Being sexually assaulted can have a very significant impact on one’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. What outsiders of the assault tend to focus on is the physical aspect of the assault and usually neglect the emotional and social aspects, which go hand in hand. After being assaulted it’s very common for survivors to engage in self-blame, much like what Myriam Gurba did in the book Mean. And it is also very common for that blame to bleed into every aspect of the survivor’s life. Gurba presents evidence of both of these things in great detail throughout the book.
As seen in Mean, Myriam Gurba shows multiple examples of how her experience caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Before telling her traumatic story that she tries to hoard, she tell us that PTSD is the only mental illness you can be given through someone else’s violent actions. Some actions that were committed consisted of, the man who gave her gay cousins aids, and her grandfather who gave her grandmother aids are a different “mean” she explains. She states, “I’m mean, but I am not so mean that I’ve ever raped anyone. I’ve never grabbed a strange woman, pulled down her underpants, shoved my face into her pussy, and inhaled. That’s a special kind of mean” ( Mean, 109). Mentally, Gurban loses all the trust in majority of men she meets after her experience with the rapist. One of the examples that shows this, is when she is at the grocery store with her mother. “He was approaching me. Besides the whole grain loaves, he paused. His hand reached for the hot dog buns. It squeezed. I came back to my body almost as immediately as I’d left it when I realized the shopper was not him” (125). Her mind quickly changed the face of the man into the man who raped her. Post-traumatic stress disorder to her was composed of an “advanced set of art skills”, that made all men be seen as the same (125). Each one of the aisles that she walked past while shopping gave her fear of seeing the man yet again. Post-traumatic omnipresence, caused for features and apparel such as a curve bald head, a sharp grin, a bright white T-shirt, tightly laced Nikes and a five o’clock shave to trigger her to think about the rapist.
Not only did the effects of rape cause for Gurba’s mental state to manipulate her in seeing the man who raped her in every man she sees, but it conducts her brain to develop guilt and shame about what had been done to her. In the matter of guilt, she reminisces on what happens after she was raped. After seeing the news and recalling dates around Thanksgiving, the fall, and December; she comes to the idea that she could’ve stopped him. She states, “If I’d chased him into the alley, caught up to gim, taken off my shoe, and beaten him with it like Mom taught me you’re suppose to do with cockroaches” (139). She believes that even in doing this and dying is better than living with the guilt that she has. Though invisible, it still bears down on her that if she had done something to him maybe he wouldn’t have followed, harassed, and beaten women. When it comes to being shameful about her experience of being raped, she reflects it on her future. She feels this feeling of shame comes when she thinking about the rapist getting caught and she will have to testify against in him in court. She conveys this shame and self-blame on her desires of becoming a lawyer for her small town. She states, “Let’s say they remembered me as the girl who took the witness stand and cried when she described getting grabbed and having things put where they don’t belong” (140). She is ashamed that in the future that the level of respect from her co-workers in the courtroom wouldn’t ever be given. She believes she would always be known as the girl who was raped and they girl who never fought back.
In the midst of all of this, Gurba is still experiencing the worst of her PTSD symptoms. It doesn’t seem like she is going to get out of it anytime soon, maybe even get worse. She keeps hallucinating about the rapist being around her, each time she is by herself. The affects of rape can damage any person who has experienced it. With Gurba’s style of writing and dark humor we can not only witness her experience very clear, but what she suffered with as well.
After addressing the nurse about the situation that has happen and given the response the nurse gave, what should Gurba actually do about with what she has experience?
On the page 109, in your own words, what does Gurba mean about a person having a special kind of “mean” ?