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Author Topic: I am more than this
vaLLey_1996
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Hi Scarleteen people!

I was gang raped a year ago. Its was a very hard time but I put all my strength and energy into healing my body and my heart and even my soul. I am not ashamed of what happened to me. I know it wasnt my fault, and I know there is nothing I could have done to avoid it. I made peace with that part of my past. Really, I am proud of who I became after that.

Three months ago, I started dating, he is a very nice guy and I feel happy with him.

We want to have sex. I want to have sex with him. But I cant.

Everytime we are close to really doing it, something happens in my head. And I cant control it. And then I get mad, because its supposed to be over. I am over it. I truly belive all the things I said at the begining of this post.

I know that you are going to say that I should talk to him, but really I want to be more than a "rape victim" to him. I dont want this to be the base of our relationship. I want to have the control of my body and my sexuality.

I dont know what to do. Why when it comes to sex I still have to be the "rape victim"?

I tried so many things. But the flashes keep coming. And let me tell you, it is so unfair because I have done everything to get well. Therapy, group meetings, yoga, crying, punching, journaling, painting, screaming... everything! And in some ways I feel it worked but, Why cant I just have sex with someone I really want to?

This is not about my rape, this is about me wanting to be with someone.

Any thoughts about that?

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Heather
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Welcome to the boards, vaLLey_1996 . [Smile]

I'm so glad to hear that you know your assault wasn't your fault. And I'm so glad you're working on taking care of yourself. I know how challenging that can be.

You know, I'd say a year post-assault is going to be awfully soon for many survivors, to be sexual with someone, especially someone who is a very new partner.

I understand that it can feel unfair: rape can really feel like it hijacks our sexuality, and obviously, it's something we will want back and want as our very own, for our pleasure and enjoyment and joy. That said, it usually does simply take time, and often m,ore time than this. [Frown]

Am I understanding that you haven't told this partner about your assault? And that's because you fear he won't be able to see you as you anymore, but only as a victim? If so, can you fill me in on why you think you think that's what will happen?

Are you still in therapy or support groups? If so, have you talked about starting your sexual life with a partner again with your therapist or with your group?

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vaLLey_1996
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Hey there! Thanks for the reply.

I left the support groups, but I am still getting therapy twice a month.

Otherwise I feel good about me and my life right now.

Its just about the damn triggers. For example I cant help it but when someone breaths close to my ear, I just... freak.

How long is it going to take. I am young I am supposed to enjoy life, sex included!

I dont want them, or that moment to keep controlling my life.

I need to prove to myself, I am over it.

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Heather
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Well, honestly? Being over an assault just isn't something that's going to happen so fast. I personally think of healing from assault as a lifelong process. By all means, at a certain point, we're going to feel pretty okay, but for one, that takes a while, longer than this usually, and two, we still will have our moments, if you follow me.

So, I understand wanting to prove to you they didn't win. I get it. But they didn't, no matter where you are in your healing. here you are: you survived. here you are, taking care of yourself, respecting yourself, motivated to heal and reclaim your life.

I think it's very clear who's the real badass here with the real power: it's you, not the people who assaulted you.

I can't say how long all this will take or when, or in what context, sex will feel right to you and not be triggering.

But there certainly are some things you can do to work on this. I assume you'd like me to tell you what some of those things can be?

[ 06-11-2013, 02:45 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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vaLLey_1996
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Im listening...
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Heather
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Okie dokie.

For one, it sounds like you could use some more help from your therapist with this, perhaps more specifically or generally with triggers and how to manage them.

With triggers around sex, specifically, I'd personally strongly advise that if you haven't told sexual partners you have recently been assaulted (and a year is recent) that you do that. If not telling seemed to be working better for you, it's not like I'd advise against that, but it sounds clearly like it isn't.

When we tell partners, we can then do things like tell them what we know our triggers to be and either ask them to avoid those things or help us manage them at the time. Or both.

You seem to think very highly of this guy, and I also assume you want to build a great sexual relationship with him: rape or no rape, open communication is the way to do that, and certainly not locking up and hiding the big stuff.
You didn't answer my questions about disclosing to him, so I can't really know the situation with that unless you tell me what it is. but I'd say if you don't feel you've built enough trust to tell him yet, part of what's going on here might be that there isn't enough trust for you to be sexual with him yet in the ways you want to be. In other words, it might be that even though in some ways, you really want to be sexual with him now, it's too soon in terms of the things you need to really be there, not just per your own healing, but in the relationship. Like feeling at the point where you can tell him and know he's not going to see you as just a victim, but still see you as the whole person you are who also just happens to be managing a recent trauma.

Know what I mean?

Has your therapist given you anything to read about reclaiming a sexual life after assault?

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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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vaLLey_1996
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I didnt realize that I didnt answer to your question.

My assault is not a big secreat. Its not that the whole world knows about it either, but it is known by my family and some friends, because well, it was kind of public if you know what I mean.

Why do I get the feeling that he is going to look at me as a victim? Well because that is how people use to look at me.

Even my parents, who btw have been extremely supportive with me, they still look at me and behave around me with fear you know? Like I may break so easily. I am not that fragile.

The other night I went into the TV room and my parents were watching SVU wich btw used to be one of my favs shows, and they automatically turned off the TV. And I was like... "Its okay guys" "Its just a TV show" I CAN HANDLE IT!

One of the greatest thing about this guy, is that he is new to my life, he doesnt know anything about me but the stuff that we share. And it feels great to be with someone who doesnt know anything at all about the assault. Because to him, I am just Valerie. And God! It feels great!

People change once you tell them. The may still love you and like you and even admire you, but they change.

And for your question about the reading, no my shrink didnt gave me anything maybe because she thinks its nothing I should be doing right now.

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Heather
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How about this then, to start: let's just say that the only person awesome enough for you to pick as a sexual partner is someone who WOULD NOT only see you as a victim. And who will not treat you differently, save giving you whatever extra care, compassion and understanding you need around this. A person with-it enough, and smart enough, to know that surviving assault makes you stronger, not weaker.

Which I think should be true: someone awesome enough for you to pick as a sexual partner should, indeed, be that way.

Is he that awesome? Is he that kind of person, do you think?

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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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Heather
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(Or, if that question feels too loaded, or you don't know, we can go this route: do you yet feel ready to really be intimate with someone, which, for that to work for you and go well, will mean having them know about some of this and work with you around triggers? Which also sometimes may involve them erring on the side of caution, or first thinking you might not be able to handle something you can, even if, when you correct them, they accept that from you and think differently?)

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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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vaLLey_1996
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Ok, thats a good one. A tough one, but still a good one.

You know, I always see at myself as someone smart and objective. I hate drama, and I do everything I can to avoid it.

So I dont want to start with "What if he" or "What if he doesnt"

I want to think that he is that awesome, but the truth is, I dont know.

And here -in this right moment- is when I get your point.

I just want to break free.

You said I survived, and thats true. It was torture what I went through, but I won. Because I am still standing here. I just want to break free.

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Heather
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Okay, so what I hear is that you don't know yet if he's that awesome.

Were I in your shoes, what that would tell me is that I obviously need to spend more time with him to find out first before getting more sexual with him or disclosing things that are a big deal to me.

One thing that might also help is that I think part of breaking free for the hijack it can feel like assault does on our sexuality is realizing that being able to have consensual sex doesn't actually prove anything about our healing. After all, it's something some victims can do when totally shell-shocked, still, who haven't healed at all, while others still struggle after decades of healing work.

I'd say that giving ourselves permission to be wherever we are says a lot more about us having ownership of ourselves, and no one taking our power, than still being reactive to what happened. In other words, getting stuck in having to prove, to ourselves or others, things like this when really, not only is that proof iffy at best, it's kind of not real, if you get me. (This is tough to verbalize well, so sorry if it's coming out obtuse.)

Let's try this: whether you are or aren't comfortable being sexual right now doesn't actually tell anyone anything about where you're at in your healing, nor does it prove jack. On the other hand, giving yourself permission to only be sexual when you both want to AND when it really feels right? Seems to me that's a lot more "proof" of ownership of self, not to mention something that's a lot more about real self-care than trying to make something happen when it doesn't feel right.

Does that make sense?

--------------------
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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vaLLey_1996
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I didnt see your post about the "working around triggers"

Want, need and be are not the same here right?

I mean, I want to be ready, I need to be ready, how the hell am I going to know if I am really ready?

I was capable of dealing with the first triggers when the assault was more recently. I should be able to do it now right?

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Heather
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If I were to be as concise as possible, I'd say we usually know for sure we're ready for something when it's not that huge of a deal if we aren't.

In other words, when, while it'd be great to be ready, and we'd be so happy if that were so, it's okay if and when we're not, too.

You know, the process of healing rarely happens in a straight line or along a continuum: hopefully your therapist has talked with you about this. Instead, it often will go a given way for a while, then improve, then something that was easier will get harder, while something that was harder gets easier.

If it helps to hear one first-person survivor perspective, I did just fine with wanted, consensual sex a few years after my assaults, for about, eh, five years. Then, in what felt like out of nowhere, it was NOT OKAY AT ALL. Even with someone totally awesome who I had awesome, okay-sex with before. And then later, it was okay again. Fits and starts: that's just how it happens sometimes.

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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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vaLLey_1996
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It does make sense.

I am a gymnastic. And there is one rule in there. If you fall, no matter how hard or how much it hurts, or how scared you are, you go back to your routine and try that move again. Because the only way to fight fear is to take action.

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Heather
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I think that's a broken comparison for this.

You'd said no books around this had been suggested for you. The one we really, really love around here is Staci Haines' "The Survivor's Guide to Sex." (A later edition of the same book is called "Healing Sex," but they're the same book.) You might see if you can't dig up a copy for yourself.

[ 06-11-2013, 03:47 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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vaLLey_1996
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Yeah, Ive been told about the ups and downs.

I was just planning to avoid the downs. Silly me.

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Heather
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I want to say a little more.

First of all, as you likely know from being in gymnastics, gymnastic training is NOT about self-care or being kind to your body. At all. That approach you're talking about is why so many gymnasts wind up with serious injuries.

I'm not a big fan of treating bodies that way, but I'm REALLY not a fan of treating trauma and our emotions that way. That kind of approach is just the kind that we know isn't how people heal, it's how people either stay stuck in trauma, wind up traumatized further or in new ways, or do...well, the opposite of healing.

This so ain't gymnastics. I'd strongly advise against treating or seeing it like it is.

[ 06-11-2013, 03:52 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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Heather
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Yeah, alas, we can't avoid the downs. Not only are they unavoidable, but if we pretend they aren't there or push them out, we can't keep healing, and we're just going to have to deal with them eventually anyway. And usually, it only gets harder to deal with them later, not easier.

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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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vaLLey_1996
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So, I just have to face that maybe I am not so healed right?

I never complained about this happening to me. I swear. I know there are a lot of women going through the same or even worse things. I dont compare myself to anyone. I never asked "Why me?"

I mean, "Why not?" Shit happens.

I think Im going over the same here and I know thats not healthy.

So, bottom line, I need time (just please dont tell me "decades") [Smile]

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vaLLey_1996
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Well sorry, gymnastics has been my whole life, but you may be right...

So I guess, at the end, its not about him being awesome, its about me being ready.

Point taken.

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vaLLey_1996
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Well sorry, gymnastics has been my whole life, but you may be right...

So I guess, at the end, its not about him being awesome, its about me being ready.

Point taken.

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Heather
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It's okay for us to disagree about gymnastics, and I so don't mean to rain on your passion.

It's just that that gymnastics approach? Is SO not the way to handle trauma or emotions. With trauma or emotions, that approach is really self-abuse, not self-care.

And I'd say it's about both: about you really being ready AND having a partner whop is awesome, including in the way where they're someone who has the sensitivity to have a sexual relationship with a survivor, but also the smarts, sense of their own self, and respect to see and know that's so not all of who you are.

--------------------
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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vaLLey_1996
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I am SO more than that!

And sometimes i just want to scream it to the whole world.
Its like with gymnastics, i love it! but I am more than just a flexible-acrobat girl you know?

It is possible that the people around you also needs to heal?

Just wondering...

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Heather
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Well, I'd say that a lot of people have some pretty messed-up or just inaccurate ideas about rape and rape victims, for sure. And that absolutely can tend to inform how people behave with and respond to survivors and victims.

But also, you know, like what you were describing with your family? They know something hugely bad was done to you: that was a huge trauma. And they care about you, so they're hurting on your behalf, then they have their own hurting, and then there's the thing where they're just trying to learn how to care for you in the best ways.

It's not like anyone can automatically know how to do this, in general, and then with any survivor, since we're all so different. it's something people have to learn over time, and should be cautious about, even if it can feel annoying or frustrating for you. It usually feels a lot worse when people are less cautious or caring, I assure you (even though I also get your frustration).

--------------------
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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vaLLey_1996
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I know they love me. I know they care. Thats why I dont say anything. And I am absolutely sure it would be horrible for me if they didnt care at all. I am very thankful for the parents and the friends I have. Belive me.

They changed but I changed too, so we just have to learn and to know each other again right?

I told you, I am smart [Smile] (a rape victim, but a smart one)

This has been an amazing conversation, thank you so much for, well, listening and not focusing on the "rape subject"

In other words, thank you for looking beyond.

I dont want to take more of your time wich I guess its pretty valuable.

I will work about the things you told me and I know I will find the way to deal with this.

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Heather
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How about communicating with them about this, then? Chances are they'll actually be glad you're telling them how to do this better: it's likely the way they want to do things, after all.

And you're welcome. [Smile] You know where to find us if you want to talk some more again!

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