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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » This has been a long time coming

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Author Topic: This has been a long time coming
JB
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Hi there. So I read this article that I found on my tumblr dash: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/09/30/in-the-margins-a-perspective-on-sexual-assault-conversations/

And I think I need to talk about something that has been confusing and nagging at me for a very long time.

Something happened when I was little, I think between the ages of 4 and 7. We have close family friends who we refer to as our Aunt and Uncle, although they're not related to us. My Aunt and Uncle have two cousins...one is close to my age, the other a few years older than me.

The younger one had and always has had behavioral issues. I'm not really sure what...trouble reading people's emotions I think maybe I remember my mom explaining. And other general out-of-control behaviors (breaking things, being violent, etc.) Me and my Younger Cousin (YC) played together a lot.

Um but yeah, between the ages of 4 and 7, can't remember what and for how long exactly, we used to play this "game" that involved a lot of touching. Except, I never wanted to, I hated that "game" and felt forced and/or pressured to touch his genitals/his body and to let him touch mine.

And I don't know what happened to me. I don't know if that was molestation. I don't know if I ever said out loud I don't want to do that. I don't know if I made it known. I know I didn't WANT to but I don't know if I spoke up.

And I wanna tear my hair out because I don't know what happened to me. How could it be molestation or assault if we were the same age? And he has behavioral issues that might make it hard for him to read certain "cues" people give him, so how could he have known? There was no power dynamic, was there?

I don't know. I'm sorry. This is short and jumbled. I'm angry. I'm angry all the time.

Can you help? What happened to me?

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Robin Lee
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Hi JB,

I'm sorry to hear you had this experience, and that you're feeling so angry and confused right now.

Perhaps it would help to look at it another way. if your cousin had consistently beaten you up physically, and you never felt like you could say no, how do you think you'd be feeling now?

I'm suspecting you'd feel just as crummy remembering that as you do remembering the sexual stuff.

You're allowed to feel however you feel about what you experienced, regardless of how old he was, his behavioural issues, or whether he was intending to hurt you.

That is, your experience is still the same regardless of any of those things.

Does that make sense?

What do you feel like you need right now, and what do you feel like we can talk to you about or help you with?

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Robin

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JB
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I think right now I just want to...talk about it. And about other things. I don't know I feel like I've been rationalizing it in my head for so long. I waffle between daring to say "hey that was...some kind of sexual trauma maybe" and just outright denying and berating myself for being dramatic.

I feel like I can't say it was molestation because those people are survivors and their stories are big and brave and mine is...not. Mine is not big and brave it is little and confusing and I have been holding onto this anger for so long.

And anger about other things, too...I feel like I have this list in my head of every major sexual wrong committed against me. But none of them feel big enough to put a formal label like "assault" on them. So I think to myself "it's not molestation/sexual assault it's just...a bad and unfortunate thing that happened to you. Bad and unfortunate things happen to people all the time!"

You're right about the physical "beating up" as opposed to the, I don't know, emotional/mental/sexual "beat up". I just, it's like, I can't give myself a pass for it. I feel like everything I hear tells me to be rational. People I tell. General messages I hear in society.

I'm just so confused and angry and I can't sustain it anymore and I just want somebody to tell me what happened and to label it for me so I won't feel so guilty when I try to label it myself.

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Heather
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You know, no one is served by someone not telling their story or not using a term for something that happened to them. In other words, by not calling this how you feel it, how you experienced it, other survivors aren't helped.

Truly, other survivors aren't impacted by what words you use for yourself for your own traumas, period. I tell this to people as a survivor of a violent sexual assault all the time when they say that it's not "fair" to someone like me to call sexual assaults without other physical violence or other force rape, and I'll say the same to you now. This doesn't help or hurt us. Speaking for myself as an example, I know what happened to me, and you or anyone else using some of the same umbrella terms to describe something that happened to you that wasn't the same, or that you don't think was "as bad," doesn't take away what I know, confuse me, or make me feel like somehow you are denying or diminishing what I survived.

But diminishing or denying your own feelings and what happened to you sure can hurt you. Okay? This isn't a court of law here, this is a place to be talking anonymously, using word that seem to best describe your experiences and what you want to talk about.

This also isn't a contest. No one wins or loses here with this stuff. The best any of us can do is to talk about trauma we have experienced and survived using the words that work best for us to help us heal and deal.

I don't see anything for you to feel guilty about around this: can you maybe put into words why you think you do?

And if you want to talk about a range of experiences, we can do that with you, whether all or any of those experiences was a sexual assault or not. We don't have to be assaulted to be traumatized, and whatever our bad experiences have been, they don't have to land on some kind of scale of what's bad to worse for them to have impacted us or be worthy of talking through.

[ 10-06-2013, 02:44 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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JB
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Hearing those words is really helpful. I just, I try to put things into perspective you know? Like what happened to ME wasn't as bad as what happened to somebody ELSE and I hope that that makes me feel better. But it hasn't been...so maybe trying to put my experiences on a spectrum isn't actually working and I should probably stop.

Sometimes it feels really good to label what happened to me as molestation. And other times it makes me feel really helpless and frustrated. I wish I could come to an equilibrium.

I guess the guilt comes from feeling like, I don't know, my experience wasn't "bad" enough to warrant a big scary label like "assault" or "molestation" or even "trauma." Like, for whatever reason when I think about "rationalizing" what happened I don't think of using words that make me feel comfortable, I think of ways to mitigate the experience and to try and like, snap myself out of thinking that what happened to me as trauma. like I don't deserve that label, or the solidarity and/or support that comes with it.

I just feel like it's the start of a long laundry list of things men have done to me that have made me feel powerless and scared and...dirty. And part of me wants to list them right here, on this thread, to just air it out. But part of me thinks maybe that'd be really silly and petty because, I don't know, I guess I feel kind of silly for KEEPING such a "list".

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Heather
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I think making sure we have some perspective is important, but at the same time, the gravity of however you feel is the gravity of however you feel: whatever impact a given trauma or set of traumas had on you, that's the impact it had. Does that make sense?

To be clear, what we do and don't call assault even in a legal framework isn't about things like what was "bad" or "wrose." It's about what actions were done. If and when someone does something sexual to, on or inside of comeone else without their express consent, that's assault. It is even if the person that was done to doesn't feel traumatized at all. And it's sound we define this that way, because the impact of assault will very much vary with people, so if we based in on that it would be so abitrary a term as to be utterly useless. especially legally, but also just when it comes to practical use.

Maybe for now, though, I wonder, it might be most helpful for you to not start by trying to define it, since that seems so loaded and confusing for you, but instead to talk about your feelings, to talk about how you feel you have been impacted, to talk about what you think you need in term,s of healing and coping?

--------------------
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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JB
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Wow. Wow wow wow that definition...is really helpful. It satisfies the "logic" part of my brain if that makes sense?

I guess, I feel more than anything a mix of anger and exhaustion. I'm just angry, I'm angry that happened to me, I'm angry at myself for not making myself heard, I'm angry at him for doing that, I'm angry at my parents for not protecting me, I'm angry that when I told my mom she said "no, I never really DID fully understand what happened" that nobody had tried to get to the BOTTOM of it when I was younger, I'm mad nobody took me into their arms and told me to cry and to be angry, I'm mad that he never got punished, or if he did I didn't KNOW about it because it would be satisfying to think that he had SOME lesson taught to him and I'm angry because I think that set some serious framework for how I viewed sex and my sexuality as I grew up and was possibly part of why I was so anxious and scared of sex and sexuality and maybe why I have trouble making boundaries and making my voice heard and I'm angry because that's all speculation and I'll never know for sure and I'm angry that I'm still angry and I'm tired of being angry but I can't seem to let it go.

I don't know what I need to heal. I guess I would need more counseling. At my very last counseling session my last semester of school, we touched on the incident, and I wish I had spoke up about it sooner.

I'm sorry if this is long and ranty.

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Heather
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It's okay! I think it's really important to express all of those feelings, and I'm glad this feels like a safe place for you to do that.

Do you want some help finding that counseling? In many places counseling specific for childhood sexual abusive survivors -- whether or not that's language you feel comfortable with -- is low to no cost. Even just starting with a survivor support group might be something to consider: it might not be a great fit if you feel like you need to compare your experiences on scale like you have been, at the same time, it might help you avail yourself of that habit, too.

--------------------
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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JB
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I think, yeah, maybe some help would be good. I don't mind...you calling it that, if that makes sense? I just can't get myself to say those words and not instantly recoil.

I'm currently living in Richmond, Virginia right now if that helps at all in terms of finding resources.

I can't thank you enough, thank you so much.

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Robin Lee
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Hi JB,

You absolutely get to call this whatever feels okay for you right now.

I'm seconding Heather in saying that i'm really glad this feels like a safe place for you to share your experience and express all these tough feelings you're having about it.

The yWCA in Richmond would be a really great place for you to start in looking for counseling. Here's their web site.

http://www.ywcarichmond.org/

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Robin

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JB
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Thank you for the link Robin. I'm currently in the process of starting a new job and moving, so I think I'm gonna wait until I have more time to pursue counseling.

I'm feeling ok right now but every once in a while I suddenly remember it and then I remember every other gendered "wrong" committed against me and I get really upset and not in a good headspace. So I think I need to do SOMETHING but I'm ok with waiting for now.

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crathes
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JB, I don't have any helpful info, but I can tell you that I I experienced something kind of like that. What you wrote about what you experienced sounded so familiar to me. I've never known what to think about it, either, or what it was.

When I was a young child - I suppose the age range you mentioned - sometimes I visited another family's house with my parents. They had a son who was several years older than me, maybe 13ish at the time? I think he has some difficulties along that line too. I thought of him as a friend, and I thought his room was really cool.

But we were sitting on the floor and he told me he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, and he would put his hands up my shirt, and at least once down my pants, and rub my body.

I didn't like it, AT all. I felt really uncomfortable and felt like it wasn't right. I don't remember saying no. I was confused by it looking back until finally when I was older I realized it was inappropriate.

This was years and years ago, and my mother told me recently that they had come to the room and were horrified to find that he had closed and locked the door. I never told anyone this before except my mother and sister.

(I don't know at all if those only happened once or not, although I always thought it was more than once.)

quote:
Originally posted by JB:

And I wanna tear my hair out because I don't know what happened to me. How could it be molestation or assault if we were the same age? And he has behavioral issues that might make it hard for him to read certain "cues" people give him, so how could he have known? There was no power dynamic, was there?

I don't know. I'm sorry. This is short and jumbled. I'm angry. I'm angry all the time.

Can you help? What happened to me?

I'm sorry I can't even help, but I can just tell you yo're not alone. I've wondered the same questions, but never asked anyone. I think you're brave that you posted it here to ask for help, and I wish you the best.

[ 11-08-2013, 03:57 PM: Message edited by: crathes ]

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