Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Identifying Self-Doubt

Like the last post, this post is a follow-up to my most recent therapy session (click here for summary of session). I will attempt to define my experience with self-doubt as it relates to my sexual assault. Even when I feel like I'm in a good place in my healing, these self-doubting
thoughts creep in and prevent me from fully accepting what happened. Building a protective buffer against these thoughts takes a lot of time and work, but I am going to get there!

I think my issues with self-doubt can best be captured in a series of “what-if” questions: 

What if…I went “crazy” because I am crazy. I have struggled with anxiety and depression before, so what if it was just coincidental that my world started to unravel after that night? What if I am actually bipolar?

What if…I did something to encourage him to violate me? What if he truly didn’t know what he was doing? He told my best guy friend in college that he “felt bad” because he “didn’t know,” but then again, why did he lie to me that night, and then deny it a week and a half later (not to mention how agitated and uncomfortable he appeared)?

What if…the assault is my fault? He did tell me that I was “worth waiting for” and that he’d postpone anything physical – did I do something later when I was drunk to indicate I no longer wanted to wait until marriage? That I wanted to have sex that night?

What if…there is something inherently wrong with me? When I was in ninth grade, I entered a verbally abusive relationship that spilled over into my first year of boarding school. What do I do to attract these selfish nut jobs?

What if...I am responsible for their “negative” behavior? Or, what if I am merely misinterpreting their bad behavior? The worst guys always seem to be the ones my mother likes the most. In both cases (high school verbally abusive boyfriend and college acquaintance rapist), it took ages for my mother to stop justifying their behavior. Not to mention, my acquaintance rapist has a lot of friends, two of whom I particularly like and admire. If he were capable of rape, how the heck would he have such nice friends?

What if...he just misunderstood how important waiting until marriage was to me? He did tell me during our long discussion about my desire to wait, which took place a week prior to that night, that he “didn’t understand it.” Maybe I didn’t do a good job explaining it to him. Maybe he thought that I had adapted his point of view and no longer thought it was a big deal.

What if…I am just overreacting? Is it really that big of a deal? So, I wanted to wait until marriage, but it didn’t work out because something unfortunate occurred when I had been drinking. So what, right? Get over it already.

What if…my acquaintance rapist really “couldn’t help himself”? I’ve heard a hundred times that “boys will be boys” and “boys only want one thing” – what if he was just acting like a boy? I was drunk and obviously flirting with him so what if I led him on, and when he saw the opportunity, he just couldn’t help himself? My mother responded after I first told her what happened that “he finally got what he wanted,” that “he’d always had a thing for [me]” and “probably just couldn’t help himself.” What if it were true that his actions were fulfilling some high school desire to sleep with me? And, if that were true, what does that mean? Does that make what he did any “less bad”? In a way, what my mother said reinforced those feelings of being a means to an end.

What if…my struggles to overcome what happened have more to do with secondary wounding than what actually happened? What if I’m more upset about not having the support I thought I deserved than I am about being raped by an acquaintance? What if what he did was actually not that big of a deal – just me overreacting to some emotional need I was failing to elicit from my family? Perhaps I was more upset by that, meaning I was just projecting my hurt onto being “acquaintance raped”?

What if…I wasn’t raped at all? What if I misconstrued the entire circumstance that night?

What if…I wasn’t clear enough in setting my boundaries? He did tell my best guy friend in college that he “didn’t know.” I know that I had told him, I remember it specifically, but what if I wasn’t clear or stern or threatening enough in how I told him?

What if…he didn’t take my boundaries seriously because I was willing to do other stuff? What if I am responsible?

What if…he actually cared about me, and I have just constructed him in my mind as having sociopathic tendencies? What if he is actually a nice guy?

What if…I dreamt the entire night? What if my memory isn’t accurate?

What if…I deserved it to happen?


I know that some of what I write in these posts probably seems redundant. For example, I feel like I harp on "what-if" scenarios in many of my posts, and self-doubt and self-blame are probably apparent throughout my blog, even when not directly targeted; however, I am attempting to resist the urge to filter out these thoughts as I want to provide as honest depiction of my experience as possible.


  1. What If he knew what he was doing was wrong but he did it anyway?

    What If he had a very clear understanding of my boundaries but he CHOSE to ignore them?

    What If he really did rape me with the assumption that I would have doubts?

    What If I change just a few words in all of these questions and it changes them from self-blame to due and just blame.

    I think it is human nature to assume that people aren't really so evil or bad that they can knowingly hurt another person. It is often so difficult to believe people can be that mean that we often trivialize what they did, and sometimes that trivialization displaces blame. Sometimes it is much easier to accept blame because it is realizing that someone we trusted and clearly understood our boundaries could ignore them and lie to us and take advantage of us. Betrayal is hard to accept, especially with someone we cared about.

    I wish I had better insight but my mind is mush right now.

  2. I'd say mush or no mush, that is pretty sound advice. Thank you, Jaime.