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Author Topic: Recovery from bad adolesence (trigger warning)
Victoriana
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Hi,

I'm twenty and from the UK. I was really pleased to stumble across this site– it discusses all kinds of stuff that I wish I'd known five years ago, so thank you. I've got a problem with a series of abuses and people's reactions to them, so this is quite a lengthy explanation (and on reading back, slightly all over the place, hope it makes sense).

I was abused by my middle school headmaster when I was 12-13 ("just" groping, but it was openly tolerated by the staff and parents), and had similar experiences in my high school from 13 to 18, but with older boys rather than teachers. When I reported it, my tutor urged me not to take it any further as I was likely to be punished along with them (sexual behaviour being against the school rules).

I was with my first serious boyfriend for a year between the ages of 17 and 18. Initially, I was really happy, and chose to sleep with him, but about four months in, he stopped hearing the word no. He wouldn't listen, and wouldn't admit that he was doing anything wrong, so I was routinely being raped for about 8 months. I fought the first half a dozen or so times, but eventually I just gave up. I convinced myself I was overreacting, and since he seemed to help me cope with school (much stress: high pressure exams, everyone wanted me to go to Oxford or Cambridge). Eventually, we split up unpleasantly and I had a bit of a nervous collapse, then felt a lot better fairly quickly.

I then got into a relationship with a charming but fairly dysfunctional guy, who told me women only stayed in abusive relationships because they had masochistic desires (his father had badly abused his mother before they split up). He was really keen on us getting married (I said yes) and having kids before I graduated (I said no, he wasn't having any of it). He felt it was ok to try to sleep with other people as long as he told me first, and openly flirt with girls in front of me. Wow, reading that back, can't believe I stayed for nearly a year. Eventually, he wanted to have sex, I said no, he kept going, I have a panic attack and couldn't move. Afterwards, he said he wouldn't promise not to rape me again, because he "didn't make promises he wasn't sure he could keep". I regret not dumping him immediately, but we split up a few months later.

It's been nearly two years since we split up, I'm at university now and I now have a lovely boyfriend who is very worried about me: I suffer from flashbacks and recurring nightmares, and the slightest sexual harassment shakes me up for days. Unfortunately, I live in an area of town that's targeted by harassers, due to the high student population. Just before Christmas, someone tried to bundle me into a car while I was walking home, and I now don't feel safe out alone, even quite early in the evening. I've started shouting at people who harass me (when I think it's safe to do so), which helps, but I still end up weepy and shaky for days.

I'm on a variety of (years long) lists for counselling, since I'm not considered an immediate suicide risk. The few people I've confided in (brilliant supportive boyfriend aside) have been pretty unsupportive. My parents and a number of friends have told me I'm a slut and "must have wanted it on some level". My parents sent me to a "therapist" who told me there was no such thing as rape, which was particularly upsetting. While I wait to see a counsellor, are there any good coping strategies? I'm probably going to run into both of my exes over the summer, and I'm already dreading the upset. The shouting at jerks in the street and writing when I can't sleep are things that have helped me already, along with a healthy dose of feminism.

Posts: 5 | From: UK | Registered: Jun 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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This is yet another of those moments where one gets really pissed there isn't a hug button on one's keyboard. [Frown]

You know, I don't know about you, but one of the things that irks me most - but also helped me a lot when it comes to healing -- was looking back at a history like this and seeing where and how an initiation, as it were, into abuse began, seeing how it was not intervened, and seeing where it then led per repeats and ongoing abuse. because, of course, this is pretty much how it goes when one has a history of more than one abuse.

I'm really glad you put the quotes around just up there with the molestation, because, of course, that wasn't a "just." That was a major abuse of power on that headmasters part, and you getting that response from other adults who should have stepped in for you and stepped up for you likely has everything to do with what happened after. Obviously, very tragically, you carried that "just" with you for a little while, internalized it.

So. Let's do what we can to help you out here, since you've obviously done a pretty stellar job of picking yourself up to start with, something you shouldn't have had to do primarily alone, but something it's great that you did.

Have you gotten connected at all with any counselors or supports groups specifically FOR sexual abuse survivors? In other words, who ARE advocates, always, and who would never say or even think something so inane like rape not existing? (Obviously that therapist failed world history.)

We can give you some helps, too, but since you're on long waiting lists and want counseling, there may be a way for you to get served in that respect NOW, and by folks we know are credible and would help you out.

--------------------
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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Victoriana
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Thanks for your support. Yeah, sadly, I don't have massively sympathetic parents (it's a bit too much for them to deal with, I think), so my options are a bit limited to what they're prepared to support financially. I'm aware there's a rape crisis centre in my city, but I'm a little nervous about approaching them. I have other difficulties as well (seriously disordered eating and clinical depression), so a lot of the people my parents have asked have said "she's too damaged for me to help, your best bet is to keep her on the waiting lists", so that's what seems to be happening at the moment. I guess the rape crisis centre is probably my best bet, but the thought of picking up the phone and pretty much saying "hi, I've been raped" is still very scary.
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Robin Lee
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I am so sorry that you've received that message that you're too "damaged" for help.
You have, as Heather said, picked yourself up fabulously well.

It sounds like the rape crisis center could be a really good resource for you. I can understand why calling and telling them you've been raped feels really scary still. Do you want to talk more about what is scary about that? How can we help you feel more confident about taking that first step?

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Robin

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Victoriana
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I return. Unfortunately, I've not been massively functional for a while, although now doctors have got me on antidepressants, which are just about getting me through the day. I did manage to get some counseling through my university, after a 6 month wait, but they were only able to offer me 4 sessions, so it feels very much like back to square one.

Yeah, I still find it hard to really believe what has happened to me is "real" rape (whatever that is). Not helped by the fact that I've been getting messages from my main attacker's friends, telling me that I haven't thought about the damage I've done to him by talking to friends about what happened, with a lot of slurs I shan't post here, including the accusation that I'm just lying for attention, and that it was my fault, and that I won't be believed until I can get him convicted for what he did. All while asserting that nobody ever blames or behaves badly towards victims, naturally. I've blocked and deleted them, but it seems that this round of awfulness is particularly sticking with me and upsetting me.

I think the real problem is that I still half think I'm imagining things or overreacting because I was partly too frightened to resist, and partly I didn't really understand that I could say no (conservative, boarding school sex ed never mentioned it), and these fears are largely surrounding picking up a phone and saying, "Hi, I was raped." (Although I don't like phones generally), and really believing myself, when other people around me don't.

Also, a related question: the same lovely, supportive boyfriend has taken me to hospital a few too many times when I've been self harming and a danger to myself. We already practise affirmative and enthusiastic consent, which is especially helpful given that my response to unwanted advances and contact is to freeze up. However, when the trauma comes up, he gets very anxious and upset about it, because he doesn't know how to help and is frightened of making things worse (he does not). Do you have any advice and/or resources I could pass onto him?

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Heather
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I'm sorry to hear you've been suffering and also being harassed. [Frown]

Maybe we can have a candid talk about "real rape?" In other words, unpack and toss that out by having a conversation about it?

It also sounds like you've picked up some other rape/assault myths we could talk about too, if you liked.

Really, per your boyfriend, you're the one who can best tell him how to help, because you're the only one who can know what helps you, uniquely. Do you feel like you know what those things are?

--------------------
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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Victoriana
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I have no idea what I need. All I know is that I feel like I will never get better, and that there is very little I can do to change that. It's been years now, and I'm still struggling to get by. I don't have any ideas or methods that aren't utterly destructive (cutting, alcohol, suicide), so I'm trying my best to stay away from them. During term time, I generally keep really busy, so I don't think about things too much, but I'm currently at home for the holidays. I live in a very isolated area, and all my friends are at the other end of the country, or on the other side of the world (boarding school again), so I'm isolated emotionally as well.

I guess I struggle to believe my own thoughts when everyone around me is telling me I've imagined it, and when my parents have sided with the rapist, and insist on keeping a picture of my abusive headmaster in our bathroom (they know what happened, but are utterly dismissive of it). The knowledge that no one believes me, or even thinks it is possible, makes me really doubt myself. I also think that by the end of the relationship, I was pretending to be OK with sex when I wasn't, because I knew I didn't really have a choice, and I felt guilty for denying him stuff. Also, because if things got obviously forceful, I would generally get knocked around a bit. He never actually hit me, but he didn't handle with gentleness, so it never really occurred to me to see see it as physical abuse, which I now understand it was.

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Heather
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I certainly understand -- and have experienced myself -- feeling that way. Like things will never change or get better. And when you're suffering that much for a while, it can make the years feel stretched out like taffy: time passes much more slowly.

At the same time, chances are good they really will get better. And it may be you can do some things now you haven't yet to get them going there. Like, it sounds like, radically changing your social circle as much as possible and cutting out ways for people to contact you who are harassing you, or aren't being supportive, as one example.

And taking that picture down, more than once, if need be. (Jesus, that's so awful.)

It's not true that no one believes you. I believe you.

We believe you.

Anyone with any decent education, rather than ignorance, about sexual abuse and assault is going to be someone who believes you.

As well, people become disempowered, by design, in abuse and dysfunction. So applying the same "rules," as it were, to people in those dynamics as to people outside of them just isn't sound. That's because those dynamics, themselves, already take choices and agency away, which is why, within them, it's very hard, sometimes impossible, to act with agency or full agency in them, because it isn't there. Know what I mean?

--------------------
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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Also, if it helps, I know that I have had times as a survivor where I felt plagued by charlatan or impostor syndrome too.

one thing that helped me, and might you, was writing down a very brief list of what happened to me. As in "This happened: <thing that happened.> This was real: <thing that was real.> So-and-so did this."

If you keep it with you, you can look at it at times when denial and victim-blaming gets you in self-doubt, just to ground yourself in what you know was real, and did happen, to be able to better emotionally fight, as it were, people's denials.

--------------------
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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Victoriana
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Just conducted a further online purge (which is where most of my social life is conducted out of term time). Mercifully, my university friends and those I keep in touch with from earlier are supportive (they know about my mental health issues, if not the underlying trauma). Picture taken down, awaiting a parental telling off (they regard most stuff I do to avoid triggers as attention seeking and overreacting).

Upon further thought, I've realised that my current career plans may be a way to help me heal: I always wanted to be a singer, but general discouragement from school and family put me off. My rapist actively tried to stop me singing and performing (and eventually, even speaking), so I do feel like this is reclaiming something. Being such a personal art (when you are the instrument, your illnesses and traumas are like the dents on a trumpet) means that my singing teacher has ended up dealing with me getting extremely upset, which mercifully he has responded to very well. I'm making good progress and hoping to go into a conservatoire after I graduate. Do you have any further thoughts on how to use this medium as part of the healing process?

As far as feeling like a charlatan goes, my memory is quite hazy as to some of the actual assaults, as particularly with my first rapist, I knew I didn't have a choice, so just blocked everything out and waited for it to end, so I couldn't write down dates and times or the like, or even really know when I consented or didn't. It's really hard to know that with my memory like this I wouldn't even be able to prosecute him.

The trouble with the harassment is that the one girl in particular who stands out (who was my friend, and a fellow survivor) wanted me to thank her for calling me a liar and a terrible person. It just feels like everyone is singing from a different hymn sheet, and it makes me wonder whether I'm delusional or losing my mind.

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Heather
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You know, fellow survivors sometimes won't be awesome. We all have different ways we kind of took in our trauma, and are at different places in our healing. And sometimes, some survivors will do a thing where they will only believe another whose assault or abuse was just like theirs, who feels just like they feel. It sure stinks when it happens -- been there myself -- but it does happen.

I think one of the hardest parts with all of this is that while we need the support of others, and it can go a very long way, ultimately we have to trust and believe ourselves and the reality of our own experiences. Even if and when there are things we can't remember about our abuses or assaults, which will very often be the case, if for no other reason than the way the human brain often works during trauma.

I love the idea of reclaiming your dreams about singing, and by all means, you can't dismiss, I don't think, that particular big-deal here in that singing is about your voice: it's certainly, very literally, about not being silent or silenced.

--------------------
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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