You ever have that one memory that sticks with you like a stuck record playing over and over in your head? It’s like a pivotal moment that changes your whole life.
When I was in Middle School we went on a field trip to the animal pound. A small group of us were led into a room where a woman put down a black cat. He was a healthy adult cat, but the facility was overcrowded and no one had claimed him.
That cat seemed to know what was in store for him. He looked frightened, and as he looked each of us in the eyes hopefully, he seemed to be begging us in turn to rescue him. All of us, I later learned, wanted desperately to do so. Even the boys. When we didn’t, the feral plea in his eyes turned to hurt, then anger, then resignation, and then we watched the spark of life go out in his eyes. (BTW, there was an uproar over this later.)
Years later, I was brutally raped while physically being held down in an excruciatingly painful and physically damaging manner. I very much believed my life was in danger that night. One of the men standing around told the guy holding me down to let me up. He did and I looked at the speaker with some hope that he might help me and find a way to get me out of there alive. He looked me in the eyes and laughed and said. “She’s not going anywhere.” Then he took a swig of beer and turned away.
To excuse all kinds of inhuman behavior, humans relegate other humans to the status of animals: to allow themselves to fight enemies in war, to allow themselves to profit from the suffering of others, to allow themselves to enslave others or to subjugate others, or to feed their egos by demeaning or hurting others …
Of all the things that happened to me that night, that moment is one that keeps playing over in my head and won’t leave me as I try to process that trauma.
In CPT this week one of my fearless leaders asked me if I thought it stuck with me because I felt the reason he didn’t rescue me was because I believe or feel I am not worthy of being rescued. We worked it through the “Challenging Beliefs Worksheet,” but the more I process it the more I realize it’s not about worthiness. If I didn’t feel worthy I would never have felt outraged at what they did to me.
If you have never been in a situation where you felt certain you would in all likelihood die, and then someone threw you a slim lifeline and you grabbed onto it desperately with both hands only to have it cruelly yanked away, then you cannot possibly understand what I went through in that moment. You cannot possibly know what it is to experience that desperate igniting of hope followed quickly by its extinguishing.
In moments like that you find out who you are at your most primitive level. My captors were feral animals, but I became a wild thing also. There are times I wonder if that man saw in my eyes what I saw in that black cat’s eyes, or if he even bothered to see.