The first time I told Eric anything about the assault, we were walking around a track after work, just getting to know each other. I mentioned it casually, a side note to another unrelated story. Eric did not press, but tucked that tiny statement away as something worth remembering.
Months and months later, Eric and I were discussing vacations, teachers, and people in the lives of our children. I let it slip that the assailant was a family friend, involved with my kids, their school. He mentally tied the comment to my initial statement and together they rested in the back of his mind.
Years and years later, Eric and I were married but there were hangups with my ability to relax and enjoy sexual intercourse without anal, without roughness, without pain. That's when I explained the assault was a rape that I held onto through guilt and shame, blaming myself for missteps; wrong place, didn't fight back, returned to the scene again and again and again. Eric made no judgement, had no harsh words, voiced no response other than, "I'm here and I love you."
Today, on the phone, Eric told me my reaction to the bamboo opened his eyes to a possibility.
"When I get home," he said earnestly, "I am going to have you tell me your entire assault and rape story from start to finish. I've pieced most of it together but I want you to say it all at one time."
I took a deep breath and let my mind panic at the thought of rehashing the nightmare of more than a decade ago.
"I do not blame you or fault you for anything that happened to you that night but I don't think you can forgive yourself for what took place afterwards."
I agreed. Told him that it didn't matter how much I understand about grooming or PTSD or how distant the whole thing has become. There are just certain moments that I can't let go of and still affect me now. It's stuck on me, a part of my failings.
"I know love," he said tenderly. "We are going to talk through them all and when you get to the part, after the nightmare, when you returned to him again, and again, and again, I am going to punish you with the bamboo. You are going to take a full strike for each time you returned because those are the only times you actually had a choice and I'm hoping, if I punish you for those choices, you'll finally let it go."
My back turned to sweat and my head buzzed a bit at the idea of that searing pain, not for curiosity but for real, across my skin. I sat perfectly still, waiting for it all to sink in, when Eric's voice cut into the silence.
"I want you to think about what I've said and let me know if you think that will help. I've been paying attention to you all these years and I still hear the ache in your voice, see the remnants of that night on your face, and I want to set you free. Think about it and let me know. I don't need to forgive you. I don't blame you for any of it but you need to forgive yourself and I'm hoping this will help you do that. I'll be home soon, Amy. I'll take care of you."
I've thought about Eric's proposal all day. It's taken it's time weaving throughout the layers of protective walls and barricades I've created to keep my tender underbelly of sadness and shame buried deep. What he offers is a path to forgiveness, a chance to let go and move forward, to lay my own guilt and grief down, let it be using a ttwd fashion that works for us. I don't need to think about this. I simply need to let him know.
"Yes Sir. Please help me. I'm ready to let it go. Yes."