I am not shy about the fact that after I was sexually assaulted (for the second(!) time, by that guy), I went into overdrive trying to “make things work.”
I am embarrassed to high heavens about it. But I have to own that that’s what happened…
(We’re about to talk at length in a pretty detailed story about all the ups and downs when it comes to that. So, I’m just getting this (valid) question (with an answer I’m still a little unsure of) out of the way right now.)
As soon as a tiny bit of time went by (like an hour or two?) after the assault, my thoughts went from just being wildly furious to this almost clarity of just, “I need to sleep with him again as soon as humanly possible.” (Spoiler alert: we never did have sex again.)
That may sound counter-intuitive that someone assaults you and you wanna run right back… But I think my brain just kind of thought about it almost as like a “getting back on the horse” type of deal…
[Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that sounds dirty when we’re talking about sex. But I’m talking about the metaphor part, not meaning it in a dirty way.]
I thought I knew this person. I thought I liked this person. I thought I trusted this person.
I thought it was all one big misunderstanding, and that as soon as we could just pile new memories on top of it, things would be better… I kind of treated it like I would any misunderstanding (or fight).
I had already subjected myself to a lot of mental abuse (and even a couple instances of sexual abuse) at that point. (And I ended up subjecting myself to months more of mental abuse after this instance…)
And I think the question that’s easiest to scream at me is, “then why in the world did you keep going back?! Why did you keep working so hard to keep him in your life and make him so happy?!”
The shortest answer I can think of is that he took a piece of me, and I expected him to the be the one to give that piece back…
But I don’t think that’s how this works. (Or at least, that wasn’t how this instance worked.)
There were also all these other levels too. I kept hoping that maybe, just maybe, we could leave things in a nice place instead of a furious one… I’m gonna have to see this dude around. The musical theater community in NY is tiny. The hope was that I could run into him and not feel physically ill.
I’ve been reading all these articles about why women go back to abusive relationships, because I feel crazy for having such a strong desire to do it. I thought this article was very interesting (even if it seems to come from a silly-looking morning show :-)).
And I read another article where the woman was giving her 1st person perspective and was basically saying something along the lines of how weird it felt to one moment be dying to see someone and really missing him, but then also having this side of you that practically hyperventilates at the thought of ever seeing his face again – like it’s the last thing you’d ever want to do. And I identified with that SO much.
…Because just as you have two really strong reactions, I think it might be partly ’cause it’s almost like there are two different people you’re dealing with (even if there’s actually only one – you have his perfect side, and the side that tears you down).
I saw him 7 times in the 7 months that followed my assault… They weren’t spread out like once a month, though. It was a break after the assault, then 3 in a clump (as we thought we might try to work things out). Then we had another big break. Once time I saw him at an event, and then we hung out 3 more times in a 9-day clump, again trying to see if we could either maybe make things work, or at least try to maintain a friendship.
And every. single. time. that I saw him after that final assault, I stayed up the whole night leading up to it. I kept trying to sleep, but just couldn’t. And I veeeeery nervously sat with him, every time – sometimes shaking, sometimes distracted. I’m pretty sure at least once I threw up afterward. (I most definitely have thrown up at least once just from having flashbacks in a shower in the week before I was supposed to see him.)
And I always – every time – had nightmares the nights I saw him.
And yet, there is a part of me that every once in a while still today legitimately thinks, “You know… if we could just get back to what we had, everything would be fine.”
Despite the nightmares I still have, despite the fact that I cry during sex sometimes when a guy gets on top of me (shhhh, don’t tell anybody… that’s so embarrassing), despite the fact that I’ve been lucky to come across some of the best men in the entire universe in the past few months, and should just be celebrating them in all their glory… There is still a part of me that thinks, “But I wish I could go back to that guy… Because as soon as our situation is “fixed,” those nightmares will go away. And everything will be fine.”
And it kind of makes sense to me to be grasping at straws at anything to make the nightmares go away. I’m not used to living like this, and I don’t want this to be my life from here on out!
And it makes sense to me why you’d think maybe just maybe you’d want to go back… When you’re in an abusive situation, you get the nicest guy in the world sometimes.
Think of the best anyone has ever treated you – now think of something 10x as intense. It’s kind of scary, but it’s kind of fun and interesting. Of course you want to chase that high again…
I almost thought of it as sort of like crush syndrome (if I understand crush syndrome right – though I know I’m not a doctor)…
[Also, I really hope I’m not overstepping bounds trying to compare this because I’m sure the physical pain of crush syndrome is so much worse than this… But just as kind of a metaphor thing to try to somehow make these thoughts make sense…]
Basically, it kind of felt like I was being crushed under this thing – just almost suffocated… But then, once that object is taken away, your body starts having all this stuff go wrong. I think blood is flowing wrong, or whatever’s happening during crush syndrome, it’s really bad. And for a moment, you’ve gotta be thinking, “Just put the statue back on me!!! At least I understood that pain and knew it! Now there’s new weirder different pain. And for the moment, this feels worse!”
So, I guess I just wanted that statue back… Because my dangerous situation became comfortable, and became what I knew, if that makes sense…
Why women go back to abusive relationships is complicated and a hard thing to explain or understand or even be a part of…
And it’s weird because it makes me feel SO weak. I wonder, “How could anyone look up to me after that – after I continuously put myself in a situation like that? After I tried SO hard to please an abusive man? (After I STILL have a desire to do it sometimes?!)”
(And what’s weird is I can’t imagine calling another woman weak for this… I imagine trying to show empathy… But in it, i feel very weak.)
I wonder if Hillary Clinton, or any of my role models would allow themselves to be serially mistreated like this…
(And of the women who do, we sometimes judge them, right? How many of us (no matter how much I liked Anthony Weiner as a politician) yelled “FINALLY! What the heck were you waiting for, girl?!” when Huma left?)
And I just… I just feel stupid… I wanted to end this post with some brilliant thought. But I don’t have one right now. I just feel like a big idiot in a situation that feels almost needlessly complicated… Sigh. (Guh!)