I was conscripted to the South African Defence Force when I was 18. I left school in December and was in the army in the following February. I didn't defer my call up (by going to tertiary education) as I was told that I had been given an 'easy' posting. Yeah right.
I never knew the reasons why I was raped. I don't even know if there were any but for my own sanity, I try to give them excuses. I was very young looking for my age. I looked 15 or 16. I was skinny and weak, as in not very sporty. I made it known that I didn't agree with the army and I was only there 'doing time'. I was one of the few English speaking guys in a very Afrikaans dominated organisation. I don't know why I need to give them an excuse, maybe it just makes me feel better. Not thinking it was just because even though, maybe it was just because.
The first time I was raped was on guard duty. I was in the guardroom alone, asleep. I was on second watch. I awoke because I felt pressure on my upper body. It was two men holding me down. At first I thought I was just going to be beaten up but then my trousers were pulled down and it started. I fought like hell. I struggled but they were just too strong. It was agony. The three of them took turns. Nothing was said once. I kept 'switching off' and returning, something I had never experienced before but would stay with me for the rest of my life. Disassociation. When they were finished they left. Still nothing was said.
I lay in the bed in the position they left me for hours but I knew I had to pull myself together to do my duty. To stand guard. I pulled my trousers back on and waited for the shift swap. Everything was surreal and I wondered if I had a vivid dream or breakdown but the pain assured me I hadn't. I did the six hour shift in a daze. I could feel the dried blood on my legs. I could smell my attackers sweat on me but I was a soldier...I was trained to do my duty no matter what. And I was I now know, I was in complete trauma shock.
When the sun rose and my shift ended I went and showered. I made sure I was alone. I don't remember much of the rest of the day or week. I kept making mistakes, getting into trouble, lagging behind. I kept disassociating to relieve the physical pain. I stopped speaking and started having panic attacks. My corporal told me I was being disruptive. He said I was trying to be difficult. He said that people like me were traitors to the cause. I was called up in front of some officers and I lied and told them I was depressed and was sent to the base psychotherapist. I lied again.
Two weeks after the first rape. It happened again. Almost exactly the same scenario. I had stood guard duty a few times over those two weeks but I never slept again on guard duty. I was always waiting for the attackers to return. This time, because I didn't want to be in pain again, I tried to relax as much as possible. This was not easy under the circumstances. I found disassociating helped my head but not my body. The ‘giving in’ to the attacks was another issue I would have to deal with over the years. Not only did it affect my sense of standing up for myself, it made me feel I was a weak person, it also left me with the sense I was now accepting it. That in my heart I wanted it, which of course was never the case.
Now I knew the attacks were going to be repeated and I knew I wasn't going to survive mentally, I realised I had to do something about it. I knew one of the guys on the base could get drugs so I started buying cannabis of him. One night when we were smoking, he got me to try Mandrax (a highly addictive sedative). It was like being hugged by cotton wool and I knew that this was my answer. Army issued medication for the day, ‘white pipes’ (slang for smoking Mandrax mixed with cannabis) at night.
The attacks continued and it was always the same. This continued for about 5 months, every few weeks. I never knew who did it so everyone was a threat. What if I told my corporal or any other officer and it was them? What would happen then? No one would believe me anyway as I couldn't identify the attackers. What was the point? We were on shooting ranges, out in the bush for days and nights. What if I never came back? What if my rifle misfired? What if? What if? There had always been rumours that a certain amount of ‘deaths’ were allowed per year before inquiries could be made. I didn’t want to be another statistic…it turns out I already was one…but I only found that out many years later. I always thought it only had happened to me.
Eventually I was transferred off of base. But by now I had stopped talking. I didn't eat properly – I still weigh the same as I did in the army, 20 odd years later. I was addicted to a combination of prescribed and street drugs. I was suffering panic attacks and severe disassociation issues.
On top of this, my girlfriend of nearly two years left me in the middle of this and as you do as a victim, I assumed it was because she could tell what I had happened. That I was now tainted and dirty. This then became a solid belief and I started thinking everyone could ‘see’ it in me. And even now that I know this isn’t true, I still can’t shake it. I still think people look at me and can see my stain.
Once I was transferred, I had no more attacks. The physicality of the army and my emotional state was enough though. I still am amazed I actually made it. I had one bit of respite during that time when I got posted for a month out in a very remote area. There was just me and three other guys in a game reserve training rangers. I spent a lot of my time alone in the bush with the local tribes people. I was lucky that the tribal group who ‘adopted’ me were quite spiritual. It was a temporary sanctuary but probably saved my life at the time.
On the last day of army we were released. Most of the other guys went and got drunk or went home…I hit the city streets alone. I didn’t know what to do. I was finally free of the army but I was out in a world that I didn’t trust or understand anymore. Everyone was a threat.
So I started running. Physically and mentally. I’ve been addicted to alcohol and drugs. I’ve moved countries and cities regularly. I’ve put cigarettes out on my arms. I’ve put myself into dangerous situations due to SSA issues. I’ve had abusive friendships and relationships. A failed marriage. I disassociate and revert. The list goes on.
And now I am here. Trying to stop running. I know I have left out details here but it is still too hard to write down a lot but it is a start. I actually can't believe I have even written this much down. Another scary thing is I am remembering more as I go along.
Maybe one day I will be able to write more.
Maybe this will be enough to start the healing.
But it has begun and that is enough for now.
Edited by ModTeam (11/24/12 08:46 PM)
Edit Reason: Trigger warning added for sexual attack descriptions
"This is the story of how we begin to remember."
"...just below my skin I'm screaming..."