Living abroad has one big advantage: I live far away from the person who raped me. The North Sea, the barbed wires in Calais and Dover and the austere-looking border control officers between him and me make me feel a little bit safer. But today I’m traveling back to the Netherlands. And as much as I’m trying to think about all the good things my country has in store for me (my wonderful friends and loving family, for example, and a supposedly very interesting workshop), I can’t stop thinking that I’m traveling to the country of my rapist.
On my mental map of the world, my rapist is a bright red dot in the middle of an alarmingly pulsing sphere. From the UK, I see him moving around within the tiny invisible confines of his day-to-day life. It’s like watching a lion in the zoo, feeling quite safe behind a strong iron fence. Now, however, on my way home, the red pulsing ‘danger zone’ around my rapist has become huge. In an hour or so, I will get off my plane and step right onto his territory. I’m scared out of my mind, to be honest.
What if he’s there waiting for me? What if I run into him by accident? What if I see his family? What if he comes looking for me?
My fears are both irrational and debilitating. My rapist lives 83 miles from Schiphol Airport, which to Dutch standards is really very far. Certainly not as far as the 278 miles between him and me right now, but far all the same. I’ve also lived happily in cities that are much closer to the one he lives in. Yet now, I feel like I’m traveling to the eye of a hurricane. And while those hurricane-hunter people seem to enjoy the thrill, I certainly don’t.
I don’t want to be scared to visit my lovely sister (55 miles) or brother (9 miles) or parents (8 miles). My rapist has done enough damage already; I won’t allow him to keep me away from the ones I love most. His country is my country, too. While my mantra “you’re being stupid, he’s far away and he’s not interested in you anyway” keeps me sane, it doesn’t help in reducing my anxiety.
So, I’m trying a new technique today: using visualisation, I will shrink that dangerously pulsing red sphere around the dot that’s my rapist to the size of a green pea. Visualisation seems to work really well for me, in general. Like Roald Dahl’s Mathilda, I will stare at the red dot and wish só much for it to shrink that it will. If only I manage to turn my sister’s apartment into a safe place today, I can work on my brother’s house tomorrow. This is my mental map, in my mind, in my body, and I’m traveling to see my family in my country. Wish me luck.
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image source: Ladybird Books