Conflicted about reaction to sexual assault.

Questions and discussion about sexual or other abuse or assault, and support and help for survivors.
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Conflicted about reaction to sexual assault.

Unread post by Mimoo »

In 2012, when I was 18, was the first time I was sexually assaulted. It was at a time when I was cripplingly lonely, depressed, and craving intimacy. So I let him touch me, but he did things without asking. The really bad time was when I was screaming and pushing him away, and he was getting frustrated that he was wasting condoms. I was afraid of him, but I didn't avoid him. I wanted to find the good in him, to make it okay that I kept spending time with him.

I remember feeling like, maybe there was some way this wouldn't count. I could stop, and it would only be a few times and I'd be done. We went from friends with benefits to a relationship that lasted 5 years. Instead of avoiding him, I ended up rewarding him. So, of course he did it again. There would be times when I'd say no, and he'd do what he wanted anyways.

I feel like I'm being disingenuous, in saying how bad he was. Because there were times when I'd want to have sex. My most recent relationship suffered because I couldn't say what I liked. Since my abuser was my only sexual partner before that, I'd have to acknowledge that it wasn't 100% bad.

I understand that having times where I did consent don't take away the times that I didn't. But sometimes I think about how crazy my story sounds. Why go back? Why date AFTER you'd been assaulted? For years?? Clearly I'm just exaggerating, I wasn't clear enough. There was no way I'd ever be able to take him to court, to tell the police. Who would believe me?

People do believe me, even after I tell them how the relationship started. But sometimes I doubt myself, and often I feel deeply ashamed, embarrassed. I'm not sure how to reconcile both the good and the bad narrative of the 5 year relationship that I had.
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Re: Conflicted about reaction to sexual assault.

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Mimoo,

I'm so sorry this is something you went through, though I'm glad to hear this is a relationship that's behind you now. Those conflicting feelings you describe are actually ones that a lot of survivors experience, and the main reason for that is that abusive partners are often very good at manipulation. They take things most of us are conditioned to do, like see the good in people, and twist them into ways of making us stay. You're far from the first person to enter or stay in an abusive relationship, but that doesn't change where the blame for the abuse falls; squarely on him.

Abusive partners also take advantage of a cultural narrative that says that if someone isn't abusive all day all the time, they aren't "really" abusive. But what we know about abuse is that it's cyclical; those honeymoon periods and times when the abusive partner is nice are part of keeping control over the survivor, because it tries to convince them that the abuse wasn't as bad as they think, or that the abusive partner has changed. More than that, part of what makes abuse so hard to escape is that no one is 100% awful 100% of the time, and those good moments can feel worth staying for. I don't doubt that there were moments where you enjoyed that relationship, but that doesn't negate the abuse. Those two things can be true at the same time.

I want to pause here and check: how are you feeling about what you just read?
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