Changing the Message (continued)

 

Years Later

At the time of my first rape, I fought my rapists for what felt like hours. I was a child (14) and they were young men (I later found out they were in their early 20’s). This was not a contest. I fought for my life not entirely understanding what was about to happen, but intuitively realizing I did not want it to happen. Eventually, my strength failed and I was raped by these men for hours.

What I want to focus on is the feeling that I must fight or I will ultimately be hurt or fail in ways that could be fatal to me. There is no grey for me – it’s all black-and-white. Survive or die. Die, because that is what rape is. A part of you dies forever. That feeling is built into my subconscious and is difficult to separate from reality when I am in the middle of what I perceive as a threatening situation.

I recall as a project manager for an international engineering team, having to mediate several functional teams meeting agreed-upon goals. The development of the product relied on everyone meeting their goals to the team could ultimately be successful. One team was falling behind. In facilitating one particular meeting, I grilled the team lead that was falling behind in a very calculated and cruel, humiliating way. Finally, I relented but not before one of my team members asked me quietly why I was behaving this way and reminded me it was just work. A co-worker who had become a close friend asked me later what happened to me. He said he was used to direct people but it had felt as though a switch flipped and I was out of control – someone he did no longer recognized.

There have been many situations, as I reflect back, where I fought for something too long rather than just compromising or accepting that it was not going to happen. However, now I recognize this behavior. It doesn’t necessarily keep me from the behavior but I can put tools in place to help myself.