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Let's Talk About What Happened on Downton AbbeyNick Briggs / Carnival Film and Television Limited

Let's Talk About What Happened on Downton Abbey

Jan 16 2014
I know why Anna Bates kept silent. For years, I did the same thing.

Warning: This post contains spoilers from season 4, episode 2 of Downton Abbey.

I had to look away when the visiting valet attacked Anna Bates on Downton Abbey's recent episode. It's my knee-jerk reaction. Even people who haven't experienced sexual violation probably have the same instinct. Seeing a predator leer, then assault a victim should make us all recoil.

I keep recoiling, escaping into myself, and mourning my own crushing Anna moments, wondering how many people walk wounded on this earth, feeling afraid, alone, violated, never to be whole. I'm grateful they didn't show what happened, but Anna's screams and the noise of the valet's violent attack were enough to remind me of that terribly helpless feeling of not being able to escape a perpetrator.

After the rape, we see Anna's shame play out on-screen. Cornered, wild-eyed, and frightened, she begs the one person who knows to keep her secret. This same kind of shame has kept many of us silent, some for lifetimes.

Last year, as a part of a long process of healing and telling my story, I wrote two posts that went crazy on the web: The Sexy Wife I Can't Be and I'm Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife, published here at Her.meneutics. In each post, I talked about the difficulty for survivors of sexual abuse to develop healthy view of sex.

I've received many emails, including some from women as old as their 70s who were sharing their sexual abuse stories for the very first time. After such excruciatingly honest revelations and the myriad of responses of rape victims who thought they were the only ones who struggled, I decided it was time to write a book for those silenced by rape.

The real-life Annas of this world need to know they are not alone. They need to know that others want to help. They need to see a pathway through from silence to healing.

I kept my own story silent for a decade. When I was raped at five years old by neighborhood bullies, I kept their yearlong violation completely tucked away. Nightmares haunted me, and I spent my childhood feeling marked as I continued to have to run away from new predators.

I finally shared my story as a teenager, let it out into the world, only to be disbelieved or dismissed. A blessed few listened and offered counsel. The best thing I learned to do? Entrust my story to some safe people who dared to believe that prayer would help me heal. In college, a group of friends prayed me through many, many tears—the foundation of my healing today. I also sought out wise counsel, asking how I could heal, particularly enough to entertain the idea of marriage someday. (It sure seemed scary.)

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