January 26, 2009

life in general: universe, sun, divinity & worli sea face!

At times, I feel like connecting to my spiritual self from one of my most favorite places in Bombay -- the Worli Sea Face! Today was one such day. I went there at about 5.30 pm and stayed there till about 6.15 pm. I needed this connection badly today and I did get some wonderful peace in the time I was there. I consider Sun to be a living being and I thanked it for being there in our solar system providing us with the main source of life. At Worli sea face, I am also able to connect to the universal energy universe much more easily as the sea and the skies are clear, vast and beautiful! Today, the sea breeze was strong and felt very nice.

Below is a pic I took of the one-of-the-two divine periods of the day, Sunset (the other is Sunrise), at about 6.10 pm:


life in general: bombay citizens' apathy towards trees

I really enjoy commuting on Bombay's roads and suburban railways during national holidays. The sea of humanity is not there and its just a stream of humanity. Today is one such day, the 26th of January, a national holiday in India on account of it being the Republic Day (when the Constitution of India was formally adopted on this day in 1950).

Anyway, thats not the main thrust of this post. After having lip-smacking sambar with authentic dosas and idlis at Mani's Udipi hotel in Matunga Central (where I specially went today for a different but delicious breakfast), I decided to walk for a km before catching a taxi to go to my office that is 4-5 kms away from Matunga.

As I was walking in the inside lanes of Matunga-Dadar, I came across a small garden (see the image to the right). As I passed by it I was shocked (yes, such things still shock me because I do not care about those who say we should not be sensitive towards these things) to see trees fallen inside the garden. See the image below.

My heart goes to the trees of Bombay and all those other places in India and elsewhere where insenstive citizenry, bureacracy, politicos and corporates are mercilessly and cruelly hacking trees way in excess than required and all in the name of the much-abused word 'development'. This is not development. It is plain and simple murder.



January 21, 2009

life in general: music from the depths of our universe?

My office colleague, Venky, who is a nice soul when it comes to helping out with my requests for good english mp3 songs (he is a nice soul even otherwise!), recently copied on my portable hard disk an album of a guy who calls himself 'Kitaro'.

The album titled 'Asia' has one number, 'Theme of Silk Road' that I have been listening to with great pleasure since the last few days. I would say this song (only instrumental, on lyrics, no singer) stirs the deep corners of my soul. I wonder whether Masanori Takahashi (real name of Kitaro) was
able to tap the depths of our universe's hidden musical magic to compose this particular song. Its that moving!

You can read more about Kitaro and his compositions here.

January 12, 2009

life in financial markets: the great indian accounting scam

Accounting manipulation by companies is not a new phenomenon. But due to the ongoing Satyam Computer Services accounting fraud reportage in India there is a temporary awareness of the dangers of accounting manipulation.

There are two recent excellent research reports of a global equity research firm that are worth reading. Download them here and here.

January 08, 2009

life in general: in gratitude

This is a personal post.

Till yesterday I was in a flutter mode for about 15 days. Then, yesterday, something magical has manifested in my life!

I am in extreme gratitude of our universal energy for making something happen that till about 6 months back I thought was a difficult proposition. It also behoves on me a greater responsibility to live upto a standard that would befit the blessings showered on me.

I can and I will. Thank you, universal energy!

January 06, 2009

life in general: aphrodite wounded

I belong to the male gender that has elements that are outright vulgar and ugly in their behaviour towards females. I have written about it earlier as well.

There is a heinous crime being committed by men every day against women in every country on our Mother Earth.
This crime is that of marital rape and physical assault. At times I just feel ashamed to be a part of a gender that can get so evil.

In India, cases of marital rapes hardly ever reveals themselves to the public either in the mainstream media or amongst social circles. But, as in other countries, perhaps much more or a bit less (i don't know), India experiences a shocking and mind-numbing exploitation and criminal sexual assault on women right in their homes by their very family members (mostly husbands).

I am numbed. My heart goes out to those women here or in other countries that have gone through terrible terrible experiences inside their homes. For Gods sake, a home is supposed to be a safe haven! I have this to say to men who violate their wives or any other female members in their immediate or extended families: "You are disgusting and deserve to be put away behind bars for 40-50 years if not your entire life."

This site hiddenhurt.co.uk/Articles/maritalrape articulately says, "Rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the rapist and the victim. It can be a total stranger; someone you recognise by sight, but have never really communicated with; someone you know superficially, a neighbour or a colleague; a friend, a boy-friend or a former boyfriend; a live-in partner, or a former partner; someone you are married to or have been married to in the past.Rape is a very personal and intimate traumatic experience. Our experiences of and reactions to rape may differ widely, and although there are many similarities in the way that we feel about being the victim of rape, regardless of the relationship between us and the rapist, there are differences between stranger and intimate rape... Stranger rape is usually a one-off, someone you don't know, with whom you don't share any experiences or history. When the assault happens, there can be no doubt as to what is happening: that it is Rape (though even in such situations the victim will often wonder what she has done to precipitate the assault and will blame herself). In marital rape the circumstances are very different. It is - quite apart from a physical and sexual violation - a betrayal of trust. Here is a person whom you thought you knew intimately, with whom you share a history, a home and quite often children. Here is a person whom you have made love to on a frequent basis often over many years, with whom you have shared your most intimate secrets and fears, and whom you believe to love you, want the best for you, who would never intentionally hurt you. Marital rape is so destructive because it betrays the fundamental basis of the marital relationship, because it questions every understanding you have not only of your partner and the marriage, but of yourself. You end up feeling betrayed, humiliated and, above all, very confused."

There is a sensitive website created by a lady named Louise who has been through such traumatic experiences in her life. She has aptly named her site as Aphrodite Wounded (Aphrodite, in Greek mythology, is the Goddess of love, fertility and beauty). The site is a must-read for all those men who live in ignorance of the serious and harmful implications of marital rape.

Louise has been brave enough to share her nightmares and struggles to get out it. Here is her voice:
www.aphroditewounded.org/loustory.html (the pics below are taken from the same link)
THE BEGINNING

My meeting of Paul was really just a prosaic boy-meets-girl thing. I was an intelligent, reasonably pretty eighteen-year-old single mother who didn't languish for want of male company. Why, then did I choose somebody from whom I would later run literally for my life? I guess I know now that most women don't deliberately select abusers; batterers are not batters when they are courting. Initially, there was no attraction for him, but I developed one - he was good looking and very funny. He moved in with me. I didn't know how to recognize the early warning signs of a controlling and dangerous personality then, and, though it is purely academic now, I like to think that had I done so, I'd have run away. Overnight I became his everything; he wooed me with roses, charm and passion. But he was terribly possessive; he didn't like me talking to other men - and that extended to going out with girlfriends to places where talking to other men might occur. These things I interpreted then as romantic. There were other signs too; he couldn't hold down jobs, he had a sort of strutting, stereotypical masculinity; he could be very crude about women at times, and I found myself constantly justifying him to family and friends. Still, I believed these things would be ironed out with time. A mixture of youth, naivete and lack of recognition were to help seal my fate for the time being.

COMMENCEMENT OF ABUSE AND MY RESPONSE
The violence started, as I now know it does, with name calling which escalated to pushing and hair-pulling, which escalated to violent battery. When it began, I disclosed to people whose general response was, "why don't you leave him? A sensible directive, to be sure, but not so easy to carry out. Paul made it clear that he would never let me go. He said that he would kill me if I ever left him. I was, he said, his forever. He beat me for even hinting that leaving might be on the cards. People also said "If you don't leave, it's your fault if he keeps hurting you. Those words fell on a totally receptive spirit; I believed it was my fault too, and that I could make it stop by being better. Initially, I also believed him when he said he was sorry. God, that sounds so stereotypical I know, but its power back then was huge.

People didn't seem to understand how scared I was. Because my fear was not their fear or because they could see Paul for the gutless wonder he was, they consistently seemed to think that my fear of him was an excuse not to leave. People still downplay the fear ofabused women even though it has been clearly established that the greatest danger of escalated violence including rape and murder is when the woman is leaving or after she has done so.

Paul had other weapons too, ones that I found almost as powerful as the fear of being hurt. He had had a very bad childhood, and I felt a lot of empathy. If I intimated that I wasn't happy, or put forth a threat to leave, he would plead that nobody had ever loved him as much as I did, everyone had abandoned him: "Please, Louise, don't you leave me too. I'll die without you. Even though I was the one he had hurt, I cried with him. I saw this abandoned child, and could not hurt it. I guess it would have been nice if I could have put similar value on myself. And I had no idea that violent men often use stories of bad childhoods to manipulate their partners, and that they can and do turn their tears on and off at will.

I grew more and more ashamed ashamed, and covered the bruises.
RAPE
Other things that were much more shameful than the beatings were happening too. Things that I would never have dreamed of telling anybody, nor even have assumed that I had a right to. A couple of months into our relationship, my partner began raping me. I could never at the time have called it by that name, for to me, rape was something that strangers with glazed expressions waited in alleyways to do. Although my experiences were similar to the unfortunate victims pulled into park bushes, I knew that I didn't have the same right of naming - not when my rapist was my partner, and somebody I stayed with. I felt that choosing him equated choosing the abuse.

I felt dirty beyond belief, and that grew and grew until the only sense of Louise left was the one he wanted me to have, the one that made it easier for him to control me. He raped me when I refused sex - consent was never an issue because he simply didn't care whether it was present or not. Sometimes, he used rape as a form of moral instruction, telling me he was doing it because I was a "slut", and he wanted me to learn what happens to "sluts". Being a "slut was anything that made him jealous - that might mean that a man had looked at me, or that I had worn clothing that made it plain I had breasts. At other times and ironically, he said he was doing it because I was a "prudish bitch" who needed a fuck.

He raped me for trying to leave: One night I told him I'd had enough of his violence and that he could get the hell out of my life. I began to pack his things. He looked at me as if I was crazy and asked me who I thought I was. Determined, I packed on. He knocked the bag out of my hand and dragged me to the bed. He raped me, and then told me that this would be repeated throughout the night until he couldn't get an erection any more or until I changed my mind. He told me the choice was mine. As he prepared to make good on this threat, I gave in. He stayed. In doing what he did, he repossessed me and reasserted control. In hindsight, I am able to see that he usually used rape as punishment whenever he felt I'd bested him in some way. Certainly, it afforded him a sort of ultimate power over me.

I thought I was all alone. I thought he did it because I was inherently dirty. Sometimes when it was over, I felt numb. If it happened during the day, I would do mechanical housework because the rote normalcy of that was comforting. Sometimes I cried; what he did opened up a terrible longing in me for love that I thought would never be mine, or that I didn't deserve. Mostly I just pretended it didn't happen and that was a wise course of action because calling him on it would provoke more violence. I survived, and learnt how to submit by taking the view that a screw wouldn't kill me whereas the beating I'd accrue if I didn't acquiesce just might.

Many friends left me because I would not leave him. Desperate to hang on to the few I had left, I started to lie and say he was not hurting me, that he'd changed. In six months, I was not the young woman he'd met. Life depended on keeping him happy so he wouldn't hurt me. And sometimes I continued to hope for better times. I had fallen into a cycle - one that I know now is common. In the good times - and there were good times - you hardly remember the bad, and you think that this time, it's going to get better for sure. It didn't.

WORST EXPERIENCES
It's hard to measure what was worst, because, in my experience, there are different kinds of "worst". There's physically worst, psychologically worst, morally worst. What was "worst tends to have changed over time. In the relationship, the beatings seemed the worst. Certainly, they were the most physically dangerous issue I faced. I rarely gave the sexual violence a second thought. In the aftermath however, I would discover that the rapes had caused the deepest, most intimate damage, so in that respect, I would consider that worst. However, certain things do stand out above others.

One particular experience I remember was a time when I went away from my hometown with Paul to meet some friends of his. I was aware that he had run with a pretty wild crowd that espoused a strong ethos of real manhood proven by fighting, drinking and keeping girlfriends under control.

At this stage I was still determined to stand up for myself sometimes. Paul came on the receiving end of some ribbing about "his" woman having a bit of a mouth. It embarrassed him no end. He beat me twice on this visit and refused to give me my train-ticket home. The final punishment for being a little too big for my boots came after he went out with one of those friends. When they got home, I pretended to be asleep as he and the friend talked for a while.

Afterwards, the friend lay down on a couch in the room, and Paul got into bed with me. He immediately rolled me onto my back and attempted to mount me. I was incredibly humiliated at having another person in the room, and I struggled with him. The struggle was brief; I lost - my arms were pinned and he raped me. I knew the friend was awake and aware; aware that Paul could and would prove he could control me like a man worthy of membership in his friend's group. What I felt was a sense of impending craziness; as I cried, and as he swiftly thrust at me, I saw myself crouched in a rubber room.

I will never forget the friend's knowing, sly looks for the duration of our visit, or how I dropped my eyes, vanquished and ashamed. It didn't occur to me to wonder why he had, in his silence, championed my violation; this I already understood. Paul had shown who wore the trousers; my degradation was his restoration to real manhood.

What was morally worst about Paul was his disgusting lack of regard for the well-being of little children. There was another person in all this; my little son -a beautiful two-year old boy who took in a lot. Although Paul said he loved Darryl, he didn't give a damn about what he exposed my son to. I tried to shield my child from the violence but if Paul was really off on one, he delighted in hurting me in front of my son. That gave him more satisfaction because he knew how upset I got. At times like this, I actually contemplated killing him. One night, a friend left her children with me to baby-sit. There was a 3-week old baby girl, Shannon, and a two year old boy, Willie. Paul was on the rampage; for what, I don't remember. Because I still errantly judged him to have some decency, I picked baby Shannon up, thinking that he surely wouldn't hurt me with a baby in my arms. I carried her into the kitchen. But Paul followed, spun me around and hit me full in the face several times. I clung to that baby like the priceless treasure she was. Actually, something snapped in me then. I knew he was a monster and that it was just a matter of time before I would find the courage to leave.


The terrorism was worst too. One night after we split for the very last time, he came around and said, "If you don't come back to me, I'm going to kill myself." I chalked it up to the usual manipulation, and didn't buy into it. He left...but he didn't. He waited until my mother, with whom I lived at the time, had gone to work her night-shift, and came straight back in the door with a knife.

For the next two hours, he held that knife on me, forcing me to say that I loved him, slapping me hard every time I flinched, telling me how good I would look cut from my genitals up to my breasts. He sexually abused me, hurting my breasts, forcing me to feel his penis and say I liked it, jamming his fingers in my vagina with the hand that wasn't holding the knife. I went into complete survival mentality. By some miracle, like a fever breaking, he suddenly dropped the knife, burst into tears and said, "I came here tonight to kill you. I was going to kill you". Remembering that makes me love life so much more. I'm so lucky to still be here. Yet, experiences such as that have left behind recurring bouts of terror.
LEAVING, RETURNING AND LEAVING FOR GOOD
How thankful I am that no matter how scared I was or how far down the toilet my self-esteem, some fighting spirit in me never stopped making me think of freedom and ways to secure it. Occasionally that burned pretty low, but unlike some poor women, I was never totally broken. While I was busy telling him that yes, I was looking forward to marrying him so he didn't beat me bloody, I was secretly looking for a way out. I tried to leave several times - once I got the police to come and get him out. The lady across the road persuaded me to take him back. Unfortunately because I had not thought of any real safety plan, my efforts were bound to be Kamikaze missions that usually ended in battery and/or rape.

The clincher came when I could see what the violence was doing to my little boy, who was becoming more and more withdrawn. I couldn't have my little boy hurt any more by the scenes of violence. I didn't care very much about myself, but I cared about my child and what was happening to him. On top of that, my lovely sister was diagnosed with cancer. I was absolutely heartbroken, yet Paul still demanded that everything be about him, him, him. Something clicked there too: I was never going to see change, or have the partner I wanted. I knew that I had to make different choices. The ones that I had made in the past were made from a place of trauma or were based in false beliefs about him changing, and I no longer blame myself for them or his violence, but they were still choices.

I learned that there is a great difference between the things that we do to survive, and the things that we do to secure freedom. It's certainly true that some of my "survival choices" kept me alive so that I would ultimately see freedom, but continuing to acquiesce to the fear without thinking of other solutions was also ensuring on-going bondage..

I actually made arrangements to be "evicted" from the flat I lived in. I moved in with my mother, and told Paul that as soon as I could find a new dwelling, we'd move back in together. Of course I had no intention of doing that, but did not dare say so. I moved in with a friend, and a few weeks later I made the break when other people were in the vicinity. There were daily phone-calls, tears and pleadings, but I was determined that I would never go back. However, it was not over yet.

One night, three weeks after we split, he came to my flat as asked if we could "just talk." Why did I let him in? A couple of reasons: I felt so proud of myself that I had managed to stay free for three whole weeks, and I believe that gave me a false sense of confidence. The second thing was that I naively believed that since he was trying to get me to come back, he would conduct himself decently. That made sense at the time. But I was wrong, terribly wrong.

For many hours he cried and pleaded, badgered and threatened me. I was so angry with myself for not knowing how it would go. Every time I tried to leave the room, he slapped me back down again. Sometimes I nearly caved in, but I kept thinking of my relished freedom.

At about 3am , he finally agreed to go on the condition that I let him hold me one more time. I reluctantly agreed, thinking at that stage that if a quick hug would get him to leave at last, it was probably worth it. I attempted then to prise his arms from around me; I saw his face, hard, angry, and in that instant I knew he would not be leaving. He said "Bitch, you thought you could get rid of me? I'm going to hurt you like you've hurt me." He raped me again; it was particularly horrible and I remain traumatized to a degree by it.

To my surprise though, he seemed to be satisfied after this that I was never coming back. He came around the next day to tell me he was leaving town. I think he was delusional enough to think I'd beg him not to go or something. I was numb and ashamed from the night before, but I played the "pretend it didn't happen" role and wished him well.

I began to thoroughly enjoy my freedom. Then I missed my period. I was pregnant.


I tried to be strong. I told him that baby notwithstanding, I didn't want him back. I stuck to this for ten months. During my pregnancy he continually harassed, stalked and bullied me. The baby was another thing to be owned:"My baby, he said, in the same way you'd say "My car" Any remorse he'd pretended to have became unadulterated pride. Sometimes I was lonely and wondered if he would be better than nobody, but still, I didn't give in.

One month after my little girl was born, I truly felt that there was no more fight left in me. I was depressed, I had scarce resources and two little children. I let Paul come back. But just three months after this I found the strength, I don't know where or how, to end it for the last time.

There were the usual oaths and threats and promises. One night he came into my home while I was in the bath. He said that his life wasn't worth living without me - but he evidently thought my life wasn't worth living either, because when I told him to get out, he held my head under the bath water for what seemed a terrifyingly long time.

After he left, I knew that if I didn't act my children were likely to be left without a mother. The very next day, I went to the courthouse and applied for a restraining order. It causes me grim humour now when I think about his response to the court summons; he called me and said, "I'm going to kill you." He rang again later, and said "You're going to come back to me and marry me immediately. If you don't, I will go to court and say you're crazy and have our daughter taken off you." His last words I've never forgotten: "If you mention the rape, I'll make it look like child's play. Call my bluff, bitch."

Nevertheless, I got the restraining order. Though he still had verbal digs at me, the violence ended. I was far from well; I had a brief stay in hospital for severe depression, and I still felt like crap. But I was free - at least physically, and the rest would follow.
EVENTS AFTER
Shortly after I left Paul for good, I met my current partner who was all that Paul wasn't. An easy-going, hardworking and affectionate man, Ken also loved my children. Paul made a few huffings and puffings about another man raising his child. I was sick to death of him, and told him that if he wanted access, he should take me to court to have that access defined. Lest the "fathers get a rotten deal" brigade become incensed at my tone, I'll just state that the conception aside, he had made not one demonstrably meaningful contribution to this child. All his money went on drugs, and in terms of the work that one has to do for babies, well, then she was my baby. The only time he claimed her as his child was when doing so was expedient in manipulating me. In any case, somebody with his history of violence was going to be more a negative than a positive influence on any child.

Anyway, he didn't bother taking me to court. He faded from the scene, and although I couldn't totally rest easy, I began to go into life in freedom from violence. It was a tough transition learning that I could be really loved, and that I didn't have to flinch at raised arms any more. Ken and I were married thirteen months after meeting. In the week before my wedding, the phone rang one afternoon. "Louise?" said a voice I recognized only too well. Paul. My heart pounded and I began to shake; I hung up before another word passed.

I couldn't wait to get married, not only because I loved Ken but because I somehow associated the change of name with becoming a different person than the one Paul had degraded so badly.

WHEN IT ALL STARTED COMING BACK
After my marriage, I tried hard to bury all thoughts of that relationship. Although I felt depressed and fearful sometimes, I rationalized that since I was in a relationship with a good man now, I ought to be able to put it behind me. I thought I'd nearly succeeded.


About six months into my marriage. I was watching television when the news came on saying a local man had been arrested for a crime. The newsreader named the perpetrator. It was Paul. My heart stopped; I saw my-ex partner, the man who could have killed me, walk across the screen flanked by police but still sneering and displaying his middle finger. I felt desperately sick. I was shocked, but not surprised because I knew that he was indeed capable of it.

People asked me if I was scared of him getting out of jail and coming after me, and the answer was yes, but I decided that it would do me little good to spend the next decade being afraid. Nevertheless, his crime was a catalyst for the emergence of memories and feelings that I had, with some success, put from me. Back they came. In the next three months, I often felt more emotionally sick and frightened than ever. I had lurid nightmares, and thought I might just be going mad. I didn't know what was wrong with me; I just knew I felt really lousy. I couldn't stop thinking about the rapes, the beatings, or the times Peter had threatened my life - and the murder seemed to underline just how seriously endangered my own life had been. I decided to see a counsellor. I was convinced she would think I was crazy too, but she told me about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD; she said that many people who have experienced traumas that are life-threatening and over which they have little or no control, experience PTSD. This at least helped me to know I wasn't losing my marbles.

Within a year of Paul's incarceration, my husband applied to adopt my daughter. Paul, of course, was granted the right to have a say, and refused permission. Given that he was in jail, however, the Supreme Court overrode his wishes and gave my daughter to my husband. We were overjoyed and we had a little party to celebrate. The only hiccup there was Paul's mother and sister ringing to warn me that he was furious.That did scare me in terms of the future, but for the next few years, I successfully swatted away thoughts of his release. I comforted myself with the thought that if he started any nonsense, I'd get a restraining order.


However, the year before he was due to get out, I went into a frightened meltdown. It was time to confront the fear. I did some good work with a counselor, who told me that my fear was not abnormal given that Paul was dangerous. Rather than finding a magical solution to banish the fear, we worked together toward the development of strategies to help me manage it and respond to it in more powerful ways.

It gave me some relief to find out that he would not be moving back to my town to live. But he still had family here, and I knew that an encounter was probably inevitable. About three months after he got out, I was shopping on the second floor of a department store. I was browsing some CDs, and when I turned, there was Paul. He looked straight at me. Two mechanisms operated in me - the one telling me to get the hell away fast, and the other saying calmly, "Okay Louise, it's happened, there's Paul. Don't show fear, but casually give the CDs another interested shuffle. Then walk, not run, to the escalator. Do it calmly and remember to breathe." I was proud of myself, because even though he was so close to me that I literally heard a small popping sound his lips made when he opened them, I looked right through him as if he was a stranger. To me that denoted my growth and strength.

Nevertheless, when I got off the escalator, I had a quick, frightened look over my shoulder and when I saw no Paul, I bolted to the safety of my car.

I ran into his sister, who told me that whatever he was like when I was with him, he was much worse now. Apparently he'd had had several girlfriends after getting out, but had beaten them too. He spent a short stretch back inside for being in custody of a knife.
HEALING
People sometimes assume that when a woman leaves a violent relationship, she will be fine from that point. Because some people downplay the seriousness of women attacked by their partners, they do not realize that the life-threatening nature of domestic violence means that a woman has ongoing terrors and other emotional difficulties for sometimes decades after leaving. I have certainly had my share of nightmares, flashbacks, depression and all the other little accoutrements of trauma.

What has been the hardest part of healing is dealing with the sexual abuse. It has taken a long time. For thirteen years, I feared sex because I knew that, especially coming from somebody who loves you, it could become a weapon. I was ashamed of having a woman's body; it felt as though the curve of my breasts was an invitation to rape. These reactions seemed to have a life of their own. I interviewed a counselor for my book, and I quoted research that said women raped in relationships often carry longer-term effects than women raped by strangers. I asked her why she believed this was so, and she answered, "The woman raped by a stranger is much more likely to get community recognition that her pain is real and that a crime has been committed than the woman raped by her partner."

That was certainly true for me. After I came out of that relationship, and the memories of rape began to flood me, I looked around and saw that while people showed empathy to survivors of rape in other contexts, the woman raped by her partner was routinely blamed and told that since her rapist was her partner, it wasn't "real" rape. Women such as myself were being told that our pain was an overreaction; the fact of being in a relationship meant that any sexual rights were voided. The rape recovery literature was tailored towards survivors of stranger or date rape, and even many domestic violence manuals tended to subsume rape under the heading of battery without giving any focus to the special issues that it may present. The few people to whom I had disclosed rape by Paul tended to look at me as if I was crazy, or, even more hurtful, put it down as a non-event. Even my counselor, who was a rape counselor, didn't really seem to get the issues. The late eighties, in which I was trying to deal with these things, was a time of relatively high rape awareness, yet survivors of marital or other intimate relationship rape were still largely invisible. Although marital rape was a crime in many western countries, the wonderful Women Against Rape UK were still some years away from winning their long fight to have it made illegal for men to do to their wives what they wouldn't get away with doing to other women.

At 22, I became a rape activist, which was helpful up to a point but I still felt that all I could really be was a good foot-soldier for my raped sisters, without offering them the insult of speaking about my own rape as if it was as bad as theirs.

One day however, I asked myself, what if the feelings of women raped by partners are actually what are truth, and not the social views? What if the collective "they", who brand wives and girlfriends "unrapeable", thereby simultaneously denying and condoning violations of them, were wrong? I knew I'd found truth in that, and I began to heal.

I had three young children, but I went to university at night because I wanted to get professionally qualified to help other women who'd experienced what I had. Whilst there, I had opportunity to study domestic violence and I chose to focus on rape as a form of relationship abuse. I wasn't to understand, until I was in the middle of writing a literature review on marital rape, that the sexual violence, which still sat in me and
shamed me so badly, was absolutely real. Although that realization brought about the reliving of much fear and pain, I healed.

Dealing with shame and blaming myself was a huge hurdle. I think that we tend to internalize social views and make them our own, and as such, I believed that the rapes were my fault because I had had a relationship with Paul. I hated myself for not having left the first time it happened, and felt embarrassment at telling people that it was an ongoing thing. People seemed to believe that if you go back to partner who has raped you, the rape magically transforms itself into consensual sex - or at very least, it can't have harmed you much.

Yet, while I couldn't change the past, I could change the meaning of it in ways that didn't damage me anymore. I learned that while I could own that some of my choices were not terribly wise, they did not make me responsible for what he did to me. Paul chose that, he was responsible. Looking back at that scared, confused eighteen year old that I was, I can no longer attack and blame her for not knowing how to respond better to her predicament. I understand that I didn't "make" him rape me, that it hadn't happened because I was dirty. He did it to control and hurt me. I think Paul knew he had met with something beautiful, and was prepared to destroy it rather than let it go. I embrace that young Louise. I see that she was as strong as she could be. I love her. I'm glad she survived.

I decided I would equip myself with all the knowledge I could on rape by partners, so I could reach out to others and let them know that they are not alone, and that there is healing for them. Studies in the UK , USA and Australia have shown that rape by present or past partners is a highly prevalent context for rape - yet even though it's in theory a crime, men are still doing it with impunity. Judges still sympathize with men who rape their ex-partners, seeing it as a crime of passion committed by a sad man rather than a violent act of revenge and ownership. Women and girls think still think that forced sex is a normative part of a relationship, and sometimes they remain or return because they are unable to recognize that what has happened to them is rape.

Healing the effects of partner rape has come in waves over the last eighteen years. Learning about it, and validating my feelings has helped. Personal adaptation to feminism has been an asset. Bonding with other survivors for mutual support and friendship has been wonderful - I have done this through activism; I am also the moderator of an online rape survivor community, Pandora's Aquarium, and the grace of some of the beautiful souls I've encountered there has shifted the last vestiges of my shame. I took back my sexuality and freed it from what Paul and rape had stamped all over it.
WHERE I AM NOW
The events above happened between eighteen and twenty years ago. I'm a thirty-eight year old strong and compassionate woman. Sometime ago, I decided it was time to stop grumbling about the lack of resources for survivors of partner rape, and create a resource myself. While there are several excellent published studies on marital rape, they are more academic and less accessible to many survivors. I built this website, Aphrodite Wounded, and nine wonderful women from the UK , the US and Australia have given me their stories of partner rape for the book I've completed together with my coauthor Patricia Easteal and twntey more voices that Paticia gathered.

I feel very lucky to have been able to draw something positive with which I can serve others out of my experiences. It's all about making something work for you and not against you.
I'm not a victim, I'm a winner.
Please go here for some poetry and prose I wrote as I made sense of my experiences.