I read a post by Butterfly today that brought up a few thoughts.

A while ago I posted a quote I randomly said in the middle of a conversation in a roleplaying game. The character I was playing, I empathize with on some levels. She has an abuse history, isn’t a nice person, has a lot of issues trusting people. She said,

“Scars are just masks the world puts on you.”

I feel like I wear a mask so often. Particularly when The Topics come up. The Topics of child abuse, rape, sexual assault, feminism, misogyny, patriarchal entitlement, trust, and so on, and so on. Those dangerous topics come up and I start to feel eyes on me. About six months ago I came out as a sexual abuse survivor. The responses were mixed (How brave!)and told me a lot about the people I call friends (I just don’t see why she’d dredge that stuff up unless she was doing it for attention!). That last parenthetical is one I could rant about for an entire entry, but I’ll save it for the next ‘remember that thing I talked about’ post.

I feel eyes on me and I realize they want to see how I’m going to react. Some of them want the excitement, the sort of kids in a circle watching a fistfight appeal of watching someone get angry. Some of them just realized they said something insensitive, and they want to make sure they didn’t destroy our friendship. Some of them want to know details of what happened to me and think that this will bring it all up – they want to be the hero, the sweet friend to comfort me, the one I go all PTSD on so they can be there for me – either because they think I need it or because they love to be in control.

I stare straight ahead, my face studiously blank – don’t look too deadpan, then you look upset. Relaxed. Don’t grimace. Don’t cry. Don’t recoil. Mild. Look mild. Unfazed. They’re looking. Look over. “Hm?” Nothing to see here. Move along. What? Oh, that? It’s nothing. No big deal. It comes up more than you’d think.

Watching the Joy Luck Club. She’s pinned down to the mud in the rain and raped by soldiers.

I slide my hand in my pocket so I can ball it in a fist and bite my palm with my nails.

They look. The others in the room. Nervous glances. I should’ve warned her. Maybe I should’ve gotten another movie.

I stare straight ahead, pretending to be idly interested in a movie that has both captivated and now utterly repulsed me. Blood is in my ears. I can’t hear the screaming anymore. Just woosh, woosh, woosh. My face starts to get hot and I throttle it down by counting to ten and thinking of water, force myself to have to pee so my face doesn’t blush with humiliation, rage, embarrassment.

He shifts in his seat uncomfortably. He knows. They all know. They look at me and they all have different questions. Is she going to freak out? Is that what it was like? How do I avoid that? Is it really that ugly? How do you live afterwards? They all have different platitudes. I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think. I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was in there. Are you okay? Do you need to talk about it?

I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want “it” to be there, this terrible “it” in the room, silent and oppressive, the it that makes my face go studiously mild and my posture deceptively relaxed. That’s the “it” that makes me close my eyes and flinch whenever I receive an email with a sexist joke putting down a woman and making her trash that’s easier to justify abusing.

I live with that “it” every time The Topics come up, and I sit there with my mild face and my little crescent moon marks in my palm from my nails. I count my heartbeats as they speed up and force myself not to breathe as quickly. I ration my breaths. Ten heartbeats, and you can have another. Fifteen. Twenty. It slows them down. It’s okay. I’m over a lot of that now, no problem. Oh, hm? Oh, that? No, no big deal, it comes up more than you’d think.

Inside I’m screaming. I don’t want this “it”. I want to go back to before when I believed people were fundamentally good and didn’t know what it felt like to have a thumb press my windpipe shut. I want to go back to being seven years old and making up stories about my bears being astronauts, instead of nine and playing doctor where I pretended to remove my vagina and put it in a jar so no one could stick their penis in it again.

Every time that giant “it” comes up, every time someone makes a rape joke about how it’s not rape if they’re not conscious enough to scream, it all beats on the inside of my skull. Every time my father excuses is lecherous disgusting friend who hits on me and sends me naked photoshopped pictures of a 16 year old actress he says looks like I did back when I was that age, I just want to scream. Thanks Dad, it’s okay that he’s a lecherous fucking scum – he’s your friend. Laugh it off. He’s just like that. Harmless. Oh he’d never do anything. Yeah. Never. Just send me naked pictures of how he imagines I looked when I was 14.

I was wrong, you know. The scars aren’t masks the world puts on you. The scars are the marks you put the masks over. We plaster them on and smooth them with the collected praise of others. Wow, you handled it so well. You’re such a survivor. Thank god you’re not one of those “victim” people. We learn what we have to do to survive that “it” in the room. We learn how to get away from it, how to laugh it off.

I’m okay.


No, it’s no problem.

It comes up more than you’d think.


~ by oniongirl13 on March 22, 2010.

5 Responses to “Masks”

  1. This is a great post, Oniongirl. You really capture that experience most survivors have had of being separate and different because of our extreme experiences. Along with the desire just to lay it out so that people get it, but the backlash for that. It’s the think I hate most about being a survivor now.

  2. ^What SDW said really covered what I was thinking. Masks suck!

  3. This post rings so true, OnionGirl. So true. I can’t even count the number of times this has happened to me, and now that I know it happens to you and Warrior, I can’t help but wonder who else in the room with us it is happening to? Yet another way that child molesters get away with this shit – all of us forced to hide our own reactions because we remember all too well what happens when we don’t.

  4. I’ve come back to your blog to read this five times in five days now. What you’ve written – that’s exactly what it’s like. Thank you so much for giving me some words.

    • Thank you for stopping in; I appreciate the support. It’s always been difficult for me to articulate until now, so I’m glad it run true for you too.

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