re-establishing boundaries

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noaccount
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re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby noaccount » Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:17 am

1. If I saw someone I used to have sex with, but made it known to them that between now and then I'd been assaulted and was really destablized, and at one point they tried to re-initiate things sexually, and I reacted with obvious distress crying and talking about just needing to be in a still quiet place where someone would just hold onto me (they immediately stopped and asked what I wanted/needed) , and then I saw them again and they just tried to kiss me and I again reacted in obvious distress, is it reasonable to expect them to verbally ask before trying to do anything similar again? What actually happened when I saw them again after that was that they specifically offered to just hold me and rub my shoulders but then once I was in that situation grinding on me and jerking off, which I feel weird being affected by since it wasn't actual sex and I also know they would have stopped if I said something, but if I said something and they stopped I still would have been hurt/triggered and I just tried to be ok because I didn't want to think about why the other times I'd been clearly hurt hadn't been enough.

2. I think it would be better for my emotional health to try to find people who'd be ok with being affectionate but not sexual but I have no idea how to talk to people about this without seeming ridiculous or desperate. Like if I could just fall asleep listening to someone else's heartbeat that would be such an enormous relief.

3. I feel like it's important for me to have outside people to check in with about future romantic relationships I might get into and whether they seem healthy or abusive but I don't know if there's anyone I could trust who would be ok with me asking them about that either.

[men don't reply]

Sam W
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby Sam W » Sun Feb 24, 2019 8:34 am

Hi noaccount,

I'm so sorry someone made the choice to assault and that this other person is not respecting your boundaries, either. It's not at all unreasonable to expect them to ask before initiating anything the first time (especially given how clear you were with them about what was going on with you and what you needed) let alone the second and third times. Unfortunately, it sounds like they also violated your boundaries, and it's not weird in the slightest to being reacting to what sounds like a form of assault from this person (offering non-sexual contact and then turning it into sexual contact without your consent). Are you planning on reaching out to them again? I ask because it sounds like they're not a safe person for you to be around.

Can you give me a sense of what kind of support you've received around healing from the assault, either from friends and family or from a professional source like a rape crisis center?

It's not at all ridiculous to want to find people who are interested in kind, non-sexual touch right now (or ever, for that matter). If you've been touched in ways that were violent or nonconsensual, wanting to be touched in ways that are loving and safe makes a lot of sense. If someone acts like wanting to be comforted by touch without it turning sexual is silly, that's a giant red flag they're raising above their head. Are there people in your life, friends for instance, who you'd feel comfortable asking for some form of touch?

As to your third point, friends are often very open to another friend asking them , "hey, partner did X thing and it feels off to me. What do you think?" And many people will speak up if they notice red flags coming from the partner of someone they care about. That being said, it may also be helpful to ask yourself: what do you need to feel comfortable trusting your own instincts and evaluations when it comes to relationships? For instance, there are lots of places, Scarleteen included, that have tools to help people evaluate relationships or potential relationships for warning signs, and if you'd like some of those resources we'd be glad to help you find them.

noaccount
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby noaccount » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:31 am

Hi Sam - thank you - I mean, yes I did see this person several times after that, but we're not living in the same area now. We were partners before I left the place where I grew up, then someone attacked me in a place I moved after that, and then I saw them when I was back in the place I was from. Between that happening and the next time I saw them I told them on the phone that I wasn't okay with that happening and they were apologetic about it, and I figured I could plausibly treat that as a mistake, like if I'd given any sign that I wasn't okay that time they would have stopped, and the several times I saw them after that everything was platonic and seemed okay.

Well, I left the city/state where I was assaulted, moved to a new place, have basically been alone since then, and have been engaged in human rights organizing with people whose ethical frameworks around autonomy/liberation I basically trust... The thing is, being assaulted as an adult was a fairly superficial damage compared to the (legal) psychiatric coercion/violence that I was subject to as a minor - which counselors and my family all largely defended and enabled. It's difficult to know that my basic rights will only ever be supported from a minoritarian position, but I'm working with it the best I can.

I'm less worried that people will actively hurt me or think my boundaries are silly, and more worried that I'll just be alone if people find that what I want is frustrating/unsatisfactory/not for them - but, of course it's anybody's right to say that we're just not compatible in terms of what we're looking for, and I try to remind myself that doesn't mean they're judging what I need as wrong/fake or that I'll never connect with people who want the same things as me.

I also feel really worn down from having so many people defend my abusers in the past, and from trying to talk to other people who I thought I could trust, about loneliness and trying to safely form new relationships, and have them tell me I didn't/shouldn't really need that and once I had adequate self-love/self-confidence I wouldn't feel that way anymore. I'm afraid of re-exposing myself to that kind of rhetoric. I don't believe it but it still wears me down.

A thought loop I struggle with is: I have safe housing, food, mobility, a liberatory social/political analysis that protects me from internalizing oppressive ideas, and people in my life who I trust to support people's right to non-abusive situations as a general principle. It's so much more than so many other people have. I can't really need more than that. I'm too old to still need help with this shit, to still not have figured this out. But I'm not a Thing That Just Needs To Do The Right Kinds Of Work, and trying to live without feeling I can form closer personal connections with people isn't working, my skin hurts and my thoughts feel like pale faraway ghosts.

Sam W
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby Sam W » Mon Feb 25, 2019 12:01 pm

Got it, I just wanted to make sure this person was not likely to try and violate your boundaries again.

Those fears and weariness are all completely understandable given the history you're describing and the fact that you've run across people who are all too willing to defend or minimize what happened. It sounds like you've done an immense amount of work on your own to unlearn damaging ideas and have found a community that is safe for you, which is awesome.

I hear you saying you're afraid that your needs and boundaries around touch will result in you being alone, and that's definitely something I've heard other survivors express. And, as you've hinted at yourself, you know that the odds are there is someone (likely several someones) who actually will be more than happy with those boundaries and see them as part of what goes into dating the awesome person that is you. But sometimes, there can be a big gap between knowing that intellectually and believing it on an emotional level. When that happens, it can be helpful to have tools at your disposal that help your emotions and your mind get in sync. Do you feel like those are things you have?

Are there any friends in your life right now who you'd feel safe asking for some form of platonic, comforting touch?

noaccount
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby noaccount » Sun Mar 10, 2019 1:06 am

Hi Sam -
Thank you. I don't right now feel like I could ask anyone that but I'd like to be able to in the future.

I think a lot about how different forms of violence interact with each other, and how psychiatric confinement/assault was just brought to bear on me because the softer forms of persuasion/programming that were "supposed to be enough" *weren't working* to bring me in-line with the compulsory school/work agenda. And I mean, real intimacy would need to be something radically opposed to more blatant abuses against me, but also opposing the premise that "instead of assaulting you, those institutions should have just used more soft-power to break you into being a docile subject," and opposed to the exploitation of people everywhere. How could I think I could have that? Who on earth loves freedom that much?

Oh also the one time in my life that I was most able to speak and write candidly about my experiences, a straight female lawyer used what I said to write rape fantasies about me.

If I could talk about how my strategies have failed and what I'd realistically need to do better, without having to worry about people throwing positive-thinking shit back at me in response - where would I even begin?
I tried to tell people, for instance, that I'd failed to stand up for other people who were being abused in custody, or that I was utterly dysfunctional when I had a role to play in environmental justice actions, and that I'd need both to form different social connections and personally work through my own issues more to build my capacity for those things, but people kept pretending that I "did fine" or worse, that I had no responsibility or no place taking on critical tasks of resistance to begin with.

On a more personal level, I think when I was younger I wished I could ask people about things like - are there any reliable markers whatsoever for 'knowing' if people are trustworthy or not / will or won't turn out to really just hate women or not / will spread rumors and talk about you to their social circles in hateful objectifying ways or not? / Are there even human beings who will say so upfront if they're looking for casual sex / can I ever expect truthfulness from anyone / if I'm physically involved with anyone, do I have to disregard things I'd read as forms of bonding in a platonic context as probably just being part of an 'act' they're doing / is there anyone who will NOT mock, attack, or blame me if I believe or invest in things people tell me that turn out to be lies to manipulate me?
But I was afraid of more people telling me "You don't need to worry about that / you don't need other people's approval / you're strong and independent / you just need to love and value yourself", and that *is* the kind of thing a lot of people said to me more recently when I tried talking to them about trying to safely navigate possibly dating again or something, and when I tried really desperately to explain to them that self-worth isn't a substitute for the ability to have healthy trustworthy relationships.

I don't expect anyone to believe me. It seems like a lot of women's/feminist support spaces are really just set up for people who've been 'good victims' to say "I played nicely by the rules of capitalism/patriarchy, tried to be compliant/feminine, got hurt by it, and now I deserve better." And if I walk into those spaces and say, "I rejected all of that from day one, and was severely retaliated against for doing so, and now I deserve better" I mostly get shut out.
(I've been trying to work w some of the stuff from "Many Roads One Journey", and there's all this stuff like, "We make a decision to become our authentic selves and trust in the healing power of the truth. We affirm and enjoy our intelligence, strengths, and creativity, remembering not to hide those qualities from ourselves or others," but I've been doing that since forever and objectively it's mostly gotten me hurt over and over.)
But people don't seem willing to hear that story, they seem to want a story about how I *must have* adopted abusers' perspectives like they did, and now it's hard to keep forming thoughts at all, like I can understand how solitary confinement drives people out of their minds.
Chellis Glendinnig's stuff was a lifesaver to me. But when she writes the bit about doing a therapeutic 'dialogue' between her repressed/natural self represented by a ragdoll and her 'civilized'/internalized-oppression self represented by a barbie - I thought, "Well, as someone who never formed that 'second self,' never had the capacity to dissociate or split my consciousness, and was always and only the first/natural person with NO sense that I could survive in this social order, I wonder if I could find any writing by other people like me?"
I am relieved to see that Mary Pipher at least in her writing acknowledges the *existence* of girls/women like me, although she doesn't really spend a lot of her time focused on us. (Fair! We're not the majority!)

I don't know if I have ways to bring my emotions and thoughts into synch. My autistic traits feel largely protective and positive but also slow me down and interact with the ptsd in weird ways. Yes, sure, I would appreciate resources about that.

Sam W
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby Sam W » Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:14 am

Hi noaccount,

You mention that you have people in your life who do support people's access to non-abusive (in all senses of the word) spaces. Have you ever spoken to any of those people about whether they know of support resources that are built on, or at least understand, that kind of perspective? Too, it may be worth looking into different survivors resources, since they're supposed to be able to work with and support people coming from a variety of social perspectives. Can you give me a sense of which ones you've tried accessing already?

With that list of questions you wish you'd been able to ask when you were younger, do you feel like those are questions you've been able to find information about? If not, some of them are definitely places where we can help you find the information you're looking for.

I'm still digging for resources to connect you to in terms of helping you emotionally believe the things you intellectually know (that's ultimately more a mental health service, something that's out of our wheelhouse). In the meantime, an exercise you may find helpful is to think about what you feel you'd need to believe some of those things. What things would need to happen, externally or internally?

noaccount
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby noaccount » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:36 pm

Hi - Thank you, you've already addressed most of what I was originally thinking about, and I really appreciate it, and if I'm somewhat rambling now I don't expect you or anyone here to have to respond to every point I bring up, this is just the only place I've actually felt I could write about a lot of things in a long time. Like maintaining a feminist human-rights-informed space that respects people's autonomy and is set up to meet people where they're at in their development, is so important and shouldn't be this rare.

Thinking I could talk to people about possible intimacy and my actual wants/boundaries and even if they weren't interested, that not meaning that I'd either done something grossly offensive towards them or meaning that I'd shown myself as a desperate or manipulative person and could never talk to them again -
Thinking that person after person shouldn't have covered for people who were obviously exploiting me, and framed 'maturity' as something I could attain by becoming less-reactive and more consistently downward-punching(!) in my interpersonal conflicts -
Thinking I could check in with people I trusted about relationships I was forming, or considering forming, and not have them write that off as either a silly superficial concern that I should be too "confident/self-reliant" to worry about, or as "yeah go for it I'm sure whatever's happening is fine" (even if it's clearly not) -
Believing that it's real, and reasonable, that my quality of life is impacted by whether I have people I can be intimate or affectionate with, that these are things I can prioritize seeking out and not just signs that I haven't done sufficient 'work on myself,' that I need space in this sexist/objectifying culture to process whether people are telling the truth about what they want in a relationship or not -
These basic fundamentals are such huge steps beyond how I'm used to living, that seems like it would be such a natural and healthy place to move-from, it's just not where I've wound up...

I think I fall into a trap of trying to do enough, on whatever actions or projects at hand, that I'll somehow earn space where it's okay for me to live, where I can process things with people who share my ethics and goals. And of course it's important to be able to organize with people on the basis of common goals without expecting personal friendship to come of it all the time, but I think the other problem is that where I do have the chance to be closer to people I kind of 'switch out' with some kind of functionary-role-thing that's me-but-not-me, and it's hard to get back down to my real-time processes until I'm alone again. It's a hypervigilance thing I guess that's been easier to get past with people I felt like I could safely have physical contact with. Like my ex who I saw again after I was assaulted was the only person for a while I could not-switch-out around. The other problem is I recognize that sometimes people just tried to set boundaries with me in the past, like saying they couldn't take phonecalls from me when I was acutely talking about suicide, and I took it as a personal offense and reacted in ways that weren't fair to them, and I'm scared of creating that dynamic again.

Trying to get past feeling like if I'd been more effective and socially-adaptive I'd already be naturally more connected to people I felt affinity with - trying to get past feeling like I should 'know better' than to look for support through more mainstream channels where I'm more likely to just have to educate people on the dynamics I'm dealing with *if they're willing to listen at all* - and feeling like "if I'd done better I wouldn't have to" -
There is a peer-run respite near me that runs a warmline where people have been decent to me.
Idk mostly I'm hesitant to talk to anyone who's a mandated reporter.

Mental health services have almost guaranteed that I can never actually live in my body. I've seen how families time and again can rely on getting a psych team to turn a chosen scapegoat into the 'identified patient' so they can reframe conflict between any number of people as a pathology within one person. Without getting too much into the details - how the sexual harassment /abuse that people were recently protesting, by school administration against girls in binghampton, was so so routine as legal standard procedure in the inpatient places I was sent as a teenager, and that's not even getting into the more-escalated violence against anyone who tried to refuse drugs. I got out of the mental health system with the sense of being a bag of moving targets that I wanted to bury under the river so they couldn't reach it.
And I understood that this was only happening because softer persuasion had failed to bring me in-line with the agenda at school, which I understood to be the minimum level of behavior-modification necessary to transform people into docile wage-workers, the business-as-usual over here codependent on the resource wars elsewhere.
So where that left me as an isolated self-educated 17-year-old was - I could do *enough* radical organizing that I could keep the presence or attention of brave, critical people who put their bodies on the line, and/or I could form romantic relationships with people and make staying-around-me be desirable that way. Anything else felt like asking for charity. And then years passed and I wasn't sure where I could find a foothold or get any rest.
I don't expect you to have 'answers' to any of this. You've just set up one of the only spaces where talking about it at all doesn't seem like self-harm, and isn't likely to get me hit with more victim blaming, so here it is, and thank you.

I want to make a pun about 'submerging adults'.

noaccount
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby noaccount » Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:17 pm

Is something I said considered against the guidelines or too offensive to engage with?
A lot of times, after I have named the exact/systemic nature of psychiatric violence against me and my counterparts, social groups have frozen me out, but I do not want to assume that will happen again, and want to ask and be open to the possibility that I've said something here that was specifically unfair to someone.

I don't think it's a coincidence that every single time I became less susceptible to manipulation and *more in control of myself*, there were clinicians ready to explain how my independent decision-making constituted me *losing control of myself*.

I choose not to look at my emotional and psychosocial needs as mental health issues.

I think about how towards the end of the time I was dating this person I was telling him I was afraid things couldn't work anymore because I didn't feel healthy doing things sexually anymore and how at that time he was understanding and respectful about that. And how then I left and broke things off for different reasons, in a pretty inconsiderate and bad-terms way, and moved away.
And how afterwards I was just grateful that he'd talk to me again at all and that I had the chance to kind of reconcile about things with him.
And how then once he asked if I could do a kind of minor kink thing to him that didn't involve really touching me sexually while he got himself off and I said ok and did that, but after I expressed being kind of uncomfortable and rambled for a while about traveling all these different places and trying to fit into all these different subcultures kind of just hoping that somewhere I could get someone to hold onto me.
And how after that there were a string of times he asked if I'd want to do anything similar again and I said no in an apologetic way because I was nervous about not having anything about my presence being likable anymore and losing a person who was supporting me emotionally after I was assaulted in wstr.
And how then there was one time I was ok with us making out after that.
And how then there were 3 times when I wasn't - twice I started crying a lot more and talking a lot more about someone waiting with me in a warm quiet place, and, also, about how things physically turning me on didn't mean I actually felt good about them and this was a source of a lot of guilt I struggled with. The third time I just went with it. [And at the end, an emergency-door slammed shut in my head like IT IS NOT SAFE TO BE UPSET HERE when he said "sorry if that wasn't great" like I COULD NOT LET IN THE QUESTION "did you notice something was wrong?" but I'm pretty sure all he meant was "sorry I orgasmed and you didn't," which he'd said a number of times in the past after sex I was actually actively into.]
And how when I said on the phone later that I wasn't ok with that, he apologized, but then started joking about how in the future he couldn't do anything like that because he 'didn't have permission' from a domme he started doing bdsm stuff with. And I asked him what he meant or why he was joking about that and he just got pissy like 'I don't want to talk about it' and ended the conversation and I just sat there kind of frozen and tried not to be too conscious of having a body when I had to go out and do things later.
And how I still went back to see him several times after that.

We don't see each other anymore. I just don't know if anything safer or better than that is possible.

I was pretty overwhelmed when I made the first post here and just want to say at this point I would welcome feedback from anyone of any gender.

Heather
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Re: re-establishing boundaries

Unread postby Heather » Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:34 am

I'm so sorry that you feel concerned in the way you do: I can't speak for anyone else, but I clearly misunderstood your previous post. I read you as saying you didn't want a response, you just wanted to put what you did in a safe place. Given some of what you said, I can absolutely understand feeling isolated and worried without any response: I'm sorry about that!

By all means, we can walk and chew gum around here. We can, for instance, absolutely acknowledge that when and where mental healthcare has been institutionalized, those institutions and their systems are often horrible, and really have ben since the inception of what most of us think of as mental healthcare. There's a world of truth in some of what you've said there, and I'm so sorry it's been part of your life experience. Of course, we can also support quality mental healthcare and recognize that good mental healthcare, and humane systems, are a general good.

Personally, I can also really relate to feeling like you have to earn a right to live, earn a right to be loved and supported, earn anything that ultimately, absolutely no one should have to earn. That's actually been one of my biggest and hardest interpersonal and growth issues in my life, and almost 50 years into this life I'm a lot better about that than I have been through most of my life, but it's taken a LOT of work, and honestly, I still feel like I have a very long way to go. It's such a hard thing.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead


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