According to Resurrection After Rape, written by rape advocate and counselor Matt Atkinson, part of the reason for creating a narrative of your assault is to identify "stuck points," areas of shame, blame, or guilt which impede your healing progress. "Stuck points" may "happen wherever the rape story seems to confirm a prior negative belief you have had about yourself" (p. 119).
Though I am collectively doing much better, after spending a weekend in my college town and roaming around the campus and surrounding area (and avoiding particular spots that remain triggering) for my brother-in-law's graduation last weekend, I realize there are still numerous areas of my narrative that I need to flesh out and address.
I've previously mentioned my behavior following my assault and how I have struggled to understand it, but I don't think I've really discussed any examples in any detail here on my blog, and I certainly haven't begun to do so in therapy. I'm ready to begin to identify and address "stuck points", and now is as good a time as any...
Following the psych ward (but before I went home for Christmas break), I called my ex-boyfriend who was attending a university a few miles from my university. I was extremely emotional and "unstable" at that point, but if I remember correctly, this interaction occurred almost immediately following the night I confronted my perpetrator.
My ex-boyfriend and I had dated a few months short of two years. We were very close during our relationship and remained friends for several years following our breakup. The breakup was my decision, one of the main reasons being that I feared beginning a new school in a serious relationship would prevent us from making friends and taking advantage of all the opportunities college had to offer.
At the time that I called him, my ex-boyfriend was still making it known that he wanted our relationship to start up again. I did not call him because I wanted to be involved with him again. Though it's difficult to say for certain, I believe that I called him because I felt like he would understand how crushed (I don't know what adjective I'm looking for here...) I was feeling. He knew how important waiting until marriage was to me, and he had always respected my boundaries during our relationship.
Like I expected, he comforted me and validated my experience. He arrived, and the events of those past few weeks spewed out of me like word vomit amidst an outpouring of tears. He hugged me and comforted me, but I do not remember any specific words that were exchanged during this particular portion of his visit. It was my bizarre behavior that was unanticipated.
As we pulled back from hugging, we started kissing (I think it was initiated by me). I feel so weird even thinking about it right now, and it's been over ten years later, but I then grabbed his hand and shoved it under my turquoise blue sweater (weird the random details we remember...I also remember my shoes and the exact color of my faded blue jeans for some reason). The whole interaction was strange and forced, and I do not know what led me to do that. The one word that comes to mind is desperation, but even that doesn't make sense to me.
In response to my strange behavior, he pulled back and said something along the lines of him really wanting to start things up again, but that he did not feel comfortable doing so given the current circumstances and my state of mind.
A light switch of despair went off in me. I felt betrayed and unlovable.
His rejection of my pass at him, which was very understandable, sent me into panic mode and reinforced what I had already been feeling - that I was worthless and a piece of trash. Not something that respectable guys would want anything to do with unless they were looking for something to use and toss aside.
I remember falling to my bed (we were standing up prior to this) and laying in the fetal position, crying hysterically to the point of incessantly coughing and even gagging.
Is it because you think I'm a whore? - No.
Because you think differently of me? - No, no. I just think you're in a really vulnerable state right now.
I finally calmed down, more out of exhaustion than anything else. I closed my eyes, and my ex-boyfriend suggested I nap while he left the room to call my sister. I had already talked to my sister about the assault, but I guess he wanted to make sure she knew that I was really struggling.
It's really hard to describe how I was feeling during this interaction, but if I had to try, I would say scared, crazy, desperate, confused, hollow, wired/exhausted, unstable, out of control, anxious/depressed, and like I had nothing to stand on. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I'm not how else to describe this experience.
I also just remembered that during this time I was in the middle of my outpatient psychiatric treatment (I was having trouble remembering if I did my outpatient treatment before or after the holidays, but now I realize that it was definitely before).
Anyway, something occurred to me while my ex-boyfriend had left the room to call my sister. Was he no longer a virgin?
I realize it sounds a bit crazy and completely ungrounded, but I began to fear my ex-boyfriend. I had called him because I trusted him in this particular situation, but I began to doubt my decision to do so.
When he returned, I immediately asked if he was still a virgin. When he indicated that he did not want to answer, my emotions bubbled over once again. I asked him about the level of intoxication of the girl or girls he had been with. I'm sure asking him that came across as accusatory, but that was not my intention. I guess, more than anything, I was trying to understand my experience with A.T. through the sexual experiences of my ex-boyfriend. My mind was spinning with questions:
Could he be like A.T., my perpetrator - could he be "sleeping with" girls at college who were intoxicated? If so, what did it mean? That what happened to me wasn't a big deal? That it was just what happened to girls who drank too much? Or, did it mean that my ex-boyfriend whom I had called to comfort me was actually a bad guy? A rapist? Did the girls he had slept with feel violated like I did? If so, what did any of this mean?
I couldn't understand what had happened to me and why I felt so miserable and crazy. I guess because I had trusted him previously and had considered us on the same page regarding sexual matters, I was trying to lump our sexual experiences as one in the same to try to make sense of my experience. Maybe I was just an overly sensitive weirdo with crazy expectations of how a guy should treat a girl.
If people I know and trust have sex intoxicated like it's no big thing, then why was my experience so traumatizing? It was "drunk sex," right? But, then why did I feel so violated and messed up?
These were questions I would struggle to understand for years to come.