"Pearl in Shell" via Blue Eyed Ennis
I recently had an anniversary. About a year ago, I was unable to sleep and up late at night calling anonymous help lines. To even admit this, I am bashful. Who wants to represent the image of a person who has reached the point in their life when calling anonymous help lines in the middle of the is nothing out of the ordinary? I did this for about a week until one night I was connected to a local hotline, not one of those 24-hour hotlines that have someone sitting by the phone around the clock. Nope, the person I spoke to on this particular night had been sleeping and was woken up because it was their night to watch the hotline. For the next few days this counselor, the one I had awoken, relentlessly called me until I agreed to go to the Rape Crisis Center in my area.
Not long after that, I reluctantly showed up at the doorstep of this old house turned office building in the middle of the city ready to talk about what happened to me ten years ago. As I rang the doorbell and waited for security to let me in, I figured that talking to a counselor couldn’t possibly make me feel worse than I already did.
Years ago I worked as a receptionist for slave wages at a local nursing home. For the most part, I had nothing in common with anyone. I made a few friends in the office. They were great people but were all familied and coupled up, much older than me, and we remained nothing more than work friends. The office workers were friendly for the most part but pretty miserable when it came to their jobs. I couldn’t blame them. After the billing department wrestled my yearly raise of 35 cents per hour down to 25 cents, and then the following year from 35 cents to 15, I couldn’t imagine how they’d been treated over the years.
Societies have stigmas. These typically vary from country to country and are based on outliers that differ from what a society deems normal. An unusual physical attribute, a mental or physical disability, is sometimes enough to generate harsh judgment and alienation from others.
In Morocco, being a known “rape victim” is so stigmatized that victims of rape are often forced to marry their rapists in order to avoid this label. Through marrying their rapists, victims escape this scarlet letter, in favor of a typically short and abusive marriage. These victim-rapist nuptials don’t usually last long and end in divorce. In Moroccan society, being labeled “divorced” is much more acceptable than being labeled “raped.”
Rape is my scarlet letter too. Although people cannot tell I’ve been raped through common interactions with me, I used to think they could. As I silently suffered through the aftermath of sexual assault, my friends and family could tell that something was wrong, but didn’t know what. Although it always clouded my consciousness, it still took many years for me to speak about what happened. As a result, my healing process began, and I never would’ve guessed that one day being raped would brand me as undesirable.