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The Other Side Of Rape (Part 2)

The Other Side Of Rape (Part 1)

At this point a million thoughts are racing through my mind.

What just happened?

What did I do?

Did I hurt her in some way perhaps?

And the tears, what the f*ck?

This is not good. This is bad, real bad.

My own confusion and fear threatens to overwhelm me. This was definitely not how I had imagined things turning out. Remembering the way her body suddenly tensed sends shivers down my spine. There was something ominous about But despite the chaos in my head I somehow manage to keep a calm demeanor and I ask again.

‘Are you OK?’

No response.

She just averts her tear filled eyes from my inquisitive gaze. The tension in the air threatens to suffocate both of us but before it does she quickly wraps a towel around her torso and heads for the sanctuary of the bathroom. First she pushes me off her mid coitus and now runs off to bathroom. I get the message loud and clear. She doesn’t want to be anywhere in my vicinity, but why? Her rejection stings but that feeling is immediately overtaken by guilt for feeling that way in this situation. This is not about you. Or is it? There are only two people in this room and she is clearly traumatized by something. I have no idea what it is though.

F*ck!

All of sudden I become hyper conscious of my own nakedness. My eyes scan the room for my jocks. And as I put them back on fear and confusion writes itself all over my face. She isn’t gone for long and when she returns from the bathroom she sits upright on the bed with her knees pulled back towards her chest and her arms wrapped around her knees. I am still desperately trying to make sense of what is happening. I slowly take a sit on the edge of the bed, making a deliberate effort to keep some space between us. Even though I am not entirely sure what is going on yet, my instincts tell me that I need to make her feel safe and considering she pushed me off her mid coitus, I’ll be wise to keep my distance for now.

I still have no idea what is going on. One moment we were both lost in throes of passion and in the next she tensed up and just pushed me off from on top of her without saying a single word and then burst into tears. I had no idea why. I don’t know what to do now. I try to search for the answers behind her tears but all I see are the letters that anxiousness, shame and hurt have scribbled all over face. She seems just as confused and scared as I am. I want to tell her that everything will be OK, but I am not sure I even believe that. I want to console her, but I have no idea what I am consoling her on. Given the sudden turn of events it’s highly likely that I am the problem. The monster she needs to get away from. But that doesn’t make sense. Nothing about this whole scenario makes any sense at all.

‘Talk to me, please, I don’t understand what just happened and you are freaking me out right now’

At that she starts crying again. This is bad, real bad.

After what felt like forever she finally said something. In between her sobs all I managed to pick up ‘… raped’. The rest was pretty much incoherent. My heart stops. That word ‘raped’ sends chills down my spine and my head collapses into my hands. Is she saying that I ….Before I can finish that though she continues ‘I was 15 when my uncle raped me and just before when you were on top of me I had flashbacks of that horrific experience. I haven’t had an episode like this in a long time so it really caught me off guard and it’s just brought up a lot of emotions’ I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I also felt a temporary relief that it was not me (directly) that had hurt her.
‘Did I … rape you?’, I asked hesitantly still trying to come to terms with what was going on. (And maybe selfishly seeking some reassurance that I wasn’t at fault) ‘No, you stopped when I needed you to … Thank you. It just that sometimes certain things trigger flashbacks and I become overwhelmed’ As she said this shame and guilt weighed down on her voice and it trembled.

Regardless my mind still couldn’t wrap itself around how anyone could commit such a barbaric act on what I imagine was at the time a beautiful young Nubian Princess. And a close trusted family member at that! This upsets me and I find myself consumed by anger for her rapist. For the rest of the night we just sat across the bed from each other as she narrated her ordeal and how it still affected her. This she explained was what she always felt the need to be in control. She explained to me that when her uncle had violated her it wasn’t the sexual act itself that left the deepest scars. It was the power and control he had over her during the rape still that affected her the most. Since then she had issue with letting anyone else be in control especially during sex. And when it comes to others aspects of her life being in independent for her gives her some semblance of power and control over her life.

And as she continued sharing her ordeal my confusion and anger morphed into empathy for and her story. She went on to tell how to this day she resents her family for ‘allowing’ her uncle to violet her in such a heinous manner. How when her friends talked about how they lost their virginity she had to make up a story about how she lost hers because she was too embarrassed to tell them she was raped. She said because of this she found it difficult to bond emotionally with anyone. Even though she still enjoyed sex it was only when she was in total control. She didn’t always want to be in control but every time she did let go the memories (almost always) came flooding back.

Listening to her narrate her story I sense that this whole process is more about her dealing with her demons in this moment and not necessarily about reassuring me or playing the victim in any way. The more of her story she shares with the more I realize that even though her uncle had stolen the innocence of a beautiful young Nubian princess she had still grown into the beautiful Queen of Sheba. Even though in some moments like this she might feel lost and vulnerable, she was still and would always be a Queen. And it is that vivacious, confident beautiful woman that I will always remember. The beautiful young Nubian Princess who grew up to become the Queen of Sheba.

Since that episode I have tried to as learned as much as I can about how men can help victims of sexual assault. I remembered my own panic and confusion in a time when she needed support and this has stayed with since. If I ever I found myself in a similar situation again I wanted to be in a better position to offer more support. With that in mind I have shared some of the things I have learned about the role than men in particular can play in helping rape victims heal below. If you as man ever find yourself in a situation where a rape victim turns to you for support hopefully some of this information will help.

A Man’s Guide to helping a Woman who has been raped

According to Matt Atkinson of the organization Resurrection after rape ‘ Males can have some of the greatest effects on a woman’s recovery. Depending on how we approach our role as helpers, we can either make her experience worse or better; we can either react badly or devastate her, or we can be one “key” in her recovery and healing. Since half of raped women turn to a male as their first source of help and advice, we play a crucial role in both the short-term and long-term experiences she has after the assault.
Although we men often want to help the survivor, we are often unprepared to be effective. We might think of rape as a “woman’s problem,” or assume that it’s something they can just “get over.” Or we may assume they’ll never “get over” it; that she will always be impure or “dirty” because of what someone else did. Maybe we realize we’re even angry at her, being critical of her decisions (“you put yourself in that situation!”) or wanting violent revenge against her attacker. As a result, a lot of poor decisions are made by well-meaning helpers.

Rape myths that men can help end

• Rape is a power crime, not a sex crime. Sex is the method of rape, not the goal.

• The victim is not responsible–even slightly–for what a rapist has chosen to do. Even if we
disagree with some of her decisions during the incident, some of her responses are instincts
(not choices), and even when she does choose some of her actions, no choices make rape
deserved, natural, or even likely. Only a rapist’s choice to attack makes a rape happen.

• All humans–men and women–have three instincts when we feel out life is threatened: Fight,
flight, or freeze. None of these choices is “better” than the other, so we should resist judging
a victim who did something other than “what I would have done in that situation…”

• Nearly all rape survivors will blame themselves or feel guilty after the rape. This is an
unhealthy but natural way for her to psychologically protect herself by trying to figure out
what she “did wrong,” so she’ll be able to “fix it” and keep it from happening again. It is
Important that you not go along with it, and even disagree and insist that none of it was her
fault.

You can help her by:
• Knowing the myths, and not falling for them

• Understanding what she is going through and why she blames herself

• Listening without asking prying questions, but also reminding her that she is not to blame

• Allowing her to make decisions to regain control (except the decision to blame herself; you
will gently but solidly teach her that she is not at fault)

You can access the full guide HERE

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Other Side Of Rape (Part 1)

Scars can be physical, emotional or mental. Whatever their shape or form we all bear them in one way or the other. Our scars are part of what makes us human. They are a testament to our fragility and vulnerability.They serve as reminders of our mortality and they always tell a story of the places we have been and what we have been through. Some of us wear them as badges of honour, displaying them for the rest of the world to see. These are usually the more visible physical scars. The ones that boldly declare that, ‘I have overcome and I am a warrior.’

But when it comes to the emotional or mental scars most of us work very hard to hide these from the glare of the world. However, more often than not it is these scars that become an integral part of who we are. They define us and our relationships with others, for better or worse. In most cases these scars are a result of a traumatic experience. Unfortunately most people don’t get the help they need to deal with the trauma that brought about the scars.Even though these scars are indelibly imprinted across our hearts and psyche we don’t always acknowledge how much they change us.Instead we worry about how the world would judge or treat us differently if they knew the stories behind these scars. And because we hide these scars from our friends, family and lovers they never familiarise themselves with our struggle and will never quite fully understand us or our actions.

Once in a while though someone comes along and they get close enough to see the scars that we are so desperately trying to hide.In such cases we are then forced to deal with the very demons we have been trying to pretend do not exist. And if we are lucky these people might help us deal with the lingering trauma that remains from these scars. If we let them.

I have written about some of my own scars both physical and emotional on this blog before. It has often been a cathartic process that has gone a long way in helping me own my scars. Today I want to write from a different perspective, that of the other person, who inadvertently discovers another’s scars and what that experience is like.

I once became close with this woman who on the surface was one of the most beautiful, vivacious, confident women you could ever meet. She was an independent and focused career woman. She had literally grabbed this life thing by the balls and had it at her mercy. When she walked into a room people noticed. She had this indefinable mystique and aura about her that seemed to simultaneously draw you in and keep you at a distance. Everyone seemed to know her and if they didn’t they wanted to get to know her. But her physical presence was merely a superficial mask that hid an even more amazing inner beauty that manifested itself in her graciousness, intellect and wit.

And from the get go I was enamoured with her. In so many ways she embodied many of the qualities that I find attractive in women. She was also a few years older than me. At the time we met I was 27 and she was 30. She alsomade it abundantly clear from the very beginning that she wasn’t looking for anything serious. I was totally on board. In fact I was just happy to be in the presence of such an amazing woman, but before I get carried away let me get to the story of how we met.

The circumstances of our meeting were quite fortuitous if I am to be entirely honest. It had been a rather quite night out at one of my favourite lounge bars. And as I was getting ready to call it a night I started making my way to the exit and that is when we literally bumped into each other. In the process I spilled the drink she had in her hand. Real smooth, I know. Embarrassed I apologized profusely for my clumsiness and offered to replace her drink. She gave me this smile that said aaawww cute, before politely declining my offer saying she was on her way out anyway. Maybe it was her smile, (it definitely was her smile) and also the fact that she took the whole incident within her stride that resonated with me and before I knew it I instinctively offered to make up for it another time. This again was out of character for me as nine times out of ten I would have just walked away with my tail between my legs but I didn’t. She already had a hold of me and to my surprise she agreed. As exchanged numbers one of her girlfriends mouthed ‘Girl he cute’. For once it seemed my clumsiness had turned to be quite the able wingman.

We met up post spill gate a couple of days later and we hit it off immediately. What started off as sundowners turned into another late night in which she invited me to join her and a couple of her others friends. Seeing us you would have thought we had known each other forever. Over the following days and weeks we increasingly spent more and more time together. During that time we were seeing each other I began to notice that she liked to be in control. Initially I put it down to her being older than me and it didn’t really bother me at first.

This was until we started getting intimate with each other. That is when I realized that her need to be in control extended to our sex life. She always had to be on top and always resisted any attempts I made to take the lead or change the status quo in any way. Admittedly she had the most unbelievable pelvic muscle control so I wasn’t really complaining too much. She knew what she wanted and how she wanted it and I was living la vida loca.

Everything was going well but I still struggled to understand her need to always be in control on the sexual front. Was it because I was younger than her and she assumed that I didn’t know what I was doing or wouldn’t be able to satisfy her needs? The more I thought about this the harder it became to just ignore this aspect of our ‘relationship’.

One day whilst laying in bed post coitus I casually teased her on her need to always be in control during sex. I hinted that I would surprise her if she let me. She immediately shot me down. In a flash she went from warm and relaxed to agitated and defensive and this caught me completely off guard. This was the first time I had seen this side of her. I quickly abandoned my attempts of getting to the bottom of the whole issue, but this was only after she had told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t like the way things were I could be on my way. She reminded me that she made it clear from the beginning that she wasn’t looking for anything serious. ‘This wasn’t a love thang.’ Anyway I dropped it and for the next couple of days we carried on as usual and pretended this little episode never happened.

Unbeknown to me I had struck a raw nerve with my teasing and I was soon to found out exactly how much in the most dramatic of circumstances. A couple of days later she encouraged me take the lead for the first time. At first I was hesitant but she cajoled me with her teasing and unlike her days earlier I gladly obliged. I felt her gradually let go and let me in ways she hadn’t before and as we both lost in the intensity of each other and it was beautiful … at first. Then mid coitus her body tensed rather abruptly. I froze mid stroke. Before I could say anything she pushed me off her and she started sobbing uncontrollably.

‘Are you OK? No response, just more sobbing.

She clearly wasn’t OK.

To be continued …

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Kinstukuroi: Finding beauty in brokeness

When I set to write my last blog post the plan was to write about something more meaningful, personal and that would require a certain degree of vulnerability.  That clearly didn’t happen. Instead I ended up going off on a tangent the result of which was me writing about my somewhat trivial fascination with Japanese culture. In that post I tried to give a background and offered up my reasons/justifications for said fascination.  To be entirely honest at the time it was just easier to write about something less emotionally taxing. But now that I have allowed myself that diversion I am going to once again make a more concerted effort to actually write on what initially planned to write about. So here goes.

Take Two…

Almost five years ago I was the victim of a near fatal stabbing that left me hospitalised for almost two months. During that hospitalisation I underwent what was to be a life saving surgery on my right leg. The story behind my stabbing is something I will not go into in this blog as I have written about it previously on this blog. During that vicious attack I had been stabbed on the inner thigh of my right leg. Because the vein in my leg had been lacerated by the attacker’s knife sides I has been losing large volumes of blood. The purpose of the surgery was to try and repair my vein as well as stop the life threatening blood loss. Whilst my surgeons managed to successfully to stop the bleeding and replenish my blood supply they were unable to successful repair my lacerated vein. As a result they were forced to tie it up, the consequence of which was that it essentially became useless to my body.

After the surgery I spent about a week in the Intensive Care Unit recuperating. It was here whilst drifting in and out of consciousness that I first noticed the massive wound that was still very much open even after the surgery. At first I wasn’t sure if it was the sedatives I was on that were making me hallucinate. When I was eventually weaned off the sedatives I was able to confirm that yes indeed my open wound was so hollow I could have literally put my fist in it comfortably. I recall being baffled by the stitches that appeared on both sides of the open wound and wondering why I hadn’t been fully closed up. Starring at my own insides was proof of how close I had come to death. That didn’t stop me from struggling to accept that as my doctors had put it ‘my surgery had gone as well as it could have considering the circumstances.’ They explained to me that they had only partially stitched me up and left the area around the knife’s entry point open to allow the wound to heal naturally. Since I had some flesh removed in the attempts to repair my vein, it was impossible for them to stitch me up completely. The wound had to fill out naturally.

Whilst I never voiced my concern at the time I could not imagine that gaping hole on my inner thigh ever closing up. I desperately wanted to beg my doctors to close me up, but I knew I was fortunate to be alive and I knew that my vanity was getting the better of me. Whilst I was dealing with all these conflicting emotions my doctors informed me that it would be weeks before I could feel any meaningful movement in my right leg. They were optimistic though that with time and a bit of physical therapy that could all change. At the time I don’t think it actually sank in that the doctors were basically telling me that there was a chance I would not be able to walk again. I was too preoccupied by my open wound which was a vulgar reminder of what happened to me.

Long story short, about three months after the surgery I was able to slowly start using my leg again. Not much longer after that my wound had fully closed up. I was reminded of this experience recently. I had been feeding my inner culture vulture when I came across about the Japanese art of Kinstukuroi.

Kintsukuroi: (n.) (v. phr.) “to repair with gold”; is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Kinstukuroi

When these pieces of pottery were originally crafted they were beautiful in their own right. They were crafted with care. They were functional. They were unique. But somehow they got broken. Perhaps they were treated carelessly, maybe even banged down on a table in anger. Or perhaps they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were mistakenly sent tumbling to the floor. Whatever happened, the pieces ended up strewn across the floor.

Instead of being deemed useless and being thrown away, these pieces were instead put back together using gold. And the result is not a piece of pottery that is returned to its original condition. The result of this repair work is a bowl that carries in itself the marks of the past. There is no hiding that it has been broken before. It is scarred. Rather than being concealed, the damage is celebrated and becomes a defining feature of the object. As a general rule, the repaired pottery acquires a far higher value and enjoys greater appreciation than it had in its previously undamaged state. It’s still the same bowl, and yet not the same, since it is now defined by a new, fresh aesthetic. A new beauty.

Even after my wound had healed I struggled and was embarrassed by the remaining scar. I was so ashamed of my scar that I became I would not allow myself to be physically intimate with anyone lest my hideous scar might turn them off when I was at my most vulnerable – with my pants down. This wasn’t only further exasperated by the fact that for weeks after my surgery I couldn’t recall having got an erection. Not even the mandatory morning glory. Nothing. To say that during those erectionless days I looked at my scar with contempt would be a gross understatement. I was convinced that something had gone horribly wrong and feared the worst. I self diagnosed and told myself that blood flow to that part of my body had been become restricted. That had to be the explanation. Turns out it was all in my head. I was physically fine if not psychologically so.

Anyway it took me a very long time before I started seeing any form of beauty in that scar. But as with most things in life I eventually became more philosophical about my whole experience. Slowly I started appreciating it as a defining feature on my person. A feature that would time and again through all the other challenges that life would continue throwing at me served as a reminder that I was a survivor.

Another consequence of my surgery was that I now faced a greater risk of developing blood clots. These blood clots could potentially be fatal if they made it to my heart. And the time immediately after the surgery was the period of greatest risk, although I would always be at greater than I was previously for the rest of my life. When I was immobile for the first three months post surgery I was on blood thinners as a precautionary measure. But after I regained use of my leg I was encouraged to become more physically active as a more natural way of reducing the risk of blood clots developing again.

Because of this I had no choice but to be consistently more physically active than I had been before. Just over a year after I was stabbed I was in the better shape than I had been before the stabbing. I finally got the all clear to make the 18 hour flight home from Melbourne to Harare.  This is a trip I had wanted to make immediately after the stabbing but that my Doctor had refused to sanction as such a long haul flight in the physical condition would have almost definitely resulted in blood clots flaring up again. But after a year he felt I was now in good enough physical condition that my body I could make the flight without any serious consequences to my health.

Whilst my parents had visited I hadn’t seen my siblings in almost 7 years so you can imagine my excitement and relief. My doctor made it clear that because that I had become more physically active than I had been before I had improved the circulation of my blood naturally and as a result reduced my risk of developing blood clots. Over the years I have tried to maintain an active lifestyle and have even challenged myself to do things that my pre stabbing self wouldn’t have necessarily done. In the process I have managed to tick of some activities of my bucket list. I have hiked up as well as abseiled off Table Mountain. I have also bungee jumped off the Victoria Falls Bridge. These are just some of the things that are I know are a direct result of that brokenness I experienced.

It is with the power of hindsight that I have only started to acknowledge how that whole episode in my life made me into a better person than I was before or could have possibly been without it. It is now possible for me to appreciate and express gratitude for this brokenness and this new beauty. My life is so much richer for it now. And it also turns chicks actually dig scars … winning!

Written by Tafadzwa Tichawangana

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in HIS-story

 

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Pain Heals. Chicks Dig Scars. Glory Lasts Forever.

Its just after 2am on a September night in Melbourne. I find myself at my local sports bar in Toorak, watching the Manchester derby with fellow fanatics. We are united in our passion for the game,undeterred by the difference in time zones. A time difference , the consequence of which means we are huddled up in this sports bar at this ungodly hour on a Sunday. Even though the match is being played on a Sunday afternoon across the pond. Tonight, more than any other night though it has been worth it. The match has reached an unbelievable climax. Its a remarkable conclusion to an enthralling Manchester derby. Manchester City had looked to have snatched an unlikely point after coming from behind for the third time to level only seconds before the end of the 90 minutes. The board goes up, 4 minutes of injury time( popularly known amongst United’s detractors as “Fergie time”). Needless to say Michael Owen latches onto a sumptuous through ball from the evergreen Ryan Giggs and scores with was it to be last kick of the match. In the 6th minuteoif injury time. Pure Bliss.

The scene both on screen and in the bar is one of pure euphoria.The resulting hysteria is nothing short of intoxicating. This is embodied by Sir Alex Ferguson celebration. He sets off on an impromptu wild dance along the touchline. I mirror his celebration by partaking in an impromptu little jig and fist pumping of my own in the bar before joining the rest of the fanatics in a rendition of “Glory Glory Man United”. Shortly after I leave the sports bar, deciding to walk home which is 5 min away. In my state of euphoria as I often do I retreat to my own little world. Glory. I am preoccupied with updating my facebook status. I am keen to share my smugness , which is more pronounced than usual tonight given the manner in which we have won. Glory.

Next thing I know my back is against the wall. I am wearing a arrogant but slightly bemused smirk on my face. These two young Italian punks are demanding I hand over my wallet. The absurdity of the scene disarms me more than their demands. Who would have thought, me an African man, being robbed by two younger males of Italian descent. All this on a Sunday night in what is supposed of the safest suburbs in Melbourne. My brain races. My initial thoughts are, I can probably make a break for it.They would never catch me. They either read my mind or are peeved by my apparent lack of fear.That’s when I felt a warm fuzzy feeling in my inner thigh. In the camouflage of darkness I had not noticed the knife.The bastard had stabbed me dangerously close to my groin area. Shock settles in, wiping the smirk of my face. They steal my wallet. They try to grab my phone, I swing a punch in their direction rather feebly, before collapsing in a heap on the ground.They bolt. I resign myself to my fate. I am lying alone in the middle of the street , not a soul in sight.Could I be dying? I have never contemplated dying before. If I am really dying, how could it happen like this? Here. Now. On the pavement – in Toorak. I engage a fleeting image of my parents thought of my parents which is just as quickly  interrupted by thoughts of how stupid it would all be for my life to end this way.This is it. Things start becoming fuzzy, I m losing consciousness.I am gasping for air.A futile exercise.

The next thing I recall. My eyes are being assaulted by a bright light.The pearly gates perhaps? I try and recall the last time I saw the inside of a church. The memory is too distant. Before I can reach it, I am interrupted by a booming voice which promptly brings me back to earth. “How you going mate?. “Are you OK ?”. At that moment I recognise the source of the light. Its the policeman flashlight. I am lying on the side of the road drowning in a pool of my own blood. Blood is gushing out of my leg as if from a burst fire hydrant. My entire right leg is completely drenched in blood. Am I OK? Do I look OK? I think to myself. Before I get the chance to respond an Ambulance arrives on the scene and Paramedics rush to my aid. In between what look like exaggerated attempts to catch my breath I manage to draw on the little reserve of energy that I have. “I need morphine please, I am in pain” , I plead. No sooner have they hauled me onto the stretcher a taxi arrives on the scene.

To this day I can only imagine how my then girlfriend at the time felt. Oh what was going through her mind being confronted by that scene. The flashing lights.The blood. I can only imagine she was looking scared as hell as she made her way towards the Ambulance.In that moment it came back to me. How I had casually rang her and nonchalantly told her I had been robbed.Why I didn’t think to call 000 myself remains a mystery even to to this day. She later confided that when she arrived on the scene. She was pretty sure I was dead. Fortunately for me she had been more alert and rung emergency services. Who in turn rang me and managed to keep me conscious till their arrival. A quick instinctive chain of events that saved my life. For that I will eternally be indebted to her. She saved my life. Thank you. This was in 2009.

The present day
Last week I attended a reading for a book entitled , My Father, My Monster, by McIntosh Polela at the Centre of the book in Cape Town. My Father, My Monster is a memoir that The Sunday Independent newspaper referred to as being so painful it bleeds of the page. Now, to be honest I wasn’t particularity drawn to this book.In fact I had never even heard of the book prior to the reading.It just happened to be on the agenda for this particular Soirée. How did I come to be at the Centre of the book? Well since my protracted return from the writing wilderness, something I wrote about in my very first blog, I had started attending these Soiree’s. All in a concerted effort to surround myself with fellow writers as well as convince myself I was one of them. Ironically,as I was soon to discover it is during these soirées that I always find myself feeling less of a writer than I usually do when I m punching away at my laptop. I always feel like an amateur.(Well in truth I am), like everybody else there is better than me. Paranoia teases me relentlessly. As a result I m usually preoccupied with this nagging suspicion that someone will eventually find me out, and call me out on my little charade. In the process bringing attention to the fact that I am the literary equivalent of a vagrant painting on the side of a wall with a piece of calcified excrement. But I digress.

Let me get back to this particular Soirée. I am clearly no book reviewer or critic , no do wish to be one. There is a purpose in me sharing my literary excursions to the Centre of the Book. On this particularly day I was particularly moved by the author. His story struck a chord on a very intimate and personal level . The reading of excerpts from the book and the subsequent discussions that followed had stirred emotions that had been idle for a long time. Most significant if which was when the author detailed the effect that the process of writing the story had had.

My Father, My Monster is a story about how his mother was murdered by his father when he was just five years old, apparently because she had charged his father for sexual assault and had tried to flee. How even though he was found guilty of the murder , he served a suspended sentence and only spent a few weeks in jail.The author discusses how he dealt with the trauma. He initially entertains thoughts of revenge, allowing himself to get lost in fantasies about killing his father. He keeps a brightly polished gun, nursing his anger for the day he meets his father. When he does confront his father as an adult about his mother’s brutal death. He is in for a shock. He finds himself dealing with the worst predicament a son can ever have. How can he possibly forgive, when his father remains a remorseless, brutal and heartless murderer? During the Soirée he discusses how the lack of remorse affected him.”He would not say he was sorry”.“There was no closure.”His father refused to take responsibility.So instead he decided to write about it.The whole writing process ended up being cathartic and therapeutic and by his own admission was the catalyst in him subsequently healing and gaining closure.

The author emphasised that “Writing the book was not about wallowing in grief – it was about confronting my pain, it was about putting my pain into chapters.” Polela went on to detail how the path to forgiveness was not an easy one. In fact it was riddled with land mines. How he procrastinated a reconciliation and confrontation with his father for years. He wasn’t ready to forgive his father. Scared to test his forgiveness. In his mind he still handed reached that place were he could summon grace. For forgiveness must come with a costly grace. He felt his father had no entitlement to that grace. I knew this story.I had lived my own variation of this. In that moment I realised I had unwittingly walked into an emotional ambush.I would have to confront my own demons.

The story brought up certain issues for me that at different stages I have tried to camouflage in the bushes of normality. As I attempted to detail at the start , I had my own flirtation with death, a fling that was to change the course of my life forever.To quote Kanye West in his break out single Through the wire, ” Good dude, Bad night, Right place, Wrong time In the blink of an eye his whole life changed “. The scars I carry from that encounter both physical and emotional have been indelible.

I have since long recovered from the physical injury and for close to a year after underwent counselling to help me deal with the emotional trauma. I was fortunate that all this happened in a environment that was very supportive , from my family and friends to the counsellor. One thing thing though that I have constantly struggled with has been the fact that the morons who stabbed me where never brought to justice. That they were out there oblivious of the severity of the injuries that they inflicted on me.They have no way of knowing whether I survived or not. They have not been made accountable for their actions.The hardest thing during this whole post stabbing period has been summoning the grace to completely forgive and let go. This is compounded by what my counsellor referred to as “Survivor’s guilt”. Which basically for me was about this.

That had the ambulance been 10 minutes late, I would have bled to death.That though I have lost the use of a vein in my leg I am fortunate that they only scratched an artery , any further damage would have been fatal. That I lost so much blood , I needed eighteen satchets of blood ( 500ml each) , during a 5 hour long surgery.That I had to spend a week in intensive care on life support and a further month in hospital immobile and bedridden . Unable to eat,relieve myself ,walk. But I recovered fully and eventually the garish hole in my inner thigh, which had started out the size of a tennis ball eventually morphed into a beautiful scar . A permanent tattoo that always serves as a reminder if only to myself of my brief dalliance with that bastard death. In essence that given that I overcame all these obstacles it seems petty & maybe ungrateful to hold on to that. The guilt had its foundation in that despite all that I couldn’t summon the grace to forgive them. Though it is something I have never shared openly that I often entertained thoughts of revenge.A process that in manifested itself in self loathing because deep down I knew I was incapable of going through with any act of revenge.

This for me is where My Father , My Monster drew parallels with my own experience. Clearly no life was lost in my case but the resulting trauma was just as real. During the Soirée , the author detailed the injustice he felt at his fathers sentence. How that threatened to derail humans put his life of course.What was more important though is that he managed to turn his life around. He turned his tragedy into triumph. He is currently the national spokesman of the Hawks , a special branch of the South African security forces as well as a best selling author.

This is the hardest thing I think I have written. In fact I feel like I have only begun to scratch the surface in laying to rest some of the demons that I still wrestle with. That attack which in all reality lasted not more than 5 minutes has had everlasting impact on my life. It was a life changing experience. One that brings with it a story with many different trajectories , most of which are still playing themselves out. So in that regard I m grateful that I was at that reading . Because it sparked something in me. Writing this as difficult and lonely an experience as it been has been therapeutic and cathartic. Who knows maybe one day I will write my own book. In the meantime let me ensure that my story is one worth telling.

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim—letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”

Written by Tafadzwa Tichawangana

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in HIS-story

 

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