She didn’t make this mistake again, always keeping her distance from her male colleagues. Another chunk of her life limited.
I am made in your image,
I do not understand why I was treated this way.
I do know that you were there,
And, like all mothers
You react to sexual assault with rage.
I learned to be absent from my body when he harmed me. I know you were present.
The time for healing has come.
The time to remember and feel is here.
As the fear and rage arise in me
I know you are with me.
You were my witness then,
I feel lonely and isolated. Few people understand.
I need compassion,
And human warmth.
Hear my prayer.
Take my hand as I look
Into the dark room of my pain. I may not stay long;
It may be too frightening.
But you reassure me,
We can come back again when I am ready. Leaving and returning
Until healing arrives.