|Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don’t. Only borrowing
them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Summary: Voyager unexpectedly finds a way home, leaving Kathryn and Chakotay
going their separate ways but when Kathryn is savagely attacked and
raped by the brother of a dead crewmember, Chakotay comes back into
her life to guide her through a slow and painful recovery.
WARNING: This story contains graphic material of a violent and sexual nature.
MANY RIVERS TO CROSS.
By KAT LADY.
Chakotay took Kathryn home with him and over the next week, let her set the pace, particularly where their conversation was concerned. She actually spoke little and while he could see her gaining back some of her physical strength, she had long periods where she would just stare out at the garden, lost in a world of her own, one he knew was filled with terrifying memories and images. He knew she constantly showered but she seemed to want to wear the same type of clothing, old baggy sweatshirts and leggings, covering her body as much as she could. He saw her let her appearance slip, never wearing any makeup or doing anything with her hair. Mostly she stayed quiet and sat for long periods. He didn’t intrude on her solitary moments, hoping she would speak with him when she was ready. In such a short space of time, he grew used to having her at the house and now dreaded the day she would be ready to leave.
Kathryn's nights were a different matter. What she could suppress during the day, came out in her sleep, when her defences were down. She would wake screaming from terrifying nightmares which filled her mind, only to find Chakotay there with open arms and soothing words. Eventually she would fall back asleep but she always asked him to leave the light on.
As Chakotay watched her in the garden one evening, as she strolled around and touched the flowers, he made a decision. He felt way out of his depth and knew he badly needed advice on how to deal with what they faced. He made a quick call to the Doctor to arrange a meeting and then B’Elanna, asking his old friend to sit with Kathryn the following morning while he went to speak with the Medic.
Next morning, Kathryn was tired and Chakotay knew she had been awake for most of the night, most likely afraid to sleep, in fear of what her dreams would bring. He knew she hadn’t slept well since she had come to stay with him and as she sipped at her tea now, he could see the dark circles forming under her eyes. He quietly explained that he had an appointment at Headquarters and had arranged for B’Elanna to keep her company while he was away. Kathryn barely nodded.
“Maybe you should try and get a little more sleep. You look tired.” She dropped her head and nodded again.
“Maybe I will. Do you think B’Elanna would mind?” She looked up at him and he shook his head.
“I only asked her to come in case you wanted company while I was out. I shouldn’t be more than a few hours, just end of term stuff.” She nodded and seemed to study him a moment.
“You really love teaching, don’t you?” He smiled and nodded.
“Aside from just passing it all on, they’re a great bunch. They make me feel young again. I guess I see it all over again through their eyes. They keep me on my toes too though. They constantly challenge things, question it all…” He drifted off a little, lost in images. “Sorry, I can get carried away…” Kathryn smiled gently at him.
“It’s good to see you like that. You deserve it all. I’m happy for you…” Her words were interrupted by a knock on the door and Chakotay smiled and picked up some padds.
“There’s B’Elanna now. You try and get some sleep. I’ll explain to her. I’ll be back in no time.” He watched as she nodded and stood up, then headed back to her bedroom.
Arriving at the Doctor’s offices, Chakotay sat and waited for the Medic. It eased his mind to know that B’Elanna was at the house with Kathryn and he hoped that she would at least get some rest, knowing that she managed to sleep easier during the day. He knew she kept her bedroom light on during the night and understood why. At least with the light on or during the day, she saw what was around her when she opened her eyes and not the images that most likely lurked in the darkness as remnants of her nightmares. B’Elanna had understood completely about Kathryn needing rest and had even brought some work with her to fill the time if needed. Chakotay looked up now as Voyager’s EMH approached him and smiled.
“Commander, please come in.” Chakotay followed the hologram into his office and smiled softly at the woman already there. “Commander, this is Dr. Ellen Sands.” Chakotay shook hands with the dark haired young woman then sat. The Doctor moved to the other side of his desk and sat also.
“I contacted Ellen this morning after your call to me last night. First off Commander, please know that anything discussed here is in the strictest confidence.” Chakotay nodded his understanding. “Now, Ellen is a leader in her field of dealing with these matters. She has helped many women and men through this kind of trauma.” Chakotay looked up and Dr. Sands leaned towards him.
“Yes Commander, women and men. It can happen to either, even I’m sad to say, children. I also counsel those we refer to as the secondary survivors, people like yourself.” Chakotay rubbed at the bridge of his nose.
“I’m not even sure why I’m here. Well I know why, I’m just not sure… Look, all I know is that I want to help her through this and I’m terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing.” Dr. Sands nodded.
“I’ll also assure you of complete confidentiality here. That’s first and foremost.” Chakotay nodded. “Now your own Doctor here has filled me in on what happened, if that’s all right with you. It means you don’t have to go through that with me so that I can understand. It saves you having to speak of it again.” Chakotay leaned back in his chair.
“That’s fine. I trust Doc here completely and if he trusts you, then that’s all I need to know.” Ellen Sands smiled gently.
“Then let me try and help.” Chakotay drew in a deep breath. He quickly filled them both in on what had been happening since Kathryn had left the hospital. He saw the Doctor appear shocked when he told them about the scene on the roof of Kathryn's apartment block but Ellen Sands merely nodded, as if this was nothing new to her and she understood only too well.
“Right Commander, let me try and help you here.” Chakotay’s eyes pleaded for any advice he could get. “First off, don’t try and force her to open up or talk about what has happened. That will only make her feel threatened and she’s had enough of that. If she talks, it has to be what she wants, what she’s comfortable with. She’s in control here and you have to let her have that above all else.” Chakotay nodded, remembering the Doctor’s words to the same effect.
“I’ll try and explain to you what she’s going through although you must understand that I don’t have all the answers either. Each victim will be different. I’ve spent my professional life listening to these victims and each is so different from the other, including my own case.” Chakotay looked up suddenly and saw Ellen smile slightly.
“Yes Commander, I’m also a victim. That’s the main reason I work in this field now. I understand better than most counsellors.” Chakotay nodded slightly and leaned back, suddenly having a new respect for the woman before him. He also gleaned hope from her admission, as if proof that this could be beaten sat before him.
“The initial stage is called the acute stage. This is where the person will experience disbelief and shock. There’s a sense of ‘what did I do?’ and feelings of helplessness. Sometimes the victim will be afraid to be alone or else afraid in crowds.” Chakotay nodded.
“Kathryn just wants to sit around the house, maybe walk in the garden. She’s expressed no desire to leave or go outside at all.” Ellen nodded her understanding.
“Let her do this her own way. If that’s what she wants to do, just let her.” She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts.
“The second stage is the pseudo adjustment stage. This can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, even to several years. You’ll see mood swings and she could be very emotional or angry or she could deny that it has had any effect on her. At this stage, she could well experience nightmares or insomnia.” Chakotay scratched his face.
“She’s not sleeping well at the moment, certainly not the last week she’s been at my house. I think she’s afraid to sleep although she’s never been a great sleeper or one for taking care of herself. She falls asleep and then has terrifying nightmares. I go to her and she lets me hold her but she always wants the light left on afterwards. Mostly she sleeps with it on.” He looked at the Doctor who merely nodded, not needing to be told about his former Captain’s previous habits.
“She could try to maintain appearances at all times to appear as normal as possible...” Chakotay looked back at Ellen and shook his head.
“She’s always been like that, always hidden how she feels. Doc will tell you.” They both looked to the EMH who nodded his agreement. Ellen shook her head.
“So we have a set pattern here for this behaviour but what’s happened is too strong at times, hence the nightmares.” She stopped a moment and looked towards the window then back.
“The third stage is the depression stage and this can overlap the second. It could well look like classic depression as self-blame begins to take effect. It also can involve a decreased sex drive or feelings of uncleanness. The fact that she has agreed to stay with you is good. Many victims break up with a partner because they can’t face the thought of being intimate.” Chakotay looked embarrassed.
“Dr. Sands, we’ve never…we’re friends but…” He told the young woman about the nature of their friendship and what had occurred since their return to Earth. She smiled softly.
“That will most likely make it a lot easier for her. If there is a relationship in the future though, an intimate one I mean, be prepared for her feeling she’s not good enough for you or that she’s used or dirty. However, that will come much later. Also later is the final stage which is the integration stage. This is when she’ll begin to accept the rape as a part of her life and start moving again.” Ellen stopped a moment and studied Chakotay.
“That’s something else Commander. I noticed you flinched slightly when I mentioned the word ‘rape’. You must get past that. However, where Kathryn is concerned, she’ll set her own pace with this. She won’t be able to say the word for a long time and then, even similar words will seem like it. As to whether she’ll want you to avoid it or use it later, she’ll have her own way on that. There will be a lot of areas where you won’t know the right thing to do. In these cases, ask her. If you don’t know whether she wants to be touched or hugged, ask what she wants. Some people need it badly, others can’t take any contact. Always ask her.” Chakotay nodded, feeling he should almost be taking notes. Ellen was more astute than she looked.
“Commander, I know it’s a lot to take in but you won’t get a test on this. I’m merely trying to give you some guidelines.” He smiled and nodded.
“The final stage is also when she will begin to feel things are OK again but she can only do this through counselling and letting friends help her. She also has to help herself. She can work through this but she needs to believe that she can. It’s an old saying about time being a great healer and there will be many times when she’ll find it hard to believe she can get through this. The same goes for you. She’s the victim here and the most important person but you also have to look after yourself, consider counselling for yourself also.” Chakotay leaned back in his chair again. Ellen now leaned forward.
“I can give you some advice for the present. She will eventually open up I hope. Mostly, it has to come out. It’s too hard to keep inside. When it does and even for now, I’ll tell you this, a list of dos and don’ts if you like.” Chakotay listened carefully now.
“Tell her you’re so sorry it happened to her and above all, stress that it wasn’t her fault. She must believe that above all else. Let her know that as she survived, she obviously did all the right things, regardless of the intervention of the Security Officers. Thank her for telling you when she does speak of it. Thank her for letting you be there for her, for trusting you. Let her know that you’re always there if and when she wants to talk. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you can do for her.” Ellen leaned back and licked her lips.
“What you never do is tell her or let her believe this was her fault in any way, that it could have been avoided if she had done this and not that…” The Doctor interrupted here.
“I know Ms. Torres mentioned Kathryn taking her walks, something about having warned her or why didn’t she listen. That won’t help Commander. Perhaps a word to the wise there…” Chakotay remembered and nodded.
“I’ll tell her. I know she meant well…” Ellen leaned over and squeezed his hand.
“You’ll get through all this, I promise you. Now other don’ts. I’ve actually heard someone tell a victim that since it had been so long ago, they should just get over it. I’ve heard men and even some women say a victim actually wanted it to happen or even enjoyed it. Some believe that it’s not that big a deal, that it happens to a lot of people, so it’s not important. The worst I’ve heard is when someone doesn’t believe the victim.” She leaned back again.
“I’ll ask you to respect her enough not to pity her. She needs support, never pity. Again, don’t assume she doesn’t want to be touched. As I said, some victim’s can’t stand to be touched, not even a hug, whereas others couldn’t manage without one. Ask her, plain and simple. Comfort her. Bring her a cup of tea or a blanket when she’s sitting in the garden. Play soft music and make the environment calm, peaceful and comfortable. Don’t try and solve all her problems for her either. She must have control. She has had her control taken from her so avoid anything that will make her feel she’s losing it again, no matter how small a situation.” Ellen stood now and fetched a glass of water for herself. She offered the others something and they shook their heads. She smiled when she looked at the Doctor, forgetting that he was a hologram and saw that he appeared flattered by the lapse. She slowly sat again and sipped her drink.
“I will say this. Encourage her to seek counselling. You can’t do this alone Commander. It’s hard enough with training. I also believe she needs to speak with a woman but that’s my own personal belief. At the end of the day, anyone trained is good. Offer to accompany her to sessions if she agrees to go but leave it open. If she wants you there, let her know you will come with her but also that you won’t be hurt or offended if she doesn’t want you there. However, don’t demand to know every detail of the rape. She’ll tell you what she feels able to have you know. She might want you at some sessions and not at others. Respect her wishes on this. Allow her to tell you as much or as little as she needs to. I will however, stress again the important of counselling. I actually feel it’s vital. I’ll be more than happy to see her and as I say, I also suggest you go for sessions yourself but not with me. I’ll see you if Kathryn goes elsewhere but I can’t see both of you. I believe it is crucial for you to understand the basic facts here and to examine your own attitudes and feelings in order to be a positive support for her. As I said, you’re also involved here as a secondary survivor so don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself and your own emotions. It is perfectly normal to feel helplessness, guilt, shame, loss of intimacy, frustration or anger, even feel for a loss of routine. You’ll feel over-protective of her and feel a need for retaliation which as I understand won’t apply here.” Chakotay actually laughed evilly and shook his head.
“Pity about that…” He sobered when he saw Ellen’s face. “Sorry but I just want to kill him.” She nodded.
“All perfectly understandable but you must control that in front of her. You can’t blame yourself for not being there to stop it or not doing this or that. Accept that it happened and deal with now. Change and work with what you can and let go of what you can’t. You also need to find the balance between being supportive and overbearing and please don’t be offended by that but it’s an easy line to cross. Be there when she needs to talk, be open to hear what she has to say but don’t press her for more than she can give. Don’t always check up on her or force her to talk or try and solve all her problems for her. You can’t take away what happened, only help her through this. I know with what happened on the roof, you’ll feel a need to constantly watch her but you can’t. You have to trust her now. In the same vein, don’t be afraid of silences from you or her. If either of you doesn’t know what to say, that’s all right. The most powerful statement a friend can make is by simply being there, not trying to fix it all or pretending it’s all OK. Silence can often say more than words.” She smiled gently. “Says she who has been speaking almost non-stop.” Chakotay and the Doctor smiled also, relieving the tension which had lingered in the room. Chakotay looked at Ellen now.
“If I manage to put all this into practice, how do I explain how I know it…” Ellen thought a moment.
“I’d recommend being honest. Tell her you spoke with a counsellor because you just want to do the right thing for her. Assure her of the confidentiality involved. Let her know you spoke with me because you care so much.” The Doctor broke in.
“I understand you told her you were going to your classroom for some business?” Chakotay nodded. “Well, while lying a little, just say you met me and I introduced you to Ellen and go from there. It’s not actually a lie.” Ellen broke in again.
“Commander, I’ve barely broken the surface here with you. I would like to speak with you again.” Chakotay agreed.
“You’ve helped me so much already. I feel as if I have some ammunition or something to fight with now, at least some hope…” Ellen smiled and nodded. “When could I see you again?” Ellen thought a moment.
“I’m free all afternoon tomorrow. My office is upstairs, here at Headquarters.” Chakotay frowned and Ellen smiled. “I’m there anyway Commander. If you can or need to see me… well you decide. No pressure remember?” Chakotay smiled and stood. He shook hands with them both.
“I’d better get back. I’ll try and come tomorrow…” Ellen just smiled.
When Chakotay arrived home, B’Elanna was reading. She looked up when he came in and smiled at him.
“She’s asleep. She cried out once but when I got there, she was quiet again.” She sat up, a worried look on her face. Chakotay held up a hand and left the room, checking that Kathryn was still asleep. He returned and sat, telling B’Elanna all he could remember. When he finished, she looked upset.
“I didn’t think…oh God, if I’d said that to her, about walking on her own…oh Chakotay I’m sorry…” He moved over and hugged her, reassuring her that it was fine. Finally she left and Chakotay started dinner.
That night, they ate in silence mostly, Kathryn making only a few comments about the food. She didn’t ask how it had gone at Headquarters and Chakotay didn’t volunteer anything. He remembered Ellen’s words about silence being OK and drew strength from them. Finally Kathryn told him she was going back to bed and he simply wished her a goodnight. He woke once himself that night and saw her light on but didn’t intrude. He knew the fact that she had slept during the day, made it possible for her to stay awake now.
Next morning, events took a turn that forced Chakotay’s hand. Kathryn was sitting in the living room, staring out into the garden while Chakotay tidied the kitchen area. He could see her from where he was and watched her sadly. Without warning, Kathryn cried out and fell to the floor. Chakotay ran to her immediately, dropping the plate he held onto the floor, not hearing the smash as it hit. He was at her side in a second and panicked almost as she thrashed about on the floor, crying and screaming out. He recognized what he thought was a panic attack or flashback, having seen something similar before in the Maquis and tried to sooth her but to no avail. She gasped for air and struggled against him, her eyes wild and tears pouring from them, as she continued to scream out in her pain, her words unintelligible. Eventually, she settled to a shaking and flinching and her words became understandable and tore at Chakotay.
“No…oh God…please don’t…please…help me…no…you’re hurting me…please stop…please…I beg you…oh God…please don’t…no…no…oh God the pain…” She cried out again and again, her arms pushing at Chakotay. All he could do was try and hold her as gently as he could and call to her that it was all right, that she was safe. Finally his words seemed to reach her and she quietened. For some time, she appeared disorientated, dazed and unsure of what had happened, where she was or what she had said and done. It reminded him of people he had seen coming out of an epileptic fit or seizure of some kind. Slowly she seemed to become aware of her surroundings again and she looked up tearfully at him.
“What did…? Where…?” He stroked her hair back from her face, plastered to her skin with sweat now.
“Shhh, it’s all right Kathryn. I think you had a flashback or something. It’s over now.” The pain on her face tore at him.
“It was…it…was…I was there…it was…happening again…and…I couldn’t…couldn’t stop him…” Her sobs came, racking her small body and he used his instinct and just pulled her to him. It vaguely came to him that he should have asked her first but he knew now he had done the right thing as Kathryn clung to him.
Chakotay held her to him and tried to comfort her for almost half an hour. Finally she managed to regain some control and pulled back a little.
“I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have had to see that…” He stroked her face.
“Kathryn, I’m here for you, to help you through this in any way I can… I just want to do the right thing. I’m afraid I’ll hurt you in some way… I don’t know whether to…” His voice trailed off and he saw her frown at him. “I don’t know if you want me to touch you or not…how that will make you feel… I don’t know…” She dropped her head to the side.
“Chakotay…I… thank you for asking… anyone else I guess…” She dropped her head and thought a moment. “I’m not sure I’d want anyone else near me… but you…I trust you and… sometimes all I want is a hug…but then I tell myself that you mightn’t want that…and… I don’t know what I feel…” Chakotay took her hand and decided to chance it.
“Kathryn, I have to tell you something. Yesterday when I went to Headquarters, I saw our Doc and he introduced me to another doctor… She deals…I talked with her…” Kathryn's head shot up.
“You talked about me? Chakotay, how could you…?” He held his hand up.
“Kathryn just listen please. I had to, needed to talk with someone. I was out of my depth…didn’t know what to do for you, what was right. I was so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and making it worse. Kathryn, she was great. She understood and it’s completely confidential. She…well her name is Ellen Sands and…Kathryn, it happened to her too…she understands…” Kathryn pulled back a bit, her anger giving way to upset now.
“You should have told me…asked me first…” He nodded sadly.
“I know but I needed to understand…to help you…I’m sorry…it’s just…it’s hard on me too…” Kathryn stared at him, her tears starting again as it suddenly hit her that this was all affecting him too.
“Chakotay, I’m sorry too. I guess I’m so wrapped up in how I feel… I’m sorry…of course you feel too…” Chakotay just nodded.
“Kathryn, please talk with her…” She jumped up.
“No…no…please…I’m not ready for that…don’t make me…” He was shocked when he saw she was close to panic and sat back on his heels.
“Kathryn…oh God…please don’t think that. No one is making you do anything… Kathryn please…I just suggested… you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to…” She watched him now and finally seemed to accept his words. Eventually she sat on the sofa.
“I know I’ll have to in the end…I’m just not ready…” He moved over to her a little and nodded.
“That’s all right. You control it all Kathryn and you go at your own pace…” He saw her relax a little. “If it’s all right with you, I’d like to see her again… I need to…” Kathryn nodded her head.
“I understand…I do… and I will in time…just not yet…” Chakotay just nodded and smiled softly at her.
That afternoon, he returned to see Ellen Sands. Kathryn knew where he was going this time and insisted that she preferred to be on her own, despite the worry she knew it caused him. Finally he agreed reluctantly. He sat in Ellen’s office now and related the details of the morning to her.
“It sounds like a classic flashback to me.” Ellen leaned forward and placed her hands on her desk. “I said nothing about them yesterday because not all victims get them. I can tell you now, that with one, others are very likely to follow. They will however, decrease in severity as time passes.” Chakotay blew out a breath and leaned back in his chair.
“She scared the hell out of me. It was like she was reliving everything and she was screaming and crying and pleading with him… I felt I was almost there…witnessing it all and there was nothing I could do to stop it or help her… I felt so damned useless…” He looked up and saw the understanding and kindness on the face of the Counsellor.
“In a way it’s a form of trust that she had this attack in front of you. I know it can be very frightening for you and difficult to know what to do. I can only give you more guidelines.” Chakotay leaned forward again.
“Anything that can help me at all. I told her I was here, had spoken with you, she was angry at first then upset but I think she finally understood that I needed this, that this has affected me too… She said she’s not ready yet herself though…almost panicked when I mentioned it…” Ellen smiled slightly and nodded.
“That’s fine Commander and she’ll come if and when she’s ready. She panicked because she’s not ready to face all of it yet…” Chakotay smiled a little himself.
“I think it’s time you called me Chakotay. I’m baring my soul to you here…” They both smiled.
“Right then Chakotay…and it’s Ellen…not Doctor or Dr. Sands or anything else…just Ellen… Right… what to do… When she has another and as I say, most likely she will… you need to remind her where she is and get her to either sit or be somewhere she can’t hit off anything. It can be almost like a seizure in that her mind isn’t in control of her body during these flashbacks. She’s reliving the rape in every way and I know that’s very hard for her and for you but it will get better. Describe her surroundings to her and get her to do the same to you if she can. Try and get her to take deep breaths. You however, must be very cautious in your actions. She is as I said, reliving everything and how you act is very important. Talk to her about this, ask her how she wants you to act, either to leave her alone with it or hold her or whatever.” Chakotay nodded and told Ellen how he had reacted earlier that morning.
“That seems to have worked well for her so keep doing that. You’re lucky holding her was right for her because it could have been worse but that’s not relevant now. You have some idea of how to react so work with that.” She leaned back a little.
“Name what’s happening. It’s a flashback so call it that. She needs to know and understand that this is a flashback and nothing more. Let her know that you understand how real it feels to her but reassure her that it isn’t really happening. Turn on soft lighting if it helps or soft music even but check first that these aren’t triggers.” She saw the man before her frown and explained.
“Chakotay, sometimes these flashbacks come on their own or from something she remembers but there can also be triggers, which you’ll need to get to know if they’re there. A certain sound or smell can trigger an attack, just like any other form of trauma. A child who was once in a fire will always react when he sees a flame or smells smoke, that kind of thing. It could even be as cryptic as the colour clothes he was wearing when the fire started and later on that colour triggers it. These triggers can be easy to understand or very unique to the individual.” Chakotay nodded his understanding.
“During these flashbacks, you need to help her to ‘ground’ herself. Get her to take slow, deep breaths and tell her that she’s remembering. Talk softly to her and remind her of where she is. Get her to talk about her surroundings and reassure her that her attacker is not there anymore. While she may not be able to respond to you, she will most likely be aware of your voice.” Ellen folded her hands on her lap.
“Consider placing your hand on her hand or her arm, grounding her again so to speak. Never though, place your hand on her stomach or thigh or anywhere that could worsen her reliving the event. Do you understand what I mean?” Chakotay sighed and nodded, knowing only too well what she meant. The thought that his touch could cause Kathryn any pain tore at him.
“Touch can in some cases make it worse but it grounds the person and we’re lucky in that we know it helps Kathryn, so go with that. You also need to let her know that these flashbacks are all right to have. In a sense, they are an opportunity to learn and understand and I know that sounds crazy but for some victims, there are gaps in their memory of what happened to them and this can be an indication that they are ready to remember, that the body has information it wants to share with the mind. Some people are very frustrated by the lack of memory or what they have blocked out, others almost prefer it. In other cases, flashbacks can literally validate a survivor’s experience.” She smiled softly at Chakotay.
“That’s the word I like to use best actually. Kathryn is a victim when it helps her but I prefer survivor as a term. Victim is good to use when she begins to believe she was somehow at fault and needs to understand that she did nothing wrong, victim as opposed to abuser or rapist. For everything else, she’s a survivor and needs to believe that.” She stood up, poured herself some water, and offered Chakotay a glass. This time he took it, his mouth and throat feeling dry now.
“The most important thing is to know her and what works for her and what doesn’t. There’s not a lot you can do during these attacks and that’s very frustrating for you I know, but just be there for her during and after it. Don’t press her to talk about it, which could just trigger it further. If she wants to discuss what just happened, be open to that and be aware that many of the emotions she felt during the rape will be present now, and again I know that’s very hard on you but you have to be strong for her.” Ellen refilled her glass and sat down again behind her desk.
“It’s highly likely she’ll also suffer more nightmares now. Her mind has started to accept some of what happened and that will surface in her sleep also, especially as the mind’s defences are down then. Again, deal with those the same way.” She leaned forward again and played with her glass.
“You must understand that survivors take a lot of responsibility for what happened to them. None of what happened is her fault and she needs to understand that but at the same time, constantly telling her that, while it may lessen the guilt or shame, it can’t take it away. Survivors deal with a hell of a lot of shame and in time, hopefully she’ll learn to break that pattern. The healing process can be anything from weeks to years to never. That’s not a reflection on the survivor or the severity of the attack, just a fact which differs from one survivor to another. I understand that Kathryn is usually a very strong woman and maybe that will help but again, everyone is different and just because someone takes longer to heal, doesn’t make him or her a weaker person than someone who recovers more quickly. She also needs to understand that. She must just concentrate on her own healing and not look at anyone else. This is strictly about her and her trauma, nothing and no one else. There aren’t any competitions or races to see who recovers fastest or whose experience was the worst. Even in group therapy sessions, survivors are encouraged to empathize with each other, not judge. She’ll judge and punish herself enough and be harder on herself than anyone else could be.” Chakotay leaned back, feeling again that he would never remember all this advice.
“Chakotay, I read you well. I’ll tell you again, this will come to you when you need it.” She smiled at his sheepish look.
“Being there for her and often following your instinct is what matters. You know her well and that’s more important than anything I could teach you. Mainly though, as I said yesterday, don’t give her your pity because that’s the last thing she needs. In some cases, family and friends can actually try and excuse the attacker but I don’t need to address that here.” The glare she received from Chakotay told her that.
“Another area she won’t have a problem with is fearing that her attacker is still out there somewhere. A lot of survivors have to live with that, if the rapist isn’t caught and sent away. At least in Kathryn's case, he’s dead but because of the circumstances of this, there might be times when she’s down, that she will believe others might do the same. Only address that if it comes up. In other words, if she doesn’t think of it, don’t put the idea in her head.” Ellen smiled gently.
“She’s very lucky to have you. A lot of people who come through this have no one, or else those around have no idea of what to do or say and never bother trying to find out. You obviously care about and love her very much.” Chakotay actually blushed.
“I love her more than I can ever explain.” He sighed and gave Ellen a brief history of his feelings for the woman they were discussing and about his relationship with Susan.
“You have a second lot of guilt to deal with Chakotay. Let it go or at least deal with it later.” He nodded. “You’ve enough to cope with now. It’s easy to become frustrated and bewildered by all this or to feel you are failing her. You’re not and you must accept that or at least hide how you feel regarding this because you can often transmit those feelings to her, which will only make it harder for her to cope with her own experience and add to it by giving her feelings of guilt and confusion because of you.” Chakotay stood now and refilled his own glass. He stared out the window a moment, watching people walking and laughing, going about their lives without a care in the world. Ellen’s voice broke into his thoughts.
“You can’t always tell what a person is going through. Just because they look happy, you can have no idea of their problems…” Chakotay turned and smiled.
“What’s your other stage act? Pull the rabbit from the hat?” She smiled and shook her head as Chakotay sat again.
“It’s just years of experience with people… I get to read them well…” He nodded and drank some of his water. Ellen picked up a padd and played with it.
“Chakotay, as I said before, each survivor deals with this differently. What they have in common will be fear, distress, humiliation, anger, confusion, numbness and guilt, even embarrassment. These feelings will vary from day to day and week to week, sometimes even minute to minute. What’s important is that she’s allowed to experience her feelings without fear of having them invalidated or dismissed. It’s vital that she feels and knows that she has someone who will allow her to talk and who’ll try and understand her needs rather than assuming that they know best and rushing her to get over it. She must know that she’s believed and that she can rebuild her life at her own pace. The dominant feature of rape is that it is forced on a person against their will and that it is an act of violence and violation, regardless of how much or how little visible violence is used.” She saw that her words upset the man before her and gave him a minute.
“It takes away control and it’s vital that Kathryn now be in control of her journey to recovery. She needs to rebuild her feelings of safety, trust, control and self-worth, all of which will have been lost through the rape.” Chakotay closed his eyes a moment and shook his head.
“I just want to be able to do the right thing for her…” He opened his eyes to Ellen’s calm and reassuring smile.
“You will Chakotay. Never doubt that. You wouldn’t be here otherwise…” He nodded and looked at the time.
“She knows I’m here but she insisted on staying on her own…” Ellen nodded.
“Let her do that if she needs to. It’s a big step for her so early but she obviously needs to do it. You have to trust her to know what’s best for herself. Look, I gave you some do’s and don’ts yesterday. I’ll go over them and some others for you. With the knowledge you have and the love you feel for her, you’ll get her through this and yourself.” Chakotay nodded but didn’t look very sure.
“Chakotay, you will get through this, I promise you. First off, as I said before, don’t ever criticise her for being where she was at the time, for not resisting more or screaming more or not talking about it until now, or in fact for anything. Let her know that anyone, anywhere, can be a victim, regardless of age, gender, looks, dress or so on. Regardless of the circumstances, no means no and no one deserves to be raped. All those old myths that still exist in some minds, about a victim ‘asking for it’ or the rapist being ‘unable to help himself’ only create a burden of guilt on the survivor and she’ll already feel enough of that on her own, which hopefully we’ll change. Any criticism of her handling of the situation, either during or after the attack, will add to that guilt and it’s vital that the blame is placed where it belongs – with the rapist. She must learn that and accept it because it’s the truth. She’ll reach the stage where she’ll accept that there was nothing she could have done to prevent it happening and when she does, listen to her. It could be down to being frozen with fear, to have been unsuspecting or trusting, or because she was threatened or physically attacked and feared worse could happen if she resisted. No one expects a mugging victim to resist yet some people still believe a rape victim should be able to.” Ellen shook her head angrily. “I wish we could educate everyone. Perhaps teach some of this in school.” Chakotay watched her, knowing there were still a few stray demons in her own life.
“If she has reasons for not talking about this or later on, reasons why she didn’t talk about it earlier, listen to them too. She might be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it or she might even be trying to protect you from the upset of knowing. She knows how you feel about her…?” Chakotay nodded and smiled. “That could well apply here then. She might also need to get it all straight in her own head first or maybe want to talk to someone like me, who isn’t personally involved. Don’t feel hurt or betrayed if that comes to be the case.” Chakotay shook his head.
“I just want her to get through this. I’m not going to feel hurt, betrayed or jealous just because she needs someone else to talk to instead of me…” Ellen smiled.
“Good. Another thing is helping her to distinguish between wishing it never happened in terms of wishing she hadn’t been there at that time or said what she said and so on, against it being her fault it happened. She must know the difference between wishing it hadn’t happened to feeling she’s to blame because it happened. Let her know she has a basic human right to be free from threat, harassment or attack. Never over-simplify it by saying it wasn’t very bad or never mind, or forget it. Let her say how she feels and allow her time to work through it in her own time. Reassure her that you will give her all the support she needs and that you’re always there for her, now or in the future. Let her know you’ll never push her into expressing things before she’s ready. Ask her if there is someone else she’d rather talk to, friends, family, a counsellor and offer to organize that if she wants it, but again, don’t pressurise her into anything she’s not ready for.” Ellen played with the padd in her hands a moment more and now put it down.
“All this will have made her feel invaded, changed and out on control. Try and imagine for yourself how that feels and try and do what helps her rather than what makes you feel better. I know you feel bad, that you want to undo all this and take it away but you must accept that you can’t. Listen to what she wants. She has to make her own decisions and regain influence over what happens in her life now in order to rebuild trust and strength. It’s actually quite common for loved ones who are distressed themselves, to step in and make decisions for survivors, which will only add to their frustration. Ask Kathryn how she wants to be helped and in this way, you’ll be helping to rebuild her trust.” She picked up another padd now.
“Help her to feel safe and I know, that won’t be easy. Get her to take part in things again, but only at her own pace and in ways she feels are best. Knowing she can talk to you about feeling unsafe and can ask for your company when she needs it, will be reassuring as she tackles difficult things.” Ellen leaned forward now and looked Chakotay in the eyes.
“This is very important. Don’t ever come up behind her or touch her unexpectedly or in a way that reminds her of the assault. She may want to be held and comforted or prefer not to be touched until she feels safe, although with Kathryn, she seems to need to be held. Don’t feel offended if she finds it difficult to be close, emotionally or in time, sexually. Understand that it’s not that she’s ever afraid that you’ll assault her, just that it will remind her. If she has guilt and pressure in this area, it will only hinder her recovery. Feeling and knowing that you are there to listen and respond though, will help her re-establish feelings of closeness and trust.” She saw the pain on Chakotay’s face.
“Chakotay, I know and I believe Kathryn knows, that you would never hurt her. I’m just going through it all with you.” He nodded his understanding and leaned further back in his chair. Ellen continued.
“While you will have a lot of pain and anger about all this, even frustration, you need to hide that. She’ll already be worried that all this will have had an effect on you. Tell her you know it wasn’t her fault and if you feel angry, let her know that your anger is directed at the one who did this to her and not her. The fact that he’s dead helps here. Some survivors have to worry about their partner or family members taking the law into their own hands and that only adds to their problems, making them feel more unsafe, more upset because you are, and more worried in case you get hurt. It also adds to the lack of control feelings again. If you’re angry or have any of these feelings Chakotay, you come to me or a friend, not Kathryn. You personally have to accept that you weren’t to blame for any of this either, because you weren’t with her, or weren’t there to protect her and so on. Once again, the responsibility lies solely with the one who committed the attack. As I said earlier, you speak to me or friends if you need to, or join a support group for others in your situation.” Ellen stood and took their empty glasses then refilled them.
“Chakotay, this could be a long road. You can’t magically make everything better straight away, but by showing that you believe her and don’t blame her, that you want to help her get through this and take control again, by listening, respecting her feelings and views and showing how much you care, you can make a big difference and help her heal. There are no hard and fast rules with this about the right or wrong way to behave, just experienced advice from someone like me, which still might be wrong for Kathryn. You’ll have your own way of coping which is right for you. Kathryn also has to understand that there isn’t a right or wrong way of dealing with all this either. What is certain is a state of shock, feeling numb, disorientated, unbelieving, horrified, scared, frightened, maybe hysterical. Some survivors can’t stop crying, others are too numb to cry and yet others are half and half. The tears will always come though.” She handed him his glass and sat again.
“I told you yesterday that time is a great healer and that can sound trite when applied to something as horrific as this, something so traumatic and debilitating as trying to rebuild your life after rape. There is no magic wand or quick cure. I’d love to say it was like recovering from major surgery, where the doctor can tell you that you’ll be back on your feet in a certain number of weeks or months. With that you’ll put up with the pain because you know in a month or whatever, you’ll be better. This will take as long or as short a time as she needs. She’ll appear to be coping one minute, then regress, but this will lessen until one day the clouds will part and the sun will shine again. It will always be there but it will be firmly controlled and in the past.” Ellen smiled and leaned over and gripped Chakotay’s hand.
“Chakotay, you will both get through this, I promise you. I know it’s hard to see at this point, but you will. I know what I’m talking about. I made it and I’m still with my husband who was with me at the time. We’re still together and still deeply in love. I shut him out for a long time and couldn’t stand to have him near me but he was there for me still. You remind me of him and from that, I know you’ll both make it.” Chakotay lifted his other hand and squeezed hers.
“Ellen, thank you so much. I only met you yesterday and yet… You’ve helped me so much already.” She smiled back at him. “I better go. I don’t like leaving her alone and I know what you said about that but I can’t help it. I’ll hide it as much as I can but I need to know she’s all right.” He stood and held her hand a moment longer, then left.
When Chakotay got home, he found Kathryn huddled in the corner of the kitchen, hugging her knees to her chest and with tears pouring down her face. He ran to her immediately, getting down on the floor beside her.
“Kathryn… Kathryn what happened…?” She slowly looked at him and the pain in her eyes tore at him.
“It…it…happened again…I was there…he…he…was there…was hurting me…I couldn’t…couldn’t get away…” She let go of her legs and leaned into him and he hugged her tightly to him. “Why won’t he leave…leave me alone…?” He squeezed his eyes closed as he rocked her.
“Kathryn…he’s dead…it was a flashback…I know it’s very real but he can’t hurt you anymore…you’re safe now… I know it’s very painful but you will get past these…I’m here for you…” She cried bitterly for a long time, just clinging to him as he held her. Eventually she calmed a little and looked up at him.
“I can’t take this…it’s too hard…” Chakotay pushed the hair back from her face.
“It’ll get easier…” She shook her head.
“No it won’t…I’m useless…can’t even be left alone…I’m ruining your life too…it just won’t go away… I’m too weak for it…can’t fight it… I’ll never get past this… and it’s my own fault…walking late…killing Elizabeth…” Chakotay took a deep breath and took her hands.
“Kathryn listen to me now. None of this, not one bit of it, is your fault. Do you understand me? It wasn’t your fault. What he did…he had no right to do. No one ever has a right to do that to someone else. Nothing justifies this, nothing. You have to believe that. There was nothing you did or didn’t do that caused this. He was to blame, no one else. It was all down to him. Kathryn, he’s the evil in this. You did nothing wrong. You’re the victim. You’re also the survivor.” He watched her eyes stare back at him and saw that his words were making sense to her, were getting through to her.
“I feel…it was…my fault…if I hadn’t been there…or…I should have been able to fight…I had training…” He ran his fingers over the backs of her hands.
“Kathryn, I don’t mean to upset you with this but…” He took a deep breath. “He would have tried this anyway. As it was, he came from behind…you didn’t see it coming…” He gripped her hands tighter. “He had the element of surprise and…Kathryn from what I know, he was a heavy enough man…” He saw his words were causing her pain but he needed her to understand. “He was stronger…and then stunned you…Kathryn you couldn’t fight back…” Tears poured down her face now and he felt his own start. “Kathryn, think about this. You survived, so you did it right. That’s what matters. You survived. I’m so sorry all this happened to you and I wish I could take it away but I can’t. You have to believe and know that it wasn’t your fault though.” She stared at him a long time and then leaned into him again and let him hold her. After a while she pulled back and wiped at her face.
“Kathryn, you’ll get through this, I promise you. These flashbacks are all right to have. It just means you’re more able to face it now than you were. I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you the way I was this morning…” She sniffed and shook her head.
“It’s…it’s OK…” Chakotay held her hand again.
“I need to know that I didn’t upset you more or hurt you this morning. You have to tell me how you want me to be, especially if this happens again… You’re in control here…we go at your pace and deal with it your way… If you want me to hold you, I’m more than happy to be there for you but if you don’t want that, just tell me. I’ll never be hurt or offended by that… I know how bad they are…how real they are and how painful…” She lifted a hand and hesitantly reached for his face then finally touched him.
“Thank you… this morning…. that was fine…” He nodded, relieved now.
“Kathryn, know this. You talk to me if you want to. If you don’t, that’s fine too. You’re in total control of all this. If you don’t want to talk at all and just be silent, that’s also fine. I want you to know though, that I’m always here for you, now and in the future. You can always talk to me, say anything to me but as I said, there will never be any pressure and I’ll always listen. I’m here because I care so much for you, love you even…” She bit her lip. “That’s the safe kind of love Kathryn…” She nodded tearfully. “I want you to know above all else that you can trust me, and I thank you so much for the trust you’ve put in me up to now. I promise you there’s no pity here.” She let more tears fall and lowered her head.
“Kathryn, I’ll just say this once and then let it go. After that, it’s up to you. I think it would be good for you to talk about this when you feel ready, but only then. Again, there’s no pressure on you. I’ll go with you if you like or if you prefer to go alone, that’s OK too. It’s up to you and know that I’ll never be hurt or anything, if you speak to someone else or need someone else…” She looked up at him slowly.
“I know…know you’re right…I can’t do this alone…I need…help…” Chakotay released a sigh of relief. She leaned in to him once more and he held her for a while, then eased her away from him so he could see her face.
“Kathryn, I know it won’t be easy, I know that, but you need this. I’ll help you and be there every step of the way if you want me to be. If you want me to arrange for you to speak with Ellen Sands or someone else, I’ll do it. This is your choice though, your decision. No one is going to make you do anything you don’t want.” She nodded slowly and remained quiet for some time, lowering her head again. He just sat beside her and waited, giving her all the time she needed. Finally she raised her head and looked at him. He saw fresh tears fill her eyes.
“Please…” He frowned a little and she nodded. “Make an appointment…I trust your judgement… Ellen Sands…?” He nodded.
“You’ll like her. Kathryn, she’s been through this and come out the other side. She’s easy to talk to…” Kathryn just nodded.
“I…I would…would like…you to…” She bit her lip again and looked up and away. He tugged gently on her hand and she looked back at him. “I would like it if you could…come with me…but…” He squeezed her hand.
“It’s up to you Kathryn, whatever you want…” She sighed.
“I’d feel better if you were there but…I guess I’m also…well afraid and…I guess embarrassed…” He smiled softly at her.
“First off, you have no need whatsoever, to feel embarrassed or afraid. I’ll be there if that’s what you want…” She still looked uncertain.
“What if…if I hurt you…with something I say or…what if…you…hate me…when you hear it or…are disgusted with me…” He almost cried.
“Oh God Kathryn, how could you ever think that? Nothing about you could ever disgust me or make me hate you. I’ll keep saying it. None of this was your fault. I love you, it’s that simple and I’ll say that out straight. Maybe it’s not what you need to hear but it’s true. I’m here to give you all the support you need and I will always, always be there for you. You don’t have to go through this alone.” He appeared slightly angry and she picked up on it.
“You’re angry with me…” She dropped her head but he put a finger under her chin and lifted her head up.
“Never. I’ve had anger since this happened but Kathryn, please believe me, that anger is never directed at you and never will be. You know where it’s directed.” She nodded.
“Him…” She watched as he nodded.
“I can’t help that and I know you don’t need to see that but…” She placed a finger across his lips and he marvelled at her touching him.
“I understand. Maybe I understand better than you think. I believe you felt you should have protected me or something…?” He nodded as she smiled sadly. “I always felt that way when someone was hurt or killed on an away mission. I was the Captain and I should have protected them. I do understand Chakotay. I guess now I understand the other side of that as well.”
“Oh Kathryn honey…” He stopped a moment, scared his use of an endearing term would upset her but she just smiled and he looked embarrassed now. “Sorry, slipped out…” They both smiled.
“Actually, it was…kind of…nice…warm…” He smiled more openly now. “Go on, make an appointment. I’ll make some tea. I can do that without burning it…” He just smiled and stared at her for another minute and then nodded.
Leaving her in the kitchen making the tea, he called and made an appointment with Ellen Sands for the following morning. He knew himself that they had taken a big step forward but he pushed down his enthusiasm, remembering that it was still very early days and that this was just a start, that there were many rough patches in the road still to face before it ever ran smooth again.
That evening, Chakotay contacted Tom and B’Elanna and anyone else with whom they had contact, and at Kathryn's polite request, asked them to respect her privacy over the coming weeks. Kathryn had felt guilty asking him to do this but explained that she felt unable to face anyone else at the moment but that she felt she had enough to cope with. Chakotay understood completely, as did everyone he contacted. They all sent their love and wished her well and he saw Kathryn accept their wishes, drawing some comfort from them. For himself, he felt privileged to be the one allowed in her life to help her through her trauma and recovery.
ON TO PART FOUR.
RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.
RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.