A House in the Sky

 

*TRIGGER WARNING*

I don’t usually post trigger warnings on WYR – I do think they’re helpful and important – but in a way, everything on this page deserves a trigger warning. Many of us know that life never seems to issue trigger warnings at the critical times – like when you’re about to walk by someone wearing the same cheap teenager body spray that your rapist wore, or when Facebook is going to suggest that you should be friends.

But for this post, a trigger warning seems appropriate.

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I spent this entire weekend surrounded by triggers and reminders and images swirling around in my head, vivid images that only a beautiful writer can summon. I read A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. It is the harrowing true story of Amanda’s experience as a hostage in Somalia.

It started out as the story of a girl who grew up in a small town in a dysfunctional family, who dreamt about seeing the world. Reading the first few chapters about Amanda’s travels in South America, Asia, and the Middle East, I saw so much of myself in her (or her in me) and was reminded that all I really need is to get away for a little while, to have another adventure.

After about 80 pages, I was hooked on the prose and the story and recommended it to several friends – mostly fellow book lovers and travellers. My best friend had already read it and warned me that the book may cure my wanderlust for good.

Page 109 is where the book takes a turn, and it continues to get simultaneously worse and better all the way until the end. It’s been a while since I read an entire book in one weekend but this one could not be put down.

One passage, in particular, won’t leave me…

I lay on my mat and hardly moved. I kept my eyes closed, one arm covering my face. My back ached. Between my legs, I was raw and sore. I felt as if I’d been evicted from my body, like I no longer fit in my own skin. What had been outside me was now in, like some vicious flattening force. I was a ghost wandering the ruins of a wrecked city.

I should have hated Abdullah, but I hated myself more. My mind ticked through every mistake I’d ever made, every wrong thing about me. Why had I come to Somalia? What had I done?

Those words: I hated myself more. Those sentences, those thoughts of self loathing and self blame. I ached to reach out to her and tell her it wasn’t her fault.

This was it: the trigger. This passage and the chapters that followed sent me into a spiral of confusion and sadness and flashbacks and fear. But I couldn’t put the book down, I couldn’t stop reading about how Amanda survived the 15 months in captivity. She managed to hold on to compassion and positivity throughout and has rebuilt her life in to something meaningful as the founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports development, aid, and education initiatives in Somalia and Kenya.

I hated myself more. Why are these words burning themselves into my brain, echoing in my ears? Because it’s how I felt. I look back at the passage and realized I need only replace two words: ‘Abdullah’ with my rapist’s name, and ‘Somalia’ with ‘the party’ and this is just a beautifully written account of what I was thinking for the years that followed my first rape – and to be perfectly honest, haunts me today.

I wasn’t sure where this post was going when I started – is it about triggers, survival, the healing process, victim blaming, self blaming, comparing yourself to others, validating your experience, self loathing? I’m still not sure where it’s going.

One thing you may not know is that I keep in touch with some of the survivors who submit their stories to WYR. Recently, one of them asked me if I ever thought about confronting my rapist. The answer is no, I never have. I wanted to give her a reason, but could only come up with a few things that partially explained it. I’ve come to realize the reason is that I hated myself more. I need to sit with that for a little while and process what it means and whether it will ever change – let it swim around with all the other images that were triggered and try to displace them with visions of my next adventure.

Author

Lauren

Lauren

Lauren Reid is the founder of When You're Ready.org, a three time survivor of rape who built this community to let other survivors of sexual violence know that they're not alone. When you're ready, I'll be here.

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