Many thanks to everyone who responded so supportively to my last post. I really do appreciate it.
I've reposted my story below for reference b/c I couldn't figure out how to link to my previous post.
In response to your comments:
I'm still trying to work out the things my therapist said. On one hand, she has a point - my sexual abuse experiences were not physically forced. There was a lot of negative emotional training and lack of self-worth stuff that went into it. The events of my upbringing/childhood that led to my inability to stand up for myself as well as my lack of understanding that I had the option to do so make a lot of sense in the "lack of personal choice" context. I could make the argument that I was really young (14-16) when the majority of the instances occurred, or that I didn't realize that there was a distinction between love and taking part in sexual relationships, or a hundred other things that influenced those situations.
It doesn't erase the fact that I did have *some* responsibility for the situations. I could have chosen to throw my partner off me, demand the respect I deserved, and discontinued dating the person until I received the level of respect that felt good to me. Could I have verbalized that at the time? Probably not. But I did help to create the situations in which I found myself, if not when I was younger, the ones when I was in Mexico and in college, definitely. I made the choice to value staying with that person over my personal comfort. That was
my choice. Does that absolve my partners from blame? HELL NO! Does that mean that my therapist wasn't insensitive in how she choice to discuss the topic? Absolutely not. But it does mean that I did have a degree
of responsibility in the sexual abuse I have lived through, and that is something I must come to terms with.
Thanks again, all, for the love. I extend it all right back at you.
I haven't been raped. I haven't been beaten.
I have been a part of sexual experiences that were unwanted, or went further than I wanted them to. I
often wonder if this is sexual violence, or simply a failure on my part to use my voice to protect myself.
So often in sexual experiences as a teenager, I could feel my intuitive voice saying no, and then countered
it with the Seventeen magazine voice in my head, which said I'm supposed to enjoy this, I'm supposed to want to go further sexually than this, I'm supposed to be this way and do these things if I really love and care about my boyfriend.
I can see that its crap....but I still feel like a little girl about it.
Where is the line between failure to stand up for myself and sexual violence?
The first I can remember is with a guy I had been dating on and off for about a year, freshman and
sophomore year of high school. (I'm now 22). He was the tall, muscular, flirtateous black wrestler; I was
the young white girl who just wanted to be loved, and was excited to be crossing the race boundary that was relatively high at our school. He called me beautiful. (I can feel myself stalling. There's so much
background that goes into this....things to do with my lack of relationship with my mother, never being
taught what boundaries were or how to come up with and/or enforce them....never being taught that love
and respecting my body and limits can go together without "offending" the one I'm with...Him being a
druggie and me wanting to save him from that world, if only I could give him enough alternatives to keep him from wanting to go back to that...argh). Anyway. It was a day after a big drama - in an "off" period, he
had dated a girl on my field hockey team (which I didn't know about), and she had gotten angry that I
flirted with him, it was a whole big deal. So awhile after all that got cleared up, we went on a "date" to
the mall to see a movie and eat lunch on a Saturday. It was our first big "dating again" day. Right before
the movie, I walked ahead of him, and he said the Pretty Woman line "Work it, work it baby, Own it,"
which I didn't realize was from the movie and was offended by...(stalling again)...So after the movie we
went back to his house. He was
supposed to be watching his 4 year old brother, who was more sexually forward than he was. We were all snuggling on his bed, and his baby brother said "that's MY woman" and put his hand on my butt almost between my legs. At this point I started to feel uncomfortable, but then his mom came home and took his brother and left again, so we were alone in his house. We were on the bed, kissing I guess, although I don't really remember it. I remember a bedside lamp being on, being in my eyes. I remember the radio playing the song "Stay tonight, break the light of dawn, come tomorrow, tomorrow I'll be gone." I remember his hand wandering down my body, over my breast, unzipping my pants. I remember warning bells going off in my head, then countering them with "all my friends have had this experience, I'm the only one who hasn't, all the magazines say this is supposed to feel good, just go with it, just go with it. I must have wimpered or hesitated or something, because he looked back up at
me and said "Shhh, shhh." I think he even asked permission. I don't actually remember him asking, but in an essay I wrote shortly after, I wrote that he asked permission and that I said okay, so he must have. He pulled down my jeans, pushed my underwear to the side, and started brushing his fingers back and forth. I remember laying there, just
still, just wondering how it would feel, maybe slightly excited to finally have an experience to be able to talk about with my friends when they are all talking abou their sexual experiences, but mostly...stuck...paralyzed. He pushed a long, dry finger into me, and just started thrusting with it. I
remember thinking it hurt, it hurt, it didn't feel good, it just hurt, but
it was supposed to feel good,
it was like a favor he was doing me, its not something he was getting pleasure out of, i'm supposed to enjoy
it, why don't i enjoy it, there must me something wrong with me, i just must not be a sexual being,
something is wrong wrong wrong with me and it hurts, and he has no idea how miserable i am right now, he hasn't asked, he hasn't checked, i'm just waiting for it to be over, it feels like hours, when will he stop,
why doesn't he know its hurting me? I am silent,
not moving, not saying anything, trying to convince myself it feels good and failing miserably. Finally he stops, and comes back up, and asks if he can "go down there" with his mouth, at which point I'm finally able to shake my head no. Somehow, I don't know how, I find myself in the bathroom, which was through the living room, and i had all my clothes, so I must have gotten them somehow, but I don't remember how. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. I felt dirty and sick and stupid and just stayed there for about 45min. I heard his mom come home, and still I didn't move. I heard his mom leave, and still I didn't move. I wanted to go home, but couldn't call my parents for fear I'd cry, and then they'd hate him, or yell at me, or want to know what was going on at least, and of course I couldn't tell them. He knocked on the bathroom door and asked if I was ok. I didn't answer. When I finally came out, I called my best friend to ask her mom to pick me up. She
wasnt' home. He finally called a friend to drive me home. (He didn't have a license or a car). I dont' remember speaking to him at all, or going home. I have no idea what happened in that time. He called that night, I didn't answer. Every time I saw him in the hallway I would start shaking and run away, escape into a classroom, the bathroom, anywhere I could. A little while after that, my dad found adn read a journal entry I had written about it, about how I felt
dirty and disgusting and stupid. My dad said he found the journal open, and that things like that don't
happen by accident. Afterwards, he said they'd have to leave me with a babysitter if I was to be trusted at
home alone. (I was 16 and had been staying home alone for at least 3 years).
Wow, I didn't realize this, but the incidents I'm thinking of right now all occurred in that same year.
The next one I remember was spring of that year. I was dating a guy I had met through a friend who lived in a different town, at
her Sweet 16 birthday party. I was excited b/c he had asked me to dance, and asked me out. She warned me that he was kind of a scumbag when it came to dating, but for whatever reason, I didn't listen to her. I wanted to be "fair" and give him a chance, to determine for myself if he was a scumbag or not. We'd go on dates, and he'd drive. Sometimes we'd park in this garden/parking lot near his house and make out. It'd be funny and cute b/c we both wore glasses, and we'd always bump glasses. I liked him a lot, and didn't see why my friend thought he was a scumbag. He'd pick me up from play practice and drive me home, be nice to my family. I met his mom, she liked me.
One weekend, for some reason I had the house to myself. He came over, and we were being silly, running
around the kitchen half-naked. We settled on the couch in the living room, and were just generally making
out. He asked if I would go down on him, and I really didnt' want to. I felt super uncomfortable, and tried
to think of a way out of it. I had never gone down on anyone, and was super scared. It just seemed gross to
me. I kind of shyly shook my head no and said no, that I
didn't know how. He said "well can't you call one of your friends and ask?" "NO!" I said, that's crazy! "Well I'll call one of MY friends then!" "NO!", I
said, more mortified at the prospect that being emphatic about the "no." "Well, then," he said, "just
do it." Trying desperately to figure a way out of the situation, I said "but what if I hurt you?". He said
"you can't really do it wrong." Hesitatingly, I went down there, began kissing around his penis, trying to
avoid putting it in my mouth.
Somehow he shifted and there it was, in my mouth. I didn't know what to do. I felt stupid for not knowing what to do, for not wanting to please my boyfriend, for the thought of his
friends knowing that I was so stupid I didn't know how to give him a blowjob. I just kind of...hung out there for awhile, not really moving. He put his hand on the back of my head, and began pushing and pulling, up and down, and I just went along with it, waiting, waiting for it to be over. At the end, finally, he asked if he could cum in my mouth, and finally, I said no. He came on his stomach, and I curled into a little Alison ball next to him on the couch. We moved when he asked me to get him a towel to clean himself up. I don't remember what happened the rest of the night. At some point he went home, and I continued to feel stupid, but I stayed with
him, for a few months longer. I didn't want him to not like me, or be mad at me.
That summer, I went on a cruise with my family to Tahiti. There weren't many people my age on the trip -
mostly honeymooners and elderly people. Our family befriended one of the entertainers, an older (60ish),
very overweight comedian/impressionist that called himself "Fluffy." He seemed very grandfatherly - at a
beach stop, he showed my sister where all the cool fish were, and talked to me about school and what
books I liked to read. One night when I was seasick, he gave me some strong coffee (which made me throw up, but also made me feel better), and called to check up on me. He lent me a book of French phrases so I could try to communicate with the locals. The last night of the cruise, I went down to his room to return the book to him. He opened the door in only a towel, said "excuse me," closed it, then reopened it wearing a
bathrobe, saying he was getting ready for his show. I went in to his room. He sat on his bed, I sat on a
chair. He asked if I had a boyfriend, when I was going ot start school, if I had fun on the trip, told me he
was excited to see his granddaughter, who was my age. I returned the book, then went to leave. He said he
probably wouldn't get a chance to say goodbye the next day, so he'd say his goodbye then. He asked if i was allowed to kiss an old man like him, and thinking he meant on the cheek or on the top of the head, I said yes and went to kiss the top of his head. When I did so, his arms reached around me, pulling me down onto the bed, coming at me with an open mouth trying to kiss me. Luckily, I was able to squirm away and run from the room. Later
that night, my family wanted to go to his last show, and of course I had to go, b/c if I didn't they'd want to know why, and I couldn't tell them, it was the last night, it'd be a big deal,
everyone on the crusie would know it was me, etc/etc/etc. So we went, and of course they wanted to
sit in the front row. So we did. Fluffy sang Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," staring at me
the entire time. I still hate that song.
From that time on, I trembled whenever a man touched me. A good family friend came over for Thanksgiving the next year, and made his usual lewd jokes, and I started shaking uncontrollably and had to leave the room. I covered it up by saying I needed more water, and took a long time to get it. My own uncles scared the crap out of me.
For the next two years, I was involved in a serious relationship with a boy who loved me very very well. I
lost my virginity to him, and it was fine. I never orgasmed, but i didn't freak out. Then, slowly, I
began to have adverse reactions in sexual situations. My mind would just go away, and I'd have no idea what my body was doing. I only knew this b/c I would come back into myself when something felt wrong. I came back into myself one time when this boyfriend was going down on me, and I realized I hated it, and just wanted him to stop, but all my friends said it was the best thing you could feel, so something must have been wrong with me, to be feeling this way. I came back into myself other times, when we'd be having sex in my living room, and all of a sudden he'd be fisting me, or we'd be having sex doggy-style. For each of these, I can't remember how sex started, I just remember the moment when it started to
feel not okay. He was very good about them - we'd stop immediately. Sometimes I could tell he'd be annoyed or frustrated, and say to just keep going, but usually we'd just stop. When I went to colllege, things ended between us.
For a long time, I held the belief that you don't just have sex with anyone, there has to be love involved.
The summer after my freshman year, I went on another cruise with my family, and met a girl who to this day is still a good friend. She helped me discover confidence in myself and my own beauty. She had a
different outlook on sex - if it feels good, do it! If not, its because he's doing something wrong, end of
story. That vacation, there was a boy who liked me, a lot. We danced in the disco room every night. It felt
good, b/c I was in control. If I didn't want to dance, I didn't. And he listened. We were together one night
on the kid's jungle gym. He wanted to have sex but I said no - too open, anyone could walk by, including my parents. We ended up having sex the next day in my room, with me initiating it. (I had a separate
from my parents.) I think it was fine, but the thing is, I don't remember it. At all. I know we did,
because I told my friend about it right away, and she took a picture of me in the bed a few hours later, but
I have no recollection of the act itself.
The next summer, I was in Mexico for 10 weeks. I met and dated a
Mexican guy who I liked a lot. He kept
wanting to have sex and I didn't want to have sex with him b/c I knew it was just a fling. He kept getting
upset that every time we'd be together sexually, I'd say no at a certain point. He couldn't understand that
even though I wasnt' a virgin, I didn't want to have sex with him. I didn't really have a reason, I just
didn't feel like it. I made the mistake of calling my friend from teh cruise for advice, and she chalked it
up to cultural differences and said "why not?", so I did. The first time we had sex (at his house), he
initiated it, and I was still feeling hesitant. He asked "are you ready for me," and I said yes. It was
mildly uncomfortable, but there wasn't the discomfort of having the argument, so it was fine. A few weeks
later, as a "surprise" to him, I rented a hotel room (i had been staying with a fairly conservative
family), and set it up all sexy-like. Again, I know we had sex, probably a lot of sex, but I don't remember
the act of it, at all.
I feel like this is getting really really long, so I'll try to wrap it up.
That fall, I had a class with a guy I had had a crush
on since freshman year of college. He was flirtateous,
and I was interested in him. We spent a day shopping in Georgetown,(the first time we had hung out outside of class) then he talked his way into my apartment. (I had been planning on not letting him into the room – I had gotten us snacks to eat on the roof of my building, but then he had to wash his hands b/c he got apple juice on them.) When we had been up on the roof, he had held me against a fence (yes I had a fenced in roof...), and tried to kiss me, but b/c he had his arms on either side of me, I was uncomfortable - I
couldn't get away - and talked my way out of it. When we got to my apartment, we sat down on the couch. He told me how he had had a crush on me since my freshman
year but didn't ask me out b/c I had a boyfriend at the time. I had already decided I didn't want to do anything more than kiss him, but somehow he kept talking me into doing more. He tried to take my shirt off and I said no, and then somehow my shirt was off. I told him I was uncomfortable, that I had had negative experiences in the past, if we could just not
do this right now. He said that sexual energy was "perfectly natural," that humans are just like
animals, and like animals we should just follow our sexual urges rather than moralize about them. I still
felt uncomfortable, but felt like he was challenging me or
something....for whatever reason i felt like I
couldn't refuse. it wasn't even like we were really making out - he just kind of talked me out of my
clothes. I told him I didn't want to have sex with him, and he kept saying "why not, why not, just listen
to your sexual urges, you're attracted to me, right? Just go with the flow, it'll make you feel better." I
can't even say it was date rape b/c I was the one who got up and got the condom. But like the other two
before this, I have no recollection of the act whatsoever. I have no idea how it started, or even
what position we were in. The only thing I remember is him saying "oh, you're so good," as I was sitting on
top, straddling him, (he was sitting up on the couch), and I thought "ok wahtever, i'm not even really here."
When he was finished he said he wasnt' really interested in a dating relationship right then. At
first I was like, "huh, I just had sex with a guy I had a crush on since freshman year." A little while
later, I called a friend, and she was like "are you okay? you don't usually do things like that...what
happened?" At *that* point, I felt incredibly dirty and just had to take a shower. I didn't so much feel
raped as I did feel tricked. I felt like he tricked me into having sex with him, then just left. I found out
later he had a girlfriend. I felt skeezy whenever I saw
What's my point in all of this? To share, I guess. I don't know if my experiences "qualify", whatever that
means, but I feel like a survivor. To this day, I am affected by all of these experiences. I have been with
my current boyfriend for almost 3 years, and I can barely make out with him. At a certain point of touch
and/or closeness, my body shuts down and my mind goes into panic mode, even though I love and trust him. We had been having sex for awhile (we've stopped for now, for reasons on both sides), but I dont' even really remember the times I was with him, not even the first.
I'm in massage school right now, and practice-receiving certain types of massage,
especially intimate modalities such as Thai and certain forms of Shiatsu seem to produce the same
effects in me. I just can't be touched in certain ways - when my legs are being opened, or when I don't know
what's going to happen to my body next. I just shut down, and my mind goes away. I feel violated, and have a hard time distinguishing safe touch from unsafe touch.
I'm working to learn that I can trust, that not everyone is out to hurt me. But its hard. Hard to let
go of that shutdown response. Partly because I fear the process of letting go, and partly because I fear
that once I do let go of it, if I find myself in a dangerous situation, I will have no way left to defend
myself. Some days I hold on, rather than try to let go of these processes.
But still I try. I try to feel. I try to trust. I try to be without fear.
Because of this, I suppose, I call myself a survivor.