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Not a survivor myself... 
12th-May-2006 05:08 am
I created this account simply to protect the identity of my friend while I posted this. I think she would be upset with me if she knew I posted this, but I don't know what else to do. My friend has been raped, brutally twice in the last two and a half years-three years and I just don't know how to help her. I'm going to post more details, just wanted to let you guys know why I was posting. There may be some triggers in here, not being a victim myself I can only guess.

My best friend and the woman I love has been the victim of rape twice in the last two and a half-three years. The first time was to the father of her first child, who she hadn't been with since before her childs birth. He was abusive, physically and emotionally up to when she left. His parents had asked to see the kid, and she agreed with the stipulation that he was not to be there alone with her son. The son did end up being left alone with the father and when she went to go pick him up he brutally raped and beat her (nearly to death), in front of their (he was 2 at the time) son. She got pregnant again from the rape. She was very distraught afterwards, considered aborting the baby, wished every night the baby died (because it reminded her of the rape), until about 6 months into the pregnancy. After that she started beating herself up over having thought about that. She was constantly getting sick from everything that happened, plus being in crappy physical shape (she later had to have a kidney removed probably due to this and the other rape, and is going to have to have the other one removed within a matter of months). The 24th week of the pregnancy the doctors had to induce her because her blood pressure was so high they thought the placenta would rupture and she would bleed to death (I believe that was what it was, it was something with her blood pressure and bleeding to death), the baby died two days later. Since then she has blamed herself for his death because she didn't want him and God knew that. This is of course the furthest thing from the truth. Not only does she suffer from post-traumtic stress syndrome, but (and I think the biggest thing) her health was horrible and I don't think her body could support a baby. The ex-boyfriend ended up getting arrested and convicted of the rape but only after a trial that nearly cost her all her sanity.

A year after the baby died she got pregnant again, with twins (not by me, but by a now ex-boyfriend). She had been going to the cemetary to see her son nearly everyday since he died. This helped her deal with a lot of the pain from him dying. She had just started going to college (she had taken some time off after high school to support her kid) and one of her ex-boyfriend's friends also went there. He started to harrass her about the rape daily. After the rape I guess her ex had taken comprimising pictures of her naked and given them to this friend. The friend started leaving the pictures on her car, even went to her house and left them on her kids playsets in the yard etc. Then one day she was at Wal-Mart and he grabbed her arm and would not let her go. Wherever she went he always seemed to be there (he was definatly stalking her). I told her to get a restraining order against him, but she didn't think he had actually broken a law until then. After about a two weeks of constantly telling her she needed to get a restraining order she finally agreed right before having to go in to have the twins, and she said she would after she got out of the hospital (it ended up that she wouldn't have been able to until Monday). She went in on a Wednesday to have the babies and was released Saturday. That Sunday she went to go see her son at the cemetary again and the ex's friend was there, along with two other friends and they dragged her into the woods, beat her severely, all three raped her and left her in the woods. Her boyfriend went to go look for her hours later and found her in the woods. He took he to the hospital and they did the rape test and got the guys DNA (apparently this wasn't their first conviction) and they all pleaded guilty to rape and attempted murder. She hasn't been able to go to the cemetary since which is making things worse.

She's now taking medication for the Post-Traumatic Stress and has been going to therapy and group therapy (sporadicly). This is not helping and she still has issues with both the rapes and the loss of her child. I know it is going to take time, but she is unwilling to wait and just wants to put everything behind her. She doesn't want to go to therapy or take medication. She won't go to group therapy and has been only about 4 times and says it doesn't work. She keeps saying she's retarded and shouldn't be that upset about all this. Is there anything I can do to help her? Just make her keep going to therapy and taking her medication?

OK, so now I'm done with the back story and the first part of what she's dealing with (and not very. Me and her have been best friends since we were 16-17 (we are now 23). After she broke up with her last boyfriend we've gotten even closer and romanticly involved as well as being best friends. Since November of 2005 (she was still with boyfriend at this time) I've talked to her every night until she's gone to sleep and she's called me if she's had a nightmare, which she now hates doing because she says I don't sleep enough because of it. I'm the only one that can calm her down when she gets upset and she calls me whenever she is (I don't mind at all of course), which she also hates doing because "she doesn't want to upset me". What I used to be able to tell her and calm her down in a matter of minutes doesn't seem to work and can take hours sometimes. I don't mind but she gets sick to her stomach etc during this time which isn't good for her to keep doing. Is this normal or is it a sign of a problem? Further more, she gets upset because she wants to cuddle with me and have sex with me, but she says sometimes she doesn't think she can. I have no problem with this and I've told her that. I've told her it doesn't bother me at all and it's not a big deal. She disagrees and says she wants to a lot, and it's retarded and I'm not them and it shouldn't bother her so much. Is there anything I can tell her to make her feel better? Anything I can do? Sorry that this is so long and thank you for reading it. Please reply with any help you can offer. I don't know what to do anymore and it just feels like she's getting worse and worse, after a long period where she seemed to be getting better (I understand at things like the anniversary she's going to get upset, but after the anniversary of the first one she calmed down rather fast, the same again this year, however, after the anniversary of the second one and the anniversary of the baby dying she seems to have taken a nose dive that she hasn't recovered from).
12th-May-2006 03:50 am (UTC)
You seem to be doing really, really well with her. Just keep doing what you're doing. Comfort her, reassure her you love her and always will, that she's not overreacting, that you'd far rather be upset by what she tells you and by her calling you and keeping you awake, etc, than have her keep silent. It sounds like she needs a lot of reassurence that she's not a burden on you.

And, keep encouraging her to continue therapy. If it's not helping, perhaps she could see a different therapist, try a different approach, etc... just keep encouraging, remind her that it often takes a long time to see results.
12th-May-2006 04:03 am (UTC)
I've told her I'd be more upset if she didn't call me. That doesn't help all the time.

She won't go see another therapist, she said she doesn't want to start over from square one. One of her problems is she doesn't listen to what the therapist tells her to do, like going to group therapy and she's supposed to keep a journal about how she feels throughout the day and she doesn't (well she does it on Friday which is when she goes). It's more just trying to help her see that she's not dumb, I think.
12th-May-2006 06:37 am (UTC)
I don't suppose you could convince her to start reading this lj? I found it incredibly helpful just to read that other people were feeling the same as I did. Then maybe she won't feel so stupid for reacting the way she is (which is completely normal, given the horrible things that she's gone through).

It sounds to me like she needs therapy, but if she isn't ready to accept it, the it isn't going to work for her. Give her time. Support her as much as you can. The only person who can really know what she needs and when she needs it is her.

It's really great that you're so supportive. I'm sure she is incredibly grateful to have you in her life. However, do protect yourself. Supporting a survivor can take over your entire life, and then you end up exhausted and unable to help the survivor anymore. Make sure you take time for yourself. You can't help her if you lose yourself in the process.

There are quite a few books available for survivors. Perhaps it would help her to read one?
12th-May-2006 10:23 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know that about therapy that if you're not ready for it it doesn't help, but what else can she do?

I know it can take over your entire life, but it isn't exhausting. I've kind of gotten used to it over the past couple of years.

She may actually read a book on it, I don't know. I think part of it is she isn't ready to share what happened with anyone, and a book would just be with herself (did that make sense?).
12th-May-2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
Yup, that makes total sense. She'll share when she's ready. In the meantime, you sound like you're being an awesome friend/partner.
12th-May-2006 08:56 am (UTC)
Courage to Heal is a good book if you wanted to give her one. I found it very helpful.

The Artist's Way is another good one. It's not about survivors/rape/abuse, so it's less threatening, but it is about healing and honoring the healing process. There are also lots of practical suggestions for small steps to take to balance your life. I'm working through this book myself right now.

I don;t know if it's appropriate or not, but you might want to check out some adult children of alcoholics books for yourself. Often the disfunctional communication patterns laid out in those books are appropriate for survivors too, and can help you avoid pitfalls in your relationship. Also, you reading and honoring the hurt she received may make it easier for her to pick up a book, or go to therapy more regularly. You can model that you need help, and are getting it, and she can see that you think it is REALLY ok to ask.

I am very impressed that you want to support your friend. She is rightfully hurt and confused right now, but I am sure she is very greatful to you for loving her. However, you cannot heal for her. She will have to choose when she is ready. Hang in there
12th-May-2006 10:42 am (UTC)
I will try it. It can't hurt. There's no need to be impressed, it's just something anyone would do for a friend, especially someone they loved.
12th-May-2006 09:16 am (UTC)
You're really on the right track with her. Everything she's going through is COMPLETELY normal as a reaction to rape, being physically abused, having a child die... those are all really traumatic things.

Many survivors want to return to "normal"... they just want the healing to be done and over with. It's a long, hard process, and there are many times I've wished for the same. She'll struggle with therapy and medication... most of us do - we don't want to feel like a burden, we feel so low and horrible, because we feel like we're ruining the lives around us. Our feelings are far from the correct assessment of our loved ones and our world, but it's how our emotions work sometimes.

A big frustration is wanting help, but feeling like a burden when you do get help. Something that might help her is that every time she seems to be feeling like a burden - look her in the eyes (or if you're on the phone, make sure to say it clearly) that she is not a burden, that you *choose* to help her, and that if you need space or need sleep, that you will tell her so and make sure you are okay.

Boundaries are *really* important for survivors and their loved ones, their supporters. Let her know that when and if you don't have the energy, or are too stressed to help that you'll tell her. It will help her to know that she's not a burden, that you love her for *all* parts of her (even the sad parts), and that will help her tremendously.

Group therapy can be tricky - it's very hit or miss with the group you get. Group might not be for her right now, though individual therapy might help. As for medication - many survivors feel like someone's trying to force a "happy pill" down their throat, and they really avoid meds. Medication is designed to support therapy - studies show that people who use medication to relieve the physical symptoms of depression and PTSD while going to therapy have a faster, more thorough healing process. It might help to talk with her about medication - medicating depression and PTSD is like taking antibiotics to help with an infection. It's not going to heal the wound for you, but it'll help make the healing less painful, easier, and with less wound-cleaning needed. It's the same with the brain :)

::big hugs:: You're doing a *great* job. Thanks for coming to us for some help and advice
12th-May-2006 10:40 am (UTC)
You really hit on some of the things that she is going through. Some of the same feelings she's expressed to me. That makes me feel a lot better. I've been telling her it's going to take time and that everything will be ok eventually and just to hang in there. Should I just keep telling her things like that?

I've already told her many times that I choose to help her and that if it was a burden I would tell her many times. The one thing I struggle with is that I feel like if I'm not there for her I don't know what she'll do. 90% of the time I can easily be there for her, but when I'm in class (summer now so I'm only taking one which makes it easier) I just feel like she's going to need me and I'm not going to be there. Or sometimes I'll fall asleep after she calls me when she's having a bad day or waking up from a nightmare. Sometimes she wakes me up again and I'm fine or sometimes she just hangs up. I feel bad because when she wakes me up again I'm fine, but she feels like even more of a burden and tells me I need to go back to sleep when I'm really awake then and she's not a burden and I don't know what to say. I tell her all the time that I love every part of her and name off the things that I love about her, sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't. Once while she was in class I made her a list of something like 50-60 things that I loved about her, she seemed to really enjoy that. Are doing things like that good to help her out of the depression? Or does it just mask it for awhile? I understand that it's a long process. Is it normal and safe for her to keep getting better and worse like this? That's the biggest thing I'm worried about is her safety.

I don't know all the details about it, but I think she said the group that she goes to is the only group in her area. That's what she told me at least. So I shouldn't force her to go to that group if it's not working but encourage her to keep going to therapy?
12th-May-2006 12:49 pm (UTC)
Indeed - one of the best ways for her to learn to trust is for you to be consistent. Keep reassuring her that things will get better with time, and if you can - when you notice that she's handled something better than she used to, point it out and show your happiness. Often, we're so busy healing that we can't see how well we're doing, and it's always good to have reminders :)

Showing her your love is a good thing. She might take a while before she starts to feel secure in it, though. Again, it's consistency. I'm sure she wants very much to believe you, and logically she probably does (because you're showing her consistent love and support), though her emotions might take a while to believe you and her logic.

Her instincts will tell her that your love and her happiness are fleeting - which might look like it only masks the depression - but it *definitely* helps over time. I know it helped me a lot. Consistency really was the key with me, knowing that no matter how I was that I was always treated with love... it's an awesome thing when it finally reaches that emotional/instinctual level.

It's completely normal for her to get better and worse. Healing after trauma is like a spiral... the first time around the spiral it's big and daunting and scary... but as you progress, it gets a little easier and you gain a new level of insight onto the same trauma (if that makes sense). So she'll go through good times, then swing back through bad for a while.

Another thing that survivor brains try to do is to only give us access to really bad memories and such when we're most stable. So the happier and healthier she gets, she'll recover details to the memories and such - which can be tough, because it makes the happiness feel even more fleeting, but it means she's actually progressing really well.

For the group - I'd say to let her do what she feels is best, but try to get her to agree that in a few months she might try it again. Some group therapy allows loved ones in, and that might help her, too - to not be alone with strangers and having to talk about personal things. It might be that right now it's still too fresh or too intense for her to open up to a group.

I, personally, hated group sessions for a long time until I got more used to talking about it. It was just very overwhelming to talk about your own stuff, then listen to everything other people go through. Almost too much for one session. So she might be in a similar place to where I was. So at minimum, suggesting she try it again in a few months might help.
12th-May-2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
Other people have said it all much better than I could. So I just wanted to tell you that I think you're a wonderful person, and I am sending thoughts and wishes for healing and happiness your friends way, and thoughts for a lasting, beautiful relationship to the both of you. Your friend's story is heartbreaking: your relationship is inspiring.
12th-May-2006 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I don't really consider myself that great (everyone has things they are great at and I don't think anyone in my position would act differently) but thank you. I think she could really use that. Her story is heart breaking, but everything happens for a reason and there must be a reason for this. She's majoring in psychology and minoring social work and wants to work at a school someday. Maybe this experience will help her someday there. Of course I'm not saying it is right or what I wish happened, but I hope since it did happen, at least something good happens because of it.
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