a dubious anniversary

my phoenix woman image

my phoenix woman image

at 02:45 a.m., on this day in 1992, right here in johannesburg, a man came flying through my door while i was lying sketching  in bed and over the next half hour, proceeded to rape me at knife-point. 

it was the yeoville rapist, at the time, on a spree terrorizing the women in my neighborhood (now in jail due to his fingerprint on the glass of water i handed him). the police had put out a profile saying that he was targeting young white, blonde women. i certainly wasn’t white (the government at the time made sure i was aware of that) and i wasn’t blonde and being a 12 year incest survivor, i certainly didn’t think the universe had this ordeal in mind for me as well. so when the neighbor’s dogs barked all night, i ignored them. when i heard the creaking of the floorboards, i thought that i really should ask my tenants in my duplex next door, to be a little quieter at this time of night. little did i know.

half an hour later when my friend who was staying with me for the week, came home, preventing the threatened encore to my involuntary experience, the guy finally took off over the back wall and any plans for my immediate future came crashing domino-down. the worst violation was not being raped, it was that he stole my sense of immunity, that thing we all need to get through the day, past the horrendous leading news stories, the thing that helps us believe “it won’t happen to me”. once it does, it’s as if you can never let your guard down. every noise you hear is the warning you didn’t heed, every person you see who looks vaguely like the guy, is a threat. the only night i spent alone in the house after that night, was spent walking from the front door to the back, investigating every little rustle. and i was probaby right, because 2 weeks later when i flew to new york to be with the man who would become my husband, he broke into my house again and attacked 2 women who were house-sitting for me.

6 months later i had, even though i didn’t yet know it at the time, moved to the states, gotten married and developed both ovarian cysts and grave’s disease, a hereditary hyper-thyroid condition which i didn’t even know i had, but which can manifest itself after a major trauma. i walked away from my house, my career, my life, my family and friends and i did not come back till i got the role on this soap 3 years ago. i really never envisioned myself coming back to jhb ever again.

it took me years to recover from that night. in fact i don’t know that i will ever be fully “recovered”, but coming back to jhb forced me to stop running and face the demon, acknowledge it and say “namaste”. for many years this day would bite me. i spent at least the first year in bed with the duvet pulled over my head. a measure of my recovery is that i only remembered what day it was as i was driving to work this morning. a far cry from the constricting dread that would overcome me in the weeks leading up to this day in other years.

i drew this around the 1st "anniversary"

i drew this as therapy that first year

 

 

man with a gun (lyrics to a song i wrote)
it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

then through the door you came
your knifing eyes foretold my pain
and though it wasn't for my life you came
now it will never be the same

it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

now i never can again
look the same at other men
though they didn't lie me on the floor
to take what they had come there for

even while i hid inside my head
imagining you in pools of red
i remember staring at the carpet
the one i'd chosen from the market

it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

3.15 you took with you
my feeling of immunity
and in it's stead you left in lieu
hell in perpetuity

it was almost 3 a.m.
a quarter to, to be exact
i heard a noise above the music
but i didn't face the facts

 

 

 

http:phoenixflying.net – my site for survivors 

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on the surface of things – things to consider before a laser peel

in the not always amusing soap-opera-tragicomedy that is my life, i get home last night, decide to be my own jewish mama and make myself some chicken soup to help get over this respiratory infection. i throw in whatever ingredients i can find, including a chili from which i’m careful to remove the seeds. 

then i decide to remove my contact lenses.

AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! 

it was obviously not just my skin which got damaged this past week – my brain must have sustained some damage as well! this morning i eventually have to throw the lenses out after several attempts to clean them fail (which i of course only discover each time i try to put them in my eyes!)

i try to have an early night, but the moon is full and my dog, chai will not stop barking. in the early hours of the morning i finally get up and muzzle him so i can get some sleep.

anyway, it feels like i’m finally surfacing from 10 different layers of hell. 

it’s obvious to me that there’s a reason why shows like dr 90210 are edited the way they are. they show you a little before, during, immediately after and then 6 weeks or so later when the patient has had ample time to recover and forget about the painful aftermath of whatever procedure they’ve undergone.

one week later, it’s still way too soon for me to say whether this process was worth it. right now i definitely look worse than before. besides the very raw looking reddish-pink around my eyes, my normally fairly smooth skin-tone is blotchy, hyper-pigmented and criss-crossed with hash marks. my eye-lids are still swollen and my fore-head under the lights looks serrated and my profile looks curiously wide and flat. even though i normally don’t wear foundation unless for work, there is no way that i can walk around like this. most people at work have only seen me once my make-up’s been done and one of them said, “what’s the big deal?” this morning he sees me on my way into the make-up room and all he can do is say, “shit!”, shake his head and say it again, “SHIT!”.

for now, based on my experience, here’s what i can advise anyone else thinking of getting a micro-laser peel or periorbital laser resurfacing:

  • 1. be absolutely certain you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
  • 2. ask as many questions as you can think of.
  • 3. be prepared for anything.
  • 4. a laser peel is different from a tca peel. it’s deeper, and takes more recovery time.
  • 5. it’s going to hurt more than you think it will.
  • 6. you’ll get over it…
  • 7. … if you give yourself enough time to recover. i’d suggest at least a full week.
  • 8. if your job, as does mine, entails being under studio lights, know that every little irregularity will be magnified. give yourself twice as much recovery time.
  • 9. have someone who can drive you to and from the procedure, to post-op visits, pick up prescriptions and just generally take care of you.
  • 10. do not do this procedure unless you’re 100% healthy. the recovery places huge stress on your immune system, so make sure it’s entirely up to par.
  • 11. don’t pick! do not touch your face unless it’s absolutely necessary and then only as little as possible.
  • 12. did i mention it before? DO NOT PICK  AT YOUR FACE! if you do, you will regret it.
  • 2 MONTHS POST-PEEL, EDITED TO INCLUDE: 13.  if you’re bi-racial, or have an olive skin-tone, think seriously before doing this procedure and ask your doctor if it’s advisable. i’m beginning to think it’s not.
in make up 1 week after periorbital resurfacing

in make up 1 week after periorbital resurfacing

 

by next week when the swelling has gone down totally, when i’m over my respiratory infection and hopefully when my skin-tone evens out,  i might have a better idea about how i feel about this. 

for now i’ll hold off judgement on whether i think it was worth it.

what was that saying about beauty being skin-deep?

the springbok rugby player’s sister.

 

yesterday i got a call from a journalist. she wanted my opinion about rene burger (springbok rugby player, schalk burger’s sister) revealing her identity in the wake of her rape ordeal a few weeks ago, seeing that i, too,  went public a few years ago about my experience. she wanted to know if i’ve had any reason to regret revealing the fact that i’d been raped.

i regret being raped. of course. but i don’t for a moment regret standing up and identifying myself as a survivor of someone else’s attempt to make me a victim. unlike rene, it took me years to reveal that information to the public, but if i had to make the choice again, i’d make the same one. and i think she did the right thing by pre-empting the media. i remember when my rapist went on trial. the media obviously could not reveal my identity, but one journalist subtly hinted by describing my friend and i as i sat waiting to testify outside the courtroom –  “two women quietly sitting smoking (can you blame me for smoking back then?), one white, one coloured.” it was a kind of signaling and i think rene probably just wanted an end to the speculation and the subtle hinting as to her identity.

we did not have a choice about what happened to us, but we do have a choice as to how we react. i think the only worthwhile thing which can come out of being a rape or incest survivor, is to be there for the next woman it happens to. because there will always be another woman it happens to. unfortunately. there will always be numbers to add to the statistics.

i went public in order to show other survivors that it is possible to overcome this experience. that even going through most women’s worst nightmare, does not mean that the world comes to an end. i went public in order to show that it can happen to anybody. that you can survive. that you can get through just about anything. that life goes on. oh, most of the platitudes you can think of, i am an example that they’re not just that. i am a woman who has been, more than once, through no choice of my own,  to the dark side,  and come out into the light. i don’t think rene has come through the dark yet, but she knows where she’s headed and i commend her and wish her well on her journey. 

i would like to wish her as much dark as she needs in which to cocoon and heal and abundant light to keep at bay the monsters of memory that live in the recesses of the dark. as i like to say, “even a single pixel of bright, defeats the dark.”  

sterkte rene. 

p.s. i have a website i created for survivors.

http://www.phoenixflying.net


 

it hosts some of my poems and images as well as online resources and phone numbers where survivors can get support.