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not sure if it was sexual assault. could use some help

Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:01 pm
by confusedbeetle
hi! i've never really talked about this with anyone besides my therapist, so i'm not really sure how to go about this. i guess i'll just get into it. i'm going to describe what happened to me in some detail, please don't read if that will upset you.

september/october 2019 i started a casual sexual relationship with a friend i knew pretty well. we had a good dynamic, i liked hanging out with him, and we discussed boundaries and sexual preferences. i thought it was fine. it all felt fine. but when we had sex for the first time, he went down on me, and it was too much at first in terms of sensation, so i told him to slow down, but he didn't. i have a hard time remembering if we discussed overstimulation as something we wanted to try. it's entirely possible that we did. he didn't slow down, so i pushed his head away, and he kept trying to move his head closer to me again. he started asking me to move my hand away so he could keep going, and i felt guilty for not letting him, so i moved my hand away and let him continue. this happened almost every time we had sex.

i started realizing something was maybe wrong when i was at work and i'd think about having sex with him, and i'd go into a fight or flight response. heart pounding, dizzy, antsy, the whole nine. sometimes i'd even get the urge to kick my legs like i was trying to fight him off or something. i'm not sure if that makes sense as a reaction. i don't know if he knows he did something wrong. or even if he did something wrong at all. i'm extremely extremely conflicted about the whole thing.

i'm having a hard time telling my friends, because we have a few mutual friends in common, and i don't want to rock the boat, because he's very very well liked by our friends. i told my dad about all this a few months ago and he told me i had to speak up eventually, otherwise he was just going to keep doing this to other people. but i'm not ready yet, and i don't know if i ever will be.

was this sexual assault? did i send him the wrong message by letting him continue? did he know what he did was wrong? am i overreacting? i'm really confused and could use some help. sorry if this is a little long, it's a very complicated situation for me emotionally. thanks so much.

Re: not sure if it was sexual assault. could use some help

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:13 am
by Sam W
Hi confusedbeetle,

I'm so glad you feel safe asking for support here, and that you've been able to talk with your therapist about this. As far as defining what happened to you, we (and many other credible organizations) use this as the definition of sexual assault: "Rape is when one person wants and pursues a sexual act on, to or inside another person who does not want to participate, and who does not fully and freely consent to take part in that act."

What you're describing does fit within the definition of that. You pushing his head away is a pretty dang clear nonverbal signal; we don't push someone away from something we want them to keep doing. He even had to ask you to move your hand, which means he noticed you were trying to stop him. Given that this happened multiple times, I'd be hard pressed to believe that he didn't notice that you kept trying to get him to stop. Which means he repeatedly moved past a boundary.

Those reactions you were having at work make a lot of sense; you were anticipating being near someone who you were pretty sure was going to do something you didn't want and that made you physically uncomfortable. Too, when someone repeatedly pushes past a boundary during sex, there can be a very real worry that if they won't take "stop" or "slow down" in that context seriously, they may cross our boundaries in other ways.

How can we best support you around all this right now? We can talk about how to talk to your friends about what happened if that's something you want (while I see your dads point, when/if you tell other people is entirely up to you, and you not telling your friends does not make you responsible for what he might be doing), give you space to process, or something else entirely/

Re: not sure if it was sexual assault. could use some help

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:14 pm
by confusedbeetle
thank you so much for responding! i'm honestly not sure what support looks like for me right now? i'm having a hard time even calling it sexual assault, or saying that something bad happened at all, so i'm dealing with a lot of guilt about overreacting or taking away from the experiences of Real Survivors of Real Bad Things.

i don't really know how i'm supposed to process it when i can't even wrap my brain around the possibility of it being actual sexual assault and not just a misunderstanding or miscommunication. or what processing it even looks like, once i've started to come to grips with it. it's already hard enough to think about as is.

i'd like to find a way to talk about it with my current sexual partner, and my mom and her partner. i know i'll be met with support and love, but i have absolutely no idea how to start that conversation, and i'm scared i'll have to describe what happened to me. i had a really difficult time describing it in a safe therapy environment, so i'm having some anxiety about adding variables like my moms' reactions to the situation.

Re: not sure if it was sexual assault. could use some help

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:27 am
by Heather
If it helps, I can check in as someone who has survived a range of assaults and abuses in my life, including very violent sexual assault. You don't take away anything from people like me by naming your assault as assault, I promise. Abuse and assault are very vast when it comes to all of our collective experiences: no one's experience or naming it such takes away from someone else's. If anything, the more of us that name our diverse assaults the more visibility everyone gets, the more support everyone gets, you know? <3

In terms of talking about an experience: you don't have to describe it. You get to put out whatever kinds of limits or boundaries you need when you talk with anyone about it, and they'll need to accept them. You can say, for instance, "I want to try talking about my feelings, but I am not ready to talk about the details of the assault."