Monday, October 16th, 2017

[In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post (from which we’re technically picking up…
it basically was just saying how it feels like a lot of the time, questions I get asked revolve around “what was I wearing?” or “Why was I alone with him?” or “Why was I too nice to him?” or “Why didn’t I report immediately?” And I had also said I had read a bunch of stories from the #MeToo hashtag. So, now you’re caught up…]

As I looked through the #MeToo hashtag, I saw over and over and over and over people who had made all of the various decisions. All the decisions all been covered. And they most often (very often) don’t have a good outcome – no matter what you do.

There were people who reported, and then were ostracized from their communities (even if they had evidence and/or the perpetrator was convicted). There were people who reported and were later killed by their abusive partners. (There were people who didn’t report who still got killed.) There were people who reported and hated every second of their trial – even if they got a conviction – because reliving it and being grilled on their trauma and their whole sexual history was traumatic in itself. There were people who didn’t report who regretted it later. There were people who stayed with their abusive partners and people who left, and either way, both groups suffered a lot of various different consequences. I read one where the girl fought back (as we’re so often told to do!), and later, she was told she was “lucky” the man didn’t press charges because of his injuries. And as part of that, she had to drop hers.

So often, people think they know the “exact right thing to do.” They’d fight. They’d press charges. They’d do this and that.” And of course everything would turn out hunky dory for them because they’d do the “right thing.”

But there is no “right thing.” There are stories of every single option that end in survivor’s being ostracized, the victim’s death or re-victimization, and other bad consequences on and on and on. I know I’ve gotten trapped sometimes in the “I wish I would’ve done this. I wish I would’ve done that” game. Because, of course I wish the outcome would’ve been different.

And while the outcome could’ve been better (of course), it also could’ve been a WHOLE. LOT. WORSE.

When you’re in this impossible situation, knowing if you make the wrong move that you literally might die, or have other terrible things befall you, you don’t know what to do.

Ultimately, I think after it happens, we’re all trying to stay safe, and return to a sense of normalcy (as best we can). And we’re making whatever choices seem (to us, at the time) to have the most likely outcome of that happening.  And people can say they were the “wrong” choices. But y’all don’t know any more than we do.

For all you know, had we done what you thought was the “right” choice, we’d be dead by now (or have some other horrible outcome). So, people can say all day what they would’ve done or what we should’ve done, tbh, y’all do not know either. Nobody does. We’re all just doing the best we can.

And as I’ve been closing out other pieces of this chapter of my life, I’m closing this one today too – that I’m done with trying to justify any of my decisions of how nice I was afterward, or that it “took too long” to go to the police or any of that. I’m tired!

And *I* have a question to anybody who’s been asking me those questions…

However many times you’ve wondered why I didn’t do things “perfectly” beforehand or afterward, have you wondered just as many times why he wouldn’t hear me and refused to stop when I was crying, or begging him to go somewhere else, or telling him how wildly uncomfortable he was making me, or how afraid I was? Do you think about his culpability way more than mine (the victim’s)? Do you have a boatload of questions for him?

Or are all the questions just directed at me – how did I get into this mess? How did I give him the opportunity to take advantage of me? How did I not overpower him when he was being threatening and I was afraid for my safety?

I didn’t do anything wrong. Why am I being held responsible for the actions of my rapist?

I am getting rull tired of the onus being on me.

So, I’ve done my best to answer questions of what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship, and how your brain literally changes when you were abused for your whole childhood/adolescence – totally perfectly priming me for something like this. I’ve done my best to answer aaaaall the questions I can, that relate to all this. And now I’m done.

[Side note: I mean, if you’re a researcher, or someone in an abusive relationship or something and you need to talk, and there really is value in answering more along these lines, I’m not digging my heels in so deep that I’ll never talk about this again… And/or if somehow there is a giant blind spot in this piece of this chapter that I’ve missed and that is brought to my attention, I’ll try to address it. But as a general statement, I’m generally done talking about this specific piece of the sexual assault chapter of my life.]

Monday, October 16th, 2017

So, if you missed it, “#MeToo” was trending last night all over social media. (Here’s my contribution to it.) And I read through a number of stories other survivors posted.

[Trigger warning: Sexual assault]

I’ve tried to be very open in my blog about the imperfectness of my situation.

It wasn’t a stranger. I knew him. I slept with him after he assaulted me the first time. And I willingly let him hold me and get super handsy with me on a plane (so, in public! with witnesses!) after the second time.

I didn’t immediately go the cops. I didn’t quit talking to him. I did block him on at least one social media channel immediately, because I was getting sick when I saw him. But I thought I needed to be “congenial” or something… I thought it was just a bump in the road that we’d “get past.” I thought a lot of things that turned out to be incorrect.

(This next part is not really the point of the post, so you can skip between the dotted lines, if you want :-))

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

And I shared all the nitty gritty details of my story for a number of reasons –
1) I think we have a vision of what rape and assault is. And I think we need to see it’s more than that.
It’s not always a complete stranger who corners you in an alley and pulls a gun on you.
It’s the man who won’t stop when you beg him too. It’s the man who makes you hurt so much during sex you start sobbing, and he laughs in your face and will not stop as you cry underneath him and say out loud you’re crying because he’s making you so uncomfortable. It’s the man who won’t take no for an answer when you say you don’t want to. [I don’t care what the reason is.]
Rape is forcing sex on someone from whom you don’t have consent. It’s not ambiguous. Do you have consent or not? Shaking uncontrollably with fear, saying out loud I was shaking like that because I wasn’t okay, begging to go somewhere else, crying, saying out loud I was crying because of him, and more… All of that is not ambiguous. No reasonable adult would think any of those were signs that “yeah, she’s totally on board for this.”
I am so tired of us all bending over backwards into giant human pretzels to try to explain why this guy’s behavior was okay.
So, yeah. I wanted to show an example of an “imperfect” [I suppose one could say] rape – one in which I didn’t check all the “perfect” boxes that usually make people accept it as rape (dressing modestly, not being willingly alone with man, having a weapon as part of it, etc.). Not all rapes look like that. In fact, most don’t. And I think that needs to be recognized.
…Of course, just for the record, there is no “perfect” rape, because it’s the opposite of perfect. It’s such a horrific thing. Women are so often made to feel like we must be perfect at everything – and that seeps into this idea that we even need to be perfect at being victims – which is something we have no control over. So, anyway, hopefully all that made sense. And that’s one reason.

2) I wanted other people who experienced this type of thing to know they are not alone. And what happened to them is not okay. (And, to reiterate, they are not alone.)

3) I didn’t want to feel like I was hiding anything from anybody. If someday, this guy chooses to speak out and talk about his (the rapist’s) “side of the story,” I didn’t want anyone be shocked by new details like, “What? She slept with you again?! I had no idea. Well, now it feels like she was lying to me by omitting that. And ooooh, if she’s lying about that I don’t know if I can trust her about anything. Yeah, you’re cool, man. All hail king rapist over here.” (I felt like I had to tell none of the story or all of the story. And I felt it needed to be told, so I told it all.)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[If you didn’t read the last part, it was just saying that I shared all the “nitty gritty” details of my story – including the parts that make me feel like an “imperfect” victim/survivor. (And it’s been hard.)]

So, anyway, I feel like I have spent a lot of time trying to answer questions.

To some extent, I’m very willing to do this. (I was gonna say “I’m happy to do this,” but that might be a little much.)

If I am trying to shine a light on something, and I am expecting people to learn, then of course I need to be willing to answer questions and explain things.

Have you ever had a professor bring in a guest speaker and then they say, “I don’t feel like talking about this. Y’all should already know better?” (I feel like that’s not really how it goes) If I’m willing to stand up and speak and try to shine a light in the darkness, well, then answering questions is kinda part of the job.

But. I feel like sometimes, with some people, a lot of the questions revolve around, “Well, what were you wearing? Were you flirting too hard? Why were you alone in an apartment with him?”

Why was I alone in an apartment with him? How many times have I been to someone’s apartment? Sometimes you eat lunch there. Or you wanna hang out with each other, but not spend money. Sometimes you throw a party, with a number of people, the definition of not being alone with someone…. but somebody gets there first. And/or somebody stays at the end to help you clean. We could go on and on. There are a TON of reasons to be alone with someone in an apartment. None of them are because you’re expecting to get raped. No one is expecting that!

I also feel like a lot of questions revolve around why was I nice to him afterward? Why didn’t I report immediately? Etc. etc.

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

As we continue with my sort of conclusion/reflection posts, now that I’m wrapping this all up…

One maybe weird(?) thing that happened with all this sexual assault stuff is that not only have I, of course, not wanted to ever be with someone like him again, I also had this weird fear of “what if I (ever) am him?!”

He is hurting people so deeply, and just does not seem to care in the least. (And sometimes plays it off as though he doesn’t even know (no matter how many different ways and numerous times you tell him).) I told him over and over how what he did was not okay, and how much it hurt me. And I was always met with a million excuses… And also, I was told (by him) so often to think about how he felt – I should feel bad for him that anyone (including me) got mad at him ever. How could we do that when he’s such a “good guy”?

Either what he did wasn’t a big deal; or if it was a big deal, he has feelings too, and they’re hurt that he’d be perceived as a bad guy;, or it was all a misunderstanding, or, or, or, or, whatever the millions of possibilities, none of them were that he just did something exceptionally painful, and took responsibility for it, and figured out ways to be better.

He literally seems not to have any sort of understanding that he has ruined my life (or at least a part of it). It’s not even just a problem in that he doesn’t care. It’s that so often he seems so oblivious – just completely oblivious to the fact that he’s exceptionally controlling and abusive, and that he is a serial sexual assaulter.

He’s either an incredible manipulator (maybe!…(probably!)), or he’s truly just actually oblivious to it all. And that is exceptionally hard to wrap my mind around.

I know we’ll never truly see ourselves the way other people do – and sometimes that means we see ourselves better than others perceive (so as maybe to protect our egos or ourselves a little), and sometimes we may see ourselves worse (over-feeling guilt, or low self-esteem or something)… Also, even the way other people see us is certainly not universal. The way our boss thinks of us vs. our significant other vs. our parents etc. might be different – because they know us in different capacities, and have known us of different various lengths of time and such.

So, there is no complete universal way to see us, I know.

But, I feel like generally there’s a general sense of who we are – in which for the most part, even if some of the things change from person’s view to other person’s view, we all kiiiinda know the gist, the essence of the person. (Sort of, I guess… Then again, maybe that view is what gets me in trouble, as it’s been hard to see an abusive man as just that – even when I saw it up close… But I’m tangenting, as per usual.)

Anyway.

I don’t know if this happens to a lot of victims of abuse, but I started to have this (mostly irrational (I hope!) fear of, “What if I’m him?!”

“What if I am steamrolling people and not realizing it? After all, haven’t I said the words, ‘Aw, come on!’ if I want someone to come out with a group of us, or do something I think is fun? What if I’m over-pressuring in a way I don’t see?…

What if I don’t really listen to people? For the most part, I try to take it in when someone says I hurt their feelings. But he thinks he does that too! He’s always like, “I don’t know why women can’t get over things when I apologize.” And it’s like, “well, because you’re not actually apologizing, and it’s weird that you think you are… Do you not know what an apology is?”
But it kinda seems like he thinks he is apologizing! What if I think that too? And no one’s ever felt they’ve gotten a real apology from me? How terrible would that be?

I went through a phase during all this where at one point, I tried to contact any people I could with whom I’d felt there was any even sort of unresolved thing… Had I thought that maybe I made someone mildly uncomfortable one day 6 years ago? They’re getting a call! Had I thought maybe I seemed distant during one conversation 3 years ago? They’re also getting one! You get a call. You get a call. Everybody gets a call!

I couldn’t find contact info for some people. From others I never heard back. From anyone I did get get to talk to, it was easy talks of, “I don’t even remember that happening,” or “oh, that was so no big deal at all. Thanks for the apology and everything, but seriously. Nothing was wrong.”

There’s still the possibility that something I don’t remember affected someone in a way I’m unaware of. There’s also the possibility that some of the people I do remember but couldn’t reach hold a deep grudge against me. (Maybe that’s part of why I couldn’t reach ’em! Who knows!)

That’s not to say I think I’ve done anything as awful as he has. (I don’t.) (Then again, he also probably doesn’t think of anything he’s done as all that awful…)
I mean, objectively (as objective as one can be about oneself), I haven’t done anything as bad as he has. (I think probably the “average” American hasn’t?) But I’ve still done some bad things!

I’ve never been oblivious to people crying underneath me as they’re telling me I’m making them uncomfortable and then laughed in their face about it later, but I’ve been oblivious to small more nuanced things about communication, or not understanding someone’s desired faster speed of seriousness of a relationship or something like that, etc… I know there are normal bumps and bruises of life, and it’s sad to think I’m pretty certain I’ve caused some… (I think we all have, and hopefully most have been forgotten or healed, but still…). Anyway, the point is, I am internalizing any feelings of guilt harder than I ever did before. I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone, but now that I’ve felt the giant depths of hurt I’ve experienced (and his seeming obliviousness to it), it’s like, I reeeeeeally never wanna hurt anyone… And it sucks to think that I don’t think we can completely escape hurting other people at all.

So, anyway, this was just another weird way in which my confidence eroded. On top of everything else, it’s like, “Not only am I afraid of him, needing to be safe from him, I also don’t wanna be him.”

Friday, October 13th, 2017

So, I’ve been getting so much closure lately. Some of it hasn’t been super fun or exactly what I want, but I feel like a lot of gaping wounds are closing.

I’m talking to my friends – the ones in the friendships that have really been strained and suffered a lot. And some of them probably aren’t gonna come back. And that’s super sad, but at least I’m starting to better see where things stand. I’m starting to come back to life.

I’m finally actually settling into my apartment. I’ve gotten through thousands of emails I missed (and I still have thousands more!). I’m working through the longest to do list I maybe have ever had.

I’m just coming back to life.

And, as I look toward the end of trauma therapy (we’ve even set our out date; it’s aaaaall being tied neatly in a bow), and I think about any closure (as I think about friendships I’m trying to save and ways I’m trying to improve…), I thought about my “closure” with sexual assault guy.

I don’t know how much I talked about this specific thing on here, but about a year-ish ago, I had one last phone call with him. It was the last time we spoke. And I said that I had something important to tell him. I told him that even though we’d talked at length multiple times, about what he’d done to me, I didn’t know if he ever heard. And even if we were finally deciding we wouldn’t actively try to be friends or anything else, I wanted him to never do this to another woman.

And we went detail by detail about 3 large specific times he’d crossed boundaries  – two sexual assaults, and one in which he’d just scared me.

I was shocked that he listened without hanging up. Granted, I tried to navigate the conversation as carefully as I could. I tried to be as nice as I could. I tried to frame it in the way of “this will help you stay out of trouble,” and framing things for how they can help him is always the way to go, and will usually get him to listen. So, all those things helped. Even still… pretty impressed he stayed on the phone. But he did. At the end, he said he’d reflect and that if either of us came up with any questions or epiphanies or whatever, we should reach out.

A few days later, I asked if he wanted to talk again and he said no. And that was the last I ever heard from him.

I wrote him back to say that he obviously didn’t have to read my email if he didn’t want to, since he didn’t want to have a phone conversation, but that in case he was curious what I’d wanted to say, I said that on the phone I wasn’t sure if I’d given him quite enough credit [I had; more than enough, but at the time, I was always questioning myself] for the 3rd thing we talked about. I was something along the lines of, “Yes, you scared me, but then you stopped. The other two, I have nothing to add, but I wanted to be clear they weren’t the same. And if you had stopped in the other two, things would’ve been okay.”

I am quite a big believer in, “Don’t say something behind someone’s back you haven’t said to their face.” Or at the very least, only say something you’d be willing to say to their face at a moment’s notice, but really, you should’ve already said it – especially if you’re doing it in a public space, such as on a blog like I am.

And so I tried to go back to that email. I just wanted to be sure that I had been as clear with him as I had been on the blog – that he’s a serial sexual assaulter. I know I tried to tell him what he did a million times.

And I was very clear in that final phone call, as we went through all the details of the nights I lay out here – shaking, crying, yelling “I don’t know.”… We went through what happened. He said, “So, I took away your agency?” I said, “yes, you took away my agency.” I know I was clear. And yet. As with everything with him, I still wonder sometimes, “Was I clear enough?”

And I know he was always distracting, and switching blame, and all of that. And it was next to impossible to have real conversations with him. I know I had to worry about my own safety. That was a thing too. I get that this was not a normal issue and a normal conversation. Still. For a number of reasons, I have a desire to be so crystal clear (in the immortal words of Moriah, ‘like I’m bathing in Windex.’

Anyway, I tried to go back to that final email to see if there was anything in there that could help me to re-know and feel more confident in my clarity.

And the email doesn’t exist anymore. And I remembered why.

I told him in the email something like, “I know this must be really nerve-wracking to have this details in writing. And I don’t think you’d want anyone to know. So, just as a measure of security, for no matter who ever sees my emails, I’m going to delete this completely from my computer and sent mail.”

That is one giant example (of a few (or more)) of how I was so concerned with making him feel safe, and comfortable, and never backed into a corner.

And it just seems kinda silly now. I know that part of it was keeping myself safe involved trying to not make him angry, and he’s very volatile. So, you just always have to be careful around him. But part of it was my gross never-ending empathy that’s so worried about everyone. And it feels overall ridiculous now.

[Side note: I get that it’s maybe a little ironic that I’m saying I was covering his and my tracks so well just to tell the world on my blog. But a) I think there’s something different between your friends and colleagues and people you know finding out that you, by name, assaulted someone vs being an anonymous perpetrator in blog posts most likely not even read by most of those people. And b) Life changes. Donald Trump had a tape released where he bragged about grabbing women. The problem against women is so much bigger than I realized and I held it in until I just burst out having to talk about it. And that’s my right…]

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Picking up from yesterday –

I remember feeling so wildly uncomfortable around him. I remember literally vomiting thinking about him… Not being able to even eat when we’d go to brunch after it happened. I’d have nightmares every time the night before meeting him and the night after.

I had such intensely strong and terrible reactions toward being around him, seeing him, being reminded of him… And yet, I’d try to make it work. Flirty, and even downright sexual texts and such after the incident (both(!) incidents) exist…

I had to block him on Facebook because it would make me physically ill to see his face, and yet… I apologized to him for doing that, and kept going forward with plan “be a good girl.”

I know that I was fighting to get things back to status quo… Yet, actually, actually thinking about what it would really be like to have sex with him made me feel awful. The real thought of the act felt gross.. But the idea of the resolution – of the end to the nightmares and everything… well, that felt grand.

It was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance that was hard to grasp then, is hard to grasp now, and again, is nearly impossible to explain.

So, I just kept trying to push forward – push through the pain, push through the sickness, get back to normalcy, and things will be better.

One of the things my therapist tries to help me understand is that even though it “doesn’t make sense,” it all does… in that I have a long history of being abused in my life. As I’ve said, when I was growing up, I endured a whole lot of physical abuse. And that really blurs the lines of acceptability, and love, and what you can (or should) endure.

And in all that time, practically the only way out (or at least, so it seemed, as a child), was to “good girl” your way out of it – be good enough, appease your abuser enough that you feel safe (even if only for a while… any time at all you get to be safe feels so good).

And when you’re a kid, and it’s life threatening (and/or at least seems very life threatening to you, a small child), every time you try to “good girl” yourself out of a situation, you are literally trying to save your own life. Your life is on the line all the time

And so, when you get into an abusive relationship when you’re older, you use all of the tools that you’ve been using for practically your whole entire life – and the ones that ether did (and/or very much felt like they did) keep you alive when you were younger.

It didn’t even occur to me to look at things from a different angle. It literally didn’t even occur to me to say, “I’m a strong independent woman who’s a grown-up adult now, in her 20s, who doesn’t need to appease and good-girl her way out of this. I have other options.”

I guess maybe it’s sort of like I kept jumping in monster-infested waters to try to get to the “safe” island (where, I guess, sexual assault guy is?), not even realizing – I might already be in paradise! I might already have reached safety! What’s wrong with this island? What if instead of furiously swimming in high tide with flesh-eating creatures just beneath the water to try to get “back to” that terrible island that sucks anyway (because it’s full of landmines and such) … what if instead, I just enjoyed this island, maybe walk around, explore, maybe get a therapist, and try to keep him away…. Maybe I don’t have to always try to close the circle of abuse.. (I know, I know, “therapy talk.” But like, maybe I can just walk away?)

Whereas, I kind of just felt like I swam like crazy back to “semi-sort of calm island,” not even feeling those ocean monsters along the way. Only once I stopped drowning did I realize, oh no. My legs are gone. I went in the wrong water (or something)?

(Again, not a fantastic analogy. As you know, I hardly know how to explain all this…)

I just could only see resolution and didn’t realize I was cutting off some other options by pursuing resolution, if that makes sense…

But anyway, I didn’t look around at my island, or any other options. I got complete and total tunnel vision. It didn’t matter what friends said or logic said, or my whole entire body and brain said… I used the same coping/survival techniques that had saved me life my whole entire life. My brain has been way too trained (as I have said before, my neurons are literally wired differently than someone who didn’t grow up being abused). And my brain, doing what it knows how to do – was trying to appease like crazy.

I thought (on this base emotional level in which I did not think through or understand it all (even though it was going against all my physiological signs)…) I thought I was saving my life, not making it markedly worse at all times…

It was the only thing that made sense to me. And I wish I knew anything better to say than that.

If you have a desire to learn more about all this, there is SO much info on google (and elsewhere) about the cycle of abuse and the lasting effects of childhood abuse, There are a number of good books out there. (One I’m liking is “Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. (That more seems to be written for a victim to understand her abuser more, but it might help those just curious.) There are books and articles galore on all of this.

So, if you still don’t totally get what I’m saying and want to know more, maybe someone else can explain it better or make it click more. But for this specific topic, I think I have reached the end of what I can add to it.

So, just as I closed out the topic of “he is abusive” the other day. I’m also gonna close out the topic of “why didn’t your behavior afterward make sense? (and anything in the same vein of that).” I’ve answered that question as best as I can, and made sense of a kinda senseless time in my life as best I can. So, this part of the sexual assault issue is also done. (Woo! I love closing out topics like this!)

I hope any of that was helpful. Have a great night!

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

One of the reeeeeeally hardest parts about all this for me is the fact that I kept going back…

It confused my friends. It confused me (to some extent). And, even though I’ve tried a number of times on here, it sometimes feels nearly impossible to explain.

Because even though it’s so common for women to go back (on average, it takes 7 attempts to leave an abusive man!), for some reason, it still feels like doing that has lessoned the credibility of my assault(s), or his abusive behavior, or the personal hell I’ve been through over the past year.

It’s part of what makes it feel like people think, “*shrug*, well, another relationship problem. Too complicated to understand. Guess they were both at fault!” …But that’s like telling someone they’re at fault if they kept a cancerous tumor that looked like it would paralyze them if they removed it (because of where it was located or something). The tumor was cancerous! And the patient is just doing everything they know how to survive.

…I guess in this analogy, I’m my own doctor and read the scans wrong. The point is, you blame cancer. It’s cancer’s fault.

Completely switching analogies here, so let your brain go away from that one…

It feels like I’ve left myself without a leg to stand on.

And I don’t know that I have a great analogy for that… It’s like I never even once considered my legs… It’s like I was drowning and some kind of leg-eating creature was gnawing at my legs, but I can’t pay attention to that, because I can’t breathe! One problem at a time, here!

And I just hate that not only does it feel like my story is undercut with the world, or with myself… It feels like it was undercut with sexual assault guy. Trolls are always out there tearing apart women’s stories. But to have the biggest troll be the man himself who did it to you was an extra layer of pain for me.

He acted as though if I was trying to make things work, it wasn’t because I was in desperate need of resolution – it was instead because I *super dramatic “damsel in distress” voice and body position* sooooooo wanted him (oh so so much). After all, “I was just some lovesick puppy. He was a man who did nothing wrong. And this was simply a relationship that didn’t work out” – even though that’s not even close to what was going on…

I don’t remember super specifically most of the lines in my giant apology to him (aye aye aye) (after he was icing me out after my assault), but the one I do remember was that I “hoped to earn the honor of sleeping in his bed again” (or at least something very similar to that).

And the reason I remember that one line specifically is because I gagged when I said it. I physically felt a little “ugh, gross” thing happening as I typed it… And I remember it because I feel so bad about that, since I typed up and sent him a lie… And if that one sentence is a lie, what else is a lie? I know I’m not lying about everything that happened with him and what he did to me. And I wish there wasn’t that little lie sentence floating around in an email (and not just because of how it relates to everything that affects me, but because I hate to lie to people – especially about emotions and how I feel about them. I hate when people do that to me, so to do it to someone else fees suuuper gross)…
I wish everything could fit in the beautiful box of perfectness, where I never told a white lie in an email, and I never tried to make things work. But that’s unfortunately not how it happened…)

I didn’t want the “honor” of sleeping in his bed…I had never actually even gotten used to sleeping in his bed. For the most part, I couldn’t sleep when he was in it with me, and only slept pretty soundly if he was working in the other room, and I was sleeping without him…

I don’t think it’s an “honor” to sleep there, and I never really wanted to. (That was a pretty giant point of contention between us(!), even when things were at their most “fine (ish)” – whether I would spend the night, as I felt that was going maybe kinda fast, and he strongly disagreed,)

What I really wanted was to go back in that spot on that very bed, and not be assaulted that time, and feel safe – and hope that new safe memories would undo the terrible ones… That’s what I wanted, even though that’s not exactly what I said… (I mean, how could I even have said those exact words to this scary, dangerous man?)

(And of course I’m disappointed in myself, because I pride myself on being this person who says exactly what she means and doesn’t make people guess… But in that moment, that part slipped. (And I’m sure there were other desperate moments with him too.) I said something I didn’t mean… And then it went on to be used as evidence as to why “nothing was all that bad after all.” He wasn’t apologetic. The police officer wouldn’t even file my report. Once you say something nice to your rapist, you’re toast. I get it. I get it. And I shouldn’t lie… Even if we wanna say, “oh, it’s a white lie,” or “you were trying to protect yourself,” or “you were in a bad and desperate mindset in the circle of abuse” – no matter how you wanna justify it, lying still sucks and it feels suck-y to have been a part of it, and to have it then cause other consequences (though I guess that’s what happens if we do something wrong… We suffer consequences (unless we’re sexual assault guy, of course)).)

Anyway, this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow…

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

[Sort of picking up from yesterday]

It’s possible that I didn’t explain clearly or fully or quickly enough what was going on and to the extent it was going on. It’s possible I still haven’t.

It’s possible that we have a screwed up society that is unbothered by abuse.

Lots more things are possible, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m tired (and I think I’m done) explaining to myself or anyone else that this dude was abusive.

I’ve been on this planet a while now – well over a couple of decades. And I’ve been having various romantic (ish) and/or sexual experiences for somewhere near half that time. (Heck, most of that time, if we think of technically my first kiss all the way back in kindergarten.)

I have run into the normal “crummy guy tropes.” I have met (and sometimes slept with, or gone on a couple of dates with) the guy who’s a liiiittle too pressure-y, or the guy who’s a liiiittle too conceited, or the guy who is really a terrible listener, or the guy who’s a liiiittle too into prescribed gender roles, etc… I have most definitely encountered the “ugh, that guy” stereotypes. Usually, they’re just annoying, maybe frustrating, but they’re not this abusive guy. I know the [guy you met on [insert any dating app] who kinda skeeved you out and just felt ugh]. And this is not that. This is way super above and below the normal range. He was markedly different.

I know the difference between “that person was kind of a jerk,” and “that person is abusive.”

And we can argue maybe I don’t reeeeally know the difference, or live in it all the time, because I had to go to therapy, and I blamed myself sometimes (many times). But there was a reason this resulted in therapy for me!

There’s a difference between a guy who does a little negging (which still isn’t good!) vs the guy who tries to take away your humanity and ridicule you at every turn.

There’s a difference between a guy who’s maybe, I guess “overly-chivalrous” and might order your food without consulting you (which on it’s own might not be all that giant of a deal),  vs one who is so controlling you feel paralyzed because you get to do nothing for yourself, and if you do, oh get ready for more ridicule, because you can do literally nothing right.

There’s a difference between a guy who can’t repeat back to you any details about the crazy story you told him from work today because he didn’t listen, vs the guy who willingly keeps having sex with you when you’re crying and shaking and telling him he’s making you uncomfortable, and he just barrels on because he “doesn’t listen.” That’s not just someone who’s not totally keyed in to you. That’s a rapist.

There’s a difference between a guy who’s just kinda confusing and you enlist your friends to help decode a text, vs a guy who is so skilled at gaslighting it makes you start to question the whole world around you.

I got some worksheets from my therapist. One has 76 signs of red flags of abusive behavior. If someone has a tiny handful of those, they’re probably just a person with some quirks or a rough patch or a different kind of past. Some of them on their own are totally innocuous. I think the most innocuous one is “has no job.” Obviously people could be unemployed for so many reasons. And nearly everyone I know (especially in our freelance world) has been unemployed multiple times. That in itself certainly doesn’t mean someone is an abuser.

I could go down a number on this list and explain away why, by themselves, they don’t mean much. But he has over 2/3 of the list. That paints a picture.

He. is. abusive.

And it is hard to explain, because sometimes it feels like I lose it over a “small” thing, because it’s the top of the mountain he’s burying me under. It’s like that last little scoop of sand (or whatever this mountain is being made of) is the one that finally suffocates me. So, how can I get mad about a teeny tiny bit of sand? Because that’s the sand taking away my ability to breathe.

And speaking of not breathing, it’s like a whole ‘nother mountain to hear people (especially if they’re my friends) trying to play devil’s advocate.

I know we play devil’s advocate for our friends. It can be wildly helpful (and I’m sure it was easy to join me if I’d get in a spiral). But in this situation, it is not. I may play that dangerous game with myself thinking about him, and a lot of my ridiculous questions that follow. “Is he really all that bad? But what if I just misconstrued every single thing ever, and all of this abusive stuff was all just misunderstandings? What if, what if, what if, what if [a lot of what-ifs that realistically are most definitely not true or relevant, but common for abuse victims to ask]” but hearing it from other people never helped.

“Oh, was he really all that bad? You know, guys are kinda awful. [Blah blah blah.]”

Yes. Yes, he was that awful. (And also, let’s maybe try to be a little more mindful of using language to lump in all-guy traits with these abusive guy traits. That seems really toxic! The fact that we can’t tell if a guy is abusive, because we apparently expect a certain level of “mean/uncaring/refusing to listen/and more” behavior?… that sucks.

One time, one of my friends I’ve been friends with for a super long time told me he didn’t totally get it (esp when I was complaining about sexual assault guy being mad that I wanted to go up steps instead of an escalator, which seems like a very small thing without all the context I had)… but that even though he didn’t 100% understand everything by the example I gave (and who would?), he trusted me. He said he’s known me forever and he trusted me, and knew that if I said it was really bad, it was really bad.

That moment meant a lot to me – to have someone just believe the truth of the situation without feeling the need to litigate it. I deeply appreciate his friendship, but of course I know I can’t expect (or even hope for) everyone to blindly trust me. (Who am I? Some dictator in the making?)

So, trust me, and the books, and the worksheets, and my therapist, and the girl before me, and the girl before that, and some other people I’ve met who happened to know him and spoke off the cuff about his controlling nature (before I even mentioned my own thoughts). Trust everybody.

Or don’t.

Of course I want people to understand and believe me (since I’m telling the truth). But I’m doing this whole thing on the blog, in large part as a way to document/explore all the issues surrounding all of this (e.g. abuse, how we think of men, and what we teach them as kids, and expect of them later, how we treat women, how we treat survivors, how to be a good friend/ally to a friend going through this stuff, sexual assault in general, what recovery’s like and how to go through it. And on and on and on.)

And to the best of my ability, on this specific subject (trying to explain that he was abusive, and what it was like to be on the receiving end of this abusive relationship), I have. I think I’ve said everything I have left to say on this specific piece of puzzle.

I don’t think I can write any more posts about how he was abusive. If I haven’t explained it well, and you want to know more about abuse and gaslighting and such, there are many good resources (better/more official than me because they’re written by doctors (or other medical professionals) or scholars, as opposed to my firsthand account). [One good one is “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I think it might be more helpful for someone who’s experienced abuse to try to understand the why, as opposed to if you’re really trying to understand what abuse is. So, for these circumstances, I’m not sure what the best book recommendation is. And if you have one, feel free to leave it in the comments.

But I can no longer try to explain abuse or put it in any more context. I can potentially answer specific questions (maybe) if some clarification is needed on certain things (though I don’t promise to answer anymore, as it is draining and I think I’ve explained things as best I can…but I’m partially here to start conversations, so I will definitely consider answering more if people really need help in understanding). But I can’t stay in a loop of just trying to explain reality. I want my world to grow way bigger than just trying to prove basic reality is true.

So, as we’re finally getting toward the end of the sexual assault posts on the blog, I’m gonna go ahead and say on this specific subject (of trying to explain that he’s abusive), that we’re closing out. And I’ll try to close out a few more soon! Thanks!