I was reminded in answering this question today on the main site of something I've been meaning to bring up here.
It was what her parents said, and some things she said that made me think that she, like plenty of us, had some normalized abuse dynamics, or normalized lack of having our boundaries respected, before her rape. I think so often we either don't realize -- or are kept from this awareness -- some ways we can effectively be set up not to see abuse, rape or other dangers coming by what we grow up around.
For instance, for me, I know at this point very well that having my physical, emotionally and sexual boundaries invaded in my home just before and during the years of my two teenage assaults absolutely played a part in both my not really getting the dangers when they were there, not fighting them as much (in one case, not at all) as I could have, and also in it taking a long time for me to even realize they were rapes, and something that was not my fault. In a word, there were some dynamics in my household which became my normal, so it was difficult for me to see them -- there or elsewhere -- as abnormal for a while.
For those of you who are survivors of rape or other abuses, are there factors or history you can find well before your abuses which might have contributed to you being in danger and not knowing it, or not knowing until it was too late?
I think it's really helpful to look at these factors, both in terms of our own healing, but also to be able to see patterns more clearly to help us avoid inadvertently falling into them or staying in them.
-------------------- Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen About Me • Get our book! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead Posts: 67973 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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For the longest time, I was unable to call what had happened to me 'rape'. I was sexually abused at 14 and didn't start to work through that until I was around 19. One of my best friends at the time was the only person I shared this with in the beginning, and he knew all about my anger and frustration and my fear of never being 'normal' sexually.
I think my friendship with him was really also a symptom of what was going on: during that time, I was very reckless and fatalistic and very 'yeah, whatever' about everything. He was even more depressed than I was, and heavily into drugs, and I guess something of that nihilist attitude appealed to me. He tried to convince me to try drugs, as well, and I was often tempted to give in. The first time a therapist told me that this guy very possibly was a life-size extension of my self-destructive behaviour I nearly left the room in anger, but looking back, I think she was right.
There was a lot of other stuff going on at the time, and I finally adopted a 'shock therapy' approach to sex (DO NOT try this at home) and he happily volunteered himself. It was very ambiguous because I wasn't ready, and I KNEW I wasn't ready, and I always said stop when it mattered, but one night he was so blasted he didn't hear my 'stop' and went ahead anyway. So it appeared to be very obvious to me that it was my fault, 'cause he'd only done what I had ostensibly wanted him to.
So, yes, that friendship/relationship and the messed up dynamics within it were definitely a result of my previous abuse. These days, I would NOT get that close with someone who was into drugs, and I'd certainly not spend any amount of time with someone who supported my self-injury and advocated drug use to me. But at the time, I was so depressed and self-destructive due to my abuse that I didn't care.
-------------------- Johanna Scarleteen Volunteer
"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand Posts: 9166 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005
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What a great topic, and Joey thanks for sharing that. It was helpful for me.
I have trouble remembering a lot of my childhood or keeping in my mind for long the scenes I do remember, which is certainly a function of the trauma--not being able to look at what's there, having to turn away from what's going on.
Growing up, my mother was alternately the person who I felt most understood by, and at other times would rage at me for no reason. I think from a very young age this required me to split off from myself and my perceptions of things. It wasn't bearable to see that this person I loved and was strongly attached to was also so crazy.
There was also early childhood sexual abuse by another caregiver and poor boundaries all around. I never had a lock on my door, and my mother never knocked. For 17 years she just walked in. And the nature of our relationship was such that I felt I would lose our special connection if I asked for more privacy. "Teenagers" got upset about their space being invaded--and that wasn't allowed to be me. I got very intense messages about being "special" and "mature" and that that was why I was lovable.
I have a long history of abusive relationships with adults who seemed to see me as mature and special. I idealized them and wasn't able to recognize their lack of boundaries or see their behavior as abusive.
I was particularly vulnerable when an abusive spiritual guru came along who said I was the cat's pajamas. He thought it would be healing for me to have sex with my male cousin who was also in his cult. Even though my gut reaction was no, all I could think was, "maybe it will help?"
-------------------- without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich Posts: 407 | From: USA | Registered: Oct 2008
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Joey, bluejumprope, thanks for sharing. And thank you, Heather, for this topic and for sharing.
This is something my counselor has been asking me to think through a lot. What I'm realizing the deeper I dig is that it goes further back than I could imagine. When I discover a new piece of information, at times I will feel a strange sense of hopelessness because it seems that the problem runs deep in my family's history. I also can't help but see it, too, as a huge societal problem, one that's existed for so long that it's hard to break it. I'm hopeful, though, and I'm working everyday to make sure that this ends with me, that my children, should I ever have any, don't have to face it.
My father was a bit of a tyrant. My siblings and I were all afraid of him growing up. Bad grades were not something we could bring home. It was a lot worse for my older siblings, though. I remember a lot of nights listening to my parents argue and being afraid for my mother's safety. My father would throw things, and he would hit us when we were kids. I never saw him hit my mother, but who knows what happened behind closed doors. I think it became ingrained in me then about the way relationships are supposed to function. My mother defended my father tirelessly, and when he would hit me when no one else was home, I never felt able to tell my mother. A few of my friends had parents that were divorced, and I was afraid that would happen. Even as a child, I was keenly aware of our financial problems, and I knew that we wouldn't be able to afford things if my parents divorced. The 'D' word was thrown around a lot between my parents as it was, so that made me more afraid to say anything.
Then when I was 15, I got into an abusive relationship. Because of the pressures I had at home to maintain a certain GPA and focus on my education, my family didn't even know that I was dating, so when things went bad, I didn't think I could tell them for fear that I would be punished for lying. I'd also fallen far behind in my classes, when I actually went to them, and was experimenting with drugs, so that made it pretty much impossible to tell. It finally came out, and they handled it better than I thought. I even went to therapy for it, but not too long after I ended up in another abusive relationship that lasted far longer. With that one, I just couldn't see the signs for so long, over 2 years. My mother sees things differently, though. "That's just how relationships work," she tells me when I talk about the sexual abuse. Or "He was just a silly boy," when I tell her about the verbal abuse and threats of physical abuse. He had problems, it's true, but there's only so much sympathy you can extend to someone who hurts you. I think it says so much about my mother and where she is in her own healing that she feels the need to defend him.
My mom had been married to a very abusive man before my father. She'd had to leave him in the middle of the night with my two oldest siblings. She didn't go to a shelter (they didn't have them at that time or in the country she was in), she didn't get therapy (she was raised to believe that you keep these things in the family), and she's only now really started processing things more. She'd been abused when she was young, too. Her father would hit her, even if her sibling were the ones that did something bad. Her mother, my grandmother, had been abused as well. Her marriage to my grandfather had been very difficult, and there are things that happened that only now is she talking about them (she's almost 90). She kept a lot to herself, more than my mother does. So there's the line, going back to my grandmother, but probably even further back. I know my great-grandfather had been a rather brutal man (even supported Hitler) so I can imagine that my great-grandmother suffered. My sisters faced a lot of abuse, too, as did my brothers.
It seems almost like an infection, a wound that just gets bigger and bigger. I guess therapy is the antiseptic. It stings, and it smells bad, but in the end, it'll help the wound heal. I have a neice, and a nephew, and I wonder if they'll have the same infection. I hope they won't, I hope it does stop at my generation, but you can never be sure.
I may add more later.
-------------------- Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail Posts: 2726 | From: North America | Registered: Apr 2007
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