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Author Topic: second opinion please... fuzzy math
petitepois
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Hi,

First off, this is my first post on this site- I'm really impressed by all the material here, it's been helpful.

I guess I am looking for a second opinion on something. I have been seeing a counselor and she thinks that what happened between my ex-boyfriend and me is sexual abuse, maybe more. So does my husband, and a counseling professor at his school.

Ok, so I am hoping that that doesn't over-bias anyone... I am worried about calling something that isn't abuse 'abuse.' So here's the story:

I was freshly sixteen and moved back to my old town after having lived abroad for a year. My friend introduced me to this new friend of hers and he liked me instantly. I had never ever had a boyfriend before, had always been a bit of a tom boy and my parents were fairly conservative (Christian) in their views of sex. In short, I was not experienced at all. He on the other hand, while also from a conservative home (Christian) regarding sex, had several previous girlfriends (I am not sure of all he had done with them) and was deeply into pornography. In other words, he was more experienced than I was. I am not stating all this to make myself look innocent, I am just trying to insert any relevant details.

I had no intentions early on of making out with him and so I was surprised the day he wanted to have a talk about how soon we would be progressing to making out. I was surprised and to be honest that this would be expected of me and I can't remember what I said.

One night we were watching a movie and began making out. It was all well and good and we stopped. We both felt a bit bad about the next day. In fact we fought about it that week and decided we were not going to kiss that whole week.

I didn't have my license at the time and he did. A bit after that time he drove me home one night, but instead of taking me straight home he took me to 'park'. I was a little nervous I think. We began to kiss and then he put his hand on my butt. I moved his hand away and said I didn't want to. He stopped. The next day we talked and he told me that he would touch his old girlfriends butt and that for them it wasn't 'bad' (as in breaking the Bible rules sort of thing). I still wasn't sure but finally said that he could. The next night he drove me home again and parked again. We began kissing and he touched my butt over my jeans and then he moved to my crotch which surprised me. I felt like I shouldn't say no since I already let him touch my butt and of course he was revved up. Then he started fingering my crack at the top of my jeans. I was really nervous at this point and I can't remember what happened after that but I think that was far as it went.

For the next two years that was the pattern. He would try something, I would say no, then we would talk and I would agree, and then he would take it a little bit past where I had wanted, to the point where he was touching my chest without my bra (I think verbally agreed only to over my bra, but its not clear) and we were dry humping, he tried rubbing his crotch between my boobs (I am not sure if I said no, but I think I said 'I'm not sure' and he said we should at least try it), where I was touching myself and talking dirty. I often felt like a porn star but I don't remember objecting. I'm not sure if my being not sure and needing to be talked into it counts as a 'no' since I would give in to it, or allow it. Sometimes I would cry after but would pretend I wasn't. Sometimes he would reach down my pants and try something, like fingering around my vagina or anus while I was cooking or at my locker. I would be startled and surprised and sometimes say I wasn't sure but I don't think I told him no and mostly I just felt nervous or confused. He often tried to talk me into making out with him in my swimsuit or in a skirt or my running shorts but I insisted no matter how much he pestered me because I was pretty sure of how things would end up. A couple times he would just life up my shirt. I told him no sharply and he would ask why. I told him I thought I was fat and didnt want him seeing my stomach. He said I should be proud of my stomach and tried again. Again I said no and told him I just want ready.

During this time our relationship was both good and bad. He was interesting and nice and would do sweet things for me (not as many as before we were dating where he would pay for EVERYTHING to the point I tried to pay him back in case it meant I would have to start dating him before I was ready). But also checking out lots of other girls, saying he couldn't help it that they were that attractive and I didn't look like them. He said something along this line several times. He wouldn't really say it meanly, more as a statement of fact, and with a bit of apology in his voice. He was usually talking about sex in some capacity and that was uncomfortable but I became far more familiar with sex than I had ever been and soon his requests felt more normal I guess. Also, during the relationship my eating disorder was acting up big time I went from 115 to 104 and then to 145 and back to 115 all in a year and a half.

To be honest the exact details of the relationship and what I did and didnt say are blurry. I am not sure what my ex would think was communicated to him. When we broke up he apologized for 'things he did' (to me? I think he might of said, but again all fuzzy) which surprised me, at the time I had no idea what he was referring to. So I apologized back figuring it just meant we had gone to far, but he kindof laughed nervously and said something along the lines that I didn't totally get it.

I'm married now to a man who never proceeds in sexual activity when I'm not really involved or when I'm 'over acting' (which is what I would do for my ex, lots of fake orgasms and such). When my husband and I have sex I'll some times start crying for some odd reason and he'll stop right away. I'm not sure why I cry- it feels pretty stupid. I also have nightmares regularly where someone is trying to touch me or rape me. I just figured I was weird because it doenst at all relate to my thought life (no sexual fantasies at all). I sometimes wakeup with a terrifed look on my face my husband says and hes always concerned about my dreams. And I often have dreams where my ex morphs into my husband and he's flirting with lots of other girls. I hate going into movie stores because of the covers on the movies and I find sex in movies terribly upsetting. I get really angry and emotional. Also, after sex with my husband my eating disorder acts up and I often want to eat a lot. I figured for a while that a lot of my sex anxiety was just tied to my eating disorder and image issues. My counselor seems to suggest otherwise. That it's that and sexual abuse but I am just not sure if what happened with my ex counts as sexual abuse.

Also, like I said, before this boyfriend I had no sexual experience and that includes no sexual abuse.

Can you someone give any insight on where to go from here in understanding this big mess of a situation in my head? I don't want to call something abuse that isn't abuse, but if it is abuse I want to call it that and get on with things. thanks SO much for your time and patience and thought in this.

xo

[ 10-04-2010, 09:33 PM: Message edited by: petitepois ]

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Heather
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Welcome to the boards, petitepois (and from my hometown, no less!).

What I'm seeing here is a constant pattern of sexual harassment and coercion, and those are abusive -- not healthy -- behaviours.

I'm hearing though, that three people whose opinions it sounds like you can trust, or at least, have no reason not to, and who are in the position to know, have also said this strikes them as abusive.

So, maybe what you need here isn't so much another opinion that this is, but to talk about why you're having such a hard time accepting that reality? That's not at all uncommon, likely in large part because very few people WANT to have been victims of abuse, but it's worth talking through if you want to, particularly since it's pretty hard to heal and move forward from any situation we're not accepting as being what it was.

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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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OWL Dan
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I am sorry to hear about your past experiences and I commend you for taking actions that will help you! I believe that your counselor is very correct in calling this sexual abuse. When you wrote that you said “NO” and your saying that ‘you just gave in’ should reaffirm for you that all of his actions were against your wishes and therefore considered sexual abuse. You are not a fault for any of this! Please continue to work with your counselor, it sounds like she has a good handle on what happened. It also sounds like you have a caring husband too, since you stated that he has tried to help you find answers. It seems like you are off to a good start and I wish you well.

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Dan

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petitepois
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Thank you Heather (Chicago misses you I'm sure!) and Dan for taking the time to respond to my post! And thank you both from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement.

It really did surprise me that you were both sure of your responses (much like I was surprised with my counselor (s)). You may very well be right Heather that I don't want to think of myself as having been abused. It doesn't help anything either that when I tried talking to my parents about it a while back (after a counselor at my husbands uni. thought I had ptsd of some sort) that they thought I was over reacting, that I am responsible for my own decisions and that 'teens will be teen.'

So reason number 1: I've been telling myself for a while now that I simply made some bad decisions that I regretted. I have been telling myself that I gave into peer pressure.

reason number 2: I don't want to assassinate anyone's character. I would see my ex around campus a lot, he was still good friends with my friends, and he has published articles (school pub and stuff), etc. that are quite intelligent and maybe even sensitive to women's issues. It was just so hard to put that side of my ex with the other side I saw.

reason number 3: He did apologize and often felt bad, as in he knew we were crossing boundaries but he would often try to put up new boundaries.

reason number 4: I'm scared of blaming someone else for my own mistakes, playing the blame game to wriggle out of responsibility.

But the thing is that I've hated myself for so long for what I let happen. And I know I hated him for doing it. I *never* enjoyed it- I always felt gross. When I would talk about feeling gross, I guess we would laugh it off. Hate is such a strong word and I wish I didn't have those feelings (which is where binge eating would come in, to stuff down those feelings or I guess punish myself for those feelings). and for years the voice of my ex, thinking I was fat was in my head and I would loose loads of weight and try and look perfect to I guess prove him wrong. Again, not trying to blame. I did have some form of an ED before him, I just remember it being more in my head about controlling food and not following with my parents than about controlling my body. When I'm feeling better about myself I do think it's insane he would think of me as fat and not very beautiful. I mean, we are all entitled to our own opinions of beauty and such but, not to brag (and I'm not since I don't really believe them either), but people come up to me often enough telling me I'm beautiful etc. Weird, again, but it did help me question what my ex said about me.

my counselor had me write a letter to my ex and I was so surprised at what came out. I told her that I would NEVER SAY the things I wrote and she thought that was my mind protecting me from trauma. But frankly I just feel like me, her and others are just exaggerating and over-reacting because it wasn't really that bad and I feel like it's pretty normal. Oh boy... I don't know... I'm really scared i guess.

I guess I just feel like its my word against his and I just feel like my word couldn't possibly be the right one...

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petitepois
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and also I guess i feel like i can't trust my own memory of events- maybe im just angry and so am painting a picture more bleak than it was, like the opposite of rose coloured glasses? my husband thinks im very level when i talk about things and matter of fact, but...

well, what are some reasons people are scared to think that they've been abused?

and what about it makes it coercion/harassment?

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Heather
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That kind of attitude -- "teens will be teens" or more to the point, "boys will be boys," -- is unfortunately still very common, and it not only really endangers people, it also represents teens or boys very badly. There's no age or biological imperative that causes a person to sexually harass, coerce or abuse someone else, though by all means, cultural ideas that suggest they are certainly enable that kind of behaviour and may make people think it's inevitable they behave or are treated that way.

Self-blaming with any kind of abuse or harassment is also very common, especially with sexual abuse. Like those ideas I just talked about, the idea that abuse is a victim's fault, especially if it's sexual, still, unfortunately, abounds and is so hard to escape, even though so many people know better.

You know, I don't know about your ex outside this context, but there was, a while back, a college student/male blogger writing all kinds of apparently pro-feminist stuff who, as it turned out, raped a fellow student. In other words, someone writing those kinds of things doesn't mean they are putting their words in action. It's even possible they are writing what they are out of guilt or to provide themselves cover.

You telling yourself your own truth doesn't assassinate anyone's character. It also sounds like with the apologies (which are also typically part of abuse cycles), that HE knew he was doing wrong here, a truth he may be accepting more than you are.

With the issue of taking responsibility for your own actions, maybe it's worth thinking about what that responsibility would really look like. Who did YOU potentially do harm to in this situation? It might help to pretend this is about someone else who was in your position: would you say that someone saying no, again and again, wasn't doing what s/he needed to to make that abuse stop? Would another person, in your same position, seem like someone who was trying to avoid responsibility by recognizing this as abuse?

If in thinking about responsibility, you feel like you should have left the situation before you did, we can talk some about that if you want. That's common, and understandable, but it's also very common for many, many people to have a very hard time leaving abusive situations, and we can talk some about why that is if you like.

Here's one of the toughest parts of all of this: abuse IS normal, in that it is very, very common. Usually when we say "normal," we mean common, and abuse, sadly, is. Of course, that doesn't make it healthy or okay, just like the fact that poverty or racism is normal doesn't make it healthy or okay. Know what I mean?

I'm sure I'm not the first person to say this to you, but I'm going to say it anyway: trust your own truth. It is meaningful and it has authority. Trust that your word, your truth, COULD be the right one and probably is (again, it even sounds in alignment with your exes truth, in this case, since it sounds like he knew what he was doing was unacceptable). Remember that people who abuse are not healthy people, and that they have a lot to lose by telling the truth.

Even if you can only tell and hold your truth by yourself or with your closest circle of support -- which is a totally safe space to do it in, even though I understand it can feel so precarious -- I'd try and aim for that. Even if you can only do it on Tuesday, but can't again on Wednesday, that's okay. This is all a process.

--------------------
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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quote:
and also I guess i feel like i can't trust my own memory of events- maybe im just angry and so am painting a picture more bleak than it was, like the opposite of rose coloured glasses? my husband thinks im very level when i talk about things and matter of fact, but...
The best thing I have to offer with this question is from my own personal experiences. You okay with my sharing some of that?

quote:
well, what are some reasons people are scared to think that they've been abused?
Again, I'd say that pretty much close to no one really wants to be or have been a victim. That often makes us feel -- or has others frame us as -- weak, vulnerable, exposed, stupid, foolish, blind...any number of really tough things to feel, even if some of them are not true.

I think that, as well, recognizing in a very real way that we have been abused makes us have to recognize we could be again, which can be very scary.

Sometimes, too, recognizing abuse challenges some of the things we have thought about love that were not healthy and makes us have to face them, which is really hard.

This is a pretty big topic, though. We can keep talking about it, but it might be more helpful to you to suggest some books that address this.

quote:
and what about it makes it coercion/harassment?
I'm going to share a couple links with you that I think might explain that best:
• Blinders Off:Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault
• How can men know if someone is giving consent or not?

--------------------
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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petitepois
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I would be honoured for you to share with me.

It helps to hear about that blogger. I mean, horribly sad, becaue on what basis can you trust people then? but helpful in validating my own experience. The parallel to racism and poverty being normal is also helpful. And of course, accepting it Tuesday but not Wednesday. I think I can do that.

and I would NEVER tell a friend in my situation what i tell my self... **sigh**

i will definitely look at those books.. it was actually after reading that second article you recommended that i was like this site it freaking amazing. i love the pasta sauce and the airplane example. i read them a couple times over, thinking 'maybe i did say no...?' this site is amazing. wish i had found it when i was younger.

as to why i stayed in the relationship so long? well i have no idea. my parents were always very affirmative of women (women can do anything they set their minds to just like men, etc). But at the same time my parents were hardly ever home while i was a teen. i was very lonely. and just moved back from the uk, where i guess i had 'cahnged' so i had few friends that werent intimidated by newly acquired british accent and experience when i got back. i guess i was feeling pretty alone, lonely and insecure. and i think he saw that, was uber nice to me. and he was smart, and i liked that. in college (we went to the same one) is tarted into counseling for ED and thats when stopped liking me. i guess i got too entitled or confrontational- i got back into punk music and politics. and didnt wear makeup all the time (heaven forbid, i mean i love my makeup, but when i didnt wear it he said to my friend 'i dont know about her anymore...') he and i took a break eventually and he went out with a girl and that was supposed to be ok, but five guys showed interest in me (i was SO surprised since i thought i was ugly, fat, and that no one would want me since my ex didnt seem to), anyway, he got really jealous. didnt tell me but apparently ranted to my friend about it... well we got back together since i was scared. i wish i had stuck to my guns (my other good friend was insistent that i was way happier when he and i were on our break). but i wasnt sure who i was apart from him... what ifs filled me head...

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Heather
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So, on trusting memory per my own experience, I'm going to babble for a bit.

For me, I was sexually assaulted twice, by two different people (one an individual, one a group, unrelated to each other in any way) once at 11, then again at 12. At the time both of these things happened, I was also living in a very dysfunctional and emotionally abusive home environment. Not only did I not trust my truth with any of those things because the people involved sent clear messages I shouldn't (long stories, those), I also was very much keeping all of that to myself because I did not want anyone to know. So, for instance, I didn't have a single friend at the time I told about ANY of that: effectively, in a big way, the person my friends knew during those years was a lie, was a fabrication, had a life and life experiences radically different than I was presenting. In a word, I got used to not telling the truth, to the point that for a while there, I started to believe my own fictions, which was astonishingly easy, probably because I really wanted to believe none of those things had or were happening to me.

Once I had to start telling myself the truth, it still took a long time for me to tell anyone other than one or two people, including a therapist, in large part because I was no longer sure myself what my truth was. With one of my assaults, too, I could remember what happened just before and just after, but what happened during was -- and remains -- mostly lost to me, a big favor my brain did my psyche, really. So, some days, I felt very solid in my truth, but then other days I'd get myself in this headspace where I convinced myself I made it all up. Heck, even at this point, close to 30 years after the fact, after years of working in these issues publicly, writing about them so much, I can STILL find myself seeping into that headspace now and then. Thankfully, I've learned over the years how to stop it in its tracks pretty well, but that took a lot of time and practice.

One thing I learned to remind myself was to ask me how on earth I would benefit from making any of that up. I had PTSD for a long time that really screwed up parts of my life and relationships, including a relationship I really, really cherished. I sustained an injury during one of those assaults that still makes one kind of sex I'd really love to engage in all but impossible for me. I left a home in a way and at an age that meant I had to make a LOT of really hard sacrifices, some of which I still pay the price for: why would I have done that if it wasn't worth it? I'm not sure if that kind of logical process will help you, but it's helped me a lot, especially back then when I was first learning to hold my truth and give it power.

I also think it's just really hard sometimes to tell a hard truth. Like, I hate that what could have been a great childhood went so sour. When I look at pictures of me that age it just breaks my heart to see what someone did to that girl that I was. Heck, I hate sometimes to think about how long I didn't tell my truth, even though it was less long than it is for a lot of people. When our truths are hard, telling them and holding them is hard, though that sounds really pat. Hopefully, you get what I mean.

Again, sometimes it's STILL hard, but just so important. Even just sharing this now, I kinda need to go take a minute for myself before I can come back and offer some more, which I will. But that hard stuff stays important, is always important, and I think it's also always good, not just to help others, but to help ourselves, too. [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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petitepois
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Heather, thanks so much for sharing with me. The phrase 'my truth' is really helpful. And about the logic for the ptsd- why would i be afraid of sex? and have bad dreams? just to prove a point? i dont think so... i mean, i wonder if i make too big a deal of those as well, that they are normal, or that i am attributing them to something incorrectly... but still, seriously, i think i have a lot of the symptoms and why would i bring those on myself? also, if im safe inside my head and i let myself 'think what i want' i can admit my 'truth'. it helps to hear others struggling with blame and truth and perception. things just doesnt always feel as clean, especially when sometimes i said yes, and especially since maybe was more common than no, and since it happened with someone i thought i loved (which by the way he said i shouldnt say since it was 'too serious'), and since it happened with someone who is seriously religious and has a reputable family... but i am someone too. just like you.

im so scared to take the step you took and giving your situation a name. im just not sure what to make of it all. i wish i had a better memory of events, conversations because i certainly do not want to fill in gaps incorrectly. but if i were to tell the story my way, how i see it, feel it, think about it, dream about it- i would call it sexual harassment and abuse and emotional coercion. phew...

i hope people can believe... im so scared that im wrong and that if i were to tell my story people would say well it sounds like you were confusing so who could blame him? and did you try and stop the worst of it? and if i have to think 'im just not sure' one more time i think i might cry...

i ahve a great therapist and ill be attending an anad group where she said i would find support and companionship for this issue is well..

im in grad school now (although im young) and can hardly concentrate... i want to spend my time researching and remembering, trying to see if my situation fits and what to call it...

not sure what my next steps are

thanks for everything, really truly

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petitepois
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oh and what are some good helpful books you might recommend?

and why do people stay in abusive relationships?

or if im asking too much, would those books cover that too?

this is like a breathe of fresh air...

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petitepois
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also, Heather, i want to say how much it means that you would put yourself out there, even when its hard, in order to help someone... especially on this issue of selfdoubt... thank you again
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petitepois
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this is what happened: (from one of the articles)
"Coercion is also a form of sexual assault. For example, arguing for or initiating a sexual activity to the point that a person gives consent by being worn down. "

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Heather
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Yes, that's exactly what happened. As well, when you're in an ongoing relationship where that continually happens -- rather than it being a one-time thing -- that's usually part of a cycle of abuse, a cycle which tends to include times of apology or "sweetness" that tend to keep people in that cycle and in those relationships. talking about and pursing sex when you were clearly uncomfortable with it -- seriously, unless this guy didn't have two brain cells to rub together, it would have been clear based on what you're describing -- is also more harassment and abuse.

When it comes to thinking about where you said yes -- or, from the sounds of it, more accurately, when you didn't say no -- it's important to consider the context. Was your no ever meaningful? Doesn't sound like it was. When it's made clear to us our no isn't given weight, isn't considered meaningful, doesn't create a respected boundary, we usually stop saying it because saying it feel so very pointless. Not-no isn't consent.

There are some books I'd suggest, and I think they can also fill you in more on why it's so hard so much of the time for people to leave abusive or unhealthy relationships. "Getting Free" by Ginny niCarthy is a great one, so are The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz, How Long Does It Hurt: A Guide to Recovering from Incest and Sexual Abuse for Teenagers, Their Friends, and Their Families by Cynthia L. Mather, Judy Wood, Eliana Gil, and Kristina E. Debye, It Happened to Me: A Teen's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Abuse by Wm. Lee Carter, Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse--A Book for Teen Girls, Young Women, and Everyone Who Cares About Them by Patti Feuereisen and Caroline Pincus, and In Love and In Danger: A Teen's Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships by Barrie Levy.

I'm glad my sharing helped you out, and happy to do it. While I know counseling helped me a lot, as did reading, I have to say that talking to other survivors was probably the most valuable help I got. Hearing other people's experiences who have been there can make a big difference.

A lot of my memories and PTSD came back, what felt like out of nowhere, when I was in college, and I know how derailing it can be. So I'd also suggest you be sure you're honoring your own limits. If it's too much to do this and school, see if you can't cut back on even one class and reduce your courseload. And do be sure to ask for help by the people around you: it sounds like you have a couple really supportive, caring people in your life.

--------------------
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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petitepois
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you know im getting mad at this guy just thinking about all of it... i feel like he used me, pressured me, talked down to me, 'desensitized' me, and ignored all the boundaries 'we' (I) tried to set. my no was certainly never meaningful. it always meant maybe or ask again later. or that i didnt know any better and he did. sort of the attitude that i would 'thank him for turning me on.' sure i thought, reasonable, after all, what did i know about sex? and i sure couldnt talk to anyone since i as a 'good xan grl' was not supposed to have gotten to such a 'compromising' place.

i think tho that part of why im scared to call it abuse is just because of how overwhelming that thought is- id rather just go on with coping. even this week of thinking about it for the first time in a while i felt a lot more and was overeating for the first time in months and was feeling depressed and lost my energy to exercise and my dreams started back up. and i started feeling ugly and fat again. i mean guess i feel why poke the cobras nest? let sleeping dogs lie sort of thing.

at the same time thinking about all this has already led to more peace between my husband and i- i can better stop throwing blame on to him for things my ex did. i can see more clearly how i do not have to have sex with him (he tells me that all the time but it wouldnt register with me).

actually the day i wrote my letter to him (my ex) i went to some website and read over 100 stories of people who have gone through abuse/rape/incest/alltheabove/etc. It was all so sad but I felt like I could understand a lot of the pain, especially the ones where bfs pressured and pressured and pressured.

did you speak at all to your profs about what you were going through? were they at all sympathetic? im scared of just making excuses for myself but im aware that if i really 'deal' with the situation i could get pretty depressed and unmotivated. maybe not, but maybe so. i mean i LOVE dancing and running... but lately those two activities have sounded burdensome. all i want to do in class is cry. and all i can think about is what happened to me. not sure where to go from here. thank you so much for your help and this site is amazing. its one of the best uses of internet ive found yet.

[ 10-05-2010, 04:07 PM: Message edited by: petitepois ]

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Heather
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You know, unfortunately, at the time I was going through this, it was really before the time when this was really out there in the cultural conversation. I also was SO out of sorts with PTSD that I really couldn't get my own you-know-what together to ask for any help. I like to think that if it had all happened 10 or 20 years later I would have, but who knows -- maybe even with a changing culture I still would have been a total mess. [Smile]

But one thing it sounds like you might want to do is to see if you can't fit in an extra session a week with your therapist. With all of this THIS new (per your processing it) and this fresh, you probably need some extra help. It won't always be this intense, I absolutely promise, but while it is, it really can be so, so hard to manage without extra help. Sometimes, too, if the depression from this feels very big, it's a good idea to talk about/consider a medication for depression to kind of get you over this hump, so that may be something to discuss with your therapist.

Too, you might want to recognize that your ED and body dysmorphia is its own issue. For sure, it's clearly intersecting right now with this, and obviously is being triggered by this, but it's not just this that creates those issues, which it sounds liek were present well before your abuse.

Again, glad to be of help, big time. [Smile]

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petitepois
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yeah i was actually in with the counselor in the first place for the ED. i guess the way i see it is that i had an ED and my ex sure used it to his advantage (calling me fat) to wear me down and get what he wanted. but it was something i used during that tough relationship to deal. i mean its a coping mechanism for dealing with tough emotions, like when i was younger and trying to be independent, or be the 'good girl' at home. and this stuff about my ex is really tough, the toughest thing going right now for me in many ways (even though its in the past), and so sure enough as i havent totally learned to handle my emotions without an ED im resorting to ED instead of my dbt/cbt (which im only fresh in learning). its like i have two monsters in my head telling me im fat (my ED and my EX)

i think you are right that more connection with my therapist would be good... i have only been seeing her every other week... now on to a different insurance so hopefully can see her more often without going into debt [Wink] .

the thought of meds is scary since i just got off some heavy duty antidepressants (which i think i was taking to mask my pain from this issue, i got on them three months after my ex and i broke up). it felt good to be not be numb, i was feeling happy more easily but with talking about this issue im feeling depressed again (not like before, but enough that its affecting my school work and energy and sleep, and God the dreams are awful- they dont always involve my ex, often random people but the same sense of pressure, confusion, fear, guilt and i always end up being passive, going along with it...).

thanks so much this day has been most helpful. i feel like i have a much better sense of what i need to do. and with thinking through the reasons i didnt want to call it abuse, i think i can take better care of myself and talk about it with less shame (OMG the shame is incredible). thank you for telling me it will get better...

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Heather
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When we're vulnerable, we really should be able to count on people recognizing that that is when we need EXTRA care, rather than figuring that makes us more likely to be exploited. Unfortunately, even though that SHOULD be the case, we don't live in a world where it always is, and there are people who, consciously or unconsciously, see vulnerability as a means to exploit and abuse.

I hear you on the meds, just put that out there as something to consider: it's certainly not your only option. I also understand finances limiting therapeutic care. If you like, I can drum up some other low-income or free options for you for extra counseling around the abuse specifically. What neighborhood are you in/around?

I also understand the shame. You know, a good friend of mine finally just recently got out of a long-term abusive relationship. While she was in it, I can't tell you how many dinners or sob sessions we had together where I'd express concern about her girlfriend and relationship, and she'd kind of get stuck in the space about how someone as educated as her around this, as smart as she is, with as many resources as she has, should not be in something abusive, should have seen it coming. That shame can really lock people up. But it's great you're seeing it, because that's kind of the first step out. Now all the next steps involve a whole lot of reminding yourself that this can happen to ANYONE. Anyone at all, and it does all the time. You didn't abuse anyone: you earnestly have nothing to be ashamed of. [Smile]

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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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petitepois
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i definitely see what you are saying about the meds- its a good reminder that thats an option if i just feel like im falling off the wagon again, like it just all gets to be too much. i dont want to think that because i got off them and was on them for a long time that they cant be useful if things get really hard.

im actually in a chicago suburb, the dupage county area, tho i might be in logan or lincoln square within the year (yep, a move). my counselor after this new insurance should be under 10 per session which should help with something weekly Instead of biweekly), and the ANAD group is free which is nice. what other sort of resources generally are there tho? for this issue specifically? and how does one make the time/space for these emotions and dealing with these issues? i feel like i just dont have time to read my dbt/cbt material (im not borderline, its just my counselor thinks dbt can be really helpful for eds) and to do the relevant exercises. i mean a new marriage (1 yr), grad school (plus diss. work), a job, counseling and an ED and then this... it really is a lot.

i relate to your friend- it thought i was so sensible and smart and a feminist- yet i ended up in that relationship. i guess what i would hope for your friend is.. that she would feel free enough to release that shame, knowing it was imposed on her... so i guess thats the advice i should i give myself? part of the shame comes when i begin to tell people- i mean, so many people ive told have kindof assumed that i wasnt firm enough and that i kindof wanted to even though i knew it was wrong. shaming for sure..

anyway, today has gone along way to dispel those ideas.

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petitepois
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i dont want it to have happened to me. its hard to picture getting on with life and just having that there.
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Heather
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I understand. At the same time, it did happen, it was part of your life, and part of who you are. Bigger than that, far bigger, is that what you take from it, and the strength and care for yourself you'll likely develop in healing is part of who you are. For me, all the crap I've been through in life is something I tend to do okay accepting, because I know that while it didn't have to happen that way, and shouldn't have, it often wound up highlighting the best of me in what I did with it, you know?

You're certainly carrying a lot right now, and you know, often when it rains, it really does pour. Not much to say about that except that it's never fun, and does usually pass. Tomorrow I'll get you some local resources. [Smile]

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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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petitepois
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thanks again for everything [Smile]
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Heather
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You're so very welcome. [Smile]

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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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If you're up for a field trip, the Women & Children First bookstore on the north side (it's on Clark St. in Andersonville, between Bryn Mawr and Foster) is a GREAT pleace to not only find books around this, but to find other resources, like support groups. While it's a bookstore at heart, it's also very much a feminist community center, a place where if you asked someone working for books because you are recovering from a sexually abusive relationship, for instance, they wouldn't bat an eye and would be so helpful. It's one of my favorite places in the whole world.

Per other counseling and support, DuPage isn't going to have as many resources as Cook County does, but the YWCA in both counties, for instance, offer free counseling and support groups: http://www.ywca.org/site/pp.asp?c=euLRI7OZH&b=177298

http://www.rapevictimadvocates.org is another resource, and http://www.c4chicago.org is one more. Those are just some possible starting points. Even if any of them turn out to be not what you need exactly, or not accessible to you, anyone at any of those places can likely help you find what you need.

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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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petitepois
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wow, those actually all sound great. ill start looking into them this week... thanks again for everything. i've been re-reading your responses to me and they are full of wisdom and compassion... last night my mother in law was in town, and she had been sexually abused as a child and so we talked... between you and her yesterday and i am feeling something really good and hopeful deep down, like 'i can do this.' thank you
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Heather
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That's so fantastic you were able to talk with her!

I'm so glad you're feeling the way that you are. [Smile] And by all means, I think you can do this, too, and I think you're going to come out on the other side even more amazing than you already are.

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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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petitepois
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i have another question- i think the articles mostly address it all, but wanted to ask what i should call my situation- its a weird form of coercion i think, so do i call it coercion? harassment? or abuse? would digital penetration with this form of coercion be considered assault? i dont really want it to be because that would just feel worse... and what are the differences between abuse and harassment? which was my situation, based on what i've shared?
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petitepois
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wow, ive just been reading on sexual coercion and it seems to fit really well... it hits at the parts i consider 'my fault'... at the same time its so slippery im worried it doesnt count and its just me being too sensitive... ill talk to my counselor about that. but im glad theres a definition that gets at the emotional manipulation that happens over a period of time, it helps me validate my feelings and sort through what happened to me...
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Heather
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What it sounds like to me, petitepois, is that you were in an ongoing abusive relationship in which (based on what you've described here) there was emotional abuse and sexual abuse, marked by a good deal of sexual harassment and sexual coercion.

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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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petitepois
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this is going to sound stupid, i guess its just that after reading about harassment and coercion they just dont sound that bad. sounds like normal everyday things and i feel like im a bit of a drama queen, like looking for problems.
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OWL Dan
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Petiepois, I agree very much with what Heather has been saying. One of the big problems with this type of on going abusive relationship is that the harassment and coercion become part of the "everyday" and the victim starts to learn that it is "normal". I understand your feelings but please understand, this is a kind of patterned abuse where it is intended that the victim learns that the abuse is supposed to be normal. I know it is hard not to keep second guessing yourself, I’ve been there too. Remember that you are re-learning how to look back at the relationship and see the truth of what it was and not what it tricked you into thinking was ‘real’. This will take time.
It sounds to me that you have been doing some good, and hard, work and that you are building a strong support system. Keep it up and remember, you are worth all the hard work!

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Dan

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petitepois
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Dan, thanks I think that's good advice. I keep saying to myself, others, 'well, it's kindof normal in teen relaitonships, isn't it?. and 'well, there wasn't this huge moment, we were just in a relationship...' it's really hard for me to see what wasn't 'good' about it... except for all the dreams where someone is trying touching me and i dont feel like i can get away... or when im driving ill fall into my thoughts, where its as if someone is touching me, happenedj ust yesterday, almost blew through a light, yeesh.. yep it seems saying it's not normal and it was bad is the wisest thing to do. I'll use that advice
quote: 'it is intended that the victim learns that the abuse is supposed to be normal'
as a guide-rail when I begin second guessing. Thanks to both of you for your help, especially since I've been a bit of a pest... im on my way [Smile]

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OWL Dan
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Please, don't consider yourself a pest! You are always welcome here.
I noticed that you had said that you were having “dreams” while you were driving and that they were distracting from driving safely. Have you mentioned this to your counselor? If not, you should next time you see them. I would like to know that you are trying to do everything to keep yourself safe!

[ 10-07-2010, 11:03 PM: Message edited by: OWL Dan ]

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Dan

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petitepois
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thanks so much... i definitely will do... hadn't thought of it as a dream, but it sure is vivid when it happens, yuck. thanks so much!
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OWL Dan
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You're Welcome! Keep taking care of yourself and remember, you're worth it!

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Dan

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