Mary's husband raped her throughout their two years of marriage.

Usually, after a hard day at work, she would come home and the violence would begin. Her husband, who didn't work, often wouldn't stop assaulting her until the next morning when it was time for Mary to get up and leave for her job.If she resisted his advances, he would harass and beat her. Sometimes he would wait until she was asleep, raise his legs, then shove her out of bed with a sudden kick in the small of the back. She would lock the bathroom door and try to sleep on the floor to avoid her husband's abuse, but he would only stand outside and pound on the door until she relented and opened it.

After years of constant degradation and pain, Mary reached the point of despair. She seriously contemplated suicide.

"One night there was a storm, and I went out and walked in the storm, and it was pouring down rain and I just kept walking," she remembered. "I thought about jumping in front of a car and the person would kill me and I would be free. But then I knew I wouldn't do that because I knew the person would feel real badly that they killed me.

"And then as I was walking more and more, the storm cleared up and I realized if I would just keep going, the storm in my life would clear up, too."

Mary didn't know it at the time, but she was beginning the process of recovery.

Larry Fox, clinical director at the Center for Family Development, said many women never recover from the ordeal of rape, and the word "recovery" itself is somewhat misleading because life is never normal after rape.

Fox said many factors are involved in the amount and degree of recovery, including the nature of the rape and the pre-existing psychological state of the victim.

"In any case, there are many women who do not recover in the sense that they deal with and work through the issue," he said. "It can be so overwhelming and traumatizing that they bury it in their mind."

Following a rape, many women at first experience a general psychological numbing, a flattening of their feelings that makes them seem not present emotionally.

At the same time, they overreact to events that seem trivial to others: the turning of a door knob or someone standing outside a window. These cues seem meaningless but can be subtle reminders to the victim of some aspect of the rape.

Sometimes they have flashbacks. They may think they are losing their minds.

Fox said victims tend to try to make meaning out of the attack by blaming themselves at first: They shouldn't have been at the rapist's home. They shouldn't have been alone with him.

Although four years have passed, Jane, 23, said she is still deeply troubled by her rape by an acquaintance at college.

"I still have the nightmares. I still have the fear of the outside world sometimes," she said. "I know that I will have that for a while and it's just a matter of dealing with that. And I am not going crazy and those nightmares are for real."

Most of Jane's dreams involve weapons and stalking - and with good reason. Her assailant followed her for years after the rape, threatened her and her family.

Jane eventually was forced to move to another town and file a protective order against the man.

The experience made her less trusting and more wary of others. She took self-defense classes. At times, she too, carried a weapon. The rape even affected Jane's relationship with her immediate family.

"You have to learn to trust people again and that's sometimes a difficult thing," she said. "I can hug them again now, but they have to ask permission."

Fox said recovery is not saying "this won't bother me anymore," and pretending nothing happened. It's more a process of regaining one's life after a brutally dehumanizing experience over which the victim had no control. Recovery is a process of learning to live in the world again with a viewpoint that has been forever altered.

Although no victims are responsible for being raped, Fox said they shouldn't be deprived of the idea that they could do things differently to improve their safety and reduce their risk in the future.

Betsy Franchina, a rape crisis coordinator with Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse in Logan, agreed part of the recovery is regaining a sense of control. Also important is the victim's realization she is not responsible for the rape.

She said the victims need to "work up into some nice solid anger. It's very important and it's motivating."

Mary said a growing sense of anger was an important step during the early part of her recovery.

After she finally built up the courage to leave her husband, he stalked her for some time. He tried to break into her apartment. He sabotaged her car. For a while, Mary believed her treatment was deserved because she felt she had done something wrong.

Later, she understood there was a pattern to the abuse: verbal belittling, followed by beating, rape and an apology. Then the cycle would begin again.

"I could feel his fear," she said. "A man does not rape unless he is fearful, and he's fearful of losing control."

Mary decided to fight back. She was tired of living like a hunted animal, tired of running, tired of being afraid. Finally, she confronted her then-estranged husband during one of his stalking adventures.

"At one time he came at me, and I decided I'm not going to run anymore," she said. "I reached down and grabbed up this rock that filled up my hand and I told him it's either you or me. We're going to end this right now."

The next time Mary heard from her estranged husband was several years later when he filed for divorce.

Jane has managed to put a good deal of her life back together following her ordeal. She thinks the assault made her a stronger person, although she would have preferred gaining her strength in another manner. She plans to finish college someday. She's engaged to be married.

Much of her life seems similar to any other young woman's, but Jane knows things will never be exactly the same for her.

"There's always a limit, and there always will be," she said. "I mean, yes, there will be a time when I won't remember it as much, but I will always remember what happened. That's going to be a part of my life."

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Statistics on rape

- Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every two minutes.

- About 68 percent of victims are raped by husbands, boyfriends, acquaintances or other relatives.

- About 31 percent of victims say the offender was a stranger.

- Only 26 percent to 37 percent of rapes are reported to police.

- One in two rape victims are younger than 18; one in six is younger than 12.

- 75 percent of rape victims require medical care after the attack.

Source: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.