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#363076 - 05/27/11 05:16 AM I told off a homeless woman today.
CruxFidelis Offline

Registered: 06/16/10
Posts: 486
Loc: NJ
I used to think I knew what kind of man I was. Before last year's rape and assault, I was a kind and easygoing sort of gentleman. People often described me as passionate--about my work, my ideas, and my writing. While I was never hyper-masculine, I carried myself with confidence and a zeal for life. I didn't grow up with the best of possible childhoods, but I was fortunate to receive a fantastic education and a safe home life. I never experienced any abuse as a child and my parents, although imperfect, loved and protected all of their children. I remember in high school, my father spelling out that unwritten code to me about how to treat a woman. You open a door for her, even if she says she can do it herself. You always pay on a date, even if she insists. You offer her your jacket if she is cold, and you never, ever raise your voice at a lady.

In high school, my true love, now my wife, gravitated toward me because I had this sort of personality. After surviving her own rape & CSA, she had many issues trusting and respecting men, but she said that somehow, I was different--not because I came off as effeminate or "the sensitive type," but because I offered a style of masculinity that her world of deadbeat dads, rapists in healers' clothing and high school douchebags clearly did not offer.

After surviving rape and sexual assault, my personality has manifested some darker qualities. I find myself saying and doing things that I find morally reprehensible and thinking to myself, "I didn't know I had it in me." I used to be an extrovert, connected to friends and colleagues, and the moment my assaults started happening, I shut down and chose the solitary life for myself. I live inside a wall of isolation and few people are allowed a glimpse into my narrow little world. Interacting with people, especially healthcare workers, physical therapists, nurses, and even family members helping me with basic health-related things, wears on me, especially since I'm not able to get any time alone--EVER. I am touched, and touched, and touched, all day and I'm sick of this! Certain people who know of my assault at least explain what needs to be done before hand so I don't panic but even still, it wears me out.

So today, my wife and I went on a Home Depot run. 5 minutes were spent picking out the things we need, and 45 minutes were spent ogling at new appliances we can't afford. My son fell asleep on my lap snuggled up against my chest in his Ergo baby carrier. We checked out, and I watched my wife load up the minivan and buckled my son in his car seat.

Just then, I felt a hand touching my shoulder. Someone was behind me. I gasped for air as if I had been holding my breath underwater for several minutes, and then let out a scream that was somewhere in between crying and fear. I whirled around to see a short young woman holding a cardboard sign with letters scrawled with a sharpie pen. "Please help me! I have no money, no food, nothing!" She stood in the doorway of the passenger side of our car and I shut the door with all of my strength to get her out of the way.

I took a few seconds to catch my breath, but those seconds were not long enough to compose my mind. "If you want money, help, crack, WHATEVER, don't ask for it by approaching someone from BEHIND! THINK! Think before you DO THINGS," I shouted. "Get AWAY from me. Get AWAY."

I then proceeded to tell this woman off in a somewhat vulgar manner. Some bystanders in the parking lot paused to see the scrawny guy in the wheelchair yelling at the...homeless woman? In OUR town? We never have homeless people panhandling where we live. If I were in the city, I would have expected to see panhandling but it's a rare occurrence where we are.

Before my assault, I probably would have been more disposed towards seeing the face of Christ in her eyes and responding to her plea with a reserved degree of compassion. Instead, I screamed at her, told her to get away from me and to stop harassing my family. I must have looked like one of those little toy dogs that bark at everyone they see but lack the size and strength to really intimidate someone. But still, tears welled up in the young woman's eyes. I don't think she could even understand English fluently, but she must have picked up a few key words.

My wife went into her purse and pulled out a granola bar, which she handed to the woman. "Thank you." She walked away slowly.

Into the minivan we go, driving through our little pocket of suburbia. Our son slept peacefully. The car was quiet, but I could feel that wall of ice getting a little colder between us. She glanced over to me and said, "Do you want to talk about it?"


"Well, all right, then." Her lips trembled and her nails nervously clickety-clacked on the steering wheel as we drove home. The sort of fidgeting you do when you're in the presence of someone who can't be trusted. People on here have asked me why I don't get angry at the man who raped me. Those memories cross through the dark, lonely neural dirt roads through my brain and I feel numb and hurt, but there is no anger. Yet here I am, screaming at some anonymous girl in a parking lot, whom I would have ordinarily helped or at least addressed with civility and decorum.

But the anger's there, though. It haunts the fragile hearts of those I love. It echoes through hollow silences and stale expanses of emotional distance between my wife and myself. It's there, somewhere, in my soul, where my old self used to live...

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

- Saint John of the Cross

#363095 - 05/27/11 02:13 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: CruxFidelis]
Anomalous Offline

Registered: 03/07/10
Posts: 2241
Hi Pete,

I can hear how distraught, and surprised, you are at your reaction.

Knowing you as I do, I know you did not react out of fear and anger and attempt to escape because the woman was homeless.

Your reaction was such because of the way she approached you -- from behind where you could not see her. You were also not able to hear her. Those two conditions are particular triggers for you.

Her unexpected touch terrified you, and for good reason.

You are not a cold uncaring individual. You are a person who has been heinously assaulted and who is suffering the trauma from that experience.

Had you seen her approach, I know the part of you that helps other people would have been the part of you she met. You would have seen what it was you had to give her, even if it was just the granola bar in your wife's purse.

Sadly, what you experienced and how you expressed yourself is common among those who have been through these kinds of experiences.

From the view of those who do not know what happened, your behavior may have seemed curious and disproportionate to the situation. (Though I would like to bet that most people would have ignored her and closed their doors, too, just without the yelling.)

From the view of those who are walking in similar shoes, we understand.

Your wife trusts you. She was probably surprised that you got angry. Not at the fact that you have the capacity for anger, but that you actually expressed it. And yes, she may have been surprised that you expressed it with such vehemence at someone seemingly undeserving of the anger. Your expression caught her off guard. Your wife is used to you not expressing much of anything anymore. You just hold it all in.

Even though you didn't intend to express your rage at some unsuspecting individual, it is actually good that you were able to express it, even though you may seem your reaction went further than you ever intended.

Eventually, you will be able to express that rage at the one who caused you all of this harm. Right now expressing the rage at that person is too frightening. The rage is too big.

Your "old self" still lives within you. He's just buried a little deeper - under layers of protection that didn't need to exist before.

You are still the kind, caring, loving person you have always been. I see it everyday in the way you approach life, through the help you give others, and in the way you sacrifice for your family and friends.

It's time to take some of the compassion you have toward others and apply it to yourself.

Was your reaction to the unexpected touch a little extreme? Perhaps.

Is it understandable to those who know why it happened? Absolutely.

I know you feel bad about how you reacted toward that woman. But know it wasn't really her at whom you were yelling. You were yelling to protect yourself, and that is something that had been purposefully taken from you during the assault when that bastard intentionally stole your voice.

You have your voice again.

With work and time, you will be using it to express the rage at the bastard who brought this darkness into your life.



Acceptance on someone else's terms is worse than rejection.

#363100 - 05/27/11 02:51 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: Anomalous]
ACRoberts Offline

Registered: 08/07/10
Posts: 242
Loc: New Jersey (recently moved fro...
I totally agree with Anomalous! You are a good person and I can relate to your experience. When someone touches me without permission, especially from behind, I freak out. It brings me right back to the initial rape I experienced. Little by little, it is getting better but the fear and anxiety I experience at those times is overwhelming. I am slowly getting to the point of really expressing the anger and rage I feel toward my uncle (even though he has been dead 26 years!). It takes time. Please take care of your self--you are an important person to many of us!

WOR Sequoia 2011--it has changed my life!

#363106 - 05/27/11 03:10 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: ACRoberts]
kb8715 Offline

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 811
Pete, don't let a trigger push you back bud.

For me I always try to do something good to balance out a trigger. I do this on purpose to remind myself who I am and why I am very lucky to be here with men like you.

By example we got invovled in St Vincent DePaul's @ our Parish.

Want to feel yourself again, and remind yourself of the real Pete, do something this week in your town that's good.

It so works.....

Older kids are down the Shore Pete. The line at Hoffman's Ice Cream must be all the way to Ocean Blvd. I got that promise to keep with you and Re-Pete too still.....


"You can get far in life by pushing except through a door marked PULL...." Profile quote in my son's senior year HS Yearbook.

#363112 - 05/27/11 04:28 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: CruxFidelis]
risingagain Offline

Registered: 11/10/10
Posts: 597
Loc: Vancouver, BC, Canada
That is such a beautiful and touching piece of writing.

#363118 - 05/27/11 05:15 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: risingagain]
Ever-fixed Mark Offline

Registered: 01/02/10
Posts: 732
Loc: United States

Give yourself a break for your central nervous system being in high gear and having a strong "startle response".

It might be healing for you to share what happened internally and how you felt with your wife so she can be aware of the trigger and it's effects.



Everybody here's got a story to tell
Everybody's been through their own hell
There's nothing too special about getting hurt
Getting over it, that takes the work

- "Duck and Cover" by Glen Phillips

#363124 - 05/27/11 07:26 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: Ever-fixed Mark]
CruxFidelis Offline

Registered: 06/16/10
Posts: 486
Loc: NJ

Thank you so much for your supportive statement smile I told this to my therapist today, and he told me to write more about the every day things that cause all the tension inside to build up, and then to share some of it with my support system. It is a good outlet but I have to start trying to use it to make lasting changes in my every day routine.


It is like that for her, too. Always has been since I met her, but people know not to startle her. Little things will make her jump 3 feet in the air, like a horse who stops dead in his tracks and jumps over a fence because when he hears a dog barking. She has never gone into any kind of formal recovery for her abuse though. I do wonder if it ever goes away with time, for those of us that do go in that direction.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

- Saint John of the Cross

#363125 - 05/27/11 07:50 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: CruxFidelis]
just me Offline

Registered: 05/27/09
Posts: 205

My Story

#363129 - 05/27/11 08:11 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: just me]
Darkheart Offline

Registered: 08/30/05
Posts: 331
Loc: Illinois
Hey Crux...

Not a lot more to add, just a big hug and an understanding of that hidden darkness ...

PM me anytime you need....


My Story...

#363131 - 05/27/11 08:27 PM Re: I told off a homeless woman today. [Re: kb8715]
CruxFidelis Offline

Registered: 06/16/10
Posts: 486
Loc: NJ

I agree, I was just trying to fight back in response to what I perceived as a threat. We all have that sense of "personal space," but I always have thought it interesting how different people (and different cultural groups) draw that boundary. I used to go to a church prayer night where the majority of people were Filipino... what I noticed was that in the line for communion, people stood right up next to you, very close. Same with my wife's Italian relatives, who stand up close to you when they talk and color all of their social interactions with physical touch (which increases if you are in a wheelchair, Id on't know what it is about people and guys in wheelchairs, but somehow it sends some signal that says "touch me!! heck, maybe you'll heal me or something"). My definition of "safe distance" has changed a lot after assault. But you can't really do anything about the size of other peoples' personal space bubbles.

I guess I do have a voice. In a way it was cathartic to yell at that lady but it is not where I should direct my anger. How do we fight back against those who attacked us when it is not safe to confront them face to face? I don't think confronting that guy would ever be worth it for me and it might even bring additional harm... but I get mad at myself for not fighting back, and maybe I can redeem that somehow by using my voice.


I am glad to hear that your startle reflex has gotten better with your recovery. That gives me hope and it is good to know I am not alone.


You are such a strong survivor here and I love the way you are always trying to reach out to the new guys on here and help people. You brought up the connection between doing good in this world and finding our true selves. That's a comment that will have me thinking for awhile. Maybe there's a way out of this.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

- Saint John of the Cross

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