Being in the military, and also a wife and mom to small kids made for an incredibly busy day. I was on base for 11 hours or more per day. Then return home to hungry children, dogs, chores, home repairs, laundry etc etc etc. Being busy is good when trying to heal from an emotional mess… because I didnt have much time to dwell upon and think about the rape. Later, this would not be the case.
A few days after the assault, I was relieved to see the bruising fade from my neck, breasts, and thighs. The horrible bite mark scabbed over, peeled off the old skin. I had swelled up around the upper bridge of my nose and eyes when I was hit. The swelling slowly subsided, but, my nose did not look the same. It hung crooked, and I couldnt breathe out of one nostril. It was not until many years later when I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, that I confirmed what I already knew, as the doctor tried to put a camera probe down my left nostril. That one massive punch during the assault broke my nose and deviated my septum. I could hide it a little with makeup and concealer, but it was not the same. I had a strange droop and asymmetry in my eyelids and cheeks. This too could be somewhat hidden with makeup, but I began to avoid having my photo taken because I would see it, an ugliness and brokenness that couldnt be denied. Three days after the rape, I locked the bedroom door and lay on the bed, a mirror in hand, examining the damage to my most private area. Healing too, but still red and torn in the perineal. I now had some swallowing problems from the damaged trachea, food getting stuck midway down my throat. Even small vitamins or pills would get lodged and need plenty of flushing. Doctor says dysphagia. Rear neck stiffness/clicking which sometimes seems to cause headaches, or radiate pain down my shoulders and back. Doctor says fibromyalgia.
Mental healing is much different than physical healing. Because you can try to tell yourself you are okay, but in reality you are very much not okay. You do not see a physical wound.
I started avoiding just about everything. After PT in the morning, I used to go to the gym to shower and change. This was impossible now, to see the men in there. So I would drive after PT to an empty part of the base, on the far end of a motor pool, an empty road. Changing in my car, so cramped and uncomfortable. Listening to the radio and counting the minutes until I would have to face people again. I started avoiding others at lunch, which was a shame, because I had a civilian friend, R, we were like peas in a pod and used to chat and gossip and enjoy lunch together. I would rush out of duty at 1130 for lunch hour, I had found an old library in the basement in the old Bliss buildings. No one was ever there, and the only staff was an elderly volunteer woman. It was quiet and felt safe, and I could browse the books and take my mind off everything. I was afraid to see the E7 and tried to keep to myself. But every time I had to drive near that empty barracks, it was like a fresh stab wound.
In retrospect I wish I would have sought help, immediately. I wish I would have gone to the hospital and gotten a rape kit done, I probably needed stitches on the perineal tear, I could have had my nose set, and could have started on therapy. I guess the reason I did not was twofold. First, I did not want the E7 to retaliate against me. I am not sure if anyone could understand the brutality of the attack, unless they had suffered a similar assault. Second, I wished to only forget and move on from what happened. I feared the man. I feared he would get me again, or, kill me to shut me up. He had been in the army for 14 years, no doubt had friends “high up”. I was a nobody, private first class woman with less than a year in service. Do I feel I do not deserve justice? No. But I feel the army would take his side against mine, and shelter him. I did not want the shame of public knowledge of my rape. I didnt want my family to know. I do get angry… I feel he took something from me, stole it. I feel he wounded me mentally and physically. He exposed me to possible blood bourne illness, STDs, and pregnancy. He used me and left me a shell of what I was. So I told no one, at first.
The neurological problems are trickier. Dizziness is the worst, making it so hard to drive. Wobbly on my feet. I went with dizziness complaints to the doctor and they always would think it was my ears. A trip to the ER with severe dizziness and the ER doctor tells me that “certain patterns can cause dizziness in people with depression.” Vertigo, spinning, feeling like my eyes are moving too slow for my head movements. Headaches could come on at any time, but especially when in bright sunlight. Blanking out… spacing out… was it too much stress and anxiety or worse? Was it brain damage? I couldnt concentrate. I used to love, love to read long books. Now I could skim over some, but not in detail. I felt like I wasnt thinking right. I would get crazy ideas, have explosive inappropriate comments, or dangerous self-destructive ideas. Just crazy stuff… like me going online and looking for a prison penpal. A horrible idea. I had nightmares, night terrors, and crazy bad insomnia. The night terrors were the worst that first summer but never totally went away. Demons with strange eyes, shadowy men in the corner. Not sleeping left me exhausted during the day. Later, severe depression. Later, seizures. Later, suicidal.
More problems, I cannot even think of them all now. I was so changed.