Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Story: On Becoming an Empty Shell

**This is the next installment of His Story: My Life. If you have missed the earlier portions of the story, please feel welcome to slip over here to see all that has gone before.**

I feel compelled to add a warning of sorts to this particular part of the story, a preface to what is coming. Let me preface it this way:

In America, 1 in every 6 women has been the victim of rape. 1 in 6. Do you know 6 women? Odds are, you know someone who has suffered through this atrocity.

Currently in the US, every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted. Every. 2. Minutes.

Do these numbers astound you? They should.

And the effects?

Victims of sexual assault are: 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from PTSD, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

How ‘bout them numbers?
1 in 6.
Every. 2. Minutes.
3. 6. 13. 26. 4.
Times more likely to have a life in ruins. Absolute shambles.

That’s the general reality. Now here was my reality.

I don’t think the reality of that disgusting four-letter word really sunk in until a few days after the event. There was a hollowing numbness that had begun to creep in, almost immediately, a battle between what was reality and what was merely a horrific nightmare, and somehow, in my mind, if I could make it all just a horrific nightmare, then it wasn’t real. It didn’t really happen. And the heart began on a slow journey of death that would leave nothing more than a black lump of coal in my chest. I was working on a new reality.

It started with a really, really, really long, very hot shower. Scrubbing, weeping, scrubbing, red, raw skin, more scrubbing. If I could just get that filthy feeling off, out, away. More soap, more scrubbing, clawing, rubbing, more soap, till all that was left was raw, exposed nerve endings, skin that bled in the heat of the water, and a heart that bore a bruise that would not heal and could not be comforted. The pain and humiliation and shame were all too much to bear.

Whenever I closed my eyes, I saw them. I could smell the cigarette-stained hand that muffled my screams for help and held my head in place. I could feel the death grip on my hands, binding them above my head, out of reach to fight and protect. I could hear the sneers and evil laughter of the ones watching, like a hyena’s cackle. Vile and disgusting, as my strength was not enough to protect myself, and my cries of “NO!” fell on deaf, evil ears. And so he had his own selfish, revolting way with that which did not belong to him.

And my world fell apart.

And when he was done, they threw me in the back of the truck, and drove back into town, even dumped me outside of the front gate of my house, and drove away with their squeals ripping the night air apart.

Tell me it didn’t happen.

No one ever has to know.

What does it really matter, anyway?

A few nights later, I met a “boyfriend” at the pizza joint down the road from my house. I wasn’t straying far, and it was the first that I had gone out since my world was turned upside down. We ate pizza, little conversation, and then we drove me home. As we sat in his truck, just outside of my house, he leaned over and said to me, “I heard about what happened the other night.”

“You heard?”

“Yea, and just so you know: it’s cool if you want to be a slut.”

“what?” It was barely a whisper at first gasp, disbelief knocking the wind out of me. And then picked up force. “What did you just say?”

“I’m just saying, if that’s what you want to do, it’s cool.”

“I said NO! Over and over and over again! I screamed it. I cried it. I said NO!”

“Whatever, slut. Get out of my truck.”

Looking back on that day now, I wonder if it was visible, the walls that went up. I wonder if someone looking at me from the outside could see the hardening process take place, because it was almost instantaneous. Walls, like Fort Briggs, shot up around my hard, creating a shell of the former me. In that moment, I decided I could tell no one, because no one would believe me. I just heard it. He didn’t believe me, that I fought, that I struggled to get free. He didn’t believe me, but blamed me, labeled and insulted me.

And I could not call my family on another continent and tell them what happened. What if they didn’t believe me? What if they blamed me? What if they got angry or called me names? I couldn’t bear it. There was just too much shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and filth. Stripped of dignity, stripped of strength, I vowed to rebuild my strength on absolute protection.

I could tell no one.

But in order to quiet the painful reminders, to shut the heart up in all its brokenness, to silence the hatred of self, it would require outside intervention. And an addiction is ushered in. 


  1. Love, there are not words. I remember the first day I saw you when you returned... we were at Forest Heights field for a soccer game; Parkview was playing right after Hall. You were sitting with your dad. I had not seen you in so long and was thrilled to have the chance to ask about your trip. When I asked you how the year had been you laughed/snorted and said, "oh the stories I have to tell." Oh the stories indeed. Who knew it would be more than 15 years later that I would get the missing chapter. I knew but I never knew the whole of it. The horror of it all. The word rape is horrendous but it does not tell the awful tale of each individual act that the victim endures. I love you so much, Shauna. Thanks for being courageous enough to put it all on the line. Just another facet to your amazingness.
    Love, Lynn

  2. I know comments are your love language, but it is hard to find words to type here. I am astounded at both your bravery and the beauty of the words you choose in telling your story. Part of me wants to rush to get to the happy ending, to the part about God's redemptive work. But I also think it's important to linger awhile in this horror--to sense just how deeply that redemption had to work to transform this ugliness into the beauty that is your life. Wow. I don't know what else to say.

  3. shauna, my eyes well with tears for your pain and your loss and all that was taken. you are SO BRAVE to put this out here, to speak out and tell the truth.

    thank you for sharing your story here. i know it will touch so many.

    have you ever visited violence unsilenced?

  4. shauna, when i first found your blog and read your initial installments on story, i related to some of what you said, and i'm so sad, so heartbroken that we share sexual abuse, too. i am sorry and so sad that you had to experience something so awful (and when you wrote how mad you were at your counselor for making you write the ugly? oh, i knew what you meant!), yet i know that God as blessed you and you are writing now, and i can't wait to see another chapter of how he's using you. big hugs my friend.


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