Last winter, my girlfriend left me for another woman from our university’s queer resource center (Q.C.). We tried to stay friends during the break-up, but it got messy, and I was not ready for a friendship having just left the relationship. Near the holidays she broke it off with the other woman and asked me to try again. Initially I responded with a “no”, but still being in love with her, after some time I agreed. Immediately it didn’t feel right. I discovered we’d moved too far apart, and I couldn’t let the way she’d handled the initial break up go. She had understandably dropped all contact, but with the added detail of the occasional phone call describing the other girl’s tongue texture etc. It was too much. I told her it wasn’t working, she was wrecked, and I felt awful for saying yes in the first place. A couple of weeks afterwards I received a text from a girl I’d met in the queer center. She was going through a rough patch, and I’d been giving her advice and support. She asked me to come see her in the center, and when I did my ex was also there. We both comforted her, and I did my best to not make it awkward. While I was in the center I wanted to pick up a condom sticker for a friend of mine from the Q.C.’s filing cabinet. My ex having previously told me I couldn’t, figured wouldn’t bother me about it while the other girl was present. When I asked why I couldn’t, she’d just responded “because”. This time, she jumped in front of me, grabbing my arm telling me I couldn’t; she hated him, he didn’t deserve it, and I wasn’t allowed. She wouldn’t move, and being stronger then me I replied, “What. You don’t think I can make you move?” with a bite, and a potential underlying sexual context. I used the phrase because I couldn’t get her to move with more polite and political phrases. I felt powerless, and felt that I should be able to give my friend a sticker if I wanted. The girl we’d been comforting decided to leave, and standing as the door closed, instantly her hand was down the front of my pants, her fingers inside of me. I said her name in a scolding manner, and pulled away, but she pulled me closer and pushed her fingers inside harder than before. I didn’t know what to say. She’d always been receptive and aware of me, and me of her in the past. This was not feeling like one of the previous ‘friendship’ slips that had occurred between us. I made a reach to touch her as I was processing how and why she has made such a sexual leap without, what I had thought, to be any foreplay (flirting or otherwise), but she stopped me and said, “Ah, ah, ah.. no. You were the one who dumped me.” And then I became even more confused and uncomfortable, because I didn’t understand how she’d a) made such a leap without me, b) wouldn’t let me participate, and c) why I didn’t feel in control all of a sudden. I had attempted to participate, like in our past, thinking maybe I should, and this was what was going on (a slip like before), and then I couldn’t!? I found I couldn’t speak. I was shocked and frozen. Her fingers had been enough of an initial shock, unexpected, and not what I had wanted. Why she’d said I couldn’t touch her when I had been rationalizing her aggressive fingers to be, although a sexual line crossed, perhaps a well-intended sexual gesture, was beyond me. My mind stopped functioning, and I literally felt at a loss. Then she said, “what I don’t understand is why you haven’t said no yet”, in a cold tone I’d never heard her use before. I didn’t know what to do, what was going on, and was literally frozen. It all felt wrong, yet it felt good sexually. I did want to be with her like we’d been before, but not in this indescribable way. I didn’t know why I wasn’t freaking, or screaming, “stop it” in her face, or a least pulling away again. It was as if my mind had evacuated, and I was thinking in slow motion. I don’t remember the exacts of what happened following those moments, but I do remember being moved to a wall. My ex assures me I fondled her too, but I honestly don’t remember either way. I do recall the end, and my ex’s sudden cheerful mood. She said, “Oops, well I guess we shouldn’t have done that.” I was livid, deeply hurt, and definitely not feeling a ‘we’. I told her it would never happen again, and left feeling disgusting. In the weeks following I withdrew further from my studies, peers, and everyday activities. I decided to visit the school counselor to try and figure out what was upsetting me so much, and I didn’t connect the two until a couple appointments in. When I explained what happened the councilor I was seeing told me to come back next week so we could work on finding my “real problem”. I didn’t go back, and I buried my encounter with my ex. It took almost eight months for the encounter to resurface in my life. When it did I discussed it with a close and respected friend of mine. She told me what had happened was a form of rape, it was not ok, and I had every right to be so upset. My ex had been someone I trusted, and the girlfriend I came out with. I found it hard to get my head around the word ‘rape’, and not sure what to call the same-sex encounter. In my mind rape is a word used for violent attacks involving a man and woman. Telling her I felt uncomfortable with the word, because I felt it took away from her past rape traumas, which involved extreme violence, she suggested I could use the words ‘sexual assault’. She explained both terms were broader umbrella terms with varying degrees of the same offence. My other friend doesn’t see it as a big deal, and being previous friends with my ex, has continued their friendship. And when I told my mum she wondered what she had done wrong in raising me that I would put myself into such a situation. I explained to her it wasn’t me, and through the conversation discovered she was assaulted under knifepoint. I don’t know how to describe the encounter. My ex and I ran into each other at a common friend’s funeral, and we had a confrontation in the bathrooms, where she wouldn’t let me leave until I told her why I wasn’t being overly friendly to her. I told her how upset I was, how not ok what had happened was, and how I didn’t want her a part of my life. She told me it was so long ago I’m making things up, I wanted it and was madly flirting with her, I fondled her too, and I’m being unfair. Is it still sexual assault if I only pulled away once? I was frozen, and I didn’t yell no, but I also was so confused and paralyzed in the moment. There was a time in my life where I had confided everything to this girl, and I didn’t recognize a single bit of her in those moments. She was bitter and violating. Was this sexual assault? Each time I have to explain to the friend who has kept close contact with my ex why this bothers me, she doesn’t react, and each time I feel less and less. Maybe this shouldn’t bother me so much??? Clarification!?
Posts: 2 | From: Canada | Registered: Dec 2009
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I can help to clarify some of the things that you are wondering about. You say that you didn't "say" no. But you definitely acted on it. You pulled away, you were frozen and non responsive. These are all ways in which you withdrew your consent in that situation. If she was doing it because she thought you "wanted it" she would have wanted your participation, she would have asked you what was wrong. But she didn't.
The definition of rape/sexual assault is "forcing -- physically, verbally or emotionally -- someone to engage in any given sexual activity they do not want to (or orgasm they do not want to have), have not consented to or have not been in a position to give full consent to -- usually manual sex, oral sex, vaginal or anal sex or fondling -- is rape and/or sexual assault" (Blinders Off:Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault).
Everything bothers different people different amounts. Personally, it took me over a year to even accept the fact that I had been raped. Now it feels like I'm reliving that day all over again because it feels like it just happened. So I can relate to how you are feeling.
I hope that you look at the article I quoted above as well as Dealing With Rape. I also hope that this helps, and again I'm so sorry this happened to you. Heather will hopefully be able to give you some more advice, she really helped me out a lot.
-------------------- There is an upside to everything, sometimes you just have to turn it upside down to find it.
:-) Vikki (-: Posts: 153 | From: British Columbia | Registered: Apr 2008
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If I understand right, this happened about a year ago? If so, it's very common for survivors to relive the memories of an assault and to remember more details around the anniversary of the assault. I don't know if it's helpful to you to know that, but I want you to know you're not alone in feeling like this and that it's not uncommon to be fine for a while and then months later become hurt and upset by an assault.
quote:In my mind rape is a word used for violent attacks involving a man and woman. Telling her I felt uncomfortable with the word, because I felt it took away from her past rape traumas, which involved extreme violence...
While it is more common for women to be raped by men, it does happen a lot, too, that men are raped by males or females and that women are raped by other women. The latter two just aren't talked about as much because of compounding social stigmas. As well, many rapes are not so violent that the person is hospitalized or needs surgery. That, fortunately, tends to be less common, and you are more likely to see survivors who have few injuries. Whether you've survived a completed raped or an attempted rape, whether it was physically violent or you escaped with few or no physical injuries, whether you fought back or you froze, you are a survivor. Around here, we feel it's best not to compare the severity of an assault because a person can feel any number of ways after an assault, no matter how violent it was. Might someone who's experienced a more violent assault have greater emotional trauma? Possibly, but that doesn't take away from what other survivors are feeling and it doesn't negate those feelings or somehow make them less important or less worthy of being expressed.
quote:And when I told my mum she wondered what she had done wrong in raising me that I would put myself into such a situation.
I'm sorry your mother said that to you. It's very sad to me when one survivor blames another for their assault. No one asks to get raped, no one is at fault for getting raped. You went to help your friend. You were trying to be a good friend. Your ex was trying to exert dominance and control over you. She is the only one at fault for raping you because she is the one who raped, not you. Our site director, Heather, recently posted a really awesome blog entry on 10 surefire ways to prevent sexual assault. I think you might find it helpful to see something written in that way, where it charges rapists with preventing rape, not non-rapists. For the sake of argument, what do you feel you could have done differently?
As for fighting vs. not fighting back, really that's an instinctual thing, not something we have much control over. Some people can learn to overcome the instinct through self-defense classes, however, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't freeze up. We can never really know how we will react in situations until we are in them. As well, this was a former partner, someone you'd trusted. That alone is enough to make most people freeze up because it's often so unexpected.
It sounds like that other friend, the one who continues to blow it off and ignore your feelings, is not a good friend. What happened was serious and it seems to have really hurt you. A good friend should respect and validate your feelings, not treat them like they don't matter. I understand it's hard to let go of friendships, but it sounds like this friendship isn't going to aid you in your healing, so it may be best for your overall health and wellbeing to not continue the friendship.
I'm glad you have that one friend to talk to. She sounds like a great support. It can help to have additional support, though, as one person just can't be enough. How do you feel about seeking out some more in-person help? This page from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has a list of rape crisis centres in Canada (just scroll down the page a bit). They can provide a listening ear and give you information on local resources available to you and on your legal rights, should you decide to pursue any legal action. They can also refer you to counseling services with professionals who specialize in areas of rape and abuse, if you are interested in seeking counseling, and help you find some support groups so you can interact and share with other survivors.
What can we help you with? We're here to talk and read and provide as much support as we can (understanding our limitations due to being online only).
-------------------- 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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Thank you both for such caring and informative responses. It means a great deal to me, as I haven’t always received this sort of support from those I’ve confided to. It’s comforting to know it’s normal to not work through these feelings till later down the road. (Yes, this occurred about a year ago.)
It is tiresome having to explain and reaffirm what I myself am struggling to understand and come to terms with. Re-explaining to the friend (who is still hanging out with my ex) that her actions are hurtful is taking a toll on me, and it is something I know I am going to have to evaluate. I have been hoping it’s a comprehension issue, similar to my own initial confused and blockage, but it isn’t appearing so…
That same friend is part of the same high school crowd as both my ex and me. Although, as a group we’ve grown apart this past year, we still throw the occasional group gatherings to catch up and share stories. I am frustrated because attending these events is an exercise in self-torture. Spending a night so close to my ex, pretending everything is ok, and constantly remembering is not enjoyable. Recently my ex organized a group dinner via Facebook, and not subscribing to the social site, one of the other girls in the group called me to ask if I was coming, and if my ex had called to invite me yet. I had to tell her I couldn’t go, and I probably wasn’t invited given the circumstances. I left her slightly puzzled, but trusting I had my reasons for not attending and would explain later. I don’t want to unnecessarily loose friendships over this, but I find it difficult to indirectly lie all the time – specifically to the one friend who called to see if I was invited. If I share my story I know that remaining friends with someone who hangs out with my ex after I’ve explained the assault is not going to be ok with me (as you know it’s something I’m discovering right now with another friendship –‘friendship’?- of mine). I’m afraid of how big this could become. If the close friend I tell decides to sever her friendship with my ex it could potentially come out to everyone in the group because severing is blunt and obvious. It’s frightening to imagine something as personal as this becoming so ‘public’. I feel caught in the middle, and am essentially confused how to handle my friendships with those people who are part of ‘that high school bunch’. I also, probably irrationally so, don’t want to be responsible for ruining my ex’s connections with this high school group, and that even more upsetting because I know on some level caring about her friendships is unhealthy for someone who’s trying to focus on, look after, & respect herself. Do I just stop attending these events without explanation!? That seems wrong somehow, but the alternative seems disastrous.
As for what I could have done differently.. in reality probably nothing. I reacted the way I did for whatever reasons. I hope to never be in a similar situation again, but if I am I hope I can find the courage to be more assertive. You make a good point that individual reactions to those types of situations vary, and our instincts aren’t always something we have control over.
Posts: 2 | From: Canada | Registered: Dec 2009
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Near the end of high school, I was raped by a then boyfriend. What I tended to tell people was "Look, you probably know the break up between me and X was pretty bad. I don't want to go into details, but I'm just really not comfortable being around him right now."
And, for just about all of my friends, that was that. They stopped inviting the two of us to the same events. I'm sure some people had an idea that something worse than a normal bad break up had happened, my friends respected my privacy and my wishes. Years later, I *still* haven't told most of those friends what happened, and I do feel okay about that, but things are okay. So, I'd suggest you give at least a partial explanation, but you don't have to go into any details at all if you don't want to. Your friends may not be as great about it as mine were, but this strategy definitely worked for me.
In my friend group, the whole thing wasn't a huge deal, but that doesn't mean that it's always bad if it is. What I'm hearing right now, though, is that you don't feel prepared for some explosion within the group at this point--and that's totally fine.
If you choose to get counseling in a more formal setting, one of the things you can discuss is how to deal with this friend group over time.
Posts: 2262 | From: in transition | Registered: Apr 2008
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