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Author Topic: Girlfriend Raped
erehwon
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Hi,

I think this is tough question with probably no good answers, but I thought I would give it a try.

I've been with my girlfriend for almost 4 months now. She's awesome and we have a lot in common. We've started having sex and that's going great. I'm not very experienced but she's very accepting and really patient with me. The first few times we tried to have sex, it didn't go so well because I was very nervous and kept losing my erection right before we would try. She was very nice about it and we just did different things besides intercourse. I'm not as nervous as I was at first, but I'm still a bit nervous and was getting less so... that is up until now.

I've been away from where we live and on the phone she told me that a long time ago she was raped by someone she knew at school. She didn't report it. I did my best to listen to the story, but she was crying on the phone while telling me and I didn't understand everything she was saying through the tears. The story was long and confusing.

All I could do was listen, but I didn't know what to say to make it better for her. I suggested she see a counselor because I told her that as much as I want to help her, I just don't know what to say or do. I feel terrible not being able to help her and right now I'm not even there to hold her hand.

I'm also a little scared of what to do when I get back. On one hand I don't want to treat her any differently with regards to sex because I still think she's awesome and this doesn't change how I feel about her. On the other hand, I don't want to do anything sexually that would remind her of a bad experience. Now I'm feeling like I'm back to being nervous about sex with her. Not because I'm not interested in her sexually, but because I'm... well... really scared of triggering some bad memory. If I'm too nervous and lose my erection, I don't want her to think it's because I think something's wrong with her now that she told me this.

I was wondering if you could provide any help on what to say or do to help her? It took a lot of courage for her to tell me and I think I'm the only one she's told and that's a lot of pressure. I feel like I'm going behind her back just posting this here, but I don't know what else to do.

I would go with her if that would help, but she didn't sound like she wanted to go to a counselor at all and she said it was too long ago to be much help. Would it be appropriate for me to see a counselor so I can figure out what I should say or do? If I did, should I tell her I'm going or keep it a secret? I don't want to betray her trust in me.

I know it's a long shot, but if you could help us both, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks.

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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Oh erehwon this sounds like a really tough thing for you,

I hope you realise how fantastic you are for thinking so carefully about all of these issues, your own feelings and hers and also the effects that your sex-life might have on her, in light of her experiences. It's really worth realising that your girlfriend likely cares about you and importantly trusts you a lot a lot to have shared those experiences with you, having exposed herself to you so emotionally. I'm really happy to think that you guys have each-other.

It's also worth you remembering that, you have both already been able to make big steps together through things you both might have found a lot more difficult, like not having erections when you might have wanted them and worked around that creatively to enjoy sex. Furthermore if she is someone who suffers triggers during sex, then sex must have been scary for her and yet you were someone who understood what it was to have your own insecurities and who she might have already known she would feel comfortable talking to about her rape.

I would imagine, but I can't know, that as she decided to tell you this that she will be even more comfortable with you in sex. You might want to ask her if there's anything that definitely triggers her, and check with her that she's enjoying the sex you're enjoying, but these are maybe things you're doing already, or that it is a good idea to do anyway. However your own nerves aren't something you can plan for, so perhaps it's better not to plan that part at all. Just see what happens, see if sex is even likely to happen next time you see each other.

Given all of that, I think it's important you acknowledge to yourself and to her that this is what you can offer her. It's right to say you can't be a counselor, but you can be a supportive boyfriend, and all that really means is caring, listening and thinking. I would say this is what you've done in spades. Telling her that's what you want to be for her and continuing to be present isn't a small thing.

Resilience in my opinion, also, is not about being unaffected by things. It can take a lot of strength to be a survivor of sexual violence and a lot of strength to open yourself into trust with a new partner you care about. It also takes a lot of strength to be a good listener and to be open to working on our problems. It takes a lot of strength from both of you to decide to work your sex lives, instead of ignore issues miserably. My thought is that whatever issues you might come across in your sex lives you guys will stand a much better chance of being able to work through them than half the people out there.

You do sound very un-confident about what you give to the relationship. I'm thinking there is something you can work on with yourself in that department, it may be that you're just a very careful person, but I think you can learn to be that and feel as confident about yourself as I think you deserve to be. There's probably stuff you can do to help with that!

It also sounds to me that you guys have been focused on making sex work, which obviously is important to you but I think it's also important that sex doesn't just work, but that it works for you, and for your pleasure, enjoyment, joy and fun. You're processing emotional stuff here and you're being mindful, but there is a level where you don't need permission to let go a little of yourself and really enjoy yourself. That would be a really cool thing to aim for and something you both deserve. It's maybe already happening, but you didn't mention it but if so it is good to acknowledge that pleasure. It is what sex in my opinion should be about!

Your relationship also seems like a cool thing, though as a note I feel like it's also also important to say that you do get to both change that relationship over time. I think that keeping yourselves open to that is a really important part of making sure that what sounds like a good thing you're giving each-other, doesn't become something either of you have to depend on, but rather is used to gain more independence, self-acceptance and confidence which bring their own rewards inside a relationship and outside of it.

My best wishes erehwon!

[ 10-26-2012, 06:41 AM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]

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erehwon
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Hi Jacob,

I am a very careful person and tend to do everything very slowly if I'm unsure. I think I've always been that way. My mom said I would even watch the other kids on the playground for a while before I would slowly join in, so I guess this is just me. I just think about things a lot before doing them, I don't think it's a bad thing.

She did describe some specific things that happend that I shouldn't do, so of course I will avoid those things. She said that she liked that I was never pushy with her, unlike some of her past boyfriends. I did tell her that I was a bit nervous again given what happened. As always, she sounded very understanding and commented that she could see how this could be difficult for me too. I did mention she's awesome didn't I?

I don't think I'm unconfident about the relationship. I'm very confident about that, including sex in general. She's at least a 100 times better than any girlfriend I've had before. It's really the intercourse part that while enjoyable, is for some reason more difficult for me. I was just starting to get more comfortable with it and enjoying it more as my nerves were calming down.

I had a previous girlfriend and I had a similar problem, but she wasn't very understanding. Then she broke up with me and didn't tell me why. All I got was a txt msg that she didn't want to see me and refused to talk about it. So obviously this didn't help my confidence. I warned my current girlfriend about this so I think that's why she's been understanding without feeling like it was her fault.

I told her that if she ever felt I had triggered a bad memory she could tell me and we would just stop everything. I suggested maybe she could practice telling me to stop so we could both feel more confortable. Her being able to know I'll stop at any time she needs and that I know she'll stop me if I've done something to trigger a bad memory.

*** Would it be helpful for me to see a counselor even if she doesn't want to go with me?

I'm not concerned about my losing erections, I got over that before so I'm sure even if it happens again I can get past it with patience. I just don't want her to think she shouldn't have told me. She said she feels guilty about what happened to her. I told her repeatedly that he's the one that should feel guilty and not her, but I don't think I convinced her.

I certainly don't want to add to her guilt by thinking she made things worse for me. She already knows I'm concerned about triggering a bad memory but when I get back, I'm going to tell her all this again in person.

*** If I did see a counselor, should I tell her I'm going or keep it a secret? I don't want to betray her trust in me but she probably doesn't want me to tell anyone what happened. I may have gone too far already on here.

Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

I have a week before I return home so no rush on an answer.

Thanks again.

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erehwon
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I should mention, I'm aware that her telling me does mean that she she really trusts me and that she must care deeply for me. That's a big part of why I'm nervous and really don't want to blow this, especially with her.
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Robin Lee
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Hi erehwon and a warm welcome for you to Scarleteen.

It's unlikely, with everything you've said here, that you're going to blow this with any of your actions. One thing that you said above really jumped out at me as an indication of your perceptiveness and thoughtfulness, and that was your suggestion to her that the two of you practice having her tell you to stop. It's a lot easier to remember that it's okay to ask a partner to stop when one is upset or triggered by something if one has asked before and gotten positive results.

You know, it really is okay for intercourse to be a bit of a challenge for you. Quite often people talk about intercourse as being automatic for guys, without acknowledging that bodies and emotions play into it just as much for guys as they do for women. It sonuds like you and your girlfriend already have a good precedent for not making a big deal out of intercourse not working and just doing other sexual activities instead.

It sounds like you've done this already, but in case you haven't said it specifically, it's perfectly okay for you to tell your girlfriend that you're having a lot of feelings about what she shared with you, and that you're thinking you might have difficulty with erections again. Would you feel less anxious about the prospect of having trouble with that if you let her know ahead of time?

As to counselling, do you feel like counselling would help you? If so, then it's absolutely appropriate for you to seek it for yourself. In the spirit of honesty though, you really do need to tell your girlfriend what you're doing. You can explain that it's for you, to help you deal with this, and to help you know how to help her.

I'm not sure if you know this, but there are places that specifically help people who have experienced rape or sexual assault, and they also provide support for their loved ones. If you'd like to learn more about these resources, we can give you more information.

There are also a lot of books that have been written for survivors of sexual assault. You could read some of those, and, if you felt like you wanted to do something to hel your girlfriend, you could share them with her, letting her know that it's her choice whether she'd like to read them or not.

You've talked a lot here about being worried about what happens when you see your girlfriend again. Do you want to talk some more about how you're feeling after hearing about the rape? It can be tough to hear that from someone one loves, and we'd be happy to listen if you'd like to talk about those feelings.

--------------------
Robin

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erehwon
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Hi Robin,

I'm not sure if a counselor could help me, but I'd be willing to try and see. I would certainly go if she wanted.

Thanks for the advice on telling her if I go myself. I think your're right that I should tell her if I decide to go. I also think she should be able to tell me I shouldn't go if she doesn't like me talking about it. I don't see any point if I can't talk about it. It's more important that she's okay with it. I'm not the one that had the bad thing happen.

I'm confused as to why she feels guilty. That's probably the biggest thing I'm wondering about. She described what happened. I'm a little hesitant to describe details of what happened as it's personal, but also it's not very clear to me. The phone connection was terrible and she was crying and it was a complicated story, so it was hard to understand for many reasons. I did get the basic story though.

She seemed to be concerned about the clothes she was wearing and how she didn't say 'No' until things were further along than she wanted. It wasn't a stranger who just attacked her. It was more like an escalation she couldn't control. She was saying how she should have never opened the door to let him in to her place, should have worn less revealing clothes, shouldn't have let him kiss her, ... etc. She had to see him in school and he acted like nothing had happened at all.

She seemed to be putting the problem on herself for what she did instead of blaming him for what he did and him not taking 'No' or 'stop' for an answer. That is just confusing for me to understand and frustrating to hear.

As she was telling me I just had this feeling I wanted to go back in time and stop the whole thing from starting in the first place. For some reason I was feeling guilty. In some ways because I wasn't there to protect her while she's telling me what happened. But also a little gulity for being a guy, like I'm part of a group of people that would do that. I'm sure that makes no sense to you, but that's what I was feeling. I'm much better now, but at the time it was hard to hear.

Thanks for the advice. I'll suggest again carefully that I would support her if she decided to see a counselor. I'll offer to go with her if she thinks that would help. Otherwise, I'm just going to hold her hand and tell her that I'm there for her whatever she wants.

If she wants to practice saying "no" to me, I'm good with that too. Sounds like you don't think this is a crazy idea. I'd like to know myself that she can say 'No' to me and not be angry with me for having done something that triggered a bad memory. Maybe that will help me be less paranoid about the whole thing.

Thanks for the advice.

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erehwon
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Forgot to answer your question... she already knows I might have trouble having a erection again. We're both very happy doing other things that work better anyway. I especially like giving her oral and she says she likes that best too, so that works out perfect for us.

She seems to think I should want to have intercourse as being better than other sex, but I keep telling her that while I like having intercourse with her, I'm actually very happy with not doing that too. Again, she doesn't seem to quite believe me, like I'm just saying that for her benefit, which isn't true.

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erehwon
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Oh, yes, if there's resources for people that want to help someone they love that has been raped, please share them. I would really appreciate that. If you have resources to help the person that was raped, I can pass those to her. Those would both be awesome.
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Robin Lee
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Hi there,

No, I don't think the practicing saying no or stop is a crazy idea at all. In fact, I think it's a very good idea and it's one of the things I would suggest if someone asked me hwo they could feel safe or help their partner feel safe in a consensual relationship.

Goodness, it's gotta be so tough hearing her blame herself. There's so much societal blame in our culture. Somehow, we have ended up with a culture that, more times than not, subtly or blatantly blames rape victims rather than rapists.

Also, you mentinoed that it wasn't a stranger who raped her. Many rapes are committed by people known to the victim, so this is not unusual. Unfortunately, again, society still has this picture of rape as being something that happens in a totally unpreventable way by a stranger.

What I'm trying to say, and not very well, is that your girlfriend has probably heard a lot of messages about what people being raped are "supposed" to do. The reality is very different, much more complex, and often when people find themselves in a physically threatening, fear-inducing situation, their instinct is to freeze, not to scream or fight.

It does make sense to me that you would have felt that strong sense of guilt. You clearly care for your girlfriend very much,and you very much wish she hadn't been hurt that way.

really, you being supportive of her wil be very helpful. As Counselling isn't her only option for help. As I mentioned above, there are many books written to help survivors of rape. We'd be happy to suggest any of those to you.

If it's helpful to you to talk through this, we can keep doing so. I'm headed out for a few hours, but will be back later in the afternoon/early evening and we can certainly talk more then.

--------------------
Robin

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Robin Lee
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HI erehwon,

Just wanted to let you know that I'll be around for the evening if you'd like to talk about anything around this.

--------------------
Robin

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erehwon
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I'm out most of tonight with my family. I'm okay but thanks for the offer to talk. If you have any resources or books to suggest that would we awesome. I could get them for her as a gift for when I get back.

Thanks again.

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Robin Lee
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You're very welcome. I will post some resources for you tomorrow. [Smile]

--------------------
Robin

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Robin Lee
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HI erehwon,

Here are some resources for you.

First, a site where you can search for sexual assault centers in your area. Most centers offer support and resources for loved ones of sexual assault survivors as well as for survivors themselves, including providing a free, confidential crisis and support hotline.
http://centers.rainn.org/

Here are some book titles to look up. I'd suggest, if you're going to get these for your girlfriend, that you let her know it's okay if she doesn't want them, so she doesn't feel obligated to take something she's not interested in or ready for.

Invisible Girls: The Truth about Sexual Abuse by Patti Feuereisen Ph.D. and Caroline Pincus
The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz
It Happend to Me: A Teen's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Abuse by William Lee Carter

Please let us know if you need any more information, or even a virtual ear to listen.

--------------------
Robin

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erehwon
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Hi Robin,

Thank you for the info. I will offer to buy her one of the books you suggest, but only if she wants. I visited the rainn site and read a lot of stuff there as well as other sites. After a lot of thought, here's my plan for when I get back home.

I'm going to sit down with her in a private place, hold her hand, and tell her how much I appreciate her trust in telling me about her being raped. I wrote a list of promises I would like to make to her and then read them to her one by one.

If you allow, I would like to make the following promises to you:

- I will stop if you tell me to stop.
- I will stop and check in with you if I feel you are not enjoying what we are doing sexually.
- I will listen and not judge you if you decide you want to tell me anything about being raped.
- I will view you as a survivor and not as a broken victim.
- I will support any decision you make on how to best to heal.
- I will never push you to heal faster than you feel comfortable, no matter how long it takes.
- I will support you if you choose to see a counselor or choose to not see a counselor.
- I will come with you if you choose to see a counselor and only if you want me to come with you.
- I will never push you to do anything you don't want to do to heal.

- All these promises I make are good 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for as long as you want.

I will then give her these promises in writing to keep.

I will also offer to practice us both saying 'No' or 'Stop' if she wants.

If you would like to suggest anything I could add or should remove, I would appreciate the suggestion. Otherwise, this is what I plan to do.

Thanks for listening. I appreciate it and please wish me luck.

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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It sounds really good to me erehwon!

I even feel like saving that list and sharing it with other people who might need it! Would that be ok?

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Robin Lee
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HI erehwon,

No, there's nothing I would suggest adding to that.

And I want to share with you that I'm moved beyond words by how much you care for your girlfriend and how dedicated you are to rolling with the punches in this relationship and going out and learning things when you don't know them.

--------------------
Robin

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erehwon
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If it helps anyone else to share my list, please do. That would make me very happy.

Thanks again for all the help. :-)

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Robin Lee
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You're most welcome. [Smile]

And we're always here if you need something additional.

--------------------
Robin

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erehwon
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Hi, Back with a follow up...

So I got back and I gave my girlfriend the list of promises I made to her. She seemed very touched. She was having trouble doing anything with me sexual for a few weeks, including kissing. I told her this was fine. Then she said she wanted to take a week off doing anything sexual, saying she was too stressed. I told her I didn't really like the idea of putting a time limit on it. If she's not feeling sexual, then that was okay as is, day by day, no matter how long it took. I asked why a week and why things would be different then.

Apparently that was the wrong thing to say because it set her off. So I instead backed off and agreed, despite my reservations about a time limit.

Before the week was up, she called me and said she wanted me to come over and have sex. So I did. However, it's an hour away and by the time I got there she said she lost interest but she just wanted me to spend the night.

After a another week, she said she wanted to have sex with me again, however, I was pretty nervous and I couldn't get an erection. So instead we did other things. I was fine with this, but she wasn't. We talked afterwards and she said she was upset that I couldn't "make love" with her. She claims it because of the condom and wants me to do without it.

I told her until we both get tested after being monogamous for 3 months (I think 3 months is correct?), we should continue to use condoms. We've been together nearly 5 months, so I'm all up for testing, but she's reluctant. She said it's because of cost of testing. The best I could find was a little over $100 each at the county health clinic.

I tried to tell her that I'm nervous and her pressure about how important it is to "make love" doesn't help. Also, I'm fine with what we have right now (manual and oral), but she's not. She said either it's important to have sex (meaning penis in vagina) or it's not important and that I have to choose. I'm not sure what she means by this, but clearly she didn't want to explain that to me because talking about it was making her mad.

This is all very upsetting for me. I want "make love", but she seems to be losing her patience with me. I'm okay when she's not being consistent with her desire to have sex, but it's making a bad situation worse for me to maintain an erection since I'm constantly wondering if she's really okay when she's not very calm about it when I don't have an erection. She gets mad and then gives up. She was much better about this before I learned about her rape, and I don't know if they are related.

- Is there a cheaper alternative to tests?
- The cost is based on the number of things tested, what is the minimum recommended set of tests that should be done?
- Is there a quick way to know which is the correct end of the condom in the dark? It's not easy to tell without looking carefully.
- Any other advice to help?

Thanks.

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Heather
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You know, it sounds like some of the issue here is that she's expecting whatever kind of sex she wants on demand. And that's not something a partner can ask for or expect in a sexual relationship that's healthy for everyone in it.

So, whatever you decide about condoms and testing, it sounds to me like you two need to have some big talks about this core issue first. Just like she gets to say no when she doesn't want to, just like she'll have times when her body isn't compliant with things you want, you get the same liberties and rights.

And who knows if this is about her sexual assault or not. It might be, it might not be. Only she can likely know that, if she does. But it does need to get talked about, because her getting mad at you when she can't get the sex she wants isn't okay: that's actually unhealthy and possibly even abusive on her part.

You're clearly making a lot of room and effort to assure this relationship is healthy for her in terms of sex: the very least she needs to do for you likewise is bare minimums like this.

If $100 is the cost via your public healthcare center, that's likely the cheapest near you. But you can certainly call into that office and ask if they know about alternatives.

With what tests are suggested, that really has to do with a person's sexual health history. But, if you or she have engaged (consensually or not) in vaginal or anal intercourse, then a full panel is the usual suggestion.

When dealing with condoms and the dark, really, you just want to switch a light on for a sec. Or wear a headlamp. [Razz]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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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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erehwon
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Thanks. I think I'll wait until she calms down to talk about it. She was too upset to rationally talk about it. I think I should just avoid being sexual with her until she has calmed down. I don't like talking with anyone who raises their voice because of their frustration. I know I get frustrated too, so it's not like I don't understand. It's just that I can't make my penis work on demand. I simply don't work that way. I guess I'm just not like most guys apparently. I wish I could just throw a switch and make everything work.

I have some old condoms I was going to throw away, so I'll practice with those to see if I can get better at it. Might as well not waste them.

I am a little concerned about her. I can't tell if this is related to her being raped or not. She seems to be swinging back and forth about what she wants. One day she's telling me that I should be okay with being patient, like I was pressuring her when I wasn't. Then turning around and pressuring me the very next week. Something's not right here.

I'm also confused as to why she's not happy with just oral sex. I've asked her but she doesn't really explain it. Something about real sex being better, which just sounds like nonsense to me. I don't understand why oral sex isn't really sex. To me, kissing is sex, so long as it's not the kind of kiss my grandmother gives if that makes any sense.

She said it's almost impossible for her to have an orgasm from anything but oral and since I enjoy doing that more than intercourse anyway, I'm confused as to the problem here and why she's not just happy with that.

I think deep down inside she's a very nice person. I really do want to "Make Love" with her and make her happy. I can easily get an erection with a condom on during a handjob, so I really don't think it has anything to do with the condom aside from the pause and fumbling.

Regardless, I'm starting to think I should just avoid sex until she is willing to talk calmly. I need some time to calm down too.

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Heather
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Actually, you ARE like most people with penises. And most people with vulvas, too. Few people, especially over time, have genitals that work "on demand" when it comes to sex. especially in environments where there is anger, anxiety or pressure. Those things are often instant shutdowns for people's sexual response most of the time.

I'd go ahead, for now, and assume this isn't related to her sexual assault. because really, people can and do beahve like she is who haven't been assaulted.

If, in talking about it, SHE feels it's related to the assault, then I'd take her at her word. But it really sounds to me like this is probably something separate, and maybe about bigger issues. And whether it's about the assault or not, her pressuring you for sex or sexual performance isn't okay.

For instance, you say you think that deep down, she's a nice person. Do you say that because generally, on the surface, and in her behavior, sexually or otherwise, she isn't?

I think the idea of taking any kind of sex off the table for a while sounds like a good one. Clearly, the two of you have some very big issues to talk about and resolve before your sexual relationship can be a healthy one.

Incidentally, has she ever had any kind of counseling or other professional help post-assault?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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Just in case it's not clear, and because I'm concerned about you, I also want to state what is likely the obvious:

That's that it doesn't help a rape survivor for anyone to enable to suffer through any abusive behavior coming from THEM.

In other words, she's not helped by you treating her any differently than you would anyone else who was sexually pressuring you or getting angry with you about sex she wants on demand, okay?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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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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erehwon
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She never got counseling. It was a boyfriend of someone she knew. They were messing around and she felt guilty for doing that to begin with, so when he didn't stop when she said, she didn't feel right talking about it with anyone until me. I would say she should see a counselor, but she has to decide that for herself. I explained it better earlier.

She made a small mistake with kissing her friend's boyfriend, but that doesn't make what he did okay. It just made her doubly afraid to speak up which is much worse imho than if it was a stranger. Then at least she wouldn't be blaming herself
for something he did.

She seems to get upset easily. Sometimes it comes out in tears, sometimes in anger. She simply has trouble controlling her emotions. That's what I mean. Usually she's very nice, but she has her moments and then apologizes later.

I usually try and calmly wait for her to finish an outburst. I'm thinking next time I should just walk away and see if that works better. She's unpleasant to be around when she has an outburst. They seem to come on without warning or reason.

Thanks for the encouragement about not having to be sexual on demand. It sometimes feels like that's what's expected being a guy. Maybe women feel the same too?

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erehwon
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Ok. Got it. If she pressures me, it is a good thing to just stop everything. I'll do that.

That wasn't clear, but probably should have been. Thanks.

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Robin Lee
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As Heather said, anyone pressuring us into kinds of sex we aren't interested in or treating us in any way we don't like, for any reason, we ccan say "no", or "not now" or "now like that". That doesn't just go for preventing rape but also for treating people well with whom we're in a relationship.

What do you think about talking to your girlfriend about how her sudden outbursts make you feel?

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Robin

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erehwon
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I should find a way to do that. The problem is she has an outburst and she's so emotional that talking doesn't work. Then sometime while she's acting up she apologizes for acting that way. So I forgive her and we are back to the same place.

I've been sitting quietly while she is having a outburst and waiting for her to calm down. It usually only goes on for a few minutes, but it's a really unpleasant few minutes.

Maybe I should try waiting for the apology and her to calm down before I say I don't like what's she's doing. She knows what she's doing isn't okay and makes me upset or she wouldn't apologize, right? Maybe it's a good idea to say it myself anyway?

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Robin Lee
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When we have difficult things to talk about, it's usually helpful to talk about them when they're not happening. So, I would actually suggest that if you want to talk with her about it you find a time far away from one of her outbursts so both of you can discuss it objectively. What do you think?

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Robin

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erehwon
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I think it's best to do right after the outburst is over. If I do it at a much later time, then it will sound like I'm just bringing up an old argument. I think I can better deal with it right afterwards. That will be more difficult for me since I'll be upset, but I don't like the idea of accepting an apology and then bringing it up later. I try hard to let things go and not dwell on past mistakes that are done and gone. IMHO

Does this seem okay to you?

I think Heather is right in that I shouldn't give her any passes because it's possible due to the rape. Even if it is, it's still not right to treat me badly. Besides, I don't know if the two are related at all. I was being extra understanding because I thought the two were related, but that's a bad assumption. I'm going to act like they are unrelated until I know otherwise, and even then it doesn't mean I should allow it to continue.

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Robin Lee
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Nodding. I absolutely hear what you're saying. What I'm wondering is if it might be easier for the two of you to talk about it objectively--talk about ways to prevent it in future, other supports she can get to help her with the emotional ups and downs she's having, etc--when you're both not feeling as emotional from the outburst itself. That's why I suggested bringing it up, just as one might bring up any sort of ongoing problem or point of discussion, at a time when you're both calm and can talk about it.

In other words, when your girlfriend apologizes to you, and you tell her it's okay, are you both going to then be in an emotional state where you're going to want to talk about it more at that time? I don't know either of you, so I really can't say whether you will be or not. [Smile]

I agree that you don't want to give her any passes. what I would suggest is that if she refuses to talk about it beyond apologizing to you, that that might be the time to say that it's okay if the two of you don't talk about it right then, but it is something you'll need to talk about when you're both feeling calm.

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Robin

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erehwon
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That seems reasonable and I'll do that. I'm just going to tell her that it upsets me when she has those outbursts and see if she wants to talk about it then. If not, I'll let it go and say we can talk about it later. If it happens a second time before we talk, then I'll have to be more insistent.

I think you have a good suggestion. Thanks.

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erehwon
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Just a follow up, in case someone wants to read this...

My gf and I got into a fight. Basically we were talking and she started to talk about rape in general for some reason (not sure why she started talking about it). During the discussion it came up about legal stuff and for some stupid reason said that someone could be accused of rape and still be innocent. She disagreed claiming that even if someone could prove they were nowhere near when it happened, like being at a party, that just means they have friends that are liars.

I tried to change the subject, but she wouldn't let it go. After more talking, she said I didn't know what I was talking about and I shouldn't talk about rape since I don't know anything about it. So I said that if I couldn't talk about it but she could, then maybe she shouldn't talk about it at all unless it's with a counselor who knows something, because clearly I don't. She got very upset and didn't talk to me for a few days. I tried to talk to her, but she refused and said she didn't want to talk to me at all.

After I couldn't take it any more, I told her I was going to break up with her because I can't be in a relationship with someone that won't talk to me. She started crying and said she didn't want to break up and she would go with me to a counselor.

Not sure if I just made things a lot worse by forcing the issue, but there you have it. I guess we're going to see a counselor together. Not sure if this is a good idea or not.

Really all this is FYI. I'm just so annoyed I had to vent.

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Heather
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Hey, erewhon, it's good to hear from you.

I'm sorry, though, that this is why you're here.

I really keep getting the impression that it just might be too soon for your girlfriend to be in an intimate relationship after her assault. Ultimately, she's the best expert on that, not me, since I can't know her own mind and healing journey, but it just keeps sounding that way.

On the whole, relationship counseling isn't something most counselors will suggest for young, unmarried couples in brand-new relationships like this. It's very expensive, so most can't afford it anyway, but when there are high levels of conflict in early relationships, especially those that have only even been going on for a few months, rather than for years, like this, what's instead usually advised is for the couple to separate. Often, young, new couples in constant conflict are because they're just not compatible, or are still learning general intimate relationship skills. As well, even getting to something like counseling this soon can suggest a way faster escalation of the relationship than is sound is going on: in other words, that the relationship isn't a healthy one, period.

But if this is something you two both want and can afford, and someone is willing to see you, then obviously it's something you can choose. However, if she still hasn't sought out counseling for herself, it seems more and more essential. And chances are, if she hasn't, no counselor who'd see you both as a couple would continue to do so if she doesn't get her own counseling.

One thing I think you'll need to know, though, if you are going to stay in this, is that if and when you're dating a survivor, it's not okay to tell them about THEIR rape or their feelings about their rape. And if they say it's something they just can't talk about, then that needs to be respected.

But it doesn't sound like that was what is going on here: it sounds like she's saying you don't get to talk about it, period. And that really isn't okay. She CAN say it's just not something she feels able to talk about with you, but then she has to honor that herself, too. Like we've talked about with you before, your partner needs to recognize your personhood as much as you do hers. If she doesn't want another person in her intimate life, she needs to choose not to have one there. What's not healthy is okay is for her to choose to have a partner, but treat that person like a second-class citizen.

It sounds like she's just not able to talk about rape, even in general, with you (maybe anyone, I don't know) right now without it being very painful and very loaded for her right now. So, at the very least, if you're going to stay together, I'd put in a vote to simply be the person to exempt yourself from the subject if she chooses to bring it up again, making clear that it just doesn't seem like it's yet something emotionally safe for the two of you to be talking about for the time being.

Can I ask you why you want to stay in this relationship? In other words, it keeps sounding like most often, it's making the two of you unhappy, rather than happy, and like you are disconnected much more often than you really connect.

[ 12-11-2012, 05:59 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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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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erehwon
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The talk wasn't about her rape, but for some reason rape in general. I didn't start the conversation. I was annoyed because whatever I said was "wrong" and I didn't know anything. I tried to stop the conversation because it was clearly going way out of line, but she wouldn't stop. Then she said I couldn't talk about rape, not the other way around. So I got even more annoyed and said that if I couldn't talk about it, then I didn't want talk about rape at all, unless it was with a counselor who knows something about it. It was like being lectured to about something I did wrong when I didn't want to talk at all about it.

I'm not sure I do want to stay in the relationship. I do like her in general. She's funny, smart and very pretty. We have a lot in common and like many similar things. I was liking the sex we were having until she told me about her rape. Not because I thought she did anything wrong, but because everything I do isn't okay. Have sex, not good. Not have sex, not good. I have no idea what she wants and now I'm not sure what I want either.

I already told her I'm not having sex anymore with her. I'm not sure what that means. Maybe we're just friends now? I'm basically confused. I don't want to hurt her, but I'm not going to put up with being told I can't talk about something she brings up. I feel very much like a "second-class" citizen.

You may be right that we can't afford counseling, but I promised I would go with her. We do have an appointment for Thursday, but it's some kind of free meeting. They claimed they have a sliding scale, so I'll see what that means.

This whole thing sucks. I guess I have to be prepared to be told to not be in the relationship by the counselor. Thanks. Being friends may be best anyway, but I don't think she's going to like hearing that.

I'm just trying to take one day at a time. This is all very confusing.

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Heather
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I've no doubt it is. Just so we're clear, from everything you have posted here about this relationship so far, from where I'm sitting, it's looked like you really haven't done anything wrong here, and have made a LOT of effort to do the very best you can by this person and in this relationship. I don't see anything for you to feel bad about in terms of your own actions here: I really don't.

It sounds like her outbursts of anger at you, which we were talking about the last time you were here, have continued. It also sounds like she still really, really has her own work to do -- probably plenty in healing from her rape, but I suspect she's got some other issues to work on as well, that this isn't just about her being a survivor -- and hasn't done any of that yet. I'm also troubled that when you said you wanted a breakup, it sounds like you were manipulated out of that, and that's really not okay.

However, maybe this appointment with a counselor is a blessing in disguise. That space might be one where you can voice so many of the things you have tried to with someone mediating, and with someone to put a stop on any outbursts of anger from her unto you, or attempts to control or manipulate you. As well, if there are things she doesn't like hearing, there will be someone else there for some of her feelings to go to, rather than just unto you.

But I would suggest being as honest there as you possibly can, like you have here. I'd also suggest that before then, you take some time for yourself and really think about what YOU want and need, including what kind of intimate relationship you really want, and if this seems at all in alignment with that. I'd evaluate what you really are or are not getting from this, and how it's going, in reality, rather than in wishes. And I'd also really try and think about if this is even a healthy relationship: my continued concern is that it doesn't look like it has been to me, at all. I feel like it sounds like there's been verbal and emotional abuse happening to you from this person.

If you haven't looked through this already, it might help you in that thought process: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

--------------------
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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