Pandora's Aquarium (online support forum).
I sat down to type out my experience with sexual assault sans self-blame and self-doubt per the suggestion of my therapist (click here to view the therapy session which led to this exercise), but a page and a half into typing, I realized that I was getting nowhere. In a way, attempting to remove these entities from my experience backfired, exposing a whole host of emotions that didn’t make sense to me. I did receive comfort and validation from the RAINN counselor to whom I spoke on the phone and from responses to my forum posting; however, the support I received did not lead me to compose the answer I set out to accomplish at the beginning of the night.
Simply stated, I cannot truly consider my experience within the parameters posed by my therapist because I cannot relinquish responsibility for what happened.
I’m not saying that it’s time for me to box up this whole experience until the next time bomb goes off, but I think for the time being, I will settle on referring to that night as my “sexual assault” (i.e., instead of “rape”). It’s just that I’m more at ease with this term right now, and the last few hours have helped me realize that I have been trying to push through the healing process a little too quickly. For example, I mistook a very brief acceptance of the R-word as an indication that I needed to start desensitizing myself to the word by utilizing it in every opportunity that presented itself; however, because I have yet to do the “dirty work,” repetitively typing out this word has merely served as an insufficient means to convince myself of something I’m not ready to accept.
Although I may appear on paper to have quite a handle on this whole healing-from-sexual-assault thing, my progress in therapy sessions (and my experience tonight) paints a much different picture. Already, three months have passed since I started targeting my assault in therapy, and I have yet to make a truly noteworthy peep about what’s going on in my mind. Three months ago, I went from being a talkative, almost bubbly participant of therapy to virtually a crying mute, a transformation which I’m afraid has led my therapist to feel like she has to handle me with kid gloves. Although I keep moving forward in my writing, I feel as though I’m at a complete standstill in therapy sessions.
So what does this mean? Well, I think it’s important that I allow my voice – my actual voice – to catch up with my writing. I am going to try harder to listen to the inner voice in my mind, not the one kicked in overdrive, but the one that is grounded in my emotions in addition to logic. I will try to slow down and allow this inner voice to identify what steps I need to take towards healing. I know that talking about sexual assault is difficult in itself, but I’m beginning to think that I’ve been skipping over small, but significant steps in the healing process that have further widened the gap between my mouth and mind. I keep plowing ahead on paper and further increasing the amount of pressure I put on myself to speak in therapy, which, of course, heightens my level of disappointment when I fail to achieve my speaking goal each session. In turn, to overcome the sense of disappointment I feel following each therapy session, I adapt a more rigorous healing approach in between sessions. Well, it’s time I take a chill pill.
I will be honest – when I first started writing this post, I was mainly attempting to turn my feelings of frustration and failure from earlier into something positive; however, I am beginning to truthfully view tonight not as a roadblock, but as a much-needed moment of truth, which will ultimately help me succeed in leaving my past behind.
So, to answer the question: “How does my experience with sexual assault look sans self-blame and self-doubt?”
Like a mess of emotions I have yet to give myself permission to feel. And you know what? That’s okay for now.
I’ve learned something about myself tonight – for me, self-blame and self-doubt do not make up a veil that can be easily lifted in one fell swoop, not even for the sake of completing this exercise. Instead, self-blame and self-doubt are built into the very foundation of my experience with sexual assault; they will have to be chipped away slowly and very carefully...with the help of my therapist...using my [gulp] voice.
I think I may have just carved out my healing journey – my journey to free myself from self-blame and self-doubt.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------Posted: 12/20/2011 10:56 PM
I thought that I had moved on from what happened when I was college student, but when I started graduate school a lot of raw emotions started bubbling up, and then I found that "the guy" lives in the city where my husband took a job (I will move there after I graduate in May), and the other town where my husband would get transferred is "the guy's" hometown. I think this coupled with the fact that I started receiving emails from "him" because he was the organizer of our high school's 10 year reunion and around that time I had a patient with the same name as him, triggered a lot of unresolved emotional garbage surrounding my college experience.
I finally realized that I needed to address this stuff in therapy (I haven't done much talking yet because I get so emotional), and up until tonight I thought that I had accurately labeled my experience as r*pe. I have a lot of issues with self-blame and self-doubt, so during my last therapy session, my therapist asked me to consider my assault experience upon removing self-blame/doubt. I was trying to write it out tonight, but I realized that I can't do so without self-blame because I haven't accepted what happened as r*pe. I was doing a little better and feeling a little stronger, but now that I have admitted to myself that I don't know what to label my experience, I am once again an emotional wreck.
can someone please help me define my experience?
here are the facts as concise as I can provide them:
- he was a friend I knew from high school; we just so happened to attend the same college as well.
- we dated in high school (he constantly ignored my boundaries, but i didn't drink in high school so I was always able to stop him; saying 'no' did not suffice - I would usually have to use my hands to stop him)
- we briefly dated again after i transferred to his college our sophomore year (like before, i had to be really firm about my boundaries; the weekend before "the night," he was in my dorm room and we kept ignored my boundaries, which prompted a long conversation about my desire to wait until marriage - something I had told him before. he replied that he didn't understand, and i stated that it didn't matter if he understood my rationale as long as he respected it; he ended up staying until 10 am just chatting)
- the following weekend, we met up at a mutual friend's holiday party. i got extremely intoxicated. he told me that he thought i was worth waiting for and that he'd even wait until after christmas break to do anything physical to prove it to me. he walked me home at the end of the night, and i was a drunken idiot. we didn't talk about my boundaries that night other than what I just mentioned b/c i didn't really think there was a reason to.
- simply stated, i didn't know what happened until it was too late. it was very fast. he went from aggressively "stimulating" me (i put that in quotations because it was painful and i kept complaining that it hurt; it didn't stop until i tried to lift my head and said, "seriously, that hurts. what are you doing?"; when my head hit the pillow, a different sensation started - one that wasn't as uncomfortable as what he was doing before (i thought he was still using his hands but more gently) - and within what had to have been less than a minute (though i can't say for certain because i was so drunk), he had ejaculated all over my stomach.)
- i immediately asked, "where you just INSIDE me?" and he responded, "no," and got up quickly, put his clothes on, and left, never speaking another word.
- during the entire interaction, he never looked at me, and i just have visual images of what his face looked like (the way he was angled above and away from me made it only possible for me to see his face unless i lifted my head.
this experience made me feel like a different person. made me feel hollow. i ended up having to leave school for a semester and had to spend a week-long honeymoon in the psychiatric ward (my emotional instability led to a diagnosis of bipolar). i can't believe I am still affected by this so many years later - it wasn't like i was beaten or verbally forced - i just didn't know what happened until it was too late. and he knew that I didn't want to have sex, but then i start to wonder if i did something to make him think that was okay - like my willingness to drink every drink he handed me plus more gave him the wrong impression.
please help me label this experience and please tell me if i am overreacting. sorry for this rambling post - it's been a rough night.