Struggling with Consent

I still blame myself for what Soldier did to me because I did not say no. I just laid there and let him do what he wanted. I just waited for him to “finish up” or “get it over with.” I would not admit to myself that I was raped or taken advantage of because, well I didn’t want to admit that is what it was. In fact I not only denied it for years, I also did not tell anyone it happened because I thought they would tell me I was wrong. That the fact that I did not say no, or fight back meant that I gave my consent and showed that I wanted him to do those things to me.

But when I look at the facts of this situation they all point to one thing. First I was young and naive, I thought that if someone wanted to have sex with you that they liked you and wanted to develop a relationship with you. This was the first time I was used as an object. The second thing was how scared I was and how many times I said in my head “No, I don’t want this. I want it to stop.” I was more afraid of what would happen if I told him to stop than I was to let him finish. The third fact was that while it was happening I kept asking myself “Is this rape? Is that what this is? Is he raping me?” Now even though at the time I answered all of those questions with a no because I was in denial about what was happening that is not what I think now. The fourth fact was up until him all the other guys I had been with would cuddle up and kiss me. They would touch me in other places rather than just that one that got the job done. They would make it an activity with open communication, whereas he did not. He did not talk he only used his hands and his body to tell me what to do. Then after he was done, he rolled over and went to sleep. We did not talk, we did not laugh, we did not look each other in the eyes.

But even with all of these facts hitting me like a brick to the face, I still denied it. Until today…

There is a video that I watched on youtube just a little bit ago about consent. It explained to me in the simplest statement possible what I needed to admit to myself that it was not my fault, that I really was raped, and that is a fact because my consent was not given. “Consent is not the absence of a no, it is the presence of a yes.” That was all I needed to hear. I replayed that part of the video several times just to let it sink in, even though I understood it perfectly the first time.

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Going through the video I realized other things that helped me understand better how to define what happened to me. I am not looking for a legal definition of rape, just my own personal one. In the video she says “Everyone involved has a shared since of circumstances. Ellen knows that I am writing on her body…. and if at any time she changes her mind… I will remove the material.” In my situation I did not know what his plans were. They were never discussed. She then goes on to say that the most common type of consent is not resisting advances by not opting out. Not by opting in, but by not opting out. There is a problem with this though because, just like in my situation, his intentions were not discussed with me first. There was no conversation about consent, or intentions. Fear, confusion, and embarrassment were my reasons for not resisting his sexual advances. He was bigger than me, I didn’t know what was happening, and we were supposed to be friends. He was a friend in my group of friends and I did not want anyone finding out what happened because I was ashamed of it. I was afraid of what my friends might think of me, because he was known as a player who had slept with a lot of girls. Up until that point we were good friends. I did not want to have sex with him, I did not want a relationship with him. I did not like him in that way, and he did not like me that way. But I was a female body, and that was good enough for him.

Finding this video helped me in a lot of ways, so I want to share it with all of you in case you need some re-defining of the word “rape” for your own definition. I have liked it below. I hope it helps someone else as much as it helped me.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5H6QvNmfjY#t=30

 

Triggers

Let’s talk about triggers. What causes the anxiety? What triggers the flash backs? For all of us there are different things that cause our minds to go back to a place we don’t want to be. For some of us there are several things that can trigger fear and anxiety. Often what makes us scared is exactly what we try to avoid. The trouble with this is it is not always easy to avoid these things. I have found it possible to avoid for the most part, and when I can’t I try to ignore. But neither one of these things work sometimes.

When it comes to the triggers for Knight, the list is long but I will highlight the few that give me the most trouble. When I smell a Camel Light cigarette, I think of him and the dark house he lived in. That house smelled so strong of smoke that I was mistaken as a smoker by some of my friends. The smell of these cigarettes does two things, first it makes me want to smoke one myself because I could associate the smell with him relaxing, which meant I was not getting yelled at or pushed around. So in my mind that smell means relaxing and distracting. Then it is followed by fear. The fear of being trapped in the dark house with no exit. The room I am in when I smell it automatically gets smaller and darker. I am still left craving one to get that relaxing distraction back.

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Then another trigger is whenever I see someone wearing cargo jeans, which are the only type of jeans he wore. When I see those jeans my heart skips a beat and I instantly get hot. My flight reaction kicks in and tells me to run even though I now full well the owner of those jeans is not Knight. What makes it worse is if the owner of the jeans has a similar body shape as Knight, the anxiety and fear doubles and I start to panic. Even after I realize that person is not Knight I cannot take my eyes off them. I watch them until they are out of sight, only then can I start to relax.

Those are just two of the triggers for Knight, there are many more, but when you add those together it equals a whole lot of fear and anxiety. There are a lot of men who wear cargo jeans and even more who smoke Camel Lights. To walk around jumpy all day because of these harmless things is exhausting. But the next trigger that comes from Soldier is even worse.

Whenever I seen a soldier in uniform it causes a fear/anger anxiety trigger. This trigger I am ashamed of. Everyone all around me will walk up to that soldier and shake their hand, thanking them for their service, but not me. I stand back scowling and avoiding eye contact. I instantly get angry, annoyed that they are there. I want them to go away, I even curse them under my breathe. I feel terrible for this but I have never been able to thank a soldier for their service, I have never been able to look at them as anything other than evil because of what Soldier did to me. To make matters worse, my sister has joined the service and when she gets back from drill in her uniform I will literately be mean to her until she takes it off, and then I will still be unpleasant for a few hours afterwords. She does not know the reason I am like this, and I do not think she has made the connection that her uniform is the cause of it. I know not all soldiers dressed in their uniform are evil, but I still get the fear/anger anxiety which I can not turn off.

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Another trigger of mine is any tv or movies rape scene. When I hear the word “rape” in day to day conversation it’s like someone just screamed it in my ear (even if I am not part of that conversation). I automatically tune in as if I am waiting for them to turn and look in my direction after overhearing gossip. Triggers can be debilitating and some hard to get over. After something triggers my anxiety I have a hard time pulling my mind away from the dark room it traps itself in.

The ways I cope with my anxiety is to deny it is there. In fact denial is my biggest coping mechanism. None of this is happening if I don’t admit it right? Wrong…

Questions Remain

So what is it I am really afraid of?

Am I afraid of fixing this feeling? Am I afraid that any attempt to “fix me” will cause me to lose control again?Like fixing it will cause me to loose all of the strength I have build and now stand behind? Like I am afraid to tare down the wall? The safety of my box?

Once I answer these questions, which I am no closer to doing since I started this blog, I have to decided whether or not to get help, how to get it, and when to get it. It is difficult when I am use to going through these struggles alone to let someone else know what is really going on. It is more difficult still to say these things out loud. For now a lot of these things I have only written and never spoken. It’s not from lack of trying. Every time I go to say it the words get caught in my throat. That’s as far as they ever get.

So if I were to go for help, what does that look like? Do I sit in a room with a psychologists who spits out psychology theory’s at me like in my psychology class in college. That idea makes me want to read my old psychology book and brush up on the terms so I can understand what they are saying. Or I can tell them exactly what is wrong with me so we can skip the awkward get to know me intimately stage and go right to how to fix me.

Or will I see a psychiatrists who will try to put me on pills to fix my problem. A pill for depression here, a pill for anxiety there, and the next thing you know I am left more numb than I already am. Considering the majority of my day is spent in such a numb state that I don’t find myself caring about much and being “happy” so effortlessly, and then the next minute laying on the floor in a puddle of tears, making me permanently numb wont fix that moment of breakdown. It might stop it, and then five years down the road when I am taken off the pills, the problems will come flooding back. So that won’t fix the problem.

Talking myself into accepting help is hard, but talking myself into actually taking that step to making an appointment to get help is even harder. For the past three years I have been sitting on a phone number where I can go to get help. Calling is something that proves even more difficult than admitting I need to call. I have had the number typed in more times than I can count, and I am now a regular visitor on their web page. What it is I am looking for I have no idea. Reassurance, incentive, inspiration, acceptance, answers…. A way to stall…

What is it I am so afraid of?

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Feeling Like Help Doesn’t Exist

I just read “The courage to be me” by Dr. Nina Burrowes. It is a short cartoon book about people who have gone through rape or sexual abuse. It was very relatable for me. It is the first place where I felt I could 100% relate to the characters. In chapter 1 I keep finding myself saying “Yes, that’s me. That is exactly how I feel.” Especially the part where the character says “I have developed a way of being somewhere and yet not being there.” I can also respond to people and “reassure” them that I am “okay,” or hide in my little box so that no one knows the abused part of me exists. I relate to the character who’s way of coping is bolting out the door. I am always prepared to make my exit. Most likely because a quick exit was not an options when the abuse and rape was taking place.

I also use armor to cope. I get defensive so easily. I am ready to fight any opposition that comes my way. It’s like always having the safety off on a gun and finger on the trigger. I am always ready to pull it if need be. This leaves me jumpy and alert, always vigilant. All of the excuses the first chapter character has made, I have made as well. “It was so long ago… I should be over it by now…It doesn’t really count.” I always say what happened to me doesn’t count as rape because I did not try to stop it. I thought I was the only one with this complicated issue.

Chapter 2 talks about the brain and its way of protecting us. I found this chapter most helpful. It helped me understand why there are two sides of me. The logical thinking part, and the responds to danger part. I learned there are three reactions. Before the abuse I thought I was a flight and fight type of person. But I know now I am a freezer. My body did not respond when my brain said “run”, my voice did not work when my brain said “say stop.” The chapter went on to explain why I look for danger everywhere, why my safety is always off. It explains why I have to work harder and harder to protect myself. Like the digging a hole cartoon, “safety must be down here somewhere!” If I keep digging, I will find it. I am always in the “numb, no emotion” window.

Chapter 3 helped me understand why I feel like people cannot help me. I find myself comforting the people who know about my past because they get so upset about it. I feel like they cannot help me when I have to help them. I understand how useless some of my friends feel who cannot help me. The start of chapter 4 was very relatable for me as well. The character locked emotions in jars, which I know I do as well. But what surprised me is how when the book started to encourage getting help, I felt myself panicking.

I felt the air leave my lungs, I started to read faster to “get it over with.” I even contemplated skipping the final chapters and going back to the beginning where the characters were so relatable for me. Like I was not ready to get help, I wanted to remain stuck with the characters who were hurting not knowing what to do.

What am I afraid of? Am I afraid of fixing this feeling? Am I afraid that any attempt to “fix me” will cause me to lose control again? Like fixing it will cause me to loose all of the strength I have build and now stand behind? Like I am afraid to tare down the wall? The safety of my box?

That is what I am afraid of. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to make myself be vulnerable to get help. I am still trying to figure that out.

If you want to read “The courage to be me” I have a link for you below. The beginning of the book helped me a lot. Even though I am still struggling with the end, that does not mean that you will. I would encourage anyone going through this struggle to read it. I hope it helps.

http://ninaburrowes.com/index.php/books/the-courage-to-be-me/

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It’s all in my Head

I have been having nightmares a lot lately. I thrash around in my bed so that the covers trap my physical body, while inside my head I endure torture of a different kind. The most common, but always slightly different, nightmare that I have consists of me being chased and eventually caught by Knight. In fact the other night my nightmare looked like this:

I was inside an unfamiliar house, and looking out the window I saw Knight headed towards the door. I panic and think to myself “Don’t let him find me!” So I look for a place to hide. The house is unfamiliar so I ended up attempting to hide behind a couch. I closed my eyes and made everything dark, in hopes that this would hide me better. When Knights footsteps stopped I opened my eyes and there he was standing in front of me. He then smiles at me and says “I love you. You Need to come with me. You NEED to trust me.”

I am then no longer in control of my body as he reaches for my hand and pulls me to the bedroom. I follow him without fighting because what good would it do. I would tell myself “Just go along with it, he owns you, lets get this over with.” Another part of me screams “No, get away from him, run! Don’t let him do this to you.” Before I know which side to listen to he has successfully dragged me into a dark secluded room. The door locks behind me. The only thing in this room is a bed. No windows and I cannot tell how far away the walls are but the room feels small. He smiles with a devils smile and says “It is time for bed honey.”

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Then my flight reaction kicks in. I turn to try to pry the door open and its gone, in its place is a black wall that I am afraid to touch. I can hear laughing from behind me and then he grabs my arm and brings me the rest of the way to the bed. My body once again belongs to him and I can not move. He lays me down on my side of the bed an then crosses back over to his side. I am his puppet that he now controls. He forces me to show him affection, and slowly I start to resist. I close my body off like pulling the cage door to my heart closed. As soon as he notices this he starts yelling and forcing my body back open. He then says “I know what you NEED to do to show me that you love me,” he is referring to sex. I try my hardest to pull that symbolic cage door back closed but he is too strong. I am then forced to allow him to have sex with me. It feels like I am betraying myself by letting it happen, but I know I have no choice.

Then I wake up, and try to forget. Other nights I have dreams about being raped by people I trust like family members or friends. Still other nights I have dreams about being raped by complete strangers, but the twist is for one reason or another I have to allow the rape to happen. I have to allow it to save myself, or to save other people. I have a feeling the dream about saving someone else was about saving my sister from Soldier after he did what he did to me. I lied to her about the reason she needed to stop hanging out with him, but at least I got him away from her.

Cage it

All the things that happened in those 4 years have caused me to look at life a little differently. I don’t just lay down and take it anymore. I stand up and fight. In fact I fight so hard for the things I believe in that there is no shortage of people who call me a bitch, including myself. But if acting like a bitch will keep me from getting raped, emotional, physically, or sexually abused, than that is what I am going to do. Some of my friends know my past and therefor understand why I am the way that I am. Others who have just met me or did not know what was going on think that I enjoy saying NO a little too loud, freaking out when things don’t go my way, and refusing to let people control me. But the truth is I don’t enjoy it. It is exhausting to always be on edge, to always have to be in control. I can never relax, because if I do someone might attempt to control me again, or rape me, or abuse me even though I know that is not always the case.

My romantic relationships suffer, I have not been in a relationship that has lasted past the “new puppy” stage since I left Knight, which was almost 4 years ago. I have attempted 3 relationship since and none of them lasted more than a few months, and I have dated several people and can never seem to make a connection. I use to be able to connect strongly with people and fall in love far too quickly. Now I don’t know what love is. If Knight loved me how could he abuse me like he did. If Blackout wanted to be with me so bad why could he never say it until the day I told him I was done. How could Cowboy leave me and move to another state if he loved me? Why could the soldier, who use to be my friend, rape me because I was convenient?

What is this so called love? This unconditional promise to never hurt someone and only want what best for them? It doesn’t exist in my past and I am worried it will never exist in the future. I can’t even let a potential suitor get that far. In fact it is at that moment, the one where the men attempted to tell me they loved me that I jumped ship and left. I’m not interested in love because it hurts too much, and it makes me angry. Such a beautiful thing is now ruined for me. Now I have to live with that and try to move on from it. Today I am angry about it, but tomorrow it will depress me, because deep in my heart I so badly want to be in love and have it be a safe thing like it is supposed to be. I just keep my heart locked away, I don’t touch it, and I don’t let anyone else touch it either.

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Why do we stay when he hurts us?

I am not going to say it was easy to stay away, because for those of us who have been though abusive relationships we know it’s not. I am not sure what the reason is. Before I was in an abusive relationship it was easy for me to question the motives of girls who stayed. I thought they were stupid and blind. But the truth is, it is the guys who abuse them and make them feel worthless that causes them to be blind. They are by no means stupid. We know what is going on and we know it is wrong. But for some of us, getting out is not an option, or if it is an option we are more afraid of what will happen if we leave than what will happen if we stay.

It was very hard for me to understand why I felt like I could not leave. Psychology teaches us that women do not like being abused and we often block it out or say it wont happen again because we hope it wont.  Some (including me) suffer from post-traumatic stress, one symptom is dissociation, which creates a detachment from the reality of the abuse so that sufferers scarcely remember being hurt at all. Dissociating victims can’t leave the abuse because they aren’t psychologically present enough to recall the pain of what happened. That is me when I would go visit the big open field in my mind and leave my body behind becoming numb to all around me.

Another problem is the abuser cuts us off from friends and financial supports. We are too afraid to leave, and with good reason, more than 70% of domestic violence injuries and murders happen after the victim has left. One can’t escape a dangerous situation if it feels safer to stay. But perhaps one of the most formidable and dangerous obstacles abuse victims face is their own searing guilt and shame; they’re incredibly adept at blaming themselves for the abuse. Knight use to tell me that if I learned faster how to do things right he would not have to punish me, or that if I did not argue with him so much or make him mad he would be able to just love me. Comments like this made me try harder to get to that sweet spot where he would be happy and not abuse me, but I never reached it. In fact the harder I tried the more I began to see that it was unobtainable. But I still tried my hardest to fix things about myself so that he would be happy, I kept hope alive that things would begin to change.

I could only hope for so long. Now I deal with the back-lash of this relationship as I try to heal. I have not been able to be in a normal relationship in years. I only date for a few months before I push the new person out of my life. Then I am single for a time until I meet someone else and try the whole dating thing again. But it never works. I actually tell the guys who are interested in my that I will hurt them. I said I do not do it on purpose but I know myself and I know it will happen. They never believe me until it happens and then they see what I was saying. I am trying to save them the pain of losing me but they all seem to think they can help me, until they cant. I know I will hurt them, because as soon as they fall in love I run away. Because Knight said he loved me as he was abusing me. So I have associated love with pain. I want nothing to do with this so called love, and yet I want it so bad. Thus beginning my inner struggle to heal.

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