When I first started seeing the last therapist I had before leaving the land of on-demand psychological help, I said something about people being willing to harm others—that everyone has a point when they will.
She said she never would.
I didn’t believe her. I still don’t believe her. All it told me was that she’d never been in a situation where that question had come up for her in a serious way, and she didn’t know what that line was.
I do know what that line is for me. I have hurt someone. I was a child, with a child’s resources to cope, but it wouldn’t be all that much different now. I would do it again in more or less the same way if it came to it. I would hurt the person I love most.
I would do it if what would happen if I refused would be worse. I am not a martyr and not a saint, and it doesn’t matter that much to me whose hands the blood is on. It matters to me how much suffering is going to result from everyone’s choices together.
And so there’s another reason trust has been hard for me. Everyone has a line. I want to know what yours is. I want to know if Yuri pointed a gun at my head or at your head, what you would do. I want to know that someone who is close to me is prepared for that question, even if in my life now, the question is unlikely to ever come up.
Most people don’t know. They say wildly unrealistic things. I would never…. Oh, but you would. And it means I have been left wondering.
What would it take to make you hurt me?
I trusted Natalya because I did know. She raped me as gently as she could. She held my hand through it. She carried me up the stairs to her room afterward and she washed away the blood. She didn’t risk her own life for me—in the end, she did, but not when it would make no difference at all—and she didn’t risk mine.
The line was there every time I saw her and I knew exactly what she would do when she saw it. She would help me through it.
But it’s a hard question to live with: What would it take to make you hurt me?
Hardly anyone has that kind of strength. Luckily, we don’t need to have it, but when sociopathic behaviour is still in your mind as a kind of normal—as it has been in mine—you assume that people might need it. You assume that it might be an important factor in your relationships.
Hannah has been looking around the last week and noticing that I have friends. Nice friends. Nice friends help Hannah. She is the first part to look around and think, I’m safe because people will help me.
Everyone else understands that I am actually too small to defend myself. They are just holding their breath that no one wants to, and yet we all know that this happens. This isn’t a rape-free society. No society is. And in fact it sometimes seems pretty rampant here. It’s hard to say if it is worse here than in other places, or if it’s just that here there aren’t any secrets. It’s too small a world for that.
But the other parts remember what did happen to me. The other parts remember that not only were some people willing to harm me, but others who were not under duress did not help me. So there is a limit to what they expect from anyone.
The outcome is a fear that doesn’t quite go away. In a world where you cannot rely on anyone to help you, there is no way to be truly safe. We cannot do this living business alone. We all need each other. We all need help.