Learning about humanity’s nearly infinite shades is an unending process, so lately I’ve been getting to know a rape victim.
It started with asking her to sit next to me and trying to give a beginner’s lesson on how to read people at a glance. It continued one night with hearing that she was celebrating the anniversary of her rape. It went further when I looked after her as she tried to drink herself into oblivion, and later, while her head rested on my shoulder, I used a tiny bit of my knowledge of history to make the point that “her day” was also “the” day for millions of other people (It was 27 January, Holocaust Remembrance Day), that she wasn’t alone in the justified bitterness, anger, hatred and pain.
A few days later, I kept her company while she waited fruitlessly for the bus and watched as she nearly had a panic attack because of the deep-seated fear of people (especially men) she carries inside.
Instead of feeling sorry for the woman, I showed up on her birthday with a small package nicely wrapped in pink paper, which I presented with the words “Happy birthday! May this mark the beginning of a beautiful year for you and an end to your fear”.
Under the wrapper was a beautiful yet deadly Tanto-edged knife which I’d hoped would foster the beginning of a sense of security, assuming she ever learns how to use it for self-defence.
Recently, she was talking about having drunk too much over the weekend. A younger woman told her bluntly “you’re an alcoholic”.
I didn’t know if that was true, but after the woman had left, I bought us a round and raised my glass with the words “They say in order to get over something, we have to go through it. That works for some people, but others go through things for the rest of their lives and NEVER get over them. Here’s to not being judged”- by those lacking the knowledge necessary to pass such judgment, that is.
The Locard Principle states that when you touch something, it touches you in return and each leaves a trace of itself on the other. Nietzsche said when you look deep into the darkness, it will stare back into you. To live life, we must experience it as shallowly or deeply as we can or must.
In return, life experiences us as shallowly or deeply as it does. Rape is a deep experience, about as deep a look into darkness as one can take, and that darkness stares in the survivors’ souls, changing them to the point at which many never see the light again.
Like everybody else, I make judgment calls every day. In this case, I judged that a woman needed empathy (not pity, that’s demeaning) and empowerment instead of shallow criticism. So, what did you do with your judgment today?