Tag Archives: consent

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

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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

I did it!

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I did my disclosure yesterday.  I’m super proud of myself for standing up to the fear of judgment and for getting through the disclosure with honesty and vulnerability.  There were some moments I didn’t expect and some memories that I had buried so far inside me that they came out for the VERY FIRST time while I was talking.  It was extremely intense.

The response from my group was truly incredible and awesome.  I have formed new, and hopefully lasting, friendships with these women I have grown to learn from, admire, and cherish.  It is a group of ridiculously brave and beautiful spirits.  They helped me understand the victim I was at those times I described, and also helped me to see that the woman I have become is so much better than I feel inside sometimes when I wake up or feel triggered in daily life.  They helped me validate that victim inside me and see that I overcame a lot of injustice to be the survivor I am today.  Those women rock!

The heavy shame is lifted up to another level, a level where I can actually face it and begin to work through each piece of it.  I can actually see the future me enjoying daily living without that blanket of shame on my shoulders.  I can see myself dancing freely and feeling joy instead of hesitation.  I can look forward to being brave enough to fully trust and to love again, in ways I never really have before now.

Even after feeling so good, I could hear the tapes in my head starting to self-punish for not facing all of this sooner, not healing sooner, not trying hard enough.  The “I should have done something” starting to creep inside my head.  But this time I put a stop to it and spoke right out loud to those tapes to let them know I just did that – disclosed fully – and I will no longer be held hostage by those negative cognitions.  Sure, it will take some more work, I’m not under the impression that all of the burden left with the words that came out while I told my story.  But I have shed the secret in a way that feels like an ending to a lot of it.

That.  Is.  Awesome.

I feel crazy excited today like this is another new beginning for me.  A more aware me, a further healed me, a really, truly rediscovered me.

I did it!

KK

Disclosure **trigger warning**

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****TRIGGER WARNING****this disclosure is about sexual assault

Here it is, my disclosure.  I’m writing it out in order to decide what I need to say out loud for healing.  Maybe writing it down will give me some insight on what I really DO need to say out loud in front of my group so that I can heal and move forward.

During my freshman year of college, I had a lot of fun.  Some would say too much fun, except that I still got good grades and cared about being there to learn.  My party nights were spent with many friends, mostly somewhere in the dorm or at a few specific houses around campus.  I loved to dance and dance I did.

One specific house had a lot of parties with a lot of dancing, so that quickly became my favorite spot.  I danced with anyone who was interested in dancing and I had more fun doing that than drinking since I didn’t like beer and most of the parties in college revolved around beer.

I was a great dancer.  I laugh as I say that because saying things I am good at makes me uncomfortable, but it is totally true.  I always had a lot of attention on the dance floor because I loved it and was good at it and I knew how to have fun dancing.  I always felt free to dance.

I had a roommate.  I struggle to even say that because the thought of her makes me furious.  She was a friend since junior high and we went to a lot of the parties together.  One night she asked if I wanted to go over to the house to hang out with another girl and some of the guys.  Of course I said yes, I loved to dance!

When we got there, it was just some of the guys who lived there, a few who didn’t, and the three of us.  I thought that was disappointing, but I still stayed to hang out because I generally considered these people my friends.  We were upstairs in the house and some of the guys were drinking and some smoking pot.  There was some music on as well.  We sat and talked while they passed around beer and pot.  I took a few sips of beer, but was generally grossed out by it being passed around and as I said, I don’t like beer.  I took a few turns smoking pot because I did have some history of smoking pot and enjoying that.  But it tasted funny.  Since there was music on I moved to the side of the room and mostly danced a little by myself while listening to people talk.

Eventually, my roommate and the other girl said we should go, so we started to leave the room.  As we did, one of the guys said I should stay and dance with him.  I always liked him and he was frequently one of the guys I danced with, but I wasn’t going to stay if everyone else was leaving so I followed my roommate down the stairs.  He came down after me and put his hands on my shoulders to slow me down and said again that I should stay because my friends left me anyway.  When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw that he was exactly right about that, the kitchen was empty and my roommate was gone with the other girl.

The guy pushed me with his arms still on my shoulders toward the stairs and I started to protest, but he said just stay to dance awhile and then you can leave.  He kept his hands on my shoulders as I climbed back up the stairs, protesting a bit but kind of happy to have his attention.  Only we did not go to the room where everyone else was still gathered.  He steered me to a room on the right which he said as we entered was his room.  I remember my heart racing at this point.  I turned around and tried to leave, using the excuse that I knew he had a girlfriend and I was not that kind of girl.

He said “your dancing says you are.”

I’ve never forgotten that phrase and I’ve never danced as freely again.

He pushed me onto the bed and that is when I remember completely freezing inside.  I wanted to yell and couldn’t make sound.  He was pulling off my clothes, and began touching me and taking his clothes off as well, holding me down, and it was as if it was happening to someone else.  After awhile he yelled for a friend of his to come into the room, asked if I wanted to pick a person, and I couldn’t speak while he laughed and talked to some of the other guys in the house who had all gathered around the door of the room and were looking at me as he continued the assault.  Another guy got onto the bed and he pushed me down onto his friend and he was still on top of me and I could see people at the door.

Watching.  They stood there and did nothing to stop it.  They watched it happen.

When it was over he told me to get dressed and asked if he was going to get a disease or if I was going to end up pregnant.  I said nothing, just gathered my clothes and got the hell out of that house.  It was dark out and as soon as I was out of that house I just started walking back to my dorm.  Horrified as I passed a few people here and there.  When I reached my dorm, some people I knew were coming out and I wish I would have just collapsed in the horror I was feeling so they would help me. I walked past them and continued past security to the elevators.

When I reached my dorm floor I went straight to the bathroom and just broke down in a stall, thinking I was going to throw up.  It is there that my roommate and the other girl found me, and took me back to our room.  They didn’t know what to do and I remember talking to my best friend on the phone.  I remember calling my boyfriend.

I remember the next several hours of additional hell.  My roommate took me to the hospital and I remember very little of how I got to her car or the drive to the hospital.

But I will NEVER forget how I felt while I was there.  I remember seeing police on the way in and being led to a room.  I remember the staff was less than compassionate and I just remember the heaviness of the guilt setting in along with complete disgust for myself.  They told me to get completely undressed.  Are you kidding me?  Oh and make sure you undress carefully on top of this mat so your clothes can be sent to the police.  The last thing I wanted to be was naked.  I was given an exam by a doctor.  The process of the exam was just awful.  Collecting evidence, looking at every inch of my body, touching me.  The doctor that came in the room to do the exam was a man.  A man! I felt horrified, disgusting, dirty, very much like I wanted to die right then.  But it wasn’t even close to over.

After the hospital I was taken to the police station.  I asked for my cigarettes and nobody bothered to tell me I probably shouldn’t start chain-smoking because I had given blood during the exam.  So I felt sick, but just kept smoking.  I had to tell them everything I could remember over and over again and give a description of the guys and the house.

My parents and my sister came to get me from hours away and they took me home.

I was able to see some friends after a day or so, but it was difficult to speak.  I had to decide if I was returning to school.  It was difficult to see friends because I felt so disgusting and so empty.  I felt like the me I knew and loved was completely gone and I was filled with shame for what had happened to me.

I returned to the campus to continue school, but it was awful.  I couldn’t go anywhere without eyes on me.  The school newspaper and the local tv news had printed my full statement, minus my name, but it had gotten around who I was and it was complete madness.  I had one teacher who really supported me and several friends who stood by me in support.  My roommate was not one of them.  She was dating someone from that house where it happened.  She was absolutely horrible to me over the next few months and the betrayal was just devastating to me.

I would not be pushed out of that school.  I was not the person who did anything wrong.  Logically, I knew that.  At least on the outside I would present that belief.  Inside I was a mess.  I had to go to the district attorney and tell everything all over again to prepare for hearings.  I never felt safe.  I had to explain myself over and over again.

My roommate supported the guys.  I’m not kidding when I say she actually asked me if I thought that one of the guys was really great as a sex partner.  She brought people from that house back to our room sometimes.  I stayed other places and did the best I could to get through the semester.  I also prepared late entry paperwork for another school in another state so I could leave.

The preliminary hearing was a complete circus.  Preparing for it, reading my statements over and over was awful.  I had a boyfriend doing the best he could and a completely supportive family, but nobody can be prepared for something as horrible as rape.  Nobody knows what to do or say.  And I was slowly drowning in pain, guilt, and shame.

People had to be turned away from the courthouse due to so many people coming to the hearing.  News and many supporters of the two criminals.  Two people sexually assaulted me while others watched.  Nobody who stood there and watched was charged.  I testified for many hours.  I had to explain myself.  ME.  They were never questioned.  They just got to sit there staring at me and writing notes to their attorneys.  During those hours the court hearing had to be stopped many times for people to be warned about their inappropriate behavior.  People made sexual gestures at me during the hearing and were warned to stop, but never thrown out for the behavior.

It felt like I was a victim of rape all over again.  I can’t honestly say I could ever suggest to anyone that they report a rape at the risk of having to go through something as awful as the court process.

One night I took part in a rally called Take Back the Night with a girl I met who stood by my side all the way through.  Thank goodness she was there with me as we marched because we marched right into a building where the two guys who assaulted me stood watching.  I froze, but she kept me moving and kept me safe, putting herself between them and me.  I would do anything to be able to remember her name and be able to thank her for that compassion and unwavering support.  She didn’t even know me and she believed and supported me.  Unlike my roommate who I had known for many years. The betrayal of that friendship destroyed my ability to trust myself and others.

When the semester was done, I left the school and I never returned.  I moved to a different state and attended another university and the case settled out of court that fall with each guy getting a plea bargain to misdemeanor sexual assault.  A slap on the wrist.  I heard that one guy left the school and one guy stayed.

They raped me, and I was the one put on trial and made to leave the school.  I was the one who faced a lifetime of guilt, shame, relationship issues, suicidal thoughts, and loss.   I hadn’t done anything wrong, and my logical side understood that, but it sure felt like I did. I couldn’t trust myself, I questioned my own judgment over and over again. Had I given consent by dancing? Had my clothes been too tight? Had I not said no enough or tried to leave enough times? Was I to blame for what happened?

Rape changed my life forever.  But I will no longer let it define me.  I will not let them win.  I didn’t heal after it happened because I tried to ignore it and just go on with life, even though the me I was before it happened was gone.  It has buried me in shame for a lot of years and enough is enough.  These issues came up again for me in 2012 and I will work hard for whatever amount of time it takes for me to be free of the feelings of guilt, judgment, and shame. I will never forget and I can’t make it go away, but I will rediscover those parts of me that they tried to destroy with their crimes.

I will learn how to trust myself and others again. I will regain full control of my feelings.

I will overcome.

If you are a victim, or you know a victim, get help.  Find resources to support yourself or that person.  BELIEVE THEM and support them every single step of the way.

KK

Creepy Touch

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I think it’s creepy if someone has a loose, floppy handshake.  To me, that type of icky handshake says I’m not worth your full attention or that you are untrustworthy.  If you can’t show confidence and respect in your handshake, then I really would prefer not to shake your hand at all.  That being said, if you are about to by my waiter at a restaurant, why in the world would you walk up to my table, introduce yourself, and shake my hand?  That is strange, even if your handshake is good (it happened to me today).  And please understand that no matter how attentive or skilled you are as a waiter, I do not EVER need you to touch my shoulder as you walk up or walk away.  That is creepy.  We are not friends and sitting in your section of the restaurant has not given you automatic consent to touch me in any way.

In group therapy this week we discussed relationships and one of the exercises involved identifying photos of hands that represented relationships with other people.  Interesting exercise and so fascinating to me to hear how different people can see a picture.  There were 2 options in part of the exercise, one was two hands in a handshake and the other was an outstretched forearm with another  person’s  hand reaching to touch the first.  It was immediately creepy touch to me and one other person.  Another saw it representing more of one person grabbing another person’s wrist, and yet another person saw it as completely comforting, gentle touch.

After an exercise like that in group, it is clear to me that people need to think more about touching other people.  What you may think is comforting to someone could be completely uncomfortable, creepy, or even traumatic.

I think touching another person is something that requires consent, period.

KK