Update 1/19/18: My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, is available for pre-order. It is a #1 new release in several categories. I would love your support of a pre-order. My aim is to help make near-death experiences more mainstream.
Like every rape survivor, I know that Brock Turner’s victim will have repercussions from being raped that will last for years, decades, and perhaps her entire life. The moment will not end for her in the twenty-minutes it took to be assaulted.
Rape and the years of PTSD that followed did not fit into the story line that I imagined a near death experiencer might have in her life. I imagined that I would write a book about my NDE many years ago. I imagined being deeply involved in the spiritual community and learning from shamans how to make sense of fleeting moments of clairvoyance and clairaudience.
After my NDE, I read books by Carlos Castaneda and learned dream control. It seemed easy for me to pop out of this physical form, and meditation allowed for out of body experiences on several occasions. These types of experiences were the type of experiences I wanted to chronicle. I never imagined rape as part of my story, and I had no idea how that one moment in time (probably a mere twenty minutes like the Brock Turner case) would deeply and profoundly affect the rest of my life. Most people are outraged by Turner’s fathers statement that his son should not go to jail for twenty minutes of assault. A crime is a crime. It doesn’t matter how long it took someone to commit that crime. I’m sure some women have been raped and assaulted in under ten minutes. Each woman carries that story with her for the rest of her life.
As I finished my undergraduate degree in Austin, I studied A Course in Miracles, Thict Naht Hahn, mediated at retreats and on my own, and began practicing yoga. Following my inner guidance, I decided to teach overseas in South Korea. While in Kunsan, South Korea, I loved meditating in the quiet, beautiful temples. I loved my respectful Korean students who bowed to me, erased my boards, and wrote me the sweetest notes. I even loved the food, imagining that I would miss Kimchi and continue to want it with every meal. (I didn’t miss it that much). I had moments in South Korea that I have never experienced in the U.S., moments where I felt one with everyone. A bank teller might hand me change, and suddenly I was one with her and with everyone around me. These loving, light-filled experiences were magical and beautiful.
Rape in a Foreign Country: What I didn’t count on or foresee or predict was the moment I was woken up in the middle of the night to find a man on top of me, the owner of a competing Hagwan in town. One of my roommates suggested that he could crash on our couch after a night of drinking. He had other plans while they stayed out. I briefly fought him, but he fought back, jamming his elbow into my neck with surprising force; I feared my windpipe might collapse. Shock, horror, and numbness took over. My only thought was that I was glad I was not a virgin and that I could remember happier, loving, or freer times. When it was over, I desperately wanted to go back in time to the few hours before when I was reading a book by Tolstoy. I wanted to go back and stay awake all night long and avoid this moment in time. I didn’t want rape to be part of my life story. No one does. This isn’t the story I wanted to tell the world.
The next morning, my Korean friend took me to the doctor, and advised me that it wasn’t worth going to the police. She said they didn’t take the complaints of Korean women that seriously, so they certainly wouldn’t care about an American’s perspective, especially since the guy had taken us all out to dinner and bought our table a bottle of whiskey. I argued saying I didn’t stay and drink with them. This wasn’t a case of binge drinking and partying. I had two drinks and walked home to the apartment I shared with two other teachers, one male and one female teacher. I wanted to read and go to bed early.
No Sentencing and No Trial: My Korean friend said none of that mattered. I drank in public, which few Korean women did, and I was an American. According to her, my complaint wouldn’t be taken seriously.
When my Korean friend was fourteen years old, she was pulled into a shop, raped, and then pushed back onto the crowded sidewalk to walk home, altered forever. She said this was common for Korean girls. Maybe her advice wasn’t the best advice, but she was my translator and closest friend. She was operating based on what she knew at the time, and maybe she understood the police force there. This Australian woman’s story shows that the Korean police placed more emphasis on the amount of alcohol she had in her system than on the fact that she was raped. At the time, I was in shock and did whatever my friend said I should do, but I wanted to prosecute. I wanted a trial. I wanted him to pay for this, but he didn’t. I wanted to protect other women from him.
Though I didn’t report the rape, I got involved with groups of women in others towns who had been attacked or raped. I let English teachers in my town know who the man was who raped me. For the rest of my stay in South Korea, I couldn’t sleep very well. And then, I was purely and simply terrified. I stayed up most of the night, sometimes meditating for seven hours, ready for the fight that might occur if I needed to fight. It became apparent I needed to return to the states. I had no idea I would spend large portions of my life having trouble falling asleep. Sleep became my trigger. The bargaining part of grief makes a person try to find a way to avoid the situation. I believed that if I hadn’t been sound asleep, maybe I could’ve prepared for a fight better. Logically, this doesn’t make sense, but I thought this for a long while.
Stages of Grieving: One of the toughest moments to write about in my memoir Healed is the moment I came out of The Rape Crisis Center in San Antonio, Texas and saw a young girl who couldn’t have been more than nine or ten years old with long brown braids on each side of her puffy, tear-stained cheeks. The horror of what had happened to her immediately entered my body. I felt the shock, shame, and confusion that she felt, and I wanted to kill the man who had raped this young girl. I’ve never felt more rage in my life than in that moment.
I stormed out of The Rape Crisis Center and turned the radio up loud in my car and drove outside of town to the only deserted place I could find—a quarry. No one was working at the time, so I pulled my car alongside a caterpillar and walked to the edge. I picked up rocks and threw them into the quarry and screamed loudly. I cried and screamed until my voice was hoarse and raspy, and I could barely talk. I cried for her, for myself, for every victim everywhere on the earth and in all times and places. I raged and screamed until the sun set, but I felt a little better after that. Grieving has its stages, and I entered the stage of anger quickly and stayed there a while. Kickboxing classes, Krav Maga, and one on one self-defense training became part of my healing.
At that point in my life, I didn’t care at all to study spiritualism or try to find a deeper meaning for why this happened. I only knew that rape was horribly unfair, and I didn’t like how it was altering my life. I started to realize that part of the reason women struggle to achieve financial independence and freedom is a system that allows that allows women to be victimized and doesn’t make victimizer pay a very high price for their abuse. Many times, women don’t search out or receive the support they need. They simply try to move forward, but moving forward proves more complex than they might think at the time. Situations become cumulative. A year before the rape, two different men stalked and harassed me. These multiple traumas made it difficult to feel at peace or safe in the world. For an unbelievable amount of time, I walked through the world always on high alert for danger. I dated and married the wrong men for greater protection in the world. Rape was devastating in ways I can’t possibly describe in a blog post.
As I write this post, I know that some people don’t want to hear from victims, and to those people I would like to say again that I never wanted to be a victim. No victim writes this into the script of her life. Every fiber of my being wants a different story from the one I have.
After being raped, I was no longer living with one foot in this world and one foot in the spiritual realm. I was vested much more in the material world and moved away from my spiritual experience. I needed to rebel in a sense, in order to come back to it and realize how I could’ve loved myself through that experience.
Luckily, I became a teacher and later a college professor. This profession allowed me to help many students. Over the years, I met with junior high students and high school students who chose me to confide in when they needed me to report an abuser in their family to CPS. Countless students have told me about being raped. I was great in most crisis situations, but I quickly realized that I needed to show them how to heal from this trauma, and I had to learn to heal from it myself.
Love: Looking back to that time period, I was the one in the most need of love. I hope everyone can surround the victims in their life with a lot of love. If you are a survivor of sexual assault and you don’t have that support, I hope you can love and thank yourself for being brave enough to survive. I hope you can find a group of women who understand and who will support you. I wish I had continued to go to The Rape Crisis Center and grieved and healed with the women I met there. Grieving together allows for greater healing. I realized this with the students who confided in me.
I openly and privately grieved for them. Now, I can love myself and love others who have experienced trauma. Now, I can mourn for the students who confide in me, share my best wisdom, and pray for them. I can warn students who travel abroad to be extra careful and to know each countries laws for foreigners before travelling. Even the trauma I have experienced has become something I can use to help others. I am connected to a world of people in a way I never dreamed possible. Their stories are a part of me, as my story is a part of their lives.
On the other side, I clearly heard the words, “Love is all that matters.” What I saw was a force of light and love that turned the world to golden sunlight. All pain was only a shadow of who that person might have been or could be in their future. In the end, love has shed light and transformed even the most harrowing of my experiences. Some lessons take a while to play out, but these messages are true. Love is stronger than fear, than darkness, than all the violence in the world. Love is what matters. Love yourself through every life experience and share this love with others so they might heal. I know this is what the spiritual lesson of trauma reveals. Loving the world and working together to make it a much safer place for women and children is the answer to the all too frequent violence and injustice.
Binge Drinking and Rape: In relation to the recent case that has been in the news, high schools, colleges, and families should provide much more education for students about the dangers of binge drinking. My junior year at UT, I came home from a party and saw my neighbor sitting outside on the steps outside of his apartment. He had the longest, saddest face I have ever seen on a human being. I was probably in a good mood and asked, “Why so sad?” I wasn’t prepared for his answer of “Prison.”
This particular college student had been sentenced to ten years in prison for rape. He was in a fraternity and blacked out the entire experience. He didn’t even remember the girl, but he said it was sad and horrifying to hear her descriptions of everything that he had done to her. He said he felt her pain and deserved this punishment. He seemed to clearly understand that blacking out can have life altering consequences. He felt horribly ashamed to have hurt his parents in this way. He told me not to go to frat parties and not to binge drink. I didn’t know what to say to him, but I said I hoped he might take never drinking again seriously. Honestly, I felt sorry for him. I didn’t want him to not go to prison, but I wished he had not been a part of a culture that accepted and even required him to binge drink.
He seemed like he would be willing to participate in counseling. I wish all students had lots of healthier options for connecting with others and having a good time. I would like to see more yoga raves, alcohol free concerts, meditation groups, cooking classes focused on health, and other options for students. We shouldn’t only teach women not to binge drink to avoid being raped, we should teach men not to binge drink because they might end up in jail or prison as a consequence. Both males and females are need of healing and education.
The longer I live on this planet, the more people I begin to include in my heart. I hope that particular young man never drank alcohol again. I hope Brock Turner never drinks, uses drugs, or objectifies women again on social media or in any way. The idea that Turner posted the body parts of this girl on a website shows how deeply his brain and many men’s brains are changed because of pornography. I hope Turner and others like him work to educate other men about the dangers of drug/alcohol abuse and dangers treating human beings like objects for momentary pleasure.
One of my favorite researchers on this topic is Dr. Rober Jensen. Jensen advises men not to watch porn for a multitude of reasons, including how much of it is trafficked and how porn usage rarely makes for better intimate relationships. I know that the majority of college students want to learn how to love and have healthy relationships. They want to understand how all these influences are effecting them and what to do in response to live a healthier life.
Healing our World: Even our worst moments on this planet can be of use and help to others. I hope Turner’s victim and the U.T. student’s victim found the support they need in order to heal deeply and move forward with their lives. I hope all survivors of rape, sexual abuse, assault, stalking, and harassment receive the support they need. Though my story is not just a story about a near death experience and the beauty of the beyond, it is a story I have grown to appreciate.
I am one with every rape survivor in this country and in other countries. I understand PTSD, though I didn’t at first. I didn’t want to embrace a community of other survivors at first, but once I did the healing I received multiplied. I care deeply about the journeys of women I barely know who have written about their experiences. We are in this together, and I hope we can help one another heal and make the world a safer place. This means that men and justice systems are going to have to change in this country and around the world.