In every great story, the hero or heroine, descends into the “underworld,” before emerging a changed person. Usually, the changes are assets. After all, how can you evolve if you haven’t learned new lessons, which make you a wiser person? Sure, it’s possible that the hero will be damaged, but I suppose it’s all about how he or she envisions their journey…it’s all about perspective.
In my journey, it seems that I have descended into the underworld a few times in my 40 years. First, it was the abuse I endured – which I emerged a bit damaged, but savvier. It set me on a path to discovering passion and education, not withstanding the tarnished eye I began to cast upon people. My trust level was diminished greatly, and my skepticism was sharp. Looking back, it did serve me well. I was wary of who I called “friend,” and even more so of intimacy. I like to think that it saved me a lot of wasted time getting to know people, only to be disappointed. I know, wrong attitude, but I only had the protection of myself, and that was the wall I felt I had to build. Today, I can honestly say, that there are times when I wonder where this “bad attitude” of mine comes from, but I’ve always known.
In a romantic way, I can look at the beginning of my relationship with my husband as the first step into a 20 year descent into the underworld. There were so many levels of this world that I experienced with him, but I’m not really sure if I’ve ever emerged into a new reality. Perhaps I’ve emerged and gone back down, I have changed, so this would be the logical conclusion.
In the very beginning of our relationship, my husband was the most amazing man – funny, considerate, and most of all, he loved to hang out and laugh. He was the life of everyone’s party and was never denied an invite. I felt safe with him. When he was around I felt as though I could enjoy my life without constantly wondering if my ex was waiting for me in the shadows. He was gentle with me, even though the abuse I endured was 2 years past, the results of my trauma were still very apparent.
For the first time in my life, I felt as though I was actually living. In a way, I think I was safely rebelling. My parents STILL wouldn’t let me spend the night at his place, as I mentioned, they were old fashioned Italian Catholics, but hanging out until the wee hours of the morning, and telling my parents that I was spending the night at my brother’s house worked for the time being. I would feel guilty about lying, so I would go to my brother’s place and shower, making my story partially true. It was my way of making it right. Then, one day, that all came crashing down.
You see, my brother and my ex were best friends. It was hard for my brother to understand and accept that my ex could do such a thing, and my ex was working hard to get back into my brother’s good graces. One morning I arrived at my brothers and, low and behold, my ex was there. I went to shower as my brother was leaving for work. I locked the door, even though I thought my ex was leaving with him. He didn’t. He proceeded to pick the lock and drag me to my brother’s bed and rape me. I remember those moments well, I didn’t fight, I took it for fear that this time he would, indeed, kill me. When it was all said and done, he offered me money that he owed me and said, “Now you can go to the police.” I left, knowing full well that a rape exam would yield two different types of DNA, my boyfriend’s and my ex’s. I would be ruled a whore and that would be that. I went home and told my parents of the event and stayed in bed the entire day. It was then and there that I took another level of control in my life. I would never lie to my parents again about where I was or what I was doing. Perhaps I would leave out some personal details, but I would never lie to them again. From that moment on, I was vocal about spending the night at my boyfriend’s, but I was respectful, as well.
After the day’s events, my boyfriend begged me to go to the police, even if it was just his roommate, who was, in fact, a police officer. I refused, explaining how things would go. From then on, I launched into a slew of Rape Crisis volunteer work, holding the hands of rape victims as doctor’s invaded their bodies and parents condemned their children for “loose behavior.” That is an absolute fact, by the way, parents condemned their own children. I watched as a young girl, who turned out to be my neighbor, received a rape exam as her mother said, “She parties a lot, I know she’s not a virgin.” The doctor looked up from his exam and said, “Yes, she was, her hymen is newly broken.” I was heartbroken for that girl, and I knew the humiliation she was experiencing. The look on her mother’s face changed from anger to embarrassment, and I was quietly happy to see it.
In the best way possible, my life was forever changed. My parents and I had graduated to a new level of respect, and I was finally being allowed to be an adult. Time marched on, I would go to class, complete my homework, and visit my boyfriend. He was changing, too. Although he was still funny, there was an air of seriousness about him, which I attributed to his job. Unfortunately, I had confused “seriousness” with “arrogance.” Surely our move to Colorado would solve all of this. We would both have careers and we would stand by one another. As I mentioned before, I was wrong.