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Author Topic: tools for rape and abuse survivors
Heather
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A lot of the posts in this area of the boards are about rape and abuse. In fact, the largest thread we've always had at Scarleteen, sadly, is for rape and abuse survivors.

But rather than talking about our abuse, let's perhaps share our SURVIVAL.

That's usually a long process for a survivor, but most of us do have things we do and cultivate when we have rough patches, flashbacks, or are dealing with issues related to our abuse.

* * *
Some things that have always helped me are:
• Community -- fostering friendships and discussions with other survivors in any stage of survival, so we can share common experiences and provide one another support. Having a strong feminist community is also a big help.

• Being creative. I've worked out a lot of stuff through writing, music and visual art. The arts manage to be both an outlet and a distraction for me a lot of the time, and a really great way for me to examine my own issues in new contexts.

• Being proactive. Doing work which I know either helps other survivors, or enables a culture in which people are less likely to BE victimized is probably the single biggest comfort, and most healing activity I have found.

• Refusing silence. Getting to a point in my life where I not only refused to be silent about being a survivor, but where I refused to see rape as a dirty word, as something only to be whispered about was a huge stepping stone for me. I had a horrendous experience in college in 1990 when, in a small discussion class in women's studies, where we were talking about rape, I confessed to having been raped, and no one else in the class had been or would fess up to it, so I sat there for almost two hours having my brain picked apart, which was a horrendous invasion. Took me a long time after that to stop clamming up, and to learn, instead, to simply create boundaries when I talked about my abuse or about abuse in general.

• Solid sexual boundaries and a sex life all about reciprocation. Being able to state clearly that I will not tolerate one-sided sexual relationships, and toss out those that were made a big difference for me, as those -- not surprisingly, because they can be very rapey -- often triggered rape issues for me. Also making clear what my sexual triggers are, very forwardly, even with brand new or casual partners, helps. It took me a while to stop feeling, again, like I needed to be careful which partners I told, when, in fact, sex is already such intimacy and to boot, most peple who sleep with women should be well aware a great many of us have abuse history, but I got over that. As well, learning to refuse to EVER have partnered sex out of obligation was gargantuan: everyone always has their own hands, and intimacy between people can be had physically in ways other than sex when it's wanted.

• Loving my own body, for real, as-is. I think when we exprience very overt and direct hatred of our bodies -- as rape is -- it's all the more important we learn to love them, provide the things that give us physical pleasure and comfort -- movement, walks, hot baths, massages, good, healthy food, comfortable clothing, etc. On a bad day, I'll even just go ahead and embrace myself with my own arms.

• Taking a stock/tally of my LOVING relationships, of all the wonderful people around me who I KNOW are safe.

• Learning how to physically and practically protect myself like a complete expert. HUGE.

(That's just off the top of my head right now.)

So, what are some of YOUR tools?

------------------
Heather Corinna
Editor & Founder, Scarleteen
• ST blog • about Heather & Scarleteen
"You have to love women who are brave enough to do things so big in a world where women are supposed to be so small." - Andrea Dworkin


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mylilbit6
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I can't say for sure that I have reached the point of being a survior but I have found over the last few weeks that the biggest tool I have that has helped me on the path to becoming a survior is writing and journaling. I right down what i am thinking and what i am feeling and it has helped take the edge of of some of the feelings that going along with rape and abuse also through writing you come across others that have been were you are and sometimes you get some real sound advice. Another tool that I have started using is physical activity, excercising, going to the gym just getting busy it releases pent up frustration and allows me to feel a little better. So i am not were you are Miz Scarlet but I am on the road to get there.
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HumanTornado
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Something that has been helping me a lot lately (and quite to my surprise) is talking about what happened. I clammed up right after and the first time I told anyone at all took place several years after the incident. Since then, I have opened up to several friends, my boyfriend, an ex-teacher who is now something of a mentor, and even my parents. Each time I talk about it, it gets easier, and each time I feel less embarrased about it. Getting feedback from people who care about me is helping me realize that this is not something to be ashamed about, something that makes me worthy of pity, or something that makes me be any less as a human being. As a consequences, I think about it less and less and I'm finally feeling confident that I'll some day graduate to the stage of 'Survivor'.
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nixieGurl
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Hey, I just have a few questions. How long did you wait before you told your parents about what happened? And your friends? I am too afraid to tell any of them, not my parents either. Is it ok to not talk about it for a while? Because I always hear that it should be talked about but if it makes me feel better sometimes to not talk about it, why cant i just do that? Like maybe just writing things down? My favourite thing is painting and it makes me feel better about alot of things when i paint, or draw or make something. Some of my best works are from when ive been really upset, wierd huh! When did you just stop being ashamed of what happened? And how did you do that?

I dont think I am a survivor yet really.
Options Disable Smilies in This Post.
Well i survived the rape and the abuse, but not a survivor in the sense that im doing anything good in dealing with it. But Im trying my best at the moment, so i guess that is something!

Nixie


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HumanTornado
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quote:
Hey, I just have a few questions. How long did you wait before you told your parents about what happened? And your friends? [/QUOTE)

Are you asking me? I guess I'll answer either way. :P

The first time I told anyone at all was 5 years after the incident. I told my best friend, and to be honest I wasn't afraid to tell him at all because I trust him absolutely. Telling others was more difficult though, and the hardest part was telling my parents - which I did over a year after the first time I opened up.

[QUOTE]Is it ok to not talk about it for a while?


I suppose ideally, you should talk to someone right away. If you're too scared to tell friends or parents, it would probably be helpful if you talked to a counselor. Counsling can be done anonymously, so you don't have to be ashamed or afraid.

quote:
When did you just stop being ashamed of what happened? And how did you do that?

It wasn't one single thing that I did. It was a long and difficult process. But as I said above, the single most helpful thing I did was open up. Because while I kept it secret, I felt like it was something shameful. And once I started talking about it, I noticed from people's reactions that they didn't seem to blame me at all. They blamed the guys who did it. They thoughg that it was something horrible that happened to me, as opposed to something I had a part in.
I'm not sure if I am making much sense here. I suppose the problem was that I had only my own perception of what happened to me, and seeing how others reacted to it helped me put it into the right context.

[This message has been edited by HumanTornado (edited 10-28-2005).]

[This message has been edited by HumanTornado (edited 10-28-2005).]


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Heather
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More times than not, shame comes from silence. In other words, it is the silence and secrecy which breeds shame, not the assault itself.

I know for myself -- and mind you, it was a different time when my assaults happened, there was much less public awareness, no real survivor resources at ll, as this was over two decades ago -- that the very minute I told even one person, the shame I felt pretty much went poof.

So, even if you can tell just one close friend, you may find it helps a lot. And telling doesn't men ou have to recount the whole story. Telling can be as simple as saying to someone "I am a rape survivor," or "I was raped."

------------------
Heather Corinna
Editor & Founder, Scarleteen
• ST blog • about Heather & Scarleteen
"You have to love women who are brave enough to do things so big in a world where women are supposed to be so small." - Andrea Dworkin


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nixieGurl
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To be honest, I think I have let it go so long without telling any of my friends and family that maybe it is just too late now. The man who did it is one of my Dads close friends and so they would think I am lying and I wouldnt want to have to go through that. So I dont know how to just say it to them. I would like to tell my best friend but Im afraid she wont believe me either because of who it was
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Heather
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You know, you don't HAVE to tell your best friend who it was now, babe.

You could simply tell her you just need to tell someone you were raped for your own healing, but do not feel ready to talk specifics yet. Any close friend is going to respect that.


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nixieGurl
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Ok, I guess I could try that! Im not sure how I will do it though, I dont want to upset her that I never told her, You see she tells me EVERYTHING, and so I think she will be offended that I didnt tell her about this sooner. I think I will try to tell her though. Did you find it easier talking to your friends or to a counsellor? Im a bit nervous as to how to tell her wothout crying r something too, cause I dont want it to be like that, I just want her to know and then she will understand why i get sad sometimes.
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Heather
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You know, NOW in my life I would say it's completely easy talking to my friends. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to even in casual conversation with someone I am not that close to, when it comes up in context, to say something like, "Well, I find that being a rape survivor changes my perspective on...."

HOWEVER, there are some caveats with this. I'm 35, for starters, and my assualts happened a looooong time ago. Plus, I talk about very difficult things publicly as my living, essentially, and I've had years of practice doing so. Plus, most of my friends are pretty aware people when it comes to these issues, and people in their thirties, forties and up tend to react a bit differently than most teens do.

Way back then, I did NOT talk to my friends about it. I tried once or twice not that long after it happened (I was in juniour high) and was disbelieved due to my age and such (and again, the way the world was then, before so much rape awareness), so I stopped trying. For me, it wasn't really until after high school I started telling friends. I did, however, talk to my counselor about it with great success.

So, if you're young, it may be that it's easier to talk to adults about it, but again, that's going to depend on your friends. I do not think not having told before guarantees a bad reaction or disbelief: at this point in time, most people know a lot of survivors feel ashamed and have a hard time opening up about their assaults, so.

Do know, though, that anyone who cares about you IS likely to be upset: of course they are, they care about you. The idea of a close friend being raped, and more so, sufferring in silence about it, is going to make anyone sad who cares about you. And if this is your close friend, I don't see why, if you stared to dry, it would be a problem.


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nixieGurl
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Thanks Miz Scarlet,

I am going to try my best to talk to her about it. If the timing is right and everything. The reason I dont want to cry, is because I just never cry in front of people, and I just want to try to make the whole conversation as normal as possible so that I wont feel so freaked out by the whole thing. I dont really want to tell her, but I do want her to understand why it is that I get freaked out sometimes, like when we go to the movies and there is a rape scene or something I just have to leave and she doesnt really get it. Maybe if I tell her when we are out some place and then I know It will just seem less scary. Or do you think it is an ok idea to write her a letter? Or is this one of those times that that isnt really appropriate? Im sorry for all these questions today! Its just this is a scary thing for me, But I will try my best to do it
Thanks so much for your help!!!!


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Heather
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I think that whatever is the most comfortable and therapeutic for you is what's best.

Really, it's that simple. If a letter feels bes to you, then that's what you should do.

(She also may surprise you: a lot like coming out when you're queer, often enough, when you tell someone even remotely perceptive you're a survivor, they may respond that they already suspected as much.)


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funnimunki
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Hey there everyone...

I read the closed post entitled "molestation" and it brought me to tears because alot of it sounds like me. I have been wondering for a while now whether i was molested as a child. I am the same with my dad as she is - he cannot touch or hug me as i get completely freaked out. I cannot stand to see him in his underwear and when i was small i used to think i heard my parents.. well ya no.. and it was the scariest time of my life. How do i know if i was molested if i have blocked it out? Im so scared to find out the truth.. but I just want to know whether im crazy or if something did happen.

Thank you for reading this.


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Heather
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As I was explaining in this post -- http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/Forum2/HTML/007614.html -- if you don't remember molestation, chances are you may never.

Really, it's not a matter of "blocking it out," because for most sexual abuse victims, that just isn't possible. It's a matter of never comitting it to memory in the first place, in which case you cannot pull memories that never existed out of the air. Very few people wonder if they were abused as a fact -- it's more a matter of what ladydexter mentioned in that thread, of contextualizing it and understand the things which did happen WERE abusive -- because most of the time, it's nearly impossible TO forget this stuff, block it out, or have it be unknown to the victim themselves.

That isn't to say it didn't happen, or that it did. We've no way of knowing.

But it is normal for children and adolescents at certain times to feel uncomfortable, even grossly so, with parental nudity, or certain kinds of physical affection. There's also nothing abusive about hearing parents have sex: sex is normal, human behaviour, and there's nothing to show that children hearing sexual noises are traumatized by it, especially since most children don't have any real conception of what sex is, save in a very rudimentary fashion. Sadly, we also can't discount the elevated hysteria which child sexual abuse panic that started in this country in the eighties wrought, and it's propensity to make things seem or feel traumatic which may not have otherwise.

So again, we can't be of much help with anything like this, and I'd suggest you evaluate the sorts of questions I posed to the user in the post I linked to. If it continues to bother you, if there are other problems in your life, your best bet is to see a counselor skilled in abuse issues.

I can assure you, though, that per knowing what the truth is, there's no real reason to be dealthy afraid of that. In general (not always, but more than not) the greatest trauma and conflict a survivor suffers is pretty constant and due to living with this stuff all along, even if the abuse itself is not in the forefront of one's mind. Paranoia or not knowing, worry about abuse, and absolutely, the real effects of abuse which are often pervasive and long-term, is generally a lot more troubling than the clear knowledge it occurred.

In other words, if abuse happened, once it has ceased, there will nearly always be less trauma than before, even if it's being addressed for the first time.


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Heather
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(Let's do try, though, and keep this topic as healing tools for survivors only, rather than evaulations of abuse. If someone is looking for healing helps, posts which may be triggering aren't of much help.)
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ladydexter
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(Perhaps a resurrection of the old rape discussion thread is now in order, since many newbies may not realise it exists - the board by default doesn't display the older posts.)

I'm a rape survivor, and I work with survivors of rape and abuse on a daily basis, so here are some suggestions myself and our clients have found useful:

Counselling. Once they've admitted to the treatment they suffered, a good many find that therapy helps them to come to terms with what they suffered and lead a normal life regardless. (In addition, it's worth noting that a number of rape and abuse survivors develop other problems such as PTSD, which therapy can help with as well.)

Creativity is a good one, too. I poured myself into my writing when I was raped, and it helped me. I'm still coming to terms with it, but being able to put things into words is helping. It's also far easier, I find, to write down these things than it is to speak of them.

Following the creativity tack, maybe an anonymous blog, or a lockable diary where you can put your thoughts and feelings would be helpful too. I found it did, not having to bottle it all up and pretend it was all fine, but just write what I felt - even if it was just expletive after expletive! My point is, with an anonymous blog (create a free email and make one, no one need ever know it's you!) or a diary with a lock on is like a best friend that will never tell anyone anything you tell it, but will always be there to listen.

Taking up a martial art, or a self-defence class is good too. It just helps to take the edge off that helpless feeling that you can sometimes have.

(Miz Scarlet, I have to say I have the utmost respect for people like you who survived and go on to help others who are going through the same things you did. One of our most wonderful clients suffered absolutely horrific abuse, and has terrible scarring from it, both physical and mental - and is now working with other rape and abuse survivors - people like you and him are wonderful examples of what survivors can do to help each other out.)

[This message has been edited by ladydexter (edited 11-12-2005).]


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