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Author Topic: Defining It
skiesofgreen
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It's over a year again now since I got out of a really unhealthy relationship but I feel like some of the baggage of that relationship just hasn't left and I feel like maybe being able to define what happened in our relationship sexually could help give me some peace of mind. After reading through a lot of your articles I've been tempted to name it sexual abuse or rape but I guess one of the things stopping me from calling it that is that after telling a couple friends about the situation, while being very supportive, they were hestitant themselves to use those words and saw it as a bit of a grey area. So I guess what I'm asking is, what was this?

Anyways I was 18 when I got into this relationship and it was my first everything. And if I'm going to be honest all of my firsts with him were pressured, except my first kiss. The first time he fingered me for instance happened after an evening of him trying and me saying no, until I finally said yes because it did feel good physically, even if I wasn't sure if I wanted it emotionally. The first time with oral sex was very similar and another example might be a time much later in the relationship when we were having sex and he was playing around with my anus and I said something to the effect of "not that hole" and then he attempted to insert his penis (though he did stop immediately when I yelled at him).

Anyways the specific example I wanted to go over was this (sorry if it's too graphic but somehow I don't feel like I'll believe your answer unless I've said this in detail):

We were long distance at this point and I had gone up to visit him for the weekend. On my last night there things got pretty heated – we were making out and clothes came off. At first I was ok with it but when he started rubbing his penis against my vulva I got freaked out. I told him to stop and reluctantly (though maybe I’m playing the reluctant up a bit in my memory) he did.

We got dressed and I asked if we could just cuddle so we did. But he was obviously pouting so I asked him what was wrong and after prodding he started on a long rant about how “we only ever did what I wanted” how on our last nights together “it was always about what I needed” about how we always “cuddled and were sad” and how he just wanted to go back to “what we were doing before, could we please just go back to what we were doing before.” And it seems silly looking back but at the time the guilt trip totally got me. I felt I really was being unreasonable and gave into his pressuring and said “ok, we can go back to what we were doing.”

I did not want to, I had no desire to continue what we had been doing before, but I let him take off my pants and underwear without so much as a kiss and with the only words out of his mouth being “I don’t have to take off your shirt too do I.”

I remember him getting on top of me and rubbing his genitals against mine again, until his penis was basically entering my vagina. I remember feeling powerless and empty and trying to conjure up to will to tell him to stop. Eventually he went in too far and I yelled out because it hurt. He asked if he could keep going. I said no. He asked if he could keep doing it if he did it differently. I said no.

So we stopped, and we got dressed. I remember sitting on the edge of his bed and I don’t remember if I cried but I do remember I felt numb and empty.

The sad thing is this isn’t where the relationship ended, in fact that was only about the halfway point in what would become a year and half long relationship that I would eventually end. Sometimes I think I stayed in the relationship because I felt like if I could have sex with him again it would erase that first time. Throughout the rest of the relationship though the sex dynamic (which very quickly became the most important dynamic) was essentially the same. I cried often after sex in his presence, but he always wanted sex again later, and sometimes I’d even come on to him. Regardless I never felt in control during sex and incapable of asserting myself or asking for what I wanted.

The situation left me confused on a lot of levels. Partly because I was still grappling with the fact that my parents religion (which at the time I was not sure was my own or not) did not consent to pre-marital intercourse and partly because it felt good sometimes, my body reacted the rubbing and the stimuli and I enjoyed it physically albeit not emotionally. But mostly I was confused because I had a hard time coming to terms with whether what happened that first time (and so many others) was consensual or not. In fact it’s still something I wonder about. I didn’t want it, but I said ok, and he pushed but he stopped when I said no out loud.

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Heather
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Before I weigh in, I want to give you two links to look at so that you can potentially get to the answer yourself, which I think would be a lot more valuable.

The information I'm giving you is information supported by law and also by advocacy groups internationally: it's not just our take or our information. I'd suggest really taking it in and putting your friends' opinions aside right now, especially if they are NOT people who have either a) done this kind of advocacy/awareness work and/or b) really spent time unpacking their own ideas and models of what's healthy and what isn't, okay?

So, here they are, and then we're around to talk more of this out:
How can men know if someone is giving consent or not?
Blinders Off:Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault

[ 10-23-2010, 12:05 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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skiesofgreen
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I've read those articles before actually =), and I've found them incredibly useful. I guess, really, the issue is that identifying my own experience is so much harder than placing a label on someone else's experiences. And I realise friends are not always the best source of judgement but it's still hard to feel confident in a decision to call that relationship sexually abusive (or more specifically to refer to that incident as rape) when others seem to question the validity of that wording. It makes me want to question it again too. A while ago, actually after I first read those articles (specifically the "How men can know if someone is giving consent or not?" which is amazing) I had started internally refering to this incident as rape, and the situation as sexually abusive, and it was that realisation that allowed me to confide in several close friends. Their own hesitance on the issue, while I can see is probably not the best judge of validity, still made me start questioning the terms I already wasn't 100% confident in using.
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skiesofgreen
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One other thing, actually, that has kind of hindered me from making the full switch to referring the incident as rape, is that I feel like it isn't a incident that he could have been charged for legally speaking in any way (not that I would have wanted to press charge or do) and somehow it not seeming like a legally contestable issue makes me feel like I'm wrong to identify it as rape.
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Heather
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I disagree about the law: what you are describing here are very common dynamics with date/partner rape, dynamics recognized AS abuse by the laws of many countries, including in Canada.

One reason friends talking about this aren't so helpful is when they're bringing their own biases to the table, and their own internalized enabling. "Grey rape" is a relatively new term and idea, and one that came from a conservative writer whose tidbits of "wisdom" have also included telling women that if they want happy, healthy relationships, they need to learn to bake cookies. I kind you not.

One of the biggest barriers to people being able to call abuse where they see it is that it's pretty safe to say no one wants to have been raped or otherwise abused, or to have been someone who saw it happening to someone and who did nothing, or worse still, excused or enabled it in some way. That, all by itself, has a HUGE influence over the way people conceptualize abuse and rape. As well, unpacking internalized victim-blaming is SO HARD. It tends to take years and years of focused work on doing that, work few people have done or even cultivated the self-awareness to know they need to do.

Obviously, you've thought a lot about this, read about this and talked to people about this.

But I think the most reliable source is the way you feel, deep in your guts, and the way you felt when this was going on, again, deep in your guts.

So, consulting THOSE sources -- sources of great authority -- what do you feel this was?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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FYI, this paper on Canadian rape laws, especially the commentary on date rape, might be helpful in your understanding of the law: http://web.viu.ca/crim/sutton.htm

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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skiesofgreen
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For some reason it's actually very comforting to hear that about the law. I really wish they had taken the time to explain that in school when they had talked about rape, instead of only presenting extreme cases, or ones that involved physical force.

That said if I was to trust only my own instincts on this, I'd call it rape. I suppose I've known that for a while, I've just never had any tell me it was ok to trust my instincts. Thanks for that.

Actually I remember a conversation I had with this person a little while after we'd broken up (I no longer talk to him) and he asked if I regretted having sex with him. I knew the answer was yes but not wanting to admit that I said "no, but I regret having sex when I wasn't ready." his response was "ya, those first times kind of felt like rape..." I suppose that in itself is a pretty clear indication of what this was.

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skiesofgreen
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Also that paper is incredibly interesting, I didn't realise that it the laws were only changed in the 80s. It really puts into perspective how recently views have started to shift on this issue.
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Heather
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I think YOUR gut feelings in what felt right and wrong in those moments and afterwards carry the most weight and authority. It also sounds clearly like some part of him knew it wasn't consensual, too. And like I've said, what you're describing is also what advocacy organizations and most laws clearly recognize as crimes.

And I agree with you, personally: you are describing date rapes here.

This has all been changing SO recently. I survived a violent gang rape in the early 80's that even when police came to the scene, I wasn't helped in reporting.

So, where do you want to take this from here? I know that even when in your guts you know something was rape, saying it out loud, feeling the truth of that can be difficult, even though it can also feel like a big relief. However you want to keep talking about it, we're available.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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skiesofgreen
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I'm not sure where I want to take it from here exactly. Though just being able to think about it as rape is very emotionally relieving, and in a way also very empowering.

I guess I do have another question, which is sort of related, that I've wanted to ask about. Since that sexually abusive relationship I've had other relationships which were much healthier and didn't involve coercion or abuse in any way shape or form. But one thing that I find I haven't been able to do (or found very rare at least) in relationships since then, is find any pleasure in my partners pleasure. I haven't, for instance, been willing to give a blow job since that bad relationship, and a large part of that reasoning is that I feel not only very vulnerable but also sort of repulsed by the guy getting off. Somehow the idea of giving a partner sexual pleasure makes me feel dominated or degraded. I reallise cognitively that this isn't actually the case in a healthy relationship, but I can't seem to get past this feeling and I feel it comes from past bad experiences. I'd also like to stress that other sexual activities (one where we both experience physical stimulation or just me) do not cause me the same kind of distress.

I was wondering if you had any suggestions or resources to help me work past this issue?

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skiesofgreen
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Also I just want to put this out there, because I'm not sure if you hear it often enough, but this sight is absolutely amazing. It's honestly the most informative and empowering information I've been able to find about sex and sexual violence, and I just thought you should know what a invaluable service you provide. =)
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Heather
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Well, thanks, and so glad to be here for you to get what you need. That's the most important part!

With you having a hard time being able to enjoy other folks enjoying themselves, the first thing I'd ask is if you really feel ready for sexual relationships with other people yet. Since sex with someone else is about sharing pleasure, and sharing in each other's pleasure, if and when we can't do that, if the relationship and dynamics are healthy, it can be because we're just not in the right space to do that.

What do you think?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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skiesofgreen
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Sorry I stepped away from this conversation for so long, at the time I had to leave for the library and since then I've just had too strong an emotional response to touch the topic.

Truth is though that the reason I had to step away was because what you said strikes a little too deep, is a little too true, and I'm a little too scared to admit it. Even now, even as I'm typing "I'm not ready to be in a sexual relationship with someone," it scares the shit out of me. It makes my brain immediately kick into defensive mode, or self-deprecating semi-denial mode that says "well sure you can admit that, that's great, but you can still have sex later." I can't pinpoint why it's such a loaded thing to say, or why I feel I have to distance myself from the question to answer it, all I know is even right now, as I'm writing this, I'm devoid of emotion - intellectually stimulated but emotionally detached. I have to be, or I couldn't write.

Maybe it's because it feels abnormal or wrong to not be ready for sex. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm overreacting. Maybe it's because my emotions shut down when I think about it, because I can't feel upset or frustrated, because I can only think about myself feeling those ways, as though in third person, as though I'm not really feeling them, and maybe somehow that makes it feel like I'm just projecting images of trauma and drama that don't really exist. Maybe it's because it'd mean stopping the casual sex with the boy who makes good indian food and I don't know how to, or if I really want to, do that. Or, maybe, it's just because I've gotten so used to using sex as a tool to make things seem normal.

What I do know is that Wednesday night I was drunk and dancing with a boy and that when he shoved his tongue down my throat (quite literally) I felt an huge emotional response, a kind of "I'm going to burst into tears at any second" response, that I haven't felt since I was in that abusive relationship. It's not a situation that in and of itself is overly traumatizing (some dude tried to make out with me, I was drunk, hesitated for minute, but then walked away and he made no attempt to detain me) and yet it took me to an emotionally raw place that I haven't been in a very long time.

And I guess the things is now, I just don't really know where to go from here....


sorry for the length

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Heather
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A lot of people clearly have the impression that being ready for sex is something we are once, and then we're ready ever after. The reality is that at every time of life, and with every given potential sexual scenario or relationship, we assess that: many times, not just once.

So, sometimes in our lives sex just won't be the right thing, won't be something we're up to handling, won't be something that's a good fit with what we want and need and what others want and need. I don't think that acknowledging those times is about a lack of maturity, but quite the opposite. It takes maturity to have that kind of self-awareness and to make our own best choices.

I'm heading out of town this morning, so I won't be around much myself the next few days, though some of the volunteers certainly will be if you want to keep talking with them.

But in the meantime, have you ever looked into any counseling to help in your healing?

At the very least, might you give yourself a couple weeks FOR yourself, without engaging in sex with others, to just process all of this some more -- including having those emotional feelings you're holding back -- and do your best to assess what you want and need now?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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skiesofgreen
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I 100% get what you're saying about maturity. I've definitely said the same thing to an ex who broke up with me for not putting out and who thought that our relationship wasn't "real" or "grown up" unless we were doing it. I don't know why it's so hard to see that sometimes.

That said I have stepped away from sex for now. I've just kind of taken myself out of any situation where it might come up. I suppose in the long term I'll have to make a more concrete decision and tell the person I've been seeing on occasion one way or another. But for the short term just staying away seems better than nothing, until I can get a better handle on things.

Right now though life just feels so overwhelming. I'm over worked and under slept and falling dangerously behind in school work. And the more pressure I feel under the more these issues over sex keep coming to the surface.

I have thought about counseling, quite seriously lately, but I've never really made a move to actually go through with it. I'll be straight up honest that I can be very bad about taking care of myself in terms of making doctors appointments and counseling seems to be falling under the same category.

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Heather
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Sometimes in order to find the happy medium in something, we have to scale back to zero in order to be able to get a better sense of what that medium is.

It's good that you're able to identify that you have challenges taking care of yourself. Even just knowing and recognizing that can be a good step to getting better at it.

By any chance do you have a friend or family member you could ask to sort of be your helper/coach right now in taking some steps in taking care of yourself, like getting in to see a counselor?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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skiesofgreen
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Getting a helper/coach actually sounds like a very good idea. The two people I would automatically turn to in this kind of situation are out of the city right now (both away at Uni in various parts of the globe) but I think I will e-mail one tonight and see if she will check in on me. If that has no results I might ask another close friend to go make the appointment with me. I would turn to her right away but, though she means well, she's a very A-type personality which can be a bit daunting when you feel scared or nervous.

I have to say I feel very intimidated about making an appointment even though I realise lots of people make counseling appointments and it shouldn't be anything to be nervous or scared of. Three of my good friends (actually all the ones I mentioned above) have done some degree of counseling before, one actually for reasons very similar to mine, so I realise it isn't a big deal. It just feels daunting. But then I also feel that way about making doctors appointments... or going to my professors office hours. Hell, I feel that way about talking to sales clerks. I guess what I'm trying to say is making a counseling appointment is taking me a lot of psyching up.


On a side (but related) note, I might be hanging out with the aforementioned person with whom I've been sleeping with tomorrow and I was wondering (since sex may very well be initiated) how I might go about saying I'm not in a place where I can have sex right now. It might help to state that we've never made claims of monogamy or "boyfriend/girlfriend." We're simply people who have hung out a fair amount recently, found we liked each other, and have slept together a couple of times. It's been very simple, which has been refreshing, and on the whole very comfortable. I suppose this is the first time I've ever really had sex where I felt like an active participant and not dominated come to think of it. That said, the sex has been (as I think is clear from our conversation) something that might be a bit much for me to handle right now, even if it is enjoyable and surprisingly easy. And considering I do like spending time with him, and don't intend on avoiding him forever, I figure it would be better to get that out in the open right now. I'm not sure how much information I feel comfortable giving him though as I don't know him super well. One night when I was sleeping over we were sitting at the table in the wee hours of the morning, finishing a bottle of wine and just talking about life when he mentioned issues with his first girlfriend and I mentioned that I'd been in a very emotionally and sexually unhealthy relationship before, so he does have some idea that I've been in this situation. I know I don't owe him anymore details than I feel comfortable giving, but I do WANT to explain it to him to some extent. I mean more than just, "I'm in a bad place right now, I'm not up for sex." I suppose I'm also scared of the response I'll get, not because I feel his reaction is my responsibility, but because when I've turned people down before and they reacted badly it only reinforced all the negative and defensive feelings I have about sex. I'm also scared I just won't follow through with it or will just say not tonight when I mean not for a while, 1) because I know I need to do this and 2) because I know from past experience that I can be very hard on myself if I fail to follow through with drawing clear boundaries. I think the later one is a side effect of the rape, I often found myself blaming the rape on not setting firm enough boundaries. ANYWAYS that was all a very convoluted way of saying how do I let him down easily, and still tell him I value the other parts of our relationship, and would like to keep them up without the sex, if he's willing.

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skiesofgreen
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Sorry by tomorrow I meant Monday.

Also, I did e-mail my friend =)

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Heather
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Fantastic!

With this conversation, I think it boils down to how close you feel to this person and how much you want to disclose. You don't need to disclose anything beyond the fact that you're stepping away from sex with anyone for a while if you don't want to disclose more than that.

His reaction isn't your responsibility, and it's also not something you can control (same goes with any reactions people have had in the past to your nixing sex), so I'd say your choices around what to disclose need to be about what information you want to give him and feel comfortable giving him.

If you value the other parts of your relationship, whatever you do or don't say about your whys for not wanting sex right now, you can say you value the other parts of the relationship and express that you'd really like to continue those if he also would.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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skiesofgreen
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Hey,

I haven't posted in a while and, I guess first off, I'd like to let you know I'm doing much better than when we last talked. That was a really rough week or so, talking about all of this really got me reliving old emotion ya know, but I feel very stable at present.

I'm haven't gotten into a counselor yet - I still plan to but school has been crazy and the uni's counseling hours conflict with my classes. I may have to look into finding the service elsewhere. I have however been in for some basic health things, which feels like a big accomplishment. It probably shouldn't, but like I said before this is an area of my life I really struggle in.

What I wanted to talk about though, since I don't know when I'll be able to get into a counselor in person, is that I feel unable to shake the feeling that my ex still levies some power over me mentally - or rather that these experiences still hold power over me. It's like I feel this need to obsess over it, where it's all I can think about. I will spend hours pouring over threads in this forum, or articles on the subject, as though an increase of information will help me gain control, or compartmentalize the experience, or validate my own feelings. I find myself constantly wanting to talk about this subject, not necessarily my own experiences, but about the way rape is portrayed in the media, or off handed comments a friend makes that reveals misinformation on the subject etc. But to some degree its also a lot more abstract than that. Just this general feeling of not being able to escape this experience, or the impact this person has had on my life. I'm no longer friends with him, I haven't had contact with him in almost a year, but he is still friends with friends of mine, or it might be more accurate to say he still contacts them on occasion, and I'll see messages filter through my feed on facebook, or get wind of it through the grapevine, and it's like it never quite leaves. He was also a part of a bigger facet of my life - cadets - which has given me some of my best memories and most valuable lessons, and sometimes I feel like I have to shed that whole section of my life just to get past this, and I don't want to do that. And sometimes, crazy as it is, I just want to contact him, and tell him what I never told him, that what he did was wrong, that what he put me through was wrong, and that no, no I don't forgive him, and that no, no this wasn't his ADDs fault - it was nobody's, and nothing's, fault but his. I know that would be at best terribly unproductive and at worst potentially disastrous but sometimes it's really all I can think about. And thinking about this all the time doesn't bode well for paper writing or final exam studying.

So how do we take back a feeling of control? How to we stop feeling like these events control us? How do I make this something productive instead of something that's holding me back?

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Heather
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You probably realize that's a pretty huge question, but I'll do my best. [Smile]

I think one of the truest answers, even if it's also one of the most frustrating, is that it tends to just take time. In many ways, a lot of it. The further along down the healing process we get, the less we can tend to feel how long it took to start feeling differently, but when we're in it, time tends to pass SO slow, and each step towards feeling in control again, towards feeling whole again can look so small, even though they're what all eventually add up to healing.

The urge to talk about it as much as possible is a good one: it's well understood, anecdotally but also from an advocacy perspective, that silence is the biggest barrier to healing. Once we break it, whatever we can do to keep breaking it helps.

Some survivors do contact the people who raped them and do what you're thinking about doing, and it can be productive on your end. I just would tend to only do that once you're in counseling and have one solid support who can help you figure out if you're in the best place yet to do that and if that is something right for you, personally. It might be, it might not, and it might be, but might be too soon for that.

Do you want me to help you look for other counseling if it's not working out for you via your uni?

Something else I'd suggest you consider is journaling all of this: that can help get it all out, and may help more tangibly show you the tools you have to do something constructive with some of this.

But mostly, for now, given you're so at the start of this process, I'd try -- I know it's hard -- to be patient with yourself and not worry about making something out of all this or moving forward more quickly than you really can.

In terms of finding more ways to feel in control, can you maybe fill me in a little more on the ways you feel out of control or feel controlled?

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breath
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As someone who is also in school, in similar situation of finally knowing that what happened was sexual abuse/assault, and who is struggling to not let this dominate my mind, to not brood in the unhappiness/saddness/cloud of misery this, here are some thoughts:


I think that I am going to allow myself small 15 mins time etc every morning/night to write freely, cry and get my feelings out. There are plenty and sometimes it's scary to go through them. BUT I feel much mUCH MUCH better knowing that it is NOT my fault.

I often have an urge to tell and talk to as many people as possible, but sometimes, there is A LOT OF VICTIM-BLAMING, (even within my own family for example)


Once there is a time-slot or some kind of structure that you know you have to let those feelings come out, etc....there is still with open mental space to devote to school,to doing well, to getting those good grades that i need for my future, and positive self-esteem and sense of accomplishments.
But I can understand that you may be in a different place and may need to investigate other options like Withdrawal or other options where you can complete your coursework at a later date. Many schools indeed allow these options and you would be surprised how easily they will cooperate and approve your situation should you chose to work with that.

[ 11-26-2010, 12:48 PM: Message edited by: ar1001 ]

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skiesofgreen
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The sense of feeling out of control manifests in a couple different ways. At a very basic level I feel annoyed or frustrated at times by the amount of time rape and abuse occupy my thought process. I feel like they have a monopoly on my thoughts and in some ways (logical or not) I feel like I can't be free of these experiences until I can be free of thinking about it. What evokes a more visceral and emotional response from me though is the fact that these experiences seem to impact the way I have interacted in sexual relationships and experiences since then. I, for instance, feel myself going into situations with the unconscious assumption that my no won't be taken seriously, which has lead to either a passiveness on my part or a very extreme building of boundaries (without a discussion of why I was putting those boundaries up). I also feel like the (in)ability to say no affects my ability to say yes. A lack of assertion makes me feel like any consent I give (even if I truly want the sexual activity) is in a way null. Not null in the sense I feel I am being abused again, but null in the sense that I don't feel I truly own it. This, accompanied with insecurities that that bad-relationship instilled in me, make me feel like he's still dominating my emotions (even if indirectly) which makes me feel ultimately out of control.

The final way (at least major way) that I feel out of control is that my abuser still enters into the lives of people I'm friends with on occasion. For instance he was coming into town last weekend and asked a mutual friend (who is aware of what happened between me and this person) if he wanted to hang out. I asked my friend if he was going to see my ex and he responded "maybe, if I'm not busy." Although I don't feel I have the right to control who my friends do and do not see this response seriously irritated me, I wanted him to be as disgusted about seeing my ex as I am. This sort of situation makes me feel like I can't escape him, or like I'll have to cut out an entire section of my life if I want to. It makes me feel like he has control over who I can and cannot associate because I can't and won't associate with him.

As to your other points, hearing its a matter of time isn't terribly comforting, but it is re-assuring, and I suppose something I just need to try and keep in mind as I move forward. I can't just jump to healed... I just really wish I could.

It's good to know that talking to an abuser can be productive for some people. Maybe at some point (though probably not right now) it's something I'd want to consider.

About journaling I do keep a journal (though intermittently) and also write quite a bit in emails and letters to my friends who are abroad. I do find writing therapeutic and a good exercise in clarifying my thoughts but I'm a little confused by what you mean when you say "show you the tools you have to do something constructive with some of this." Could you elaborate?

And finally help finding counseling services would be great. I suppose I'd need to let you know my location right?

[ 11-29-2010, 02:33 AM: Message edited by: skiesofgreen ]

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skiesofgreen
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Also ar1001, that's an interesting idea. I'll keep it in mind, and maybe try giving it a go. =)
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Heather
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(skiesofgreen: I'll get back to you on this today or tomorrow, just in the middle of a lot of things so I need to set more complex discussions aside for a little bit. Just wanted to let you know so you didn't feel blown off!)

[ 11-29-2010, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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skiesofgreen
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Sure thing, thanks for the heads up =)
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Heather
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Sorry for the wait!

In terms of the ways you feel controlled, I really do think some counseling around this would help. Having a set time and set environment to talk expressly about your rape and your healing process, and doing so in a very dedicated, immersed way, can help make some real estate in your head and heart for other times.

Until you can get some of that help, it might be helpful to try and make something like that for yourself, like say, to give an hour a day to sitting down and writing about this. Or an hour a day for it period, which sometimes is journaling, maybe other times is coming places like here, maybe other times is reading something for people recovering (and if you want some book suggestions, happy to give them).

With the feeling you have about other sexual relationships, are you still staying out of them for right now?

With having to see this person in your orbit, per other friends seeing him, did you disclose to any of these other friends? If so, while you're right, it's not okay to ask friends not to see someone, a) it IS good form fro friends not to talk about this person with you, on their part and b) you can change your social circle so that you are spending more time in a circle he's not part of than one he is. I know that can be sucky, but especially if friends DO know one of their friends is an abuser and they don't have an issue with that, I do think we want to ask how much we really want to be close to people who think abuse is okay. Know what I mean?

When I talked about how journaling some of this can potentially show us tools that help with healing, I meant that by noticing certain patterns in our writing, or by getting to certain breakthroughs that way, we can find some extra helps. For instance, we may notice certain triggers keep coming up, so can find out that learning to manage triggers better might help. We might notice that there are certain things we do which clearly make us feel better or worse, and can then make changes in our lives through that avenue. And in writing about it, sometimes just happening on saying/writing a given thing, we can find ourselves really pushed forward in our healing.

For example, on a personal note, one time I finally sat down and wrote, in detail, about one of my assaults, the one I tend to talk about least in terms of what actually happened, because it is the hardest for me. When I was done, I not only felt better and more liberated, I realized that there were a couple close friends, in my head, I felt I was writing to, who knew I had been assaulted, but to whom I never told the details. So, I went ahead and sent it to them, saying I just needed to be heard, to have a couple people I trusted know and hold that information. And doing both of those things -- writing it out and then sending it -- pushed me forward in a big way.

With the counseling, a postal code is all I'd need to start looking, but if you aren't comfy sharing that, I could just go ahead and give you links to the places online I'd look for counseling for you in Canada, too. Whichever you prefer.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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skiesofgreen
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No problem on the wait. =) I'd much rather stick it out a day or two and get a great response like the one you just gave than have something rushed. It's actually quite a bit to think about =) and I think I might take a moment to sift through it before writing a response/wait till I'm not in the process of writing two papers and have the time to make my answer more clear if that's alright.

That said, in the mean time, my postal code is [edited] though it might be equally (or more) useful to find help near this postal code V6T 1K2, as I spend most of my time in that area and it has better transit.

[Edit] Book suggestions would be awesome too

[ 02-02-2011, 01:05 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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Okay, so starting to look.

Obviously, I don't know you, know you, but having something of a sense of you, I wonder if something like this might be up your alley?

http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/services/support_group.html

Just struck me as having a vibe that possibly seemed like a good fit.

Will compile a bigger list still, if that doesn't seem like the right thing or you just want more to consider, so let me know. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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skiesofgreen
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Hey Heather,

Thanks for the link, it's something I would definitely consider, I especially the option of getting involved through volunteering. Some other suggestions would be great too though, just to see what my options are. =) Also sometimes I can be intimidated by (an thus less likely to follow through with) getting involved in groups as opposed to more one on one situations. Do you know of any more one-on-one type services/places I could look into finding some to ease me into this whole counseling thing?


Also I'm going to post a reply to your first post in just a second =)

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Heather
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You got it!

I'd look into/call this org about one-on-one counseling: http://www.wavaw.ca/index.cfm?page_id=86

Whether you use their services or not, I'm sure they can give you other referrals, as well.

Book-wise, there are a few I think may be helpful to you:
• Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines
• The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz
• The Rape Recovery Handbook: Step-By-Step Help for Survivors of Sexual Assault by Aphrodite Matsakis
• Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse by Carolyn Lehman and Laura Davis

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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skiesofgreen
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Hey Heather,

I know I haven't touched this thread in a while but I'm feeling really low today and felt like finally getting around to replying to that post.

I think I want to start this by saying I feel like failing. Failing at what exactly? I dunno, whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing with this situation. Moving forward? Being proactive? Healing? Whatever it is, I'm not doing it.

I haven't made it into a counselor and every time I think I've built up the courage I just freeze up and can't go through with it. Could we talk about that maybe? How do I overcome that fear?

I also haven't had the talk about sex with the boy. The opportunity for sex never arose until a couple weeks ago and then instead of talking we ended up having sex. Part of me understands what you're saying here, that I shouldn't be having sex, that I'm not in a place for it right now. But another part of me wants to know why not? Why if I enjoy, if I physically and emotionally enjoy it, can't I just enjoy it? A part of me just wants desperately to be able to have sex without this idea that I need to stop having it hanging over my head. Can we maybe talk about that too?

More than both of these though I feel like I'm failing because I'm starting to re-question whether what happened to me was rape. I think part of the reason I'm so scared of going into counseling is because I'm scared they won't see it as rape. But I think really I feel like they might not see it that way, cause I'm now questioning whether I see it that way. I feel like I need someone to remind me why what happened to me was rape, not just me letting things happen that I didn't want to happen. Why I shouldn't feel like its my fault, my responsibility.

As for the mutualy friend situation, the one friend who really keeps in contact with him now does know about what happened. I didn't frame it as rape when I told him because I didn't identify it as that, but I told him in serious detail what happened. Only slightly less then did here. I don't know what his feeling on the situation was though, since his reply was essentially... silence. It does kind of bother me he didn't give me any kind of reply.

Uhg and now it's 2am, which means I'm also failing at sleeping, which means I'm also going to be failing at getting work done tomorrow. /sigh

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Heather
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About the counseling: do you feel like you have a sense of what it is you're afraid of?

If it's about a counselor not believing you, please know that if you are choosing a counselor who has practice with abuse survivors, that is simply not going to happen. No counselor with those skills sees their job as proving if someone was or wasn't abused. What their job is is to help you process your feelings around what happened to you.

Also, you've said a couple things here about knowing what you need to hear from someone giving you counsel right now. That's excellent. I'd suggest you say those things to any counselor you see.

If that's the only fear about seeing a counselor, my suggestion is to plan for your first visit to JUST be basically interviewing that person. You get to ask them how they practice, what their background is with any kind of abuse survivor, and ask questions to assure they are safe for you. You don't have to disclose anything at all in your first session if you don't want to.

I think if having sex is what you want and feels right to you, during and after, it's okay for you to engage in sex. I'd said what I had before because I got the strong sense for you that that wasn't how it was feeling for you.

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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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skiesofgreen
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I think my fear of counseling partly derives from that, I'm definitely nervous about reactions I might get, but I also think it has to do with a more general fear of authority figures, and particularly a combination of appearing weak before authority/in new situations and also a fear of generally entering new situations. It's a similar feeling to what I get when I want to join a club or approach a professor. It's hard for me to explain right now, because I'm not currently feeling that way, because even if I think "I'm going to make an appointment tomorrow/go in at the end of the week" I can think about it rationally and see why I need it, when I clam up is when it actually comes down to picking up a phone or walking into an office.

To give you an example of how this might manifest, my first time going to a clinic to get birth control took months of working up to and talking with friends. And before actually going into the clinic I had to walk down to the beach and back again (about 20 min) before I felt able to go in. Another example might be that I had to spend weeks researching a club I wanted to join in highschool before I actually had the courage to join.

I think this fear in part derives from wanting to feel in charge/feeling like I'm being judged in new situations, especially if I don't know what the protocols in those new situations are.

In the past one thing that has helped me get past this kind of fear (aside from experiencing the situation a few times) is really knowing what to expect, and how I'm expected to behave, in as much detail as possible. Especially how I'm expected to behave. Going back to the birth control example, one my friend actually talked me through step by step what would happen before, during and after the appointment and what I would be expected to do at those points.

I think maybe also reminding myself why I need to go into counseling would help. Because whenever I get down to making an appointment I start running through reasons I don't need to do it, like being able to do it later, or (most problematic) that I'm feeling fine right now so I don't need to. The problem with the last one being that generally I don't stay fine. And sometimes, even if I know I need to, I end talking myself out of it with a series of scared "I don't want tos" (but maybe the first point of knowing what to expect, even with making the appointment might help with that part?)

Does that make sense to you? Do you have any suggestions to help me? Could you maybe talk to me about what to expect in the appointment and in making the appointment or point me to some resources that will?

Also can we talk through why this was daterape again? Internally I feel very confident calling it that, but I don't feel like I can defend this point to friends (not that I've tried/had a reason to recently but everytime I think of a counter argument they might say I can't come up with a good response). For instance I know if someone pressures you into sex it can't be consensual, but then I here someone asking well Why isn't it consensual? You said yes and he stopped when you verbally told him to, doesn't that make it consensual? Doesn't the person being pressured always have the ability to get up and walk away? Or the time I gave in to being fingered, I gave in not just because he nagged me for five hours straight but because it felt good. And I hear someone saying, well if you wanted it because it felt good, then why wasn't it consensual? Inconsiderate maybe, but not unconsensual. And I just don't know how to respond to either of those.

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Heather
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It does all make sense to me.

So, first up, one thing I think might help is to recognize that a good counselor or therapist won't tend to see themselves as in a position of authority, or see therapy as being any kind of hierarchy at all. Rather, they'll see themselves in a partnership with you, and as being in a helper position to you. Do you get the difference?

It also sounds like you might benefit from knowing that you can screen a therapist saying the kinds of things you are saying right here, and making clear the kind of information you need to be most comfortable seeking out therapy. That'd actually be helpful to a therapist, too.

Per your other question: whether or not someone who is being pressured or coerced into sex has the physical ability to walk away isn't really relevant (and is also pretty complex and situational: for instance, shock tends to make a lot of us freeze up, which can actually make us react, sometimes, by literally feeling unable to move). When we're being coerced and pressured it messes with our heads and our hearts, because it is, by definition, a manipulation. Real consent doesn't involve anyone nagging anyone, because nagging, again, is a way people try to manipulate and control people.

But here's the most salient point: the onus NOT to abuse people in any way, which includes coercing them into things we want for ourselves and they don't, is on US. It is NOT on whomever we may abuse. If we are abusing someone in any way and they stop us from doing that, it doesn't mean we didn't abuse them: it means they stopped the abuse. If we try to abuse someone and they interfere, it doesn't change that we tried. It just changes some of what happened to that person.
I'm putting this on the other foot, because I think it can sometimes be easier to see when we think about what our responsibilities are in how we treat others, responsibilities we all share.

Also, whether or not things feel physically good doesn't really matter here: some victims of incredibly violent rapes orgasm, despite obviously not feeling emotionally good or wanting what was going on, even wanting to orgasm. Sometimes our bodies respond to things -- not just sex -- in discord with our hearts and minds.

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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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