Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Past Never Stays in the Past

The weather is cooling off and the students are returning to campus and my thoughts turn not to the fall term, but rather to my failures and shortcomings. Instead of feeling the optimism of a new term and the possibilities inherent in a new school year I feel the weight of the previous terms. I cast back to that fall four years ago now, where a middle-aged man I worked with in my hometown accelerated his obsession and began stalking me in my University town. It was a situation that I have come to learn is not all that uncommon, even though I feel it should be. It escalated until one night I was raped and held against my will for over four hours until I convinced him that I had to get home and couldn’t stay with him in his car all night. After that he really came undone. It all ended with a confrontation with the police one afternoon when he showed up unannounced and uninvited to my apartment building.

I think women are taught to be nice, even when perhaps it’s not in their best interests. I know that fear for my summer job, and thinking I could reason with a person completely out of touch with reality is what led me so deep into the situation. I was trying to be nice, letting him down easy- trying to redirect his attention away from me without angering him. I was completely unfit to handle the situation. I also wanted to keep it quiet from my family and friends, thinking I could get it all to go away without having it public knowledge. I tolerated behaviour and actions at work that escalated the problem because I didn’t know who to trust or who I could go to. I was also trying to be nice when I shouldn’t have tolerated any of it for a second. I was na├»ve. I assumed that when I left my position for the school year that the problem would go away. I was horribly wrong and have had to live with consequences of that ignorance ever since. Even after the police became involved I stayed quiet on the most horrific aspects of the case because I was thinking of his children. I also didn’t want to deal with a trial situation and having my life aired out in public. It was very much a he-said, she-said situation and I couldn’t handle the possibility that I might lose. I also thought that if he lost his job because of me that it would give him more reason to be obsessed with me, so I kept my mouth shut.

I wish I could say I’m over it and well on the road to recovery, but my past does not stay in the past. At times I’m angry that I didn’t get any kind of justice or retribution. As far as I know he went on his merry way and life did not change all that much for him, while my life changed dramatically. I still have the occasional nightmare or flashback- fall seems to have a huge amount of triggers that put me back in that place. Talking about it or even thinking about what happened during those couple of months brings me to tears or I break out in a cold sweat. I struggle with focus and motivation as well as extreme fear that has no basis in reality. I feel like I have been unable to reclaim my life, but am stuck in some kind of limbo or purgatory where I exhibit victim behaviour and can’t completely move past it all.

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