She was raped, bruised and beaten and left on the floor of her room for dead. Mitchell Michaels was only seventeen years old, but that did not stop 35-year-old Thomas Barnes from assaulting her.
She didn’t deserve to be raped, but come to think of it—who deserves it? No one does.
She never thought he could do such a thing because for crying out loud—he was her dad’s close buddy. What snapped in him? Why did he do it? What did I do wrong? Was it really him, or maybe it was someone that looked like him? Why didn’t I lock my room door?…Oh mum, can I join you in heaven?
These were the questions that swirled round in Mitchell’s confused mind as she laid sprawled on the rough rug, almost motionless. Why did she have to come back by 9pm from the birthday party? She heard the loud accusatory question in her head. Maybe, if she had disobeyed her father—just this once, she won’t be in this predicament.
That same day, her father had been strict with the timing. He had told her, “Make sure you return home by 9 pm sharp, not a minute later.”
And she had swiftly nodded, before he changed his mind. She could live with coming back at 9pm, even though her friends might tease her— “Daddy’s pet,” was what they usually called her.
Everything happened so fast. Like she was watching a movie being played out before her eyes and she was the lead character. She had returned home by 9pm from the party and opened the door of their cream-coloured apartment with her own keys, when she heard a familiar deep baritone voice behind her.
Hello Mitchell, I was about leaving a note for your dad when I saw the car that dropped you off. Your dad must have gotten held up at the office because he said he would be home.
She turned around and saw the six-foot masculine figure of her father’s friend, Thomas Barnes staring at her. She felt uncomfortable. In the few years of knowing him, he had never looked at her that way. She opened her mouth to say something, but he quickly said, “Let me come inside and wait for him.”
She didn’t protest. After all, she knew him. And she knew her dad would be home soon. They went in together and she left him in the sitting room and went to her room to have a bath. Her phone started to ring; it was her dad. She didn’t hear it because she was already under the shower.
How wrong she was about her earlier thought of knowing him. The truth is—can you really know a person? No wonder the Holy Book says, “the heart of man is desperately wicked.”
The nasty real-life movie kept on replaying in her mind—Thomas quietly opened the bathroom door and grabbed her. She instantly screamed—”No! No! Please, no!”
But her pleas fell on deaf ears. He dragged her to her room and gagged her with her bed sheet covers, while she kept thrashing her legs and trying to free herself…A loud music was coming from downstairs. She couldn’t remember playing any music so why was the music so loud? At that time, she didn’t know he had turned it on to drown out her expected screams.
Then he raped her.
He hit her several times to weaken her, even though she managed to scratch and bite him. Yes, she fought back but it was still in vain, he had his way and raped her again.
Mitchell was in this violated, bruised, battered, beaten, bleeding and oblivious state, when her father returned home to meet his princess, still sprawled on her bedroom floor…
“She was raped”, is more than just a statement to the victim or the loved ones of the victim. It is usually the beginning of a traumatic journey. And most victims of rape find it difficult to recover from the incident, especially when the perpetrator is not punished.
So, is healing really possible? How can someone who has gone through such a harrowing experience recover and heal? Yes, you can heal from a rape. You deserve to be healed. And you need to take your power back! But the process and journey of healing might be different for each victim of rape.
Here are some ways to experience healing:
1. The Rape is Not Your Fault
First, realise that it is not your fault. This needs to sink in. You didn’t do something wrong. Blaming yourself is like allowing yourself to be raped all over again. You said “no,” and “no” means “no.”
You need to come to this realisation that it’s the perpetrator that has a problem and not you. You are the victim in this picture. But you don’t have to remain as a victim. The healing process starts from not being too hard on yourself.
2. Seek Medical Care
It is needful to get examined at the clinic by medical professionals. To address any cuts, injuries, or sexual transmitted infections (STIs). You may also want to collect evidence if you decide to report the assault.
3. You are a Survivor
See yourself as a survivor even though you don’t feel it yet. If you see yourself as a survivor, the feelings will catch up—maybe not immediately, but the more you tell yourself that you are a survivor and refuse to be crippled by what happened to you, your mind and thinking will start accepting it and this will open you up to healing.
Remember, Gloria Gaynor’s song—I Will Survive. This is an extract:
Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live, and I’ve got all my love to give
And I’ll survive, I will survive, hey, hey…
Yes. You’ve got all your life to live, girl! So, you will survive. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I’m sure you’ve heard—what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!
Trust me when I say, you will get stronger as time passes.
4. Time and patience
Someone said that time heals. It might not be automatic, but time can bring about healing when you actively do something. Healing does not happen in a vacuum— it might not occur if you do nothing as time passes, or it may occur very slowly. Take positive steps during the time and be patient with yourself, too. Don’t rush the healing process.
5. Speak-out and Share
Speak and share with a friend, family member or counsellor you can trust. The keyword here is trust. This can ease the initial emotional burden. You can also connect with a support group—people who have survived sexual assaults. It can give you comfort and a sense of belonging.
6. Counselling and Therapy
You may want to consider not only counselling but therapy sessions, too with a mental health professional. They can provide you with coping strategies and a safe place to process your emotions.
7. Spiritual Exercise and Mindfulness
Mindfulness means being present in the moment. You have to intentionally do this. Be present, and calmly recognise, acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without judging or reacting to them.
Also, activate the healing process and promote inner peace by engaging in meditation and prayers.
8. Take Legal Action
Some people heal when they pursue legal action. The legal action process might be difficult, but it is worthwhile when the perpetrator is punished for crimes committed against you or someone you know. It might not bring instant healing, but it is a step in the right direction. If you wish to pursue legal action, consult with legal professionals who are experts in cases of rape to advise you.
9. Make Self-care a Priority
Practise self-care by engaging in activities that would take care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You can’t afford to breakdown or slip into depression because such would only complicate matters for you. Self-care activities include— exercising, eating a healthy meal and not binging, relaxation techniques, journaling: writing down your thoughts and emotions and having adequate sleep.
Remember, you are a survivor! Refuse to be trapped in the bad experience. Don’t let it define you. And yes, you will surely heal.
All the best!