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Author Topic: Guilty Survival
Love-Life
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So, I think I've dealt with this as best as I can but I just need to tell someone (not that I haven't told anyone, just...)

I have become another statistic, and I know that, and I feel horrible that it happened. But honestly, at the time, it never occurred to me that what happened was reportable.

I know that I felt awful, I know that I was drunk, I know that I had made poor choices... I also know that I said no. I think that what was hardest for me was the fact that I removed myself from the situation as soon as I could, he didn't chase me or yell at me, or anything. It didn't feel violent, as such, even though I know it was. There was no hitting, no yelling.... just... unwanted sex.

So, I don't feel guilty about what happened, I don't feel like I should have done more at the time, or anything like that... But now I'm one of those girls who never reported it. I was raped, I know who did it, I know his first and last name... I know there would have been evidence of the assault... But here I sit. A little broken, and feeling very guilty. It's been over a year, I have a healthy relationship with an amazing guy who knows about what happened and is nothing but positively supportive. I feel as good as possible, I do know that I am a little in denial. I caught myself counting my sexual partners and including him in that number, which brought this issue to the foreground of my mind.

I guess I just hate being one of those girls who didn't do anything about it... All I'm looking for is to stop feeling guilty and I know that no one can make that happen but me... But I'm just... I don't know what to do. I don't even know what I'm looking for in posting this.

[Frown]

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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I'm glad you feel able to talk about this with us, Vikki.

I think it's really important to recognize that while, yes, reporting a rape can help others, it should primarily be about what helps YOU.

If reporting isn't something you felt or feel would or would have helped you, if it wasn't best for you, that really, truly is okay.

Reporting can help victims with resolution and feeling better, but it also is often very hard. As well, if your guilt is about not protecting other survivors, there are a ton of ways you can do that: reporting isn't the only way. There also are still things you can "do about it" if that's something you want.

Is that what you feel like your guilt is about? or do you think it's coming from somewhere else?

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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Thanks for being so quick to respond. [Smile]

I think I feel like I'm a bad example. I coached girls aged 10-13 for 2 years and I feel like if anything like this ever happened to one of them I would want them to be able to talk about it and work through it with people and I just feel like I didn't do that. And I think that the only way to help young girls is to lead by example...

I think that in order to get through it I blocked most of it out and labeled it as a bad date so I don't know how much more guilt is going to come out of this... I really thought that I had gotten through it in one solid piece...

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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atm1
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The thing is that that being a survivor is not something we "get through" per se--those of us who have been assaulted will always be survivors and those experiences will always be with us.

Each survivor copes in their own way. All you can be responsible for is yourself, and I'd say that by surviving and going on to have a healthy relationship (which is really no small achievement) you are setting a good example.

Reporting assaults can be just as traumatic as the assaults themselves, depending on how the survivor is treated. So I strongly believe that the decision to not report is just as valid and just as "good" as a decision to report. You did what you needed to do.

And you know what, you are talking about it--with your partner, with us--and you are working through it with people.

Please do give yourself some credit for everything you *have* done.

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Heather
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I think it's also really important to consider the trajectory of your whole life.

For instance, if we examined how much I did or didn't help girls based on how I reacted to my assaults in the year after them by that same standard, we'd come to the conclusion that I didn't help a soul. Because I didn't speak a word of it to anyone (after one attempt: the police at the scene of one dismissed it outright due to my total silence and their own bias), I didn't report (or even know I could with the first, or try again w/the second). I didn't call either rape because I didn't have that language, despite one assault being so violent but even if I had, who knows if I would have, since I was partially convinced I was just nuts and also did not want to risk further abuse.

But I was very young: younger than you, but you're still young, too.

So, here I am now, looking in the face of forty, and anyone would be hard pressed to say I haven't helped victims well: I know I have, and have done so in huge numbers. But I also have had TIME to do that (you have only been alive half as long as I have, after all), and had plenty of time and space to work with and for myself FIRST before doing that, save the kind of coaching I did you also are doing that isn't about assault, but about the kinds of support and mentorship you are able to give.

Do you see what I mean? You're holding yourself to a pretty intense and stringent standard: few victims can just start talking about rape with others right off the bat, or be victim advocates straightaway. It happens, but a LOT of victims just don't feel able to do that so darn soon.

I think one thing you'd probably also pass on to girls is the idea that whatever their process for healing is, you'd support them in that. That if they didn't want to talk about it yet, or couldn't report or talk about it, that that's okay.

In other words: how about giving yourself the same kind of treatment and patience I think you'd probably give other girls? How about one of the examples you set is that being kind to yourself is important, and respecting your own process is important?

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I guess I'm just focusing on the things I didn't do so that I could try to figure out why I still don't feel completely better... And the thought that I may never be completely better... Is hard to wrap my head around. It's easier to think "If only I had done this... then I would feel better about what happened."

I just want to feel better and forget about it and... I wish it never happened. Which obviously every person who has gone through this wishes for that but... I don't know how else to say it.

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Well, you certainly could find out about if you can still report, if you like and think that will help. Without physical evidence, charges may not be able to be filed, but it's possible you could still file a report in the case that that person rapes again. Your report could support someone else's physical evidence.

If that's something you want to look into, I'd suggest contacting this agency: http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/

If you want to talk abut what your process of healing has been so far, and see how we might help you be able to heal further, we can certainly talk about that, too. For instance, it sounds like you haven't had any kind of counseling, correct?

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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Thanks for the link, I'll keep it in mind, but I do know how awful reporting this kind of thing can get and I'm not really sure if I'm ready to deal with that.

I haven't had any counseling, or spoken to my family about it. I have told one friend, and my boy friend, but I didn't tell either of them the whole story of what happened. My sister is on this site though, so she may read this at some point which I have decided I'm okay with (obviously) but I think that's why I didn't seek help from you sooner. I just don't know where to start in the way of feeling better... I really thought I was okay, but am feeling like now I'm so obviously not... I think the theme of my feelings should be that I just don't know.

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Well, actually, just filing a report well after a rape is unlikely to be awful. The filing the report (especially if it doesn't involve collecting physical evidence) is not usually the toughest part: it's testifying. But in your case, since there won't be any physical evidence, having charges he could be prosecuted on to take to court is highly unlikely.

It's important to recognize that for most of us, healing from rape is a lifelong process. And I have known few survivors that felt way better after just one year. Those I have known who have got a lot of help and support quickly, and/or just had personality types or skills when it came to dealing with trauma not everyone has. But a year, in my experience, is a very small period of time for healing, especially without any help at all.

Usually, where you're started already, and are continuing here, is the most solid first step: that's not being silent, but telling at least a few people and starting to really talk about it. Silence, while understandable, is known to be a huge impediment to healing and starting to feel better.

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I will definitely consider reporting it then, I feel like it might help, I'm not entirely sure, but I think it might.

I just don't understand how I felt like I had already moved past it, but now I feel like its worse than ever. I never felt like I needed to talk about it because I thought I was okay... I don't know why... It's not like I should have expected to be okay afterward.

I don't even know how to talk about it...

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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It's so, so typical for healing from any kind of trauma to have fits and starts, to feel like you move ahead for a while, then feel like you've taken steps back. You're hard-pressed to find someone whose experience of healing is NOT like that.

There's no right way to talk about this: there are just the ways that feel right for you. I promise.

That might be telling the whole story to get it out. It may be just saying "I was raped." It may be talking about the different things you have been feeling. It may be about asking a person who can listen to ask your questions. The sky is really the limit, and we usually find out what's right just by following our gut and trying a few ways.

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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Maybe I'll try talking to my boyfriend about it, I just don't know if I'm ready to. I find it hard because I feel like I'm making a big deal about something that, to me, feels like it happened so long ago.

I guess I just don't know who to talk to...

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Everyone is different, but for me, I have been helped a lot more in talking to other survivors about my assaults or those who are or work in rape and trauma counseling, than by romantic/sexual partners, especially those who have not also survived assault.

That isn't to say there's no value in doing so -- I'd say those experiences were valuable, too. But in some ways, there are some skillsets I think we often need to have in place from talking to others in different kinds of relationships first, because male partner reactions -- even when supportive -- can often come with their own baggage and issues. if you're still working through your own stuff, working through a partner's issues w/your rape can be rough.

And someone else who was a survivor or who works with survivors can also help hold a space for you where they make clear that it IS a big deal (would you say being mugged a year ago wasn't a big deal?), and that the passage of time can make that easier to manage, but doesn't make it unimportant.

Again, your mileage may vary, but that's my two cents.

[ 11-24-2009, 04:16 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I've thought about going to a counselor or talking to another survivor, but I don't personally know any survivors who aren't my age (I find it hard with friends because I generally talk more about their problems than my own, which makes me feel good to help them but also doesn't address my own issues).

I think that I need to find my own support system to help me, but I'm not sure what the best way is, to find that.

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Well, you're perfectly welcome to start with some of us, if you like.

You might also contact that same org I linked you to above and ask about any rape survivor support groups. That's another good way to get connected with other survivors.

With friends, sometimes when we want to focus more on their stuff than ours, it's actually in part out of avoidance or about us being afraid to be vulnerable. One way to deal with that, if that's happening, is to just start with one friend and take that leap, saying you really need to talk about a problem of your own with someone you know you can trust, and also need them to help you do that by not letting you default to a counseling position for them on your part.

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I hear what you're saying, and I really do appreciate your advice and everything. I say this because I think I'm getting redundant and I'm sorry for that. Maybe I should just take some time and think about what to talk about because I just don't know how to talk to anyone. Talking to you is helpful, Heather, and I thank you for that. But this is as far as I know what to do or how to do it. I guess I feel lost and unprepared. There is no class where you get to learn how to deal with rape, or anything like that.

I will contact them, and see what they have available. If I decide to report it they may be able to give me resources there as well.

And yes, I do do that with my friends because I really find talking about it hard, and it's easier to avoid it. My best friend is in Denmark for the next 6 months, and we only talk over skype so I'll have to think about who I'm comfortable enough with here, or if I can have a conversation lke that over skype...

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Glad to be of help, and I hope it's obvious that you don't have to talk to us more here, or do so before you're ready or if you don't want to.

If and when you do want to, you know where to find us. [Smile]

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I do know that, and I'll pop back into this thread when I know what I want to talk about and have a bit of time to digest how I'm feeling. I think now that I realize I'm really not over this, I can address it differently. Maybe I'll see if there is a counselor on campus who I can talk to. But I will definitely be back as classes are almost over for the semester and I will have a month to figure things out and get in touch with some resources.

Again, Thanks, your help is invaluable.

Edit: I sent the Vancouver Rape Relief Center an e-mail asking if they had any local resources closer to me, so hopefully that gets some things going for me. [Smile]

[ 11-24-2009, 08:50 PM: Message edited by: Love-Life ]

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There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Love-Life
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I am feeling hopeless. I don't feel suicidal. I just feel like this whole process of healing is something that I don't have time for, and I don't know when I will. But I sit in class and can't concentrate, and I spoke with a counselor on campus but she seemed to think that I was doing all that I could to feel better and that the rest would come with time. The thing is that I really don't have time for this right now. I'm in my last week of classes and then I have final exams starting the next week, and I have to be able to focus.

I guess the thing is that it will take time, and I'm hoping that after winter break I will be able to concentrate again, but I just don't know how to handle the next few weeks. I have been having trouble sleeping too... I think everything is kind of piling up and I can't stop it. So yeah, hopeless is how I feel. I feel like all I can do is wait and that just doesn't feel good enough. I feel like I should be able to do things and then feel better, like if I want to do really well on an exam I just have to study hard enough... But, from what I understood on here and from the counselor, all I can do is wait to feel better.

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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It might help to recognize that whether we're dealing with the results of a trauma or not, the emotional parts of our lives and ourselves don't tend to care much about what we have time for. Do you know what I mean?

When we have emotional shifts and feelings, we simply need to deal with them and acknowledge that they're important, no less so than any other part of life.

When it comes to balancing this and your studies, can you try and give yourself some timed breaks TO feel what you are feeling, kind of make a mantra that tells yourself you have this hour to process feelings, then you're going to go spend two on study?

In terms of the issues with sleeping, can you talk to a healthcare provider about those?

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I think I can definitely try that, it may help especially when I'm at home. I spend most of my day on campus but I can probably work something out. I sometimes struggle with accepting emotions and feelings because I feel like it's a weakness (which I know that emotions are good and necessary, I just feel like I should handle my own all by myself).

I can talk to my doctor, I get really bad side effects from anything with any sort of "sleepy-making" drug in it, but I should probably touch base with him anyways, as I need a new prescription for birth control, and maybe he will have some suggestions for me.

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Well, if emotions are a weakness, they're doing a pretty good job kicking your (and everyone's) arse then, aren't they? [Smile]

Obviously, I disagree: I don't think any part of our makeup is a weakness, nor do I think our emotions are such. I also don't think asking for help is about weakness: quite the opposite, really.

--------------------
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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Love-Life
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I think that that's a good way to look at it. I just have trouble seeking help, especially face to face. I don't really know why. I just always have to be okay, no matter who I'm with. And most of the time I am okay, so it's easy. But lately it's hard to spend time with people because I don't feel okay, nor do I feel good enough to pretend I'm okay.

I was once given the advice "fake it til you make it" which right now I think is awful advice. I think if I hadn't been faking it for so long, I would have dealt with all this a year ago.

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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Contextualize it this way: it's actually braver to not be okay in front of people than it is to fake it. Because not being okay and asking for help and support requires honesty and vulnerability. Hiding your troubles or pain and only consoling others tends to put oneself on a pedestal as a superman (or woman).

AND... when you don't share your troubles, but only help and console others, it also doesn't help them much, because it feels so one-sided. It feels good to help a friend in need, after all, and is part of having a friendship via having a relationship with an armchair therapist. [Smile]

(If it helps? This has been a lot of my journey in my life. In other words, I'm generally inclined to do just what you do, and spent a lot of years like that. That has always been particularly hard for me because some of the trauma and hardships I have faced in my life have been very rough for some folks to hold. However, it's all really less hard for the people I let get close to me than I usually assume, and it's something those people WANT to do for me.

So, what I do is just try and push myself outside that comfort zone with the people closest to me. Not only has that helped me get support when I needed it, it also got myself and those people much closer than we could have if I didn't bring my own burdens to the table.)

[ 12-02-2009, 06:15 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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Love-Life
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So, I have a question for you. Why is it so hard to think about telling my friends/family about this? I really cannot imagine having the conversation. Is it just because I'm not ready? Is it something I'm just going to have to dive into because I'll never feel ready? It just seems like such a scary thought to open up to them like that.

I talk to a few of my friends about everything, and some of them know that I've had this assault. I really don't have so much of a hard time saying "I was raped" as I do saying "I'm really upset about it." So, I guess I just don't want people to think I'm always bringing it up, or using it to get sympathy, or anything like that. But I guess I wouldn't be friends with people who thought things like that...

I guess it's just weird because if my friend were in my situation I'd be saying the same things you are... But it just feels impossible for me because I have some sort of thing in my head that says I should be able to do this alone.

On a good note I have officially handed in all of my assignments this term, on-time! I wasn't really expecting to, so it's been a good day. I definitely didn't do as well as I would have if I hadn't been feeling so awful, but at least I've finished (minus two finals) this semester. I'm just glad that I haven't completely gone off track, school is really important to me. [Smile]

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Heather
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You know, speaking for myself, I did a LOT of this alone: too much, much too much. Mind, some of that is about a different time in culture and about not having safe places to really get a lot of help and support. The first few years after I was assaulted, disclosure for me would have meant opening myself up more to other abuses from other people. Of course, that also came back to bit me in the arse in a big way a couple times in my life, and it was when it became clear to me that going it alone was a) really messing up parts of my life and b) also wasn't something I HAD to do at that point that I stopped, and started making more connections, reaching out.

So, CAN you do it alone? Maybe. But you probably don't really want to, especially since doing it alone rarely results in doing it well.

It's hard for me to say what your hard time with telling others is because we can all be so different. For me, one thing, like I said, is a known lack of safety if I disclosed. But even if I had had that safety, I think I had some other issues. Parts of my life where already so much harder than that of most of my peers that I was very afraid of being pitied or coddled, especially when I needed to be so strong in a whole bunch of ways.

One common thing that can keep us from telling people who know are safe, and know love us, is a fear that we will look different in their eyes. You've talked, for instance, of being the invulnerable counselor with some of your friends: if you disclose, they may see you less as a counselor and more on their level, like them, more vulnerable. It's not a judgment, but sometimes feelings of a kind of superiority like that, of always being the one to help and never the one who needs help or asks for it, can feel like a sort of protection, especially a protection per how we are perceived.

You might also be afraid of what people will say: and sometimes we can even be afraid of having people say the RIGHT things because then the dam might break, and we might open up and really know we need help, feel how much help we actually need more acutely.

You might also think, in alignment with some of what you have said, that if you don't talk about this, it won't intrude on all the parts of your life you're trying to keep up. I'd suggest it's intruding no matter what, but that doesn't mean that isn't a fear.

So, those are some ideas, but really, the bigger question is this: why do YOU think it feels so hard for you? What are YOU afraid of?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Hailey13
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I just wanted you to know that I know how you feel. I was raped when I was 18 years old. I know his name, first and last, his child's name, his wife's name, where he lives and works. It's been two years and it still hurts. I never did and still haven't reported it. It's not something to get over. It will always be there but I know I'll be a more understanding person for it.

I know it sucks. One year or even two years is not a long time to process something like this. I've tried counseling of all sorts. Group, one on one, survivor centers... There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think the survivor groups helped the most... Hearing that other people know what my experience was like and keep on living their lives.

The main thing I wanted to tell you is that it wasn't just a 'bad date.' HE was the person who wronged YOU. You said no. He pursued. That puts the onus on him.

Good luck and best wishes.

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Love-Life
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Hi again,

I just wanted to thank everyone again for everything. I've been doing much better with things in my life. But I was just hoping for some perspective on one thing.

I'm in my second year of my BA and I've been finding one class I'm in this semester rather difficult. It's a popular culture sociology class, and while I really like the subject matter, we are frequently watching movies that talk about how rape is portrayed in the media. In some cases they are just talking about it, but in some there are scenes of rape, and I find it really upsetting. As much as I feel that it's important and the message that the documentaries are sending are good, I have a hard time having it right in front of me.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is whether it would be acceptable for me to talk to a counselor or my professor about it. I feel caught off guard with the subject matter so all I would want would be to receive the movie title beforehand so I can read about it. However, I don't want to miss every video that has explicit content either. I really find them interesting (and they are testable). I really don't know what to do, I'm torn about whether I should bring it up, just watch the videos, or just leave part way through the movie.

I feel like I'm working so hard to stay on top of things and put it out of my mind as much as I can while I'm at school... I guess these videos are just a reminder that I really don't need.

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Ecofem
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Hi Vikki,

I'm glad to hear you're doing much better! I feel the same way about rape or any sort of sexual violence portrayed in an audio-visual way (I'm not a queasy person but I ran out of City of God screaming, eek!) I'd recommend talking to your professor about this, saying pretty much exactly what you said here:

quote:
It's a popular culture sociology class, and while I really like the subject matter, we are frequently watching movies that talk about how rape is portrayed in the media. In some cases they are just talking about it, but in some there are scenes of rape, and I find it really upsetting. As much as I feel that it's important and the message that the documentaries are sending are good, I have a hard time having it right in front of me.
You could tell him/her that you'd appreciate getting a list of film titles you can look up content online. You don't mean for them to alter their course in any way but for private reasons you do not feel you can stay to watch all of them and wanted see if that was ok/if there's anything else you could do as an alternative. While there are some jerks out there, if I were the professor, I'd appreciate your talking to me about it privately. On one hand, they can show what they want; on the other, if they show stuff that disturbs students and do not offer alternatives, they can get in trouble to... so talking about it first is a great first step. I know it's hard so if you'd prefer going to a counselor first, you could do that, too.

Good luck!

P.S. Have you seen this yet? [Wink]

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Love-Life
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Thanks Lena, that sounds do-able. He is the head of the department so hopefully he will be diplomatic. I think I was always planning on talking to him, but I really need to get on it since we are already 3 weeks in. I just worry about undesirable outcomes like having him ask a lot of questions, or dismiss me, or make me feel stupid for asking. I know he probably won't but the possibility is enough to make me want to suck it up and live with watching the movies.

--------------------
There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.

:-) Vikki (-:

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Ecofem
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I really do think it will go fine; it might feel a bit awkward at first but he'll probably be glad you discussed it with him. Plus, if you start by saying that you really like his class and are getting a lot from it like you did here, he'll be more open. It makes it into a "let's work together to find a solution that works for us both" scenario rather than a "you suck, this is horrible" which people tend to be more amenable to. Let us know how it goes! [Smile]
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