I was gardening and I had this thought that rape victims and/or survivors can be like the rose. It has been a rough few days, with depression biting me hard so it is no wonder a lot of every day things are reminding me of my painful past. The bloom of the rose can be so beautiful that you might never know anything was wrong. In many ways the vision of that beauty can control what others see. Does that remind you of the time that you found out your friend had been raped months ago and you had no idea. She seemed so normal that whole time! She looked the same and acted near enough to normal that no one remarked on any observable difference.
The beauty of the rose can be forgotten when you are seduced by the beauty to try and touch it. You come away with a thorn stabbed into your hand, snapped off with part of it remaining in your hand. Roses are not grateful for the care they receive. You try to pull weeds from around its limbs and get thorns for your trouble. There can be pain, blood and tears. Consider the victim that is terrified of the person strangling their life but that this is the only person in their life. When the help offered means the victim will be alone they can resist. Conditioned to the abuse, they can try to retain the familiar relationship as opposed to embracing the unfamiliarity of being alone.
The survivor can be like the climbing rose. A climbing rose is often trained to climb in the desired direction and height of the gardener. The victim now survivor can cling to the frame, which for them is their rescuer. The survivor can hang on for dear life, nearly breaking the very frame that it is relying on to support it. The victim can feel safe for the first time in their life. They may be unable to be alone or to do basic tasks without continual encouragement. It can drive the support person away, feeling strangled by the needs of the survivor.
Furthermore the survivor, freed from the control of their abuser can look for a new controller. They can be scared to lose the new frame so they try to emulate the rescuer, to please them and because it was what they were conditioned to do. It can take time before they can be in the position to actually stand on their own feet independently. If they ever can. Dependence and imitation may continue until they are able to learn the strategies to be their own frame.
The survivor is like the ground cover rose. This rose spreads out across the nearby land claiming it for itself and stifling the growth of any other plants in the vicinity. The survivor can use their defense mechanisms to completely cover any evidence of what is happening to them. All the onlooker sees is luscious growth and stunning blooms but what is underneath can be rotten to the core through the abuse that the victim is suffering and hiding.
Furthermore, the ground cover rose can claim everything that it touches and grows through and around. For the victim now survivor they try to control everything in their grasp. Possibly because they finally have belongings and people that are theirs for the first time, outside of the abusive relationship. The fear of losing those can make the survivor frantic to keep the newly found control.
I see parts of myself in each of these rose examples. I remember early in my marriage, just after the abuse, how I used to be unable to go out without my husband or sleep at night alone. I was very dependent on him. I know I was rather prickly as well with new people and that they might get more readily pricked by my thorns than access any beauty.
The final way the victim come survivor is like a rose is that they are both tenacious. I have pretty much a brown thumb but my roses just keep on fighting to survive. That’s how some days can be, simply a battle to survive that day and then the next one. Adapting even the very nuance of speech or the mannerisms of those around them in order to survive or blend in. Bush roses can shoot stems into the air in order to find more advantageous space to develop and take over, especially if the space around them is too full of other plants.
Images: Some of my roses that inspired these thoughts
So admire the beauty of my blooms and how “normal” I may look but think about what that beauty or normality might hide. Watch out for my thorns but do not stop trying to peer through their barrier to the real me.