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Author Topic: I need some perspective on what happened
Ashlee Abjad
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Member # 42383

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Here is a letter I wrote a few weeks ago to Go Ask Alice! They never answered, so I am coming here to try and understand what I am feeling.

I am an 18-year-old bisexual woman. When I was 14 I lost my virginity to a slightly older boy, call him "Jack", and we started dating, up until about a year ago, for a total of about 2.5 years. During that time, I didn't think there was anything wrong with our relationship, but I realized around the time I broke up with him what the problems were. A lot of the problems seem to come from him not having any respect for my or others' boundaries, especially sexually. In particular, a few things: 1) he would encourage me to have sex with other people, which I did. I ruined a lot of friendships and hurt a lot of people by either having sex with someone I barely knew or coming on to them when they weren't interested. 2) He would do things like make out with me or grab my boobs or my butt in public and when I asked him to stop he didn't respect that and acted like I, or people who didn't want to see that, had a problem. 3) At some point he became obsessed with anal sex and started constantly pressuring me to let him do it to me. I was happy to oblige at first but every time I tried it, it would be uncomfortable at best and really painful at worst. He still would not take no for an answer, either getting really rude or sulky when I refused or coming up with reasons why I owed it to him. There were several times when he would be sleeping over at my house, in my bed, or napping with me during the day, and he would wait until I was asleep and then have anal sex with me. There was one time when I was sort of half-asleep and I was aware of what was going on around me but I couldn't really wake myself up enough to move and since my back was turned to him he didn't see me crying but I was. (My second boyfriend, "Bob,"--I started seeing him with the encouragement of Jack, who I then broke up with to be with Bob--thinks he drugged me. I doubt it, because I don't think Jack has the kind of foresight required to get that kind of drugs, but the possibility bothers me still.) Also, one time we were having vaginal intercourse and then all of a sudden, without asking or anything, he pulled out and put it in my butt, and came there, which REALLY HURT.

Also, a few months before we broke up, he told me that he is a registered sex offender for having sex with his little sister. I didn't break up with him for that because the way he said it id just sounded like they were "playing doctor" or something similar which I always thought was fairly normal for little kids (they were both pretty young.) After he told me and I didn’t freak out he started acting creepier and creepier, making comments or "jokes" about how he’d like to have sex with little kids. I think he stopped talking about it after I told him I have friends who had lived through that (incl. my best friend who said what happened wasn't that bad) and I didn't find it funny.

What disturbs me is not so much that these things happened to me but the fact that I never questioned him and continued to let it happen. I don't remember ever feeling too bad about it at the time but now it really creeps me out. When I broke up with "Jack" he stalked me and refused to accept we weren’t together any more, and I started having nightmares about him. Meanwhile, I have told only two people about the ways he did not respect my body, “Bob” (we’re not together anymore) and my best friend, and neither of them thinks it was that bad compared to some of the things that have happened to them.

I am wondering what to do now. I am wondering if what he did counts as raping me and if I should tell people I was raped or maybe go to any kind of support group for that—the way the two people I have told reacted, I don’t feel like I should, but I have this hanging over me. I want people to know because I don’t want to be ashamed about it, and I know also that some people are judging me for breaking up with Jack for what they see as no reason. However, I don’t know if they would take me seriously, or if they need to know, or if they would want me to go into any kind of detail, or if it would be dishonest to just tell people I was raped, since some people don’t even consider what happened to me rape and I’m not really sure if I do. (Is there a better word for it?) I wonder if I should tell my parents. While I’ve since moved away and now live with my aunt in another city, they still live a mile and a half away from Jack, and I worry that they’d try to get involved somehow. I wonder if I should file a police report and tell them I was raped, because even though there is no evidence to press charges maybe it would help to get a conviction in case he does the same thing to someone else.

I have been to counseling since then but we talked about other problems and this never came up. I kind of want to forget about it and move on with my life, but once in a while I just can’t stop thinking about it. I am really disturbed that I put up with his crap, and also with some of the things Bob did to me, which were not as bad but still pretty rude and disrespectful. I wonder if I am going to continue having relationships where I am treated badly and not realize it until they are over. That possibility scares me. I feel like I have let myself get used and I don’t want that to ever happen to me again but it is hard for me to know where to draw the line or how to say no—not just with sexual relationships but with friends, family members, people at work, etc.

-------

It's been a little while since I wrote this (I edited a little for clarity just now), and I think just getting it off my chest has helped. I also told my new boyfriend, J, in an email--I sent him the above letter at the end of an email where I described some of the feelings I have been having and what it feels like to keep a secret because of shame. He didn't reply back for a few days and I wondered if I had somehow driven him away by talking about my past. When he did call me he didn't mention it, but he did tell me that he loves me and I'm an amazing person, which makes me feel better because I know he read the email and I think he will support me even if he didn't know what to say (which I wouldn't blame him for, I didn't really know what to say to my friend when she told me she was molested and I don't think I came off as very supportive).

I feel like it is my fault that I let this keep happening to me, nobody wants to hear about it, if I did tell anyone they would either dismiss me like my friends did or overreact and want to know all the details and/or get involved in my ex's life again somehow. Unless he starts harassing me again (like he did after I broke up with him) I don't ever want to deal with him again. I'm not horribly traumatized, mostly disturbed, and I want to put that part of my life behind me. But there are things I just can't stop thinking about, these random times I'm seized with an irrational panic, like what inspired me to write to Go Ask Alice!, the time I was in the shower at home alone and suddenly started crying and gripping my body feeling violated and remembering what happened.

I was reading one of your articles on rape survivors and it says some people move away from the place where they were raped and I am thinking that is maybe one of the reasons I moved. It was a pretty impulsive decision, though I'm now glad I did.

Anyway, I just hope you can help me understand what happened, maybe share your experience, give me some perspective and context to place this in. Thanks so much.

--Ashlee Abjad

Posts: 6 | From: Pacific Northwest, USA | Registered: Mar 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Ashlee: I'd say that absolutely, some of what you are describing here is rape. And by all means, most of what you are describing is sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

In terms of filing a report, because there is no tangible evidence, you're right, you having a case would be difficult, but not impossible. However, if indeed, Jack had a record, you putting something on file could help support another case if he has done or does do this to someone else again. Is that something you feel like you want to do?

In terms of counseling and/or a support group, this is another thing that's all about what you want to do. It is often helpful, and I can see that it would probably be of some help to you with some of what you're feeling. Breaking silence can also help, particularly when you can tell people who will listen, who can help you hold that truth, who will provide you love and support when you tell.

Please know that very often, in any kind of abusive relationship or setting of abuse, people may not know or understand that they are being abused until after-the-fact. Our awareness around what abuse is influences that greatly, as does what our models of healthy relationships and healthy sex have been, but even if we have a good awareness and have had healthy models, people who abuse are often manipulative and seductive. Abuse is one of those things where we'd all like to think we're smart enough or savvy enough not to fall into it, but sometimes it can still happen no matter how smart or wise we are.

I hear your concerns about winding up in this again unknowingly, however, given your experience with this and all you're saying, my feeling is that it's probably less likely than you think. One thing we often learn from abuse, getting out of it, and identifying what it was are a bunch of signs and signals to be on the lookout for, are more finely-honed instincts when it comes to abusers. But you do voice having trouble setting and upholding your boundaries, and that is one area you certainly can work on to help with prevention.

It's very common to feel like abuse is your fault, but that doesn't make it so. Abuse is the abusers fault. By all means, many abusive relationships can become codependent or enabling on the victim's part, but even when that dynamic happens (it tends to be part and parcel of the cycle of abuse)? Still not your fault. And yes, in an environment of abuse, it can feel "normal," however normal -- or, more to the point, healthy -- it isn't.

In terms of your panic, are you familiar with post-traumatic stress? It's very typical with rape and other abuse survivors. We can talk about it some if you're not.

Lastly, I want to say that people deciding what is or isn't abuse based on how "bad" one person's experiences have been compared to theirs isn't sage. For sure, for any of us who have been victimized, there's likely someone or a bunch of someone's who were abused more severely in a given respect, or for longer times, or with more compound abuses (such as sexual abuse plus physical abuse, etc.). However, that's just not a good way to identify abuse or trauma.

So, all of that is a place for us to start. We can talk as much or as little as you like, and we're also more than happy to help connect you with other resources if you like, be it counseling/support groups, books, what have you.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Ashlee Abjad
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First off, thanks so much for replying so soon!

What do you mean when you say "you having a case would be difficult, but not impossible"? From what I've heard, going to trial for being raped is an awful experience and you have to relive everything and defend your character, and I would have no evidence besides my own word. Would it be a similar experience to simply file a report? Would I be expected to provide any evidence or detail? And what would the steps to do that be? If I file a police report, will the police tell anyone else that I did so?

Also, one thing I forgot to mention was that, when he told me he was a registered sex offender, he also admitted he was supposed to have told me before having a relationship with me (which he didn't). Is there any way to make sure his future partners know about his history? (He also violated his probation by using drugs, but I don't know if that's at all relevant.)

On counseling: My college gives free mental health counseling. I have a counselor who I have seen before and I said I'd contact her soon about our next appointment. There is also a women's center, I may check there for support groups.

I don't know if I should tell other people. So far, I have told 3 friends as well as writing to some advice columnists. In particular, I am considering telling my parents, my brother, my relatives that I live with now, my cousin, and some friends at school. I am concerned about telling my mom because she can be very nosy and might ask for details, which I really don't want to give; also, she can be pretty insensitive sometimes when I need support. I am worried to tell my dad because he's very protective and I'm afraid he'll try to get involved somehow e.g. try to contact Jack or his family or pressure me to tell the police. As for my aunt that i live with, she often does not respect that I don't want to talk about something, but I guess that's a good way for me to practice setting my own boundaries. I also worry that she'll tell other people or that she'll want to ask a lot of questions about it. Also, I'm not in a place right now where I want to share a lot of details with my aunt about my personal life right now; we are having some difficulty getting along. For everyone else I just feel I don't know them well enough to bring it up.

How many people should I tell? I knew one girl in high school who announced she had been raped in a class speech about breaking the silence. I really admire that she was willing to take action for what she believed, but I'm not sure I'd want to go so far.

I think you're right about learning from my experience and recognizing the warning signs next time. What can I do to improve the way I uphold my boundaries?

I know it's not my fault. Thank you [Smile] even though I know so in my head, it's good to have a reminder because sometimes I feel otherwise. I feel more like there's so much I could have done to stop it and I didn't.

I have heard of post-traumatic stress and I know a little about it, but any info or resources you could give me would be much appreciated. In particular, I would like some strategies to help deal with my anxiety and panic when it does happen. So far, I have found some positive messages to tell myself that help to calm me down, but it's still a problem for me because I feel very emotionally unstable at times. (I'm going to stop taking my birth control pills at the end of the month because I've heard they cause mood swings, which is something I could use less of. And yes, I do have condoms, and I'm planning to see about a diaphragm next time I see a doctor.) I would like to see some resources and some info on support groups or organizations in my area (Portland).

Thanks so much for being here to help! I really appreciate it.

[ 03-18-2009, 03:10 AM: Message edited by: Ashlee Abjad ]

Posts: 6 | From: Pacific Northwest, USA | Registered: Mar 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Some people do describe going through the justice system with rape that way, and that is the experience of some women. Others find it empowering. It depends a lot on the case, how it's handled, and the individual victim.

However, given it appears this guy violated his parole in more than one way, even a report all by itself -- not a case, which again, you may not have the evidence to support -- may do the trick.

In terms of telling, my personal suggestion would be not to tell anyone you think or know will not be supportive, at least not until you have a couple positive experiences with breaking silence first, and/or a counselor you can talk to for support. I'd start with someone -- just one person -- you feel you can rely on to be supportive and see how that goes. Then you can consider one person at a time, seeing how you feel as you go. Since your family sounds like the least likely to be supportive, I'd hold off with them for the time being.

It's great you're in Portland, because it's going to be pretty easy for you to find some good supports there.

Here's the link for the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Portland, which offers mental health help as well as all kinds of other supports: http://www.sarcoregon.org/rape_services.asp You could also talk to them about the possibility of filing a report (and even get an advocate to go with you if it turns out you want to do that) and what that entails locally. I'd start by calling or seeing someone there: it seems like the best place to start. You could certainly also ask your current counselor for a referral or talk to her. I'm also more than happy to keep talking with you here as an extra support.

Also, if you're interested in trying some alternative therapies for PTSD, I can connect you with my acupuncturist: she's in Portland now, and tends to focus on female patients. She's a wonderful person and an excellent healthcare provider. Her name is Jelena Stefanovic and she's at: http://www.redpeonyhealth.com/

Per post-traumatic stress from rape, here are some links for you:
• http://www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault/post-traumatic-stress-syndrome
• http://www.brokenspirits.com/information/ptsd.asp
• http://www.hopeforhealing.org/ptsd.html
• http://www.pandys.org/escapinghades/ptsd.html

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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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Ashlee Abjad
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Member # 42383

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I'm visiting my parents and brother in my hometown. All day today on the train ride over here I was thinking about this and it was really stressing me out. When I told my mom, she was supportive and understanding (she's a doctor and she was pretty calm and methodical about it, making sure I was ok physically, telling me not to blame myself--a lot of the stuff you've told me) but after a few minutes I was feeling like she was distracted by her work and her computer. I let her go back to that but felt kind of angry about it. And later when I was talking to her about something else and she was distracted again I got really mad and yelled that she didn't care about me and that my whole life she's had no problem taking away things I care about but she won't pay attention to me.

Then a few minutes later I was talking to my brother and started crying out of the blue. He asked what was wrong and I told him everything basically and what had happened with my mom, and my dad overheard and so I repeated it for him. Both of them were really supportive and they made me feel much better. I had been feeling pretty awful after what happened with my mom.

My dad went to the store for a few minutes and I told my brother more about how I felt. Then my dad came back and I went on an errand with him. I came back and apologized to my mom. I know she's really stressed out and I feel bad for yelling but at the time I was just feeling really empty and needy and wished she would listen to me. But I realized I wasn't very clear about that at all and she might have misunderstood me.

I feel much better after having told them. But right after I told my mom I was having this feeling like I was thinking all day today, that what happened to me doesn't really count as rape. My best friend, who I talk to about pretty much everything, is the one who said "it's not that bad" when I told her a long time ago. I don't know if she didn't understand what I said or if she really doesn't think that is that bad but I think if I am going to feel any kind of closure on this I will have to give it a name and not wonder if I was raped because now I'm sure I was. I just hope she can understand. I feel closer to her than to any other person but like any relationship there's a little tension between us. Is there any point in trying to talk to her about it again, do you think?

Yesterday I was hanging out with my ex, Bob (we're now talking as friends) and he's been really great and supportive recently even though there was one time when he said of what happened to me "at least it's not as bad as being raped." To which I said "but what else is it?" I think though the reason why he said that is that he was raped in a way which was much more violent and traumatic for him and even though I don't agree with what he said I think I understand, that he was being self-centered momentarily since he is still having a hard time figuring things out for himself and coming to terms with what happened. I think at this point he understands that it doesn't matter who suffered worse and I feel really good that i can talk to him.

Thanks for the resources. I put the SARC number in my phone and will probably call them sometime in the next week. I also signed up to volunteer on their website, because I think helping other people will help me to feel less helpless. (even if it's something not so emotionally charged like working in the office.) I haven't looked much at the other links but I'll do that later 'cause right now I'm feeling pretty good and I want to go relax.

I'm going on a trip with my mom for the next week and a half, to visit colleges. I was worried that I would be carrying this tension with me all that time but now I've told her I feel much more hopeful about the whole thing.

Thank you so much for your help!

Posts: 6 | From: Pacific Northwest, USA | Registered: Mar 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Ashlee, I'm glad that breaking your silence went -- overall -- so well and that you are feeling better. I'm also glad you've connected with SARC. I hope that helps, too.

I think talking to your best friend again sounds like a good idea, and like something you need.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
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

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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