Featured in The Lakeshore Weekly News
During your life so far, you may have found yourself in a situation where you were hurt mentally or physically in a horrible way. How did you feel about the person who hurt you?
It seems to be human nature to want to lash out against the person who hurt you or hurt someone you care about. An eye for an eye is the law of retaliation, but does retaliation really accomplish anything? Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I’m going to share with you something that happened to me in the spirit of raising awareness.
24 years ago I was sexually assaulted. I was about 22 years old. At the time I worked for the Church of Scientology and was told not to report the assault, or seek medical attention for injuries I sustained. The church didn’t want negative attention or authorities being called to their Los Angeles complex, which is where I was at the time.
I was convinced by individuals within Scientology that I must have done something to provoke what happened to me, therefore I was solely responsible for what happened. It took me almost another 20 years and leaving Scientology to realize what happened to me was not only not my fault in any way shape or form, but it was a heinous crime that should have been reported.
Though the man who assaulted me was a stranger when I met him, I knew who he was. Soon after my assault I moved to Minnesota. I was paranoid about open windows or unlocked doors. There was a fear I lived with. Not a fear of him coming to hurt me, but the idea that someone could. It was ever present.
There was also a heavy shame that I lived with for many years. I was ashamed of what happened to me, ashamed that I didn’t do more to stop it, ashamed that I was a victim.
While I lived with my fear and shame, the man who assaulted me went on with his life. For me the fear and shame was worse than the physical assault, which might sound strange. My bruises healed, my mind didn’t for a long time.
For years I wanted the man who assault me to feel the fear, pain and shame that I did. I didn’t wish he would die, but I wasn’t going to loose any sleep if he was assaulted himself. I thought maybe an eye for an eye would help me heal.
What did help me heal was finally acknowledging what happened to me and accepting that it was not my fault. More healing came in the last few years when I met and fell in love with a man who made me feel truly safe for the first time in a long time. The love, acceptance and thoughtfulness he shows me every day reminds me that there is more to love about life than there are things to be fearful or hateful about.
There was something else that helped me heal. I read a book called The Shack, which is now a major motion picture. There is a line in the book about forgiveness that I took to heart. It said, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat.”
Eventually I was able to mentally let go of the throat of the man who assaulted me. I didn’t wish him any harm. Suprisingly, I felt a kind of pity for him when I wondered what must have happened to him in life to make him think what he did to me and possibly other women, was an ok thing to do?
Days ago I found out that the man who assaulted me 24 years ago died of cancer at age 50. It took me a few days to process the information and how I felt about it. I was surprised to realize it didn’t make me happy to know he probably died a painful death that could have been dragged out.
At the same time, I wasn’t sad about his passing. I felt compassion for his wife and young children. They are the innocents who have no idea what he did 24 years ago nor do they have anything to do with it.
His death didn’t bring me any closure or relief. That is because I realized that I already had that closure and relief. For me, I have to agree with Ghandi in that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Healing and closure will never come from hurting someone else. Love though, love is a powerful source of healing.