*trigger warning for sexual violence
The first time I heard the story I was 5, I was getting ready for bed in Sapporo Japan. I had been separated from my parents and lived with my group of about 5 children in an upper bedroom in the commune. I am putting on my socks one night when my teacher walks in, holding up a red book with in gold letters on the front.
“Look what we got!The faster you get in bed the more I can read to you”.
We don’t know what it is but we scramble into our bunks and she begins a nightly ritual of reading us to sleep to the tale of “Heaven’s girl”
That was the first time I learned about gang rape.
Heaven’s girl was the story of a girl named Marie Clair. She was our cults version of Wonder Woman but she was different in certain ways. Firstly, she was 14 and her weapons were love and a shepherds crook. Secondly this was set during the time of great tribulation. Marie’s character lived in the early 90’s (when the world was ending.) She lives in the mountains, leading people who would rather die than join the one world government and take the mark of the beast.
Of course to get here she had a series of unfortunate events, not the least of which was being gang raped by soldiers prior to being thrown into a lions den. This has the double effect of recreating the biblical fantasy of Daniel in the lions den- while also satisfying the violent sexual fantasies of a pedophile leader.
I didn’t quite understand what rape was but luckily for me, there was a play by play of how women should react to being raped. Marie had told the soldiers they wouldn’t have to hold her down, that she wanted to show them gods love, because as a woman, that’s what she was “made for.” The soldiers hadn’t believed her and held her down anyway. After 5 or 6 of them rape her and see that she isn’t resisting, they release her hands and feet while she “makes love” to the rest. One “brute commander” rapes her violently, but as he throws her to the lions afterward they eat him and only the soldiers who raped her “gently” are spared.
In the lions den, Marie prays for the soldiers and hopes that they felt love coming from her. My teacher tells me that we should all hope to grow up to be as gracious as Heavens girl. But Instead, at 5 years old I have my first nightmares of sexual violence and my brain begins to prepare me for what I am told, will be my fate.
Flash forward 20 years and a friend is coming by my house to pick up a book he lent me. I trust him, but when he knocks, I see he has brought someone with him. Another man.
My brain immediately fires to keep me safe. I identify the two other exits in the house besides the front door, I also remember I left a knife on the kitchen counter which I can get to quickly if I need to. I run through all the times this friend has been nice to me and remind myself that I don’t believe he would bring someone to rape me. But my brain is still on high alert; after all, this is what it’s been preparing for since I was 5.
My friend and his new friend don’t rape me. They pick up his book and we chat a little bit about nothing. They must sense I’m uneasy because they leave 5 minutes later. I am stressed, but I lock all the doors and take a moment to congratulate myself. I have added evidence that I am safe around men even when I am home alone. This has been a positive experience for me.
Flash forward another 10 years. I am living in L.A. and a friend is visiting for the weekend. “Can I stay with you? I know it’s last minute”
“Sure” I tell him, “swing by my work, I’ll give you my spare keys.” 15 minutes later I hand keys over to someone I haven’t seen in months. Only days after he’s left and I am alone do I realize, I forgot to consider he might let someone in. I forgot sexual violence was something to be constantly prepared for. I forgot that I was supposed to be so terrified that I was numb. I forgot every man was a threat.
I brew some tea and have a conversation with the 5 year old girl inside me. I remind her she can safely rest. No more nightmares. Life has been long enough for us to recover.
We are home, and we are finally safe.