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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Assault? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Assault?
loststone
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I've just filled out a survey about sexual assault and I'm left feeling a bit lost.

I've recently (about 6 weeks ago) come out of a relationship where poor consent was the norm. I tried to fix it, but it was too far gone. A lot of the time it was about me feeling pressured (in general, not by my partner in particular) and choosing to have sex/sexual activity under that pressure. I was also very confused and had a lot of mixed feelings about my sexual preferences (I had never really had sexual feelings before (I identify as demisexual) and was trying to deal with them, and recognising them as not "normal" while trying to negotiate a sexual relationship with such a poor consent record). But there were times when I felt I had not consented, and one of these in particular stands out and was what I wrote about in the survey. But I know my ex thought I consented. I believe her when she says that. Even though I have no idea how she could have thought that, even though it meant changing boundaries without discussing it. Her being clueless, whilst it makes no sense in my head, seems like the only explanation.

I blamed myself for these times for a long time, thought I should have made my boundaries clear. I've managed to shift the blame off myself, but I can't blame her. I am in a place now where I'm blaming rape culture (and desperately trying to get rid, my activism levels have gone way up!).

I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking for. I think I'll want to talk about it; but I need to concentrate on my exams for now, though I suspect I'll end up coming back and talking about it anyway. I'm just a little in shock at how much I had to say; I didn't think it had affected me that much. I can't believe I was thinking about the possibility of a new relationship only a few days ago...

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loststone
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My ex contacted me today asking if we could be friends again. I said I wasn't sure and I would let her know after my exams finished.

I don't really know if I want to be her friend, I'm feeling a lot of "should"s around dealing with this break up. I should be really upset; I should want to be friends again eventually; I should wait longer before being friends; I should actively avoid the possibility of dating for a while.

I guess I just don't really know how to feel about the relationship, and whether any friendship could be salvaged, or even if it would be healthy to try. If we're not going to be friends that's going to make things hard. But I feel like she's being quite clingy in trying to be friends with me at this point. She was trying to come to me when she was upset about our break-up before and I told her that I wasn't the person to go to. That was only 2 weeks ago. She's taking this way harder than me and I suspect she hasn't moved on enough to be friends.

Plus, I still don't know how to feel about the whole consent thing. I felt angry for a while; but I haven't really been thinking about it that much. I'm worried it's sort of buried away and I'll think I'm okay then it'll come back to haunt me (in a future relationship, for example).

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CoatRack
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I just wanted to respond and let you know that we are listening and that we're here for you when you do want to talk.

It's important to recognize that right now it's totally OK to feel confused about what you are feeling surrounding the relationship, the consent or lack thereof, and everything else. Confusion and questions about aspects of the relationship are totally normal after any break up, especially when there were unhealthy dynamics at play which it sounds like there were here.

Consent is more than "no means no." That implies that if you never said "no" then there was consent. That is absolutely not the case. If you were feeling pressured into sex then you were feeling pressured into sex. It's not a case of "I should have set clearer boundaries" or "I could have done more to stop it." Sexual assault, pressure, violence, harassment, etc are never the fault of the person who experiences them.

I am not really the best volunteer to help you work through this, though if you'd like to talk more tonight I'll be around for another couple of hours. I did want to make sure you got a response tonight and that you had somebody validate that you are feeling totally normal things, and that they are OK and expected.

I would recommend not entering any kind of friendship with a possibly abusive ex. I'll make sure to check back in tonight before I head to bed, and tomorrow more folks will hopefully be around. ok?

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Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual

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Stephanie_1
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Just wanting to add in with Andy and what was said there. It's really good that you've been able to work through some of these feelings and especially that you're able to take the blame off of you. That's really important and a huge first step.

I also agree that it is not a good idea to try to be friends with someone that had problems with boundaries and was in any way abusive in the past. It makes it very difficult for you to continue working through your feelings, and to move on from the relationship and what happened in it. As well, she's still displaying trouble with boundaries. First she went to you about feeling upset with the break-up, and you asked her/explained to her you're not the right person, thereby setting a boundary. Her asking to be friends such a short time after is testing/pushing against that boundary. (Just know too, anytime you're not sure how to handle a relationship of any kind, it's perfectly okay to let the person know you need time before you can even consider where you stand and can stand.)

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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loststone
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Thanks for replying guys [Smile] .

I think you're right, I don't really want to be friends with her right now. I guess what I'm worried about is how it's going to be in the summer: we're both part of a really close group of friends and I wouldn't want to miss out on spending time with them to avoid her, so I feel I should be making some effort to be on friendly terms. But that's not right now, so maybe I shouldn't be focussing on it so much.

I think I'm still getting used to the idea that just because I don't think it's her fault, that doesn't mean I have to feel bad for thinking our relationship, and any future friendship, was/could be unhealthy. And that it's therefore okay for me to not want to see her.

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Heather
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It's always okay for any of us, for any reason, to choose to to be involved with someone on any level, especially in elective relationships (as in, we're not talking about something like a kid you made and took responsibility for).

So, even if you had had a totally healthy relationship wit this person, but just didn't like them or have any interest in them, it would be okay for you to choose not to see her.

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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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loststone
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I sent her a message yesterday saying I wasn't ready to be friends right now and I would let her know if/when I was; which she said was fine, so hopefully she won't contact me any time soon.

I'd like to talk a bit about the relationship if that's okay? Because:

1) I'm a bit stuck in terms of what to think about the consent issues; on the one hand what I know of her makes the idea of her hurting me on purpose, and then lying when I confronted her with that, pretty unlikely; but the idea that she could have not noticed that I wasn't happy/enthusiastic/consenting also feels really unlikely. I guess that the most likely scenario is that she knew I hadn't consented (in the sense of enthusiastic consent) but thought it was okay to try anyway, "because I'd say if I wasn't okay, right?" and she considered that to be consent (which it obviously isn't). I don't really know what to do with this scenario, because if that's what she genuinely thought was consent, can I really blame her? But the idea of enthusiastic consent is so intuitive to me, I don't understand how anyone could consider "I'll try and only stop if they say stop" to be consent. Anyway, I think a bit of clarity on this would help me work through my feelings about the relationship etc.

2) We are both part of the same friendship group at home. Whilst I'm not really interested in being close friends with her, it would make things easier in terms of seeing our friends if we were on good terms. I really don't want to lose out on seeing my friends because I don't want to see her. Obviously, I can see my friends without her, but when everyone gets together in a big group I'd want to be able to go. So I'd like to talk about the relationship to help me figure out if that would/could be healthy.

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Heather
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I'm not sure you or I can guess at what she was thinking with any of this. I'm afraid this is only something we can usually know by asking someone. In this case, you may simply have to accept not having those answers.

At the same time, it's always a tough question to think about, in part because it's not like it's ever easy to accept that someone we cared for and thought cared about us may have hurt us intentionally, whether the intent WAS to hurt us or the intent was, say, to not think about us as much as someone was thinking about themselves, you know?

But here's the thing: we are ALL, every last one of us, responsible for obtaining a partner's consent, all the time and every time. Whether we totally understand how it works or not, whether we have been educated or not, we're still responsible. So, any time at all any of us -- whether that's you, me, or this girl -- don't do that, or do things against someone's consent, we are who are responsible and who to hold responsible. I think talking about blame isn't helpful here, and talking about responsibility makes a lot more sense.

Can you see how, in a revered position, you would be responsible were you in her spot?

In terms of dealing with shared social circles, if it helps, what I've done myself in situations where I have severed my own relationship with someone but we still share friends is that when with friends, I am cordial and polite, just like I would be to anyone else hanging out with the group. But I leave it at that: I nix talking alone, I nix getting close, I nix hanging out extra with a smaller group if it involves that person.

--------------------
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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loststone
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I know I probably won't get any closer to the truth than I already am. I mean, I did ask her and she said she did think that was what I wanted, but she didn't know why she thought that.

I guess I'm just feeling the need to define it, you know? Right now I don't know what to call it, whether to say I was in an unhealthy relationship, or we were sexually incompatible, or we did consent badly, or it was assault. I feel like by calling it "barely consensual" or "not exactly consensual", that sounds like hiding from assault. I mean, if someone said that to me, I'd think maybe it was assault but they didn't want to call it that.

I really want to be able to make sure in future I can make sure, to the best of my ability, I only get into healthy relationships, especially with regards to sexual relationships. And I feel like defining this could be an important part of that.

I was pretty much planning on the same kind of thing you suggested in terms of seeing her with my friends.

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Heather
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Ultimately, I think the best way to go is for any of us to use whatever language with this works best for us at a given time. Chances are, you won't always use the same words or terms as time goes on, but what's important is just that whatever you do use works for you, in terms of being as truthful with yourself as you can be, and having words most likely to support you in your healing process and to tell what your truth is. Know what I mean?

When it comes to talking to potential partners, you'll likely want to say more than just one word or phrase about this anyway, so I'd not stress yourself out by figuring you need one word or phrase that can say everything you'll want or need to, since there likely isn't one.

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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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loststone
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That makes a lot of sense [Smile] . I guess I'm just a lover of labels! But flexibility is good too.

It's odd, I feel like maybe I should be doing things to heal; but I feel fine. In fact, I feel great. There's a part of me which worries that that is a bad thing, that maybe I'm not facing up to it and it's going to reappear at some point. But I don't see what I could be doing to stop that right now. Do you think this is something I need to be worried about? Obviously when I feel ready to have a partner then there will be more things to deal with; but if I'm feeling okay is it sound for me to be worrying I'm not dealing with it all that much?

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Heather
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You know, I don't personally think that's anything to worry about.

Any time any of us has been traumatized or hurt in any way, we're all going to have our own unique process of coping and healing and moving forward. And they're kinda like snowflakes: they're all very different.

So, if you feel like you're doing okay right now as you are, and neither you nor anyone else who cares about you is noticing that you're either really checked out, losing track of yourself, or really bungling things up in your life (which could happen for other reasons too, mind), I don't see any reason not to trust yourself with that.

Clearly, you know at least one way to ask for help when you need it, and can do that. I think that alone is the most important thing.

--------------------
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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loststone
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Okay, thanks, that's really reassuring [Smile] .

I think things are pretty good right now, so I'll try not to worry too much [Smile] .

Yeah, it's great to know I can come here if I need to, thank you!

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loststone
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Hi again.

Well, it's now the summer, so seeing my ex is now more real. I saw her last week in quite a big group and that was okay, it didn't really feel like she was the same person I was in a relationship in (if that makes sense). Afterwards, I felt a bit low, but I think that was because the next day she was hosting a party I felt I should go to; but ended up opting out of. (drunken ex => lower inhibitions => less likely to honour boundaries, not something I want to deal with).

Anyway, the reason I came to write this is basically, I don't want to spend time with my ex very much. I think in large groups where we're sober will be fine; but I don't want to have to be in small groups with her, or around her and alcohol. My friends have been completely understanding about this, but I've found it quite difficult to explain why I don't want to see her because they don't know a lot of what went on (I didn't really talk to them about our relationship much because they're all good friends with my ex too, they don't know anything about the issues with consent, and the reason we told everyone (and each other) we broke up was that it just wasn't working and we would be better off as friends). So, I'm feeling like if I could tell a friend or two about what went on, I could be getting more support with that.

There are two people I'm thinking about talking to at the moment. One, let's call her M, is a very close friend. We've known each other for years and when my ex, C, and I first got together she was looking out for me: she told me that she and some of my friends were worried I was too "innocent" for C (can't think of a better way to phrase that..) and told C that if she hurt me then she would hurt her (or, words to that effect anyway). She was also the person I immediately thought to go to when I was feeling really awful after a particular incident (though I never did talk to her about it unfortunately). She's someone I feel talking to about this wouldn't be horrifically awkward with, and someone I trust to, essentially, take my side, even though she's also friends with C. The other person I'm thinking about talking to, L, I'm less sure about; she's the person who I've talked to most about the sexual aspect of my relationship with C, so she knows more about what's going on and she's someone I've felt able to talk about sexual things with before. But she heard everything from both sides, and was at times a kind of unofficial couples counsellor for us. She's probably as close to C as to me, and I suspect she might try and "see both sides" and not want to put any blame/responsibility on C.

I'm just going to write a list of things that happened/ I felt; partly for myself, partly as a guide for telling anyone, and partly I guess in the hope you guys will reassure me about this too.

- She said "At least I asked this time" the second time she touched my boobs, as if that was something to be proud of, rather than expected and a way to get consent (the first time she didn't ask, but I was fine with it, but when she tried to move things further I stopped her and she thought I had been uncomfortable with other activities too).
- I got upset doing, and sometimes even just talking about doing, sexual activities.
- I felt abnormal for not wanting sex (despite knowing about and previously identifying as asexual).
- I felt like I needed to "prove" I was sexual. She also tried to prove to me I was sexual.
- When I considered ending the relationship because I kept getting upset (a few months into the relationship) I didn't do so because I felt like I would have to "go through" being upset etc about sex (to get over it) with someone in some relationship, so it may as well be this one.
- I cried about sex all the time, at some points nearly every night by myself and once a week with my ex. She comforted me, but never tried to change our sexual behaviour. She also sometimes expressed frustration that I was getting upset because "sex is no big deal" and I should just get over it.
- Her friends took the piss out of how "far" I would go with her, and that I wasn't having sex with her.
- She assumed that me being comfortable touching her meant I was comfortable with her touching me (without asking whether that was true). I felt unable to break this "assumed reciprocity" dynamic for a long time.
- One time, I went along with an activity she initiated; during the activity I wanted it to stop but I felt unable to say so/move her hands away because I was trying so hard to stay calm/not cry. When she did stop I refused to let go of her, and cried when she tried to talk to me. She comforted me until we had to go home; but later thought I'd reacted that way because I'd orgasmed. (she has expressed a lot of guilt/apologised a lot about this incident since)
- She asked me if I wanted to be in a sexual relationship (because I was getting upset all the time), but when I said I didn't know (I hadn't even considered that not being in a sexual relationship was a possibility) we carried on as normal.
- Once, we went to bed, I wanted to sleep, she wanted sex. I told her I wanted to sleep and she could masturbate. She said she wasn't really comfortable doing so and when I turned away (maybe half jokingly) to go to sleep she started nagging (and possibly tickling? Not sure whether I've remembered that right) me until I gave in so she would let me sleep. Afterwards she went to sleep but I felt awful and woke her up crying.
- Eventually, I knew the crying was too much; and told her not to perform sexual activities on me/touch my genital region at all. She respected this for a few months, and I felt safe. She touched me a couple of times but didn't do anything so I let it go without saying anything. I (for some reason) decided it was okay for me to not want her to touch me, so long as it wasn't because I was self conscious about my body; so, without explaining why, it became my mission to be naked with her. Which, one night, I did (even though I wouldn't let her look at me). In the morning, I did let her look, and she wanted to touch my crotch (because "it's new") and I felt like I should let her (because "it isn't fair to let her look but not touch right?") so I did. She then, without asking, starting performing manual sex on me (I'd never received it before). I was in shock and clung on to her saying "oh god, oh god, oh god"; I didn't know what to do. She looked to me for reassurance that it was okay and I nodded, I was just trying not to freak out. She stopped when it hurt me, then asked to check if my hymen was there and I said yes (as well as that I was sure it wasn't), but then went barging straight in, obviously it hurt me and she said she forgot. I thought that was ridiculous and was angry but I didn't say anything. She also said "I didn't think you'd let me do that" about the manual sex. We cuddled and I calmed down; then I was scared of her leaving because I knew when she left I would feel awful and cry. I told her this, and she said things about how I shouldn't be upset because I'd wanted it, and I should tell myself that if I started feeling upset, which I'm sure would have been reassuring if I had wanted it, but even then I knew I didn't. When she went home I slept, then when I woke up I was thinking about it for ages and getting angry and upset. I barely got out of bed all day. I tried to phone her and when there was no answer I text her saying I felt like it had been all about what she wanted and not about me, and I was upset etc. She called me later and was angry because "she thought it was special" and "she thought I wanted it" and probably some other stuff. We talked for ages and it felt mostly fine again. But I asked my friend (M, who I want to tell) to have coffee with me because I was still feeling so confused and shook up about it. I was going to tell her, but I felt uncomfortable doing so in public and I didn't want to "ruin" the time we were spending together.
- Even though that first time manual sex was so awful; she initiated it after that and it became something we did (or rather, something she did). I frequently called off manual sex on me, and she (and later I) frequently broke that boundary, then I would get upset, she would say she understood and would stop, then the cycle started again. This went on for about a year (I probably started breaking the boundary after about 8 months).
- In one conversation shortly after that, when I was saying I didn't want to keep receiving manual sex; she got upset/frustrated because "it was going so well" and "doing that would be going backwards" and "when it's reciprocated it's more special" (that last one hurt a lot).
- When I tried to talk to her about consent in our relationship she said she would try to get consent from me, but was dismissive when I said I needed to get consent from her, and asked her what things she thought I could do with non-verbal consent, and what things I should ask for consent verbally ("anything goes" was pretty much her response).
- When I sent her some articles from Scarleteen (about communication and consent) she got angry because she thought I was trying to say something was wrong with our relationship in a round about way.
- Once, when manual sex on me was off the cards, she initiated it when I was subbing (I had, I think, sort of been testing/teasing her, so she had some reason to believe I wanted it. But I'd done that under the impression she wouldn't do anything about it (we had an agreement not to do anything that would push the boundaries normally during scenes, so it was totally not okay)). I knew that wasn't sound, but also wanted to do what she wanted me to as her sub, so didn't know whether to say anything or not, and it ended up being not.
- She has, at least on a couple of occasions, stropped when I didn't want sex; and I've had to call her out on it.
- After talking to Heather here and deciding to take genital sex off the table all together; she stropped and I called her out on it. She reluctantly agreed and was eager to try non-genital sex (clearly because she wanted our "normal" sex life back) and eventually I gave up trying to enforce a boundary she clearly didn't want to uphold.
- She pretty much acted like she had a right to touch my body the whole time; right down to during our break up. She always made me feel like I should let her touch me (particularly my breasts) even when it was clear I didn't want to.

Wow, that is a lot. Well done and thank you if you've read this essay. A lot of this post is me getting my thoughts together really. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for in a response, but I'm going to post it anyway.

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Heather
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I won't be here much today, but I just wanted to let you know that I did read this.

I really hope you can disclose to at least someone in your life, so you can have the experience of someone you know being able to support you when they understand all you've been going through.

It's not going to be any surprise to you that in reading all of this, I find it all very reflective of what we've been talking about in terms of this person and relationship clearly being a very unsafe place for you.

I wonder if there is also any way that you can get some clear, absolute time and space away from this person? I feel like that would probably be very positive for you, and is also really important.

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

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loststone
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Thank you [Smile] .

I'm definitely hoping to do so soon.

I think I could not see her at all, but right now that could mean losing out on some time with my friends. I'm not planning on doing much where she is involved, and of course if I'm not up to it I won't; but the last thing I want is to feel cut off from my friends because of this, you know? Though maybe that would change if they knew everything. But once I'm back at university I won't be seeing her.

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Heather
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So, I'm perhaps going to ask something that sounds daft, but do you feel like you have any sense of how to socially navigate any situation in which, when hanging out in groups, there's someone you don't want to see?

--------------------
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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loststone
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You mean if I'm hanging out in a group with someone I don't want to see? Well, I guess I would be polite to them, but not spend time with them one-on-one or in small groups. And (another reason why I'd like to disclose) try and spend time with friends who were aware that I didn't want to see them.

It isn't a daft thing to ask, I guess I haven't really been in this kind of situation before (I mean, I've hung out with people I'm not particularly interested in seeing; but I've always had friends who felt similarly about them, so never had to spend a lot of time with them).

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Heather
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So, want to talk a little bit about how to navigate this kind of deal socially, whether it's about this person or anyone else you know isn't safe for you or even that you just don't like to be around?

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loststone
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Yes please, that would be helpful [Smile] .
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Heather
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Sure thing.

You have a few options, the options all of us always do.

First up, you can take charge sometimes with getting a group together so that only the people you want in it are there. In other words, someone with group hangouts is usually taking some level of charge with the inviting: you can be that person yourself sometimes.

Next, are there groups this person is less likely to be part of who you also like to hang out with? If so, maybe now is a good time to spend a bit more time with those friends and communities.

You can also always ask for hangout time with friends where it's just a friend or two, not a whole group.

You can also always branch off from groups. For instance, you go to hang out with a big group, and this person is part of the picture. So, during the times you're hanging out, you probably migrate to a smaller group away from them with a few people. You can always suggest you all go do something else, or just stick together, away from the other group.

And of course, you also have the option of disclosing to a few more people, and making clear this isn't just about someone you don't like. It's about someone who has abused you, and you do not want to be around this person, or anyone else, you know isn't safe for you.

It's not like in most groups there isn't someone, eventually, who is an abusive person. In other words, this is going to happen in groups and communities now and then, and if we refuse to be silent about that person being unsafe, we can not only be more safe ourselves, we do also help keep other people safe, too. (Sometimes folks find it easier to work for the safety of others than themselves sometimes, thus my putting that out there.) I think it's safe to say that most people, if they knew, would not want to be hanging out with someone abusive.

Does any of that help?

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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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loststone
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Thanks, that is really helpful; it's nice to see my options written out like that.

I guess the problem I have is that I am part of a very close group of friends where a lot of our time spent together, we all assume is for everyone; so for me or anyone else to not invite her to something would require more of a disinvitation than a lack of invitation, if that makes sense? And I guess I feel a bit of guilt around that, even though I know it's up to me who I choose to hang out with; because it would feel like I'm stopping her seeing her friends, and sort of making my friends choose between us.

But I can definitely plan to see other friends, and see some of my friends from this group in smaller groups without her. M is away at the moment, but I was planning on having some one-on-one time with L anyway, so I think working towards some sort of disclosure would also help with that.

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Heather
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Can I ask you to maybe think and talk about why you think you feel guilty about asking to be safe in your social group?

After all, it's not YOU who made you unsafe with her. It's her who has chosen to be abusive and to continue to be so.

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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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loststone
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Well, partly I think because if I did say to her "I am inviting people from our group to hang out, but I don't want you to come"; it's quite possible she would try and make me feel guilty for that. Also, to friends who don't know (and especially given that our relationship was considered a good one because people didn't know), I kind of feel like I would look like the bad guy. Because to them, it was a mutual break up of a good relationship; so her being okay seeing me, but me refusing to see her makes me look like the unreasonable one. (although, my friends have been sympathetic to the fact I may not want to see her, so I doubt they would really think me unreasonable, even without knowing the full story) And I guess, even though she hurt me, I can't see her as a monster who is undeserving of social interaction; she's still a person. And our group contains most of her friends, so saying she can't hang out with them with me around feels like I'm depriving her of them (though of course, it isn't. She could arrange to see them without me).
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Heather
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Can I ask, then: what if you DO look like the bad guy? What happens then?

As well, can you maybe tell me how you might feel if, say, another of your friends and abused another of your friends, and that friend asked for that person who makes them unsafe not to be included? Would you feel that friend asking not to have the person who abused them basically take one more thing away from them (the right to be safe and have friends) was making that person into "a monster?"

Do you feel at some point it's okay to exempt unsafe people from social situations? If not, what does that mean fro everyone else? Does that mean THAT person always should be allowed to be involved in things even if it means someone they hurt only gets to be hurt more, and continue to feel unsafe?

Do you get what I'm asking?

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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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loststone
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I totally get the point you're making; and I do know I have a right to be and feel safe. I know I have the right to exclude her from my life. I know if my friends knew everything they would probably not want to be her friend.

But that doesn't stop that little voice in my head saying that's unreasonable. It's so stereotypically British in a way: "but socially excluding someone just isn't something you do!". I think part of me also feels like I would be taking a decision for my friends, because I know they'd be uncomfortable excluding me if they wanted to see her. But of course, that's their decision; I'm not forcing them to exclude either of us from their lives.

I think it's partly because the image we see of an abuser is "a monster"; I don't really know how to deal with the fact that that just isn't true. (which is such a society fail in general)

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Heather
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Maybe think about it this way, if you want to be a Brit about it: [Razz]

If everyone had their best manners on here, someone who has made you unsafe and done you harm would, I'd say, take real responsibility for that, including being aware that by sticking in the same groups where you're friends, they isolate you even more than their abuse already did by making it much harder for you to have friends and be with people with whom you ARE safe. They'd then exempt themselves from the situation, rather than putting it on you.

But this person hasn't done that (which is pretty typical, and you might also think about how some of this can be away for them to STILL keep hurting you). And this is, unfortunately, one reason a lot of people who were abused by someone with whom they shared friends often winds up having to create whole new social circles for themselves.

But that's not necessary: it doesn't have to happen that way. Again, you didn't abuse you. She did. Choosing to do that to someone includes choosing the consequences that can result, like if and when that person stands up for themselves and refuses to let that person keep hurting them. Those consequences also include having other people know and be told about the abuse and then dealing with the impact of that. These are all choices she made with her actions, not things you're doing to her.

After all, if your friends decided they didn't want to be friends with someone because she had abused someone they cared about, that wouldn't be about something you did by telling. It'd be about what she did by abusing.

Probably these are things to just marinate in for a while and think about, not things you'll feel ready to take action on ASAP.

I'm sorry that I'm spacing out, but were you ever able to get any counseling help in healing from this abuse? I ask just out of concern for you, but also because some of this stuff is just about needing to do some more healing. If we get stuck in being someone's victim, it's easy to get stuck in patterns like this, where we still keep trying to protect someone, basically, who not only didn't protect us, but who, when we protect, we do so at the cost of our own safety, again and again.

[ 07-17-2011, 01:14 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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loststone
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Yeah, I guess it's just something I'm going to have to think about and get into my head. I know I keep defending her, and I shouldn't. I guess I just get angry that we get taught this: to not talk about consent/use non-verbal consent, that all teenagers want sex (now), that there is a "normal" way to have sex and if that's not what you want then you're abnormal etc; that I start feeling like she's a victim of those messages, and is therefore not the person to be angry at. But I know that is was her responsibility.

I haven't had counselling since we broke up. I actually did briefly see a counsellor earlier this year who really let me start thinking about the possibility of breaking up, but my uni only offers short term counselling. I know the local rape crisis centre to my university is really good, and I've been thinking about going to see them when I get back (if I went to my university they would refer me there anyway). I haven't looked much into the idea while I'm at home; but given that now is when she's going to be around maybe I should. I'll see what I can find.

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Heather
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I'm angry all of those ideas are so often taught and ingrained into our world too. I utterly hear you.

But what I also know, and I know that you do, too, is that just because we're taught one thing doesn't mean we can't learn something else. As well, we're not all just mindless slaves to the messages we get, people who don't still make choices and don't usually know that we have more choices than one given message or set of messages may have had us choose.

I'm also pretty sure that another of the pervasive messages most of us are taught is that when someone says to back off, get away or no, we heed that. Or, that when someone is crying, something is wrong, and if we keep doing something and they keep crying, we stop.

Clearly, your ex likely got those messages and made different choices. She could have done same with the messages you're talking about above: she didn't.

So, for sure, be angry with unhealthy messaging. But I vote for being angry with people who choose to hurt us, too, especially when we KNOW they chose. You know that about this person, even if that's a hard truth to hold, which it so often is. Sometimes it's easier to stay angry with cultural messages than with people who choose to sign unto them or use them to do harm. But doing what we can to make sure we're really holding individuals responsible for their actions, rather than letting them off the hook with the idea they had no choice can really hold us back from healing AND from staying away from and out of relationships that hurt us.

I have to shuttle off for a few hours, but I'll be back around later if you're still awake and need to talk more.

By the way, if I haven't mentioned it to you before, Rape Crisis in the UK is also an exceptional organization, and they offer free counseling all over the country.

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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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loststone
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Thank you. You're right of course, it was her choice and her responsibility. But it is sometimes hard to face up to that.

No problem [Smile] .

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Heather
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By all means, it's always really hard to accept people we care about and expected to care for us have chosen to do us harm. Really hard.

So, if you ever want to talk more about that, you know where to find me. [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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loststone
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Yeah [Frown] .

On a good note, I've found quite a few organisations nearby to where I am now, so I'll be giving them a call tomorrow.

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Heather
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Fantastic!

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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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loststone
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Okay, just got off the phone with my local rape crisis centre and they should be able to get me an appointment next week. That was pretty scary, but I did it [Smile] .

And I unfriended my ex on facebook (again).

I'm seeing L later so I might be able to talk to her too.

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Heather
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That's so great! Kudos to you for taking such an important step in your own self-care. [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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