Sunday, November 6, 2011

Overcoming Secondary Wounding: Exercise, Part 1

Below is Part One of an exercise I am doing from Pandora's website.

To review the instructions of the exercise, click on the title of this post.

Identifying Secondary Wounding Comments
"Comments that others made that led to secondary wounding"
<Categorization of comment>
[Emotional effect on me]

"He's always liked you. He saw an opportunity and just couldn't help himself."
<Blaming the victim, Denial/Disbelief>
[Sad, Hurt, Disappointment, Lonely, Anger, W/o control]

"We didn't really know. You never came out and directly said it."
<Denial/Disbelief, Blaming the victim>
[Irritation, Anger, Confusion, Sadness]

This comment and related ones by my mother have been particularly confusing. I know for a fact that I told my parents during my semester off, and we have had numerous conversations about it since they found out. 

It wasn't my choice to tell them, but they definitely knew.  A friend and her mother called me while I was in the car with my mother because they were upset I backed out of spending Easter at their house when I found out my friend had been hiding the fact that A (perpetrator) was going to be staying in her hometown and attending the same parties; I started bawling and told my mother what happened when she asked why I was so upset. When my mother found out, she responded, "well, that's awful, but I am relieved that you weren't on drugs. You know, your father suspected something like this had happened." My dad had even commented that he was "concerned I had lesbian tendencies," whatever that means.

I'm also certain my mom knew because during that semester she made numerous comments to minimize what happened by placing the blame on my actions. I was so confused/hurt/dissociated following my rape, and the most influential people in my life during that time - my parents and psychiatrist - attributed my response to a psychological disturbance. The rape was considered a byproduct of my "underlying bipolar disorder" - had I not been bipolar, I wouldn't have been engaging in wild behavior (i.e., heavy drinking), and had I not been engaging in wild behavior, my "friend" wouldn't have done what he did. All of my feelings of dissociation and fear that people viewed me as "whore" and "tainted" and paranoia that they knew I was keeping a "dirty secret" were treated with a prescription - they were "psychotic" thoughts that could be remedied by Risperdal and Zyprexa. Zyprexa, by the way, does a number on your metabolism and caused me to gain close to 30 lbs and do absent-minded things, such as leaving the refrigerator door opened. 

I can't stand how my mother rewrites history - it's EXTREMELY confusing and hurtful. Last Christmas, she commented to my husband that his father was the reason my parents never reported the assault (my father-in-law is closely tied to our college). Her comment was a load of B.S., as I didn't start dating my husband until almost 2 years following the assault. My parents wanted to keep what happened as quiet as possible to avoid talk amongst people associated with my high school. 

At the time, they felt I was as much to blame for what happened as my perpetrator. This is probably one of the reasons why I am having such a difficult time processing what happened. It's hard for me to overlook the fact that I was drinking. I rationally know that drinking heavily does not make it acceptable for someone to use your body as they please without your consent, but I have learned that rational thought does not always coincide with one's emotions. As I type this out, I feel the emptiness in my chest, the pressure behind my eyes, and it has been NINE YEARS!!! That's frustrating, too. Time does not heal the pain in cases of sexual assault - you have to actively work through this s**t. 

And, now I am feeling even more confused because my parents are now reaching out to me. I know that sounds crazy - I should just be happy and thankful; better late than never, right?! - but the inconsistency is really confusing. I must say though that they have recently been absolutely wonderful regarding what happened. I haven't talked to my father directly about it - I think it's too awkward, and I am nervous to bring it up based on his past reactions - but my mother has been recognizing A (perpetrator) for the sleaze bag that he is. She even commented that my intoxication should not have led to what happened. She has even gone to a therapist twice so far to seek consultation for how to help me move on from this. I am very, very grateful for this change in events and though she still slips up and makes hurtful, "helpful" comments, I look forward to being able to turn to her for support as she continues to seek therapy. 

"You can't keep running from this. From him."
<Discounting, Blaming the victim, Cruelty, Making it about them>
[Sadness, Hurt, Confusion, Irritation, Anger, Guilty]

"Kill him with kindness."
<Denial/Disbelief, Discounting, Ignorance>
[Sadness, Disappointment, Crazy]

"Write that you were having 'relationship problems.'"
<Denial/Disbelief, Discounting, Ignorance>
[Sadness, Disappoint, Irritated]

"You're probably still upset because you haven't slept with many guys."
<Discounting, Ignorance>
[Irritated, Silly]

"Drunken mistakes happen, and it sucks."
<Discounting, Ignorance>
[Annoyed, Sad, Guilty, Confused]

"You're not going to press charges? Aren't you worried he's going to do it to other people?"
<Blaming the victim>
[Irritation, Guilty]

"I had to tell people. To warn them. You don't want it to happen to other people, do you?"
<Cruelty, Blaming the victim, Making it about them>
[Irritated, Embarrassed, Exposed/Vulnerable, Sad, Confused, Guilty, Betrayal of confidence]

"We've always told you about drinking."
<Denial/Disbelief, Discounting, Blaming the victim>
[Guilty, Crazy, Sad]

"He probably didn't know."
<Denial/Disbelief, Discounting>
[Sad, Confused, Guilty]

"He's actually a really nice guy."
<Discounting, Denial/Disbelief, Ignorance>
[Irritated, Sad, Confused]

"Think about all the people who have had it so much worse."
[Irritated, Sad, Silly, Guilty, Stupid]

"You've just got to get over this. Get yourself together."
<Discounting, Ignorance>
[Silly, Sad, Frustrated, Confused, Guilty]

"If you get back on track with school work, you won't feel so depressed. That's primary right now - school."
[Sad, Irritated, Guilty]

"Well, don't you think he could have been confused by your drinking? Your wild behavior?"
<Denial/Disbelief, Discounting, Blaming the victim>
[Guilty, Sad]

"You girls have just got to stop putting yourselves in these situations for this to happen."
<Blaming the victim>
[Sad, Embarrassed, Guilty, Shameful]

This comment was made by the OBGYN I saw the following year after my assault. I kept missing appointments because the thought of getting a Pap smear made me experience extreme feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. To help me make the appointment, my psychiatrist prescribed me a take-as-needed anti-anxiety medication and notified the doctor of my situation. I started to get emotional and anxious as soon as we started the exam, and she responded with this comment.

"I hear M is a slut."
[Sadness, Irritation, Anger, Dirty, Guilty]

"I didn't know you were a racist."
<Discounting, Ignorance>
[Irritated, Sad, Guilty]

"You're too sensitive."
<Discounting, Ignorance, Blaming the victim, Denial/Disbelief>
[Weak, Silly, Sad, Confused]

"I was raped by that exam."
[Irritated, Sad, Nervous]

One of the reasons I had to bury what happened. These comments used to catch me off-guard, making me feel like the air had been knocked out of me. If I was going to stay in college and function normally, I was going to have to push what happened far, far out of my mind as much as possible. When I was in college, it was hard to block it out of my mind because A (perpetrator) was walking around campus, and I bumped into him almost weekly. My mind responded by instead of going to the assault, various thoughts would flash across my mind (e.g., he's a sleaze bag, disgusting) - I was still left with terrible lingering feelings of being unsafe and dirty, but my mind wouldn't go directly to that night. Over time, I was able to bury it further and further, diverting my thoughts with other thoughts - thoughts that made it difficult to concentrate, but thoughts that succeeded in keeping my mind from that dark place.

"I just got M's email. What does this mean? I've become really good friends with all those boys, so I hope reunion isn't awkward. Do you think she'll be upset if I'm hanging around him? Has she said anything about what happened between them?"
<Discounting, Making it about them>
[Silly, Nervous, Irritated, Scared]

"I'm just glad you're not on drugs."
[Irritated, Silly, Sad, Guilty, Stupid]

"So why'd you decide to talk about it? Our minds have an amazing way of repressing things we don't want to remember for a reason."
<Blaming the victim>
[Confused, Second-guessing myself]

Spoken like a true psychiatrist. It was difficult as anything to finally start addressing this stuff. To recognize and admit that it was still affecting me. Though it has been difficult and draining to revisit that traumatic time in my life, part of me is proud of myself for coming forward. I don't want that smidgeon of pride taken away. It's annoying to have someone second-guess it.


  1. I'm proud of you for letting your voice be heard.

    I'm so sorry for the stupid comments people have made to you. Please tell me if I ever make a stupid comment to you.

  2. Thanks so much, Jaime. I've found this exercise to be beneficial so far. It's kind of long, so it's taking me a little while to complete it! Thank you for your continued support, and I do not foresee you making any of these comments!

  3. I hope I don't make any comments like these. If I ever do it will be out of ignorance instead of purpose.