Category Archives: sexual assault

Triggers

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You know what’s no fun?  Triggers.  

I don’t know when they will happen.  I don’t understand what sets them off.  

I can’t sleep tonight.  I have a lot of anxiety.  I don’t know what set me off, but I keep feeling like I can’t breathe.  And my legs just feel active.  I have been listening to the rain for awhile and I started thinking about why storms used to bother me.  I was terrified of them.  But then one day after I adopted my first beagle I just got over it because I felt so badly for him as he would sit and shake from a storm.  Maybe comforting him comforted me.  I don’t know.  But once I got him, storms never bothered me again.  

I don’t know where that fear came from and one day recently I even found myself looking up the weather from the day of my college rape.  I had to walk home from that by myself and it was a bit of a walk.  I remember feeling cold, so I started to wonder if it was raining.  It was 1993.  But I was able to look up the weather from that day online…no rain.  

In any case, maybe it isn’t the rain triggering me, but I feel uneasy and it’s no fun. 

I don’t like elevators.  I used to wonder why the heck I was so nervous in elevators.  And then I had my first EMDR sessions.  And elevators came up because I had to share an elevator with the guys who assaulted me the day of the pretrial.  Is that ridiculous or what???  What kind of crappy victim witness plan, or lack thereof, was that?  I can see the moment clearly.  Thinking about it doesn’t bother me now, but elevators still do sometimes.  I think it’s the kind of elevator.  The heaviness of the door.  The way it sounds when it closes.  Gosh, I never thought about it in such detail before now. 

The month of March triggers me.  That’s not shocking since it is the month of the college rape, but you’d think that just once March could roll by and I wouldn’t feel like a mess most of the time.  Oh well, that’s a work in progress I guess.  I take care of myself the best that I can and I make sure to protect myself.  I make plans that will keep me from just sitting in the negativity of the day.  If I sit around, I start to think about what I was doing each minute of that day and it drives me nearly insane. 

Elevators, rain, March. Strange. 

What are your triggers?

KK

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Not broken 

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Not broken. 

I try and remember that.  It’s difficult for me.  I don’t believe it sometimes.  

Last week was pretty tough in some ways and not as tough as it could have been in other ways.  And after it, I feel a little less broken.  Which is mostly nice, but a little bit hard to handle. 

In my individual therapy last week, she asked who I am without the burdens I carry, without the negative tapes in my head.  Without feeling broken. 

I really don’t know the answer to that.  What if I wake up every morning and feel worthy of love and safety and a great life?  What does that look and feel like?

I’m beginning to learn.  

Processing trauma is strange.  If you really commit to the process, it’s unbelievable.  One of the coolest things is that after a disclosure or a big moment of any kind, you go through a continuing process.  You feel a bit numb.  Sometimes a bit let down.  But then your brain just keeps on working.  I sleep great after many big moments.  Not last week, but many times.  A few days go by and I realize I just feel different.  Calmer.  Tired, exhausted, really, but calm. 

And also free.  Lighter.  Less burdened. 

Not broken.  NOT fixed, but renewed and validated.  

Giving my most recent disclosure was not at all planned when I started this therapy process.  Mostly because I had buried the thoughts and experiences so far away from my reality that I didn’t know they needed to come out.  I didn’t carry them around like bricks on my shoulders. 

What I didn’t realize though is that the experiences were just as present in my daily life than the burdens I carried from the sexual assault that was clear in my brain.  Sometimes more present because the experiences belonged in a relationship space in my head.  They didn’t fit into what I could see clearly as assault because they were connected to some love.  Some loss.  Major confusion.  And a very  large chunk of blame.  

In 2012, I faced something I always knew may happen, but that I had minimized for a very long time.  And at first, I handled it great.  But then I let my guard down and that’s when I start blaming myself for everything after that first moment.  

Should haves.  Shouldn’t haves. 

Cripes. 

It was a year of complete chaos.  And I blame myself for every bit of it. 

Or at least I used to blame myself.  I am working on that.  And I’ve come quite far now that I’m not spending so much energy avoiding. 

Avoiding that Girl in the Corner was slowly killing me inside.  Sucking every bit of confidence out of me most days.  Keeping me in hiding.  Pushing me away from acceptance of myself and of love. 

Keeping me feeling broken. 

I’m throwing that Girl a blanket and digging her out of that corner.  I’m learning to accept that the Girl is me. 

And that I am not broken. 

KK

Another disclosure

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Well, as if the anniversary of an assault isn’t already enough in one week, I have my second disclosure tonight in group therapy.

A disclosure I can’t even see in my head at all.  I don’t know how it starts or how it ends or what it looks like in the middle.  I’ve been rather quiet about this round of group therapy.  Mostly because I’m still blaming myself for a lot of the stuff involved.  The group has been helpful in many ways, but I’m avoiding things and fighting myself every step of the way.  And I feel shame.  Blame.  Disgust even.

I’m really hoping to break through those barriers tonight. I’ve talked through the disclosure issues in my individual therapy and I’m kind of a believer in the fact that whatever needs to come out will come out during the moment the facilitator says go.  I couldn’t write it down because I didn’t know what to write.  And reading it would probably mean I would disconnect from the feelings and read it as if it was about someone other than myself.

Parts of this disclosure have sometimes come out in my relationship and I like when I just blurt out something and it is ok.  Validated even.  The freedom to work through this stuff out loud and sometimes completely at random is one of my favorite things about the comfort, support, and love I feel in my relationship.  I have never had that before now.  This kind of unconditional love is absolutely amazing and I cherish it every single day.

Tonight is about the Girl in the Corner.  I hope I can have some compassion for her and provide her with some forgiveness.  I want to be able to see her as a person who is worthy.  I want to be able to incorporate her into myself and accept that she is a part of me.  A part I don’t have to be ashamed of because wanting to be around someone doesn’t mean I asked to be humiliated or coerced or forced to have sex.

Part of me wants to run the other way and not show up.

But I have to do this for that girl.  She deserves so much more love than I give her.

KK

Another March 25

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Sit with it. 

That’s a phrase I hear a lot in therapy, whether it is my individual therapist or in group.  And the internal dialogue I hear is never as loud as when I sit with it.  It’s uncomfortable at the very least and absolutely horrible on my worst days. 

Tonight, I sit with it.  Waiting to fall asleep knowing that tomorrow I will wake up to another March 25.  When the day will go by and I will know as evening comes that I will start to remember the time I left my dorm.  The time I arrived at a friend’s house to hang out.  The time I walked back to my dorm alone, crying and throwing up.  The time 22 years ago that “friends” assaulted me while others watched. 

The moments that the hospital failed to help me feel believed and safe.  The questions asked without hesitation at the police station about what did. And the weeks of media and campus torment as I went through a trial where the only person questioned for hours was me. 

It’s different this year.  I am not having many physical symptoms and that’s nice.  I have completed group therapy and embraced my right to feel empowered by that process.  I disclosed the details necessary for me to heal in a room full of women who absolutely understood every feeling I have felt. 

I have overcome. 

It’s been 22 years.  I will not ever forget some things.  I will fight through the moments in my life when shame starts to try and creep back in and take over my days.  That shame is no longer my burden.  That shame never was mine to own. 

You, both of you and those who stood by and did nothing, you own the shame.  You own the guilt.  YOU, not me.  

I will celebrate my healing instead of reliving your crimes on this and every future March 25.  Because you do not win. 

I will absolutely not let you.  

I have overcome.  I have forgiven, not for you but for me.  I have embraced full healing.  That feels awesome. 

And you cannot ever hurt me again. 

KK

The moment I cried

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**Trigger warning if you read the linked article because she talks about abuse.**

I read this article after noticing it because of its title.  And boy did it hit home.  I will link it here so you can read it if you want to before going on to read about why it was so important to me.

“MY BOYFRIEND WAS ABUSIVE — AND I DID NOT REALIZE UNTIL AFTER WE BROKE UP”

Timing is everything.  And it is sort of ridiculous that this week is when that article posted and when I saw it to read.  Except for the actual boyfriend part and some of the boyfriend’s anger, this is me.  SO me.  Well…so much the Girl in the Corner.  All through high school and not with a titled “boyfriend,” but certainly someone I really thought I wanted to be my boyfriend.  He let me believe that is what he wanted too, because if he let me believe that, it made it easier to abuse me.

Allow me to go back a few weeks and say that I am really, really struggling with this group therapy this time.  I need and want to focus on this relationship which shaped so much of what I have felt about myself and how I responded to everyone around me throughout high school and since 2012. But I victim-blame myself on this relationship SO much, that I am consistently failing to stay engaged in group.  I begin minimizing my experience and feelings the second group begins and I punish myself with put-downs for taking up space for a “real” victim.  I know it is silly because the group members and the facilitators would never want me to feel that way, and we always discuss that exact feeling when groups begin.  It is common to feel that someone’s situation may be “worse than” and so victims begin to minimize their own experience as not as bad and, therefore, not as worthy of help.  Ridiculously sad.

So I’ll return to high school now.

The very first time this guy finally showed me some attention was one night when I was having a sleepover and he knew it.  He told me how much he and his friends just wanted to have some fun and that we should sneak out to party with them.  And at that point, I would have done just about anything he said to get his attention.  So we did.

As we got to the woods where everyone was partying, I was happy.  Happy to finally have his attention.  And all of us had fun for a while, but there was a few times I just felt it.  And by IT, I mean that gut feeling that was trying to say “not ok, get away, this isn’t right, he is a jerk” and “you are worth more than this.”

Sometime during the night we were all by a pond and most people were stripping off their clothes to go swimming, including him.  And here’s the thing about that–no way was I doing that.  Not because I couldn’t or wouldn’t get naked, but it was dark out and I don’t like fish touching me so I’m sure as hell not getting in the water in the dark at that point.

That’s a whole other issue for another time.

In any case, I was more than happy to hold his clothes and laugh and have fun with a few people who didn’t last long in the water.  I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I did smoke cigarettes at that point so I just hung out and smoked.  Later, back at the area where everyone hung out, there was a tent.  And when he asked me to go in that tent, I was happy, just like the girl explains at the beginning of that article.  Happy to have attention from someone I liked so much.  I was so excited that he was showing me attention and I was thrilled that he was taking me in this tent for what I thought would be some kissing.  And he made it clear very quickly that he was interested in more than that.  And I completely froze.  I had NO idea what was happening and NO experience in dealing with it.  And, again, just like in the article, the next day or the next weeks at school he was so distant and acted like he didn’t know why I wanted to leave that night when I finally said “take us home.”

Given some time, he was right back to flirting and calling and showing me attention.  And he made it seem like what happened was no big deal, so I just moved on without giving it much more thought.

In the article linked above, the following quote hit me so hard I had to read it again and again:

This is the hardest thing to explain: I really liked him. So when he turned on me, it felt so insane that when he was normal again, I’d forgive the crazy behavior — and then do everything to prevent it from happening again.

Now, unlike the article, he never yelled or threw things at me.  But he was mean.  So very mean.  He would say really rude things to me and treat me like crap if other people were around him and just generally disrespect me.  He would say such awful things and I always felt a level of humiliation being around him, but I didn’t know what to do to get away from him and just as I would decide he was horrible, he would say loving, wonderful, fun things and I would forget everything else.

He would call me and apologize and say wonderfully nice things to get me to come over to his house or pick him up.  And we would go places or do the things he wanted and needed to do in my car because he didn’t drive.  It always felt like a mixture of fun and torture to be with him.  He would always try to talk me into sexual stuff.  Sometimes putting me down until he got what he wanted.  I would laugh things off uncomfortably and tell him I hated him.  But I did things he wanted to do most of the time.  He humiliated me on a regular basis into having sex with him.

Two other quotes came at me like slaps to the face from the above article…

It didn’t feel forced, but it certainly didn’t feel good.

I was so deep in the relationship that I didn’t have words for how I felt.

WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I THINKING?????  The blame the guilt the yuck just comes at me from all over my head and all over the things people say about girls “like me.”  Girls like me.  I felt that my choices were what made me into that girl.  A girl who felt SO MUCH SHAME on a regular basis, but didn’t really know why.  A girl who became mean and confrontational and just generally not nice to people she identified as better off than her.  Which was pretty much everyone around me outside of my close friends.

I didn’t understand why I felt so terrible being with him because I could only see the worth he allowed me to feel and to believe.  Which was tiny.

Fast forward now to last week in my group therapy and the topic of anger.  We did an exercise that I laughed through because that’s what I do to avoid and cover when I can’t cope.  When I feel blame and guilt for my own sexual assaults.  When I feel unworthy of the free therapy and the healing and the love and support all around me.  Healing is difficult, exhausting, frustrating work.  But the anger exercise broke me.  I threw the word consent out as confusing and as something that makes me so angry when focusing on this past rape.

Because I liked him.  Because I wanted to be around him.  Because I said yes, I’ll go with you and drive you, and I NEVER SAID NO.  I would shutdown and say nothing when he humiliated me to the point where I would just “let” him have sex with me.  And when I would “let” him, he showered me with attention and fun.  He built me up just enough to feel worthy of his time and attention, so that I would be around the next time he called.

And as I said those things to the group, the room went silent.  And the facilitator said…”humiliation is not consent.”

And then she just let me sit there with that feeling.  And in that silent moment I did not laugh.

It was the moment I cried.

I can guarantee you that this moment was only the second time IN MY LIFE I have cried over the realization of how horrible this person was to me.  I let that out on the side of a road one other time, with a friend who I had called to come and sit with me because I was sure I would never stop crying and was going crazy.  It was the first moment I cried that led me to this second moment last week as I cried all over again.  This time with the complete realization that it was NOT my fault.  That he was the one in the wrong.  That he KNEW very well what he was doing all those times.

That liking or loving or desiring someone is NOT equal to giving consent.  Humiliation is not loving.  It is wrong.

The first moment I cried empowered me.  And that was in 2012.  That year I had contact with this guy for the first time since 1996 and it was a mess.  But I’ll talk about that another time.

For now, what is important is that being contacted by him brought me to healing.  Brought me to try EMDR.  To become aware of who I was and how that made me into who I am today.  I won’t thank him and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive him, but I do recognize that from pain came knowledge and healing.  I’ll say again, I won’t thank him.  He gets ZERO credit.

That first moment that I cried brought me to my second moment.

I did the work.  I recognized that the work needed to be done.  I took back control of my emotions and my body and my life.

The last quote, which I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE from the linked article is this:

It’s funny to hear the word empowered when where you’re coming from a place of zero power. I’m just trying to get mine back. People talk about survivors like we have an extra coat of armor when really we’re just trying to grow back our skin.

I’m doing the work and I’m finding my power.  And it sucks and it is really difficult.  I want to give up most days.

But it is also awesome and freeing and wonderful.  And I cherish the opportunity I have been given to find healing.

And you know what else I really cherish??

The moment I cried.

KK

Can you give her a blanket?

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The girl in the corner came up at group this week. I was completely honest about her and had a physical reaction to talking about her–I got warm, my breathing was weird, and my body shook as if I was freezing.

She came up because we talked about fear and vulnerability. And things we avoid.

I absolutely avoid her.

After listening to me talk about her, the room was quiet. The group facilitators always know just how long to let you just sit there with your emotions so you can completely feel what you need to in order to figure out how to get through it. I quietly said that I can’t like the girl in the corner, I can’t give her a break, I can’t absolve her of guilt, and I don’t even like her. I won’t give her any credit and I just ignore her most of the time.

Then, the main facilitator said, “can you at least give her a blanket?”

I laughed. Cuz that’s what I do. Then I sat with that a minute and said, “I can try.”

We created our fear in a project I enjoyed during the last group and this group as well. It really is cool to just follow the instructions given and see what comes out in a project. First, we talked about what triggers fear. Some things for me were right there, almost waiting in the pen ink. I quickly wrote cigarettes, hometown, and high school people/connections. Then, after a pause, I added woods and card games.

I likely should have added the girl in the corner. Because clearly I am scared to have to face her. She’s not to blame and that feels true sometimes, but then all the victim-blaming attitude flows into my head. I try to put it into perspective and I just can’t quite get there. I feel defeated by her and by the idea that sometimes I said yes to this person. That over time, I got used to being treated so poorly by him that it was easier to say yes than no. That I convinced myself what we really shared was love. The kind in ridiculous teenage love stories.

But it was never real. And I can see that now.

And that’s when I punish the girl in the corner. How could you be so stupid? Why would you go along with something that made you feel sick to your stomach? Why wouldn’t you just walk away? Why didn’t you tell someone?

And the worst one, which is so often in the media today: why did you wait so long to say it??

Fear and shame. Denial and disgust. That’s why.

I have a lot of work to do here. I have to face someone I don’t want to forgive.

Myself.

When I had individual therapy before group I told my therapist I’ve been frustrated in group. Distracted. Feeling like I don’t belong there. Like my assault is “less than” because it isn’t the same as the other sexual assault I experienced. It isn’t clearly assault in my head. She asked me to pay attention during group the same night to what was really going on in my body. Am I really feeling distracted? Or am I putting a lot of energy into avoidance and denial, and punishment of the girl in the corner? Am I minimizing the assault because I’m more willing to victim-blame the girl in that corner forever?

It was absolutely avoidance. An “l don’t deserve to be here like the other group members do.” And that scares me. It’s the kind of assault people, apparently me included, want to explain away as not that bad. But it IS as wrong as the sexual assault I experienced in college. And in many ways it is more harmful to who I am because it shaped who I was from age 15 on up to 38 years old.

Enough is enough. I will work harder in this group than I did before because what’s at risk is the real me. The girl I left in the corner. What’s to gain is more of what I’ve been experiencing since starting therapy and that is forgiveness and healing and freedom and acceptance and love.

I can’t hide now that all my therapists know I have been doing so up to now. They’ll help me understand and forgive the girl in the corner. They will help me understand that I am not to blame for what happened, even if I thought I loved the guy.

They will help me heal. And tonight, I promised to try by giving that girl in the corner a blanket.

It’s the least I can do.

KK

Taking on the girl in the corner

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***I kind of feel like this post, and many to come, should have some kind of trigger warning in addition to the fact that sometimes I will add sexual assault disclosure warnings.  But I am not sure what kind.  So let me just say please be self-aware when you are reading this post and any posts going forward for awhile.  This is very new to me and I have not spoken about it with the majority of people in my life or disclosed it publicly.  I have barely been able to recognize and name it and accept it myself.***

Well, here it goes.  I have committed to another 12-week Adult Sexual Assault (ASA) therapy group and it starts a week from today.  It is technically the same group I did last year.  The topic and goals will be the same and there will be a disclosure.

But for me, and I can’t even believe I am saying this, I think it might be scarier this time around for me.  The last group was extremely tough in many ways and disclosing that college rape experience was SO challenging.  However, even though I needed to rid myself of some blame, guilt, anger, fear, and shame, the completely logical side of me lived every day knowing that it really had not been my fault at all.  Getting through the group last year was about making a declaration, shaking off the shame, and recognizing that I have the right to complete healing in order to rediscover the me that was lost and ashamed and terrified. The level of healing that I have experienced from completing that group has been just awesome. I am thankful every single day for that group therapy success.

This time I will tackle some experiences with a specific person from my past that in my head are much more complicated AND that will force me to examine, discuss, accept and cooperate with that girl in the corner.  The one I avoid and ignore and cover with laughter.  And for the last 7 months or so, I have gone back and forth in my individual therapy between being ready to tackle this and trying to convince myself (and my therapist who wasn’t buying it) that it’s fine if I never deal with it because it doesn’t really affect me on a daily basis.  But it does and I don’t like that.

The worst part of taking on the girl in the corner is that I don’t like her and I don’t even feel like she is worth my time.  And I am ashamed of her.  And I sometimes even hate her.  And I don’t feel like anyone will believe her.  I judge her and disregard her.  I call her names and I blame her.

For anyone reading this post who hasn’t followed my previous posts and feels confused, that girl in the corner is me.  A younger me.  Somewhere between 16 and 20 most of the time.  And once in awhile she’s 38 year old me.  And I shoved her in the corner a long time ago, never to be dealt with again.  Or so I thought.

For this session of group, I may be disconnected or distant or crazy or mean or many other things.  Maybe I’ll be fun and happy most of the days.  Maybe I’ll look like I’m listening to you and have to ask you to repeat yourself.  I really have no idea what to expect.

So for now, I just want to say that I have great people around me and you each know who you are and what you mean to me.  If I don’t call enough, or laugh enough, or respond enough, or reach out to you it is NOT because you don’t mean the world to me or I don’t trust you or want and need your support.  This fight for healing is going to be difficult.  Because today, I can’t even talk about the experience as rape or sexual assault without immediately victim-blaming my very own self.

And that is a miserable feeling.

One I am proud to say I am ready to leave behind to continue rediscovering me.

So look out girl in the corner, I’m coming to rescue you and learn to love you again.

KK