A few years ago (like, oh, I dunno, fifteen years ago or something, but when you start getting old, that’s a ‘few’, really, it is) I worked as a crisis hotline volunteer for the Odessa Rape Crisis Center. In order to do that volunteer job, I had to go through a 6-week training class they offered, with a big notebook full of information and such. During that training, we were taught how to answer the phones, how to talk to rape victims and what to do in emergency situations. We had notebooks and classes and we did scenarios and pretended to be callers and phone operators and all that stuff.
I don’t honestly remember much about the entire training, but there was one part that really stuck with me. They had a girl who was working as a rape crisis advocate at the time come in and talk to us. She stood at the front of the room and told us that she was a rape survivor. She talked about how she had felt, how depressed she got, and how in the middle of the night one night she called the rape crisis center and how helpful they were to her. When she finally was able to move past her trauma, she decided to volunteer too, because she wanted to give back to someone else what the center had given to her.
What she said to us was that she knew she was going to be okay when she went to her counselor and said, “Guess what, Nancy? I shaved my legs today!”
It’s not uncommon for rape victims to try to make themselves as unappealing and unattractive as possible, in a mistaken attempt to avoid being noticed, hoping that will protect them from being harmed again. Things like gaining weight, not keeping themselves clean, not fixing hair or wearing makeup, wearing big bulky or baggy clothes, not shaving, etc. This is a fallacious concept, though, because rape is almost never about appearances. Men who rape women (and believe me, there are men who get raped and women who rape others too – but I’m speaking here only of men who rape women), they very seldom if ever do it because they were so attracted to her they couldn’t control themselves. Rape is not about attraction. It’s about power and control… it’s not about sex. It’s not about desire. It’s not about attractiveness. It’s not about any of these things: it’s about power and control.
RAPE ISN’T ABOUT DESIRE; IT’S ABOUT POWER AND CONTROL
Making oneself less ‘desirable’ only makes you less desirable to everyone but the rapist. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a woman who has been victimized by rape to be raped again. Why? Because rapists seek power and control, and the more a ‘victim’ the person appears, the easier it is for the rapist to assert power and control over them. Rapists have been proven in studies and research done on rapists in prison who participate in these types of studies to purposely look for women who appear ‘weak’ and easy to overtake. They look for women who are alone, who walk with their heads down, not paying attention to their surroundings, who are dressed in clothing that would make their escape difficult (like high heels), or who appear to have no self-confidence.
This is why when women take self defense classes, they are taught to always be aware of their surroundings, to walk with their heads held high, to wear normal clothing and not bundle up in big bulky things. Women are taught not to walk around after dark alone, to always have a friend or a group of friends with them. Keep your head up, look around, be alert, hold your posture self-assured. Have your keys in your hands, not in your purse where you have to dig, etc.
But nearly 100% of the rapists polled said that the number one thing that they looked for in a victim was someone who seemed like a victim… and then many different reasons and explanations of what a victim was were given. But I pretty well covered it in my list above.
When I worked in victim advocacy, we learned that a person who is victimized–any type of victimization (that is, the victim of a crime being committed against them, any type of crime)–were over 70% more likely to BE victimized than someone who has never been a victim. Yes, you’re reading that right – someone who has been victimized is 70% more likely to get RE-victimized than someone who have never been a victim of a violent crime. Being a victim is a mentality. People ACT like victims and they are more likely be a victim. Having been victimized makes one more likely to act like a victim. It makes sense.
BE A SURVIVOR
So to break the victimization chain, once victimized, one should do everything to be a SURVIVOR and not a VICTIM. These classifications are not mere semantics. There is an entirely different connotation to being a survivor. Being a victim means: someone did something to you and you had no control or power over it. Being a survivor means: someone did something to you, and while you couldn’t stop it, you survived it and so you still have your power and control.
Remember, rapists exert power and control. But then again, so do survivors. Survivors are not victims and they are less likely to be re-victimized. It’s all in how you look at yourself after a victimization.
COVINGTON CONFESSIONS, BY MICHELLE DEVON
To that end, my third novel in the COVINGTON CONFESSIONS series is called: I SHAVED MY LEGS.
The COVINGTON CONFESSIONS series is my chick-lit meets women’s fiction novel series, set in the fictional small town of Covington. These lighthearted, first person ‘confessions’ books are chick-lit in the humor and tone but tackle the heavier women’s fiction subjects, but in a realistic and yet ‘light’ sort of manner.
The first book, ACCEPTING AIMEE, is about a woman who has battled her weight ever since she was a teenager, and decides to go on a ‘fat fact’ campaign. She’s a reporter, and she writes a column about ‘being fat’ and learning to love and accept yourself at any weight, that a person’s size should be nothing more than a statistic, like how tall someone is, what color hair they have, or what color their eyes are. But the column backfires, and even her overweight readers think she’s mocking and making fun… it’s really quite hilarious, but at the same time, it tackles the concept of body image, self-image, and the obesity epidemic, from many different angles and points of view. I’m having fun editing this one and getting it ready to submit to agents. Aimee is the main character, along with her best friend, Gigi. The local police officer and the woman who runs the community center are introduced in this story, but are background characters who later have books of their own.
WHAT MAKES A WOMAN is the second novel in the COVINGTON CONFESSIONS series and it deals with a gorgeous Meditaranean woman–Aimee’s best friend, Gigi (so we get to see Aimee a lot in this novel too), svelte, curvy, absolutely beautiful, inside and out, single and mid-30s, in the prime of her life, who discovers she has the BRCA gene and that leads her to testing, where she learns she has breast cancer, and fears she might also have ovarian cancer. She’s never had children, and now she bravely and with humor, faces the possibility of losing everything she has identified with that makes her the woman she is: breast, ovaries, estrogen… but what really makes a woman? Is it really breasts and eggs? Really? We get to know the woman at the community center better in this one when Gigi begins attending group counseling sessions for survivors of cancer.
And then the third novel, I SHAVED MY LEGS, is about a rape crisis survivor, who has never dealt with the rape and it’s causing problems in her life several years after it happened. She begins going to a support group at the local community center, where she meets several of the characters from the first two novels, and meets a police officer there who handled her rape investigation. She learns to heal through the group therapy as well learn more about her story. Aimee and Gigi both are background characters, but are still part of this story.
The fourth novel goes a different direction, in that we see the police officer from the third book as the main character, only… he’s the victim of spousal abuse. Yes, his wife beats him, and here he is, a strong man, a kind man, a loving father. He knows he can’t raise his hand to her, but he also can’t admit to anyone what she does to him, because he’s supposed to be a man, a strong man, a cop, even. WHAT MAKES A MAN is the title, and takes a very in depth look at the stigma surrounding male victimization in this way. It does happen, more than most people think, but it is highly under-reported.
I have three more novels planned in this series already, and several ideas I’m sort of bouncing around. I don’t plan to query anyone before I get the first three completed, so it will be a little bit before I start looking for a home or an agent for these stories. But I’m writing them, and editing them, and they are rolling. And it’s so strange to me, because these are not the type of books I intended to write. But the tone and voice of them are so easy for me, and they are based off my time working in victim advocacy. I am not using any one person’s story… I don’t reveal any personal information about clients I worked with, but sort of a conglomeration of things I experienced, people I met, stories I heard from them, and more. I think that makes it really real, really compelling, amazingly human… I think these books are going to rock and roll… so to speak.
AS FOR ME PERSONALLY
Which is all well and fine, if I can finish these soon. Feeling well enough to write when I have so much other stuff to catch up on has been difficult, but I’ve been forcing myself to set aside time to write every day and so far, I’ve been doing pretty good at it. Slow, but consistent writing.
Emotionally, I’m beginning to understand the premise of finally feeling good enough, mentally–emotionally–physically–to shave or not to shave my legs. Recently, I haven’t felt well at all, and shaving my legs is about the last thing I want to do with what little energy I do have. The little things get neglected when health goes downhill. Shoot, the big things get neglected–the little things get outright ignored.
For example, my hair that used to be so gorgeous. I would brush every night, over and over until it shone so pretty. It was a shiny auburn red. Now, it’s dry and brittle at the ends, a mousy brownish color down to about my ears with only a little of the red I used to love so much showing through, and the ends of an odd auburn/orange color. I probably should color it, but with the congestive heart failure, holding my hands above my head winds me. Doing my hair is now one of the most difficult tasks I do in the self care (that and putting a shirt on or a bra on – as long as my arms stay below my heart, I don’t get as winded). I used to take such good care of my hair.
Another thing that has changed, one of the small things, the little things… I love smelly stinky stuff, like perfumes, candles, lotions, incense, and more. But I haven’t been using any of them either. I used to put on body lotion, exfoliate, all that jazz. Haven’t been doing much of that recently.
And no, I haven’t shaved my legs, either. Fortunately, I’m not very hairy.
Still, I catch myself wanting to shave before I go to the doctor to have them look at my leg for the infection and the lymphadema and such. Isn’t it a little bit silly to want to shave my legs before I go to the doctor? When I was so sick with the multiple massive bilateral pulmonary embolisms, and I’d put off going to the ER for so long, I still made my family wait while I took a shower. I wasn’t going to go to the ER without being clean, so I carefully, painfully and slowly took a shower and washed my hair. In a way, I’m glad I did, since the first hospital stay of 6 days didn’t let me take a shower at all while I was there! The second hospital stay when I stayed for a week, that one was better. They didn’t have my on telemetry then, so they let me take a shower, as long as I used the shower chair. They didn’t want me standing up because they were afraid I’d get dizzy and fall.
Anyway… now I’m rambling and I’d be surprised if many of you made it this far in my post! LOL But thanks for letting me write it all out. It helps me sometimes to sort through my own head.
I love you all. I haven’t been feeling great, so I haven’t been as social as usual. Please forgive me if I haven’t commented recently, but do know that even when I’m feeling lousy, sometimes I can’t sit up much and type, but I can lay down and roll the mouse around and I do read. I see your prayer requests and send my love and positive energy and prayers to you. I see your jokes and I chuckle. I see your comments and read them and they brighten my day and make me feel connected. Thank you all for making me feel connected. Some days, I feel so disoriented and disconnected, and as strange as it might sound, you guys make me feel pretty ‘nermal’… I like nermal!
Love and stuff,