Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Pieces of me

Published:Saturday | April 9, 2016 | 4:10 PM

American singer, songwriter and musician Tori Amos, revealed this about being raped: "I survived this torture which left me paralysed for years. That's what that night was all about, mutilation, more than violence through sex. I really do feel as though I was psychologically mutilated that night, and now I'm trying to put the pieces back together again."

Victims will tell you that the effects of rape last a lifetime. Today, Outlook shares the stories of Delia Forbes* and Ramona Phillis* who face daily battles as they too try to recover from the physical and emotional abuse.

Forbes was robbed of her innocence at an early age by an older man. Phillis fell victim to a 'family friend'. These are their stories.

Innocence Robbed-Forbes story

"The incident occurred when I was 14 years old. I was not a virgin at the time, and losing my virginity had been one of the most horrible experiences of my life. So, for me to be raped months later, I was not only devastated over the whole ordeal, but I blamed myself."

She had accompanied her friend to her boyfriend's house, and was soon left alone with his older brother. "I was in the house and my friend's boyfriend asked his brother to keep my company while he locked himself in his room with my friend. The conversation with him moved from social to sexual very quickly, with me sharing my terrible experience of how I lost my virginity, after the topic came up."

The brother started trying to convince her that it was not the act of sex that was the issue, but who she had done it with. He went on to suggest that he could do a much better job. "He tried to seduce me and I told him I didn't want sex and he said fine, but he still went ahead and did it. It happened so fast that I didn't even know what to do. I pushed him out, told him that was not what I wanted and proceeded to leave the room and the house."

Forbes blamed herself. She felt that it was her fault for having the conversation with an older man, and allowing him to kiss her. "I allowed so much to happen that when I said no, I felt it didn't matter. I wrote myself off as a whore," she said.

Forbes' family was active in the church and turned to religion for answers. Soon after she got baptised. For a while, things were looking up, but two years later, they took a turn and she became promiscuous. "I used sexuality to boost ratings among the men, but that backfired, since they all ended up leaving. I think because I was damaged, I attracted damaged or unavailable men, and then would be surprised when I found out that there was no future. It took me a while to realise I had developed that cycle."

She has since received counselling, and today she no longer blames herself for what happened. She has however, not yet overcome her fear of telling her current boyfriend about her past. "I would love to open up and tell him everything, but I just can't. He can tell that I am holding back and has already insisted that I trust him and tell him everything. But, I've spent so long not trusting anyone and building up a wall, that I am not sure I am ready to knock it down just yet. Hopefully, I don't lose him in this process, because I love him."

Betrayed-Phillis' story

From an early age, Phillips was focused on her education. She was also an active member of the church community and as such, found herself having no time for boys or relationships.

After losing her father, who was her favourite person in the whole world, she tried to focus on achieving her dreams. Little did she know that at 20 years old, a close family friend and also her mother would betray her.

"An 'uncle' came over to visit the family, but I was the only person home. It was then that he took advantage of me. I told him no, over and over again, even screamed, but he covered my mouth, pinned me down and had his way with me. It hurt so much."

Once it was over, he laughed, told her not to tell anyone because they would not believe her anyway, and left the house. "When my mother came home, I told her about it, and instead of listening to me, she took his side. All I could think at that point was, 'I wish my father were alive today'."

Crushed by the episode, she made it her duty to move out of the house as quickly as possible-fast forward two years, when she started working.

She tried her best to have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, but could not, and found herself panicking whenever talk of sexual encounters came up. "I couldn't face a man in that light. We would be great as friends, and good on dates, but whenever they touched me, it would bring me back to that day I lost my virginity and I would just lose it, and break up with them." She sought solace in same-sex relationships. She has never looked back.

"I had returned home, for a while, to help pay the bills, until my mother accused me of carrying strange women into her home. I had never done such a thing, so I moved out yet again to live with my girlfriend."

What she later discovered in her relationship was a cycle of verbal and physical abuse. Her partner even cheated on her, and she still stayed -- out of love, she said. After a while, when her girlfriend threatened her life, she saw a way out and took it. Now she lives on her own and despite doing well in her career, she still struggles to maintain a solid relationship with anyone of either sex. She however hopes to get married some day and have children.

*Names changed upon request