Disclaimer: This post may be triggering for some, and includes details of suicide and sexual assault.
I remember watching TED talks, and reading articles about women who had forgiven their rapists. The comments seem to be quite similar, all along the lines of “She’s so inspirational“, and “How brave of her.” I wished I could be brave and inspirational too. But instead of writing moving articles, I was writing suicide notes. It was too hard for me to be here anymore. It was a struggle everyday I woke up.
I asked myself, “Is God punishing me?”
“Is it because I don’t wear a hijab?”
“Will this ever get better?”
They say, “Don’t let what happened to you, define you.” It didn’t define me. It engulfed me, it became me.
After going through the trauma of being violently sexually assaulted, I tried to convince myself over and over that I was fine, even though my mental health was rapidly deteriorating, and nobody seemed to be noticing.
Most of all I hated that for a while, I hated myself – more than I hated him.
I kept it a secret, convincing myself that I had forgiven him for what he did to me, and that I was over it. I thought that in order to heal, you have to focus completely on yourself, and if I didn’t forgive him, I couldn’t focus on me. It was killing me inside everyday; it was all I could think about. I then made the most terrifying decision of my life – I talked about it.
I can’t remember why I didn’t speak out for so long, or what I was scared of. Maybe I blamed myself, or maybe I thought forgiveness meant pretending it never happened. When I eventually did speak out, I understood my fears so clearly. Almost all of my friendships crumbled, because no one could cope with the ‘damaged girl.’ It was humiliating to know that people knew what happened to me. I was blamed and betrayed by people I thought I could trust.
I had nothing. My dignity was gone, my relationships were gone, and every bit of willpower I had to keep going, disappeared. That’s when the anger came back, almost like a creature appearing from underwater, dripping with disdain, as it stared at me in the eye. I haven’t forgiven him. And for some reason, that was an extremely hard pill to swallow. Did it make me a bad person?
And I thought this hate would make matters worse, but when I realized how much anger I had, that’s when I started to heal, because I wasn’t ignoring myself anymore.
I had so much hate in me. I hated that I lost my best friends, and I hated that I lost myself because of this. I hated that I couldn’t feel safe, and that sometimes, it felt like it was happening all over again. Most of all I hated that for a while, I hated myself – more than I hated him.
And I thought this hate would make matters worse, but when I realized how much anger I had, that’s when I started to heal, because I wasn’t ignoring myself anymore. If someone told you they were in terrible pain, you wouldn’t convince them they were fine, but that’s exactly what I did to myself.
So no, I haven’t forgiven him. That doesn’t make me a bad person, or a bitter person. I know that now. I’m not at that stage of healing yet. But it doesn’t mean I never will. Allah doesn’t give us things we can’t handle. I know I can get through this, and I may eventually forgive him. As I said before, I used to think you had to forgive to fully focus on yourself in order to heal, but the anger is something I feel, and by addressing it, I’m focusing on me.