Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I wasn't trying to imply that sexual trauma isn't valid if it isn't rape, I was just curious exactly what you've been through. Its the kind of voyeurism this medium panders to, not me trying to judge or belittle your experiences.

Like many survivors of sexual trauma, I'm a repeat survivor. This tends to happen if only because in the basic psychology of things (and with society's reinforcement), sexual assault survivors tend to blame themselves for what has happened to them and thus, they tend to be unaware of when another abusive cycle is beginning, justifying actions that may seem like red flags to everyone else around them. Domestic violence has a similar pattern. But I digress.


For three years of my childhood, I was molested by a family member (same family member who was also physically and emotionally abusive). I blamed myself for years after it happened, internalizing the thought that I was just crazy and what had happened was somehow normal. I justified a lot of the behaviors from this person as "normal" even though some of these behaviors involved beating me, starving me, and threatening suicide in front of me. Safe to say I did not grow up with a very healthy mindset nor a healthy self-esteem. I learned to justify behaviors in perpetrators.

When I entered my first semester of college, a guy friend of my best friend began sexually harassing and assaulting me. I blamed myself again, told myself I was making things up and exaggerating things and that I was crazy. The only thing that finally convinced me that it was legitimate was my best friend basically sitting me down and telling me I was being sexually assaulted: googling different perpetrator personality types and how they act around you to make you think this is acceptable (http://www.sexualharassmentsupport.org/TypesOfHarassers.html), and she pinpointed the behaviors he was using to do so with me. In my case, the perpetrator was a public harasser. He'd talk about me in lewd ways in front of everyone else, such as asking me to take my shirt off (followed up by asking me to be his girlfriend/hookup/date him), talking about my body, etc. despite my being visibly uncomfortable about it. I'd ask him to stop, other people sitting nearby me would ask him to stop, but he wouldn't. He'd also just randomly decide to start touching me wherever he felt because he felt like it - he'd sit down next to me and place his hand immediately so high up my thigh it was basically touching my crotch. If I moved it, he'd put his arm around my shoulder. Etc. Then he began following me around campus. I was a visible nervous wreck. It was horrible.

The last main situation I had to deal with was at a party I went to in Chicago about a week before I moved to Colorado where I was hooking up with a guy, and he immediately decided my making out with him was consent to do anything with my body that he pleased. He asked me for anal and before I even got a chance to respond, he turned me around, pulled down my pants and underwear, and slammed me against a pool table. He was about to enter me when there was a loud crash right outside the OPEN DOOR, and he freaked out. I ran, and had my friends leave the party with me ASAP. The most horrifying part was (and on some level, still is) having to come to terms with the fact that a bunch of people right outside the door saw what was going on, was talking about what was going on, and none of them were going to do anything about what he was doing to me. And nobody asked if I was okay at the end of it - a bunch of people just went "omg I can't believe you hooked up with him." Which was so incredibly the wrong thing to talk about at that time.

And those are my experiences. And the worst part is knowing those experiences don't even compare to some of the things my friends have experienced (in terms of sexual assault/harassment/rape and life in general).

Ask me anything

You talk about having experiences with sexual assault, were you raped?

No. But I'll be as blunt as I possibly can with your follow-up question so that I hopefully don't have to get asked about this/talk about this much more again. Sexual assault in the grand scheme of things > my experiences.

Ask me anything

Monday, December 6, 2010

what's the trauma you talk about having endured?

It comes at you before you know it, being shoved into boxes that feel too tight: you're choking before you're breathing. One calendar day flips into the next and you're fearing fists, you're wondering when you're going to eat next, you replay the words over and over again in your head: "stupid little bitch" because you are 10 and this is your father. You learn that love means fear. You're screaming, you're fighting: he has you pinned down, beaten. Watch him jerk the wheel with you in the front seat, he says: "I could die just like that. Jail is better than this. Death is better than this." He makes you hate yourself, hate your mom - regret every penny that went towards child support. You grow the mentality that your death is good, that it will benefit the world: less resources will be used upon you. You are worthless. A's are not A+s, normal is not perfect: fingers sliding into the grooves between the ribs of childhood. One bagel lasts a whole weekend. Leave the bed and blackout, fall to the floor. Your vision goes for gaps at a time. Stop visiting the other house, stop eating, work harder. Snap awake, ignore fatigue. Internalize. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Palms catch glass. Memories filter themselves, repress themselves for the sake of optimism in a cynical world where hope is necessary to live. Back into the corner as rage overcomes him (another him, always another him, him, him, the cycling): fists pound into your (my) head. Cross your arms across your chest. Fall asleep in the fetal position. Trust no one, not even yourself. Your heart beats to the rhythm of hyperventilation: everything floods. Life is a static rash of screaming that no one hears. Mold, smile, ignore bruises: perfect. Silence yourself. Live in the shadows of everything that nicked you, the angry voices that forced their way into your innocence. Feel every moment by the thick of what isn't being said. Hibernate in your own consciousness, inflict harm upon yourself when you're not already psychologically full of it.

The worst trauma I've ever gone through is the silence, derived from my childhood in its various different veins - I struggled with my brother, I got severely bullied all through elementary school and into high school, my father repeatedly abused and manipulated me, and many adults ignored everything that was going on despite how evident it was. I spent a lot of time struggling with myself and with others due to the effects of these occurrences, becoming severely depressed and garnishing an incredibly low self-esteem. It made me naive and susceptible - I ended up legally homeless at the end of high school due to an alcoholic stepmother. I struggled with drugs. I was stalked and sexually harassed/assaulted my first semester of college. Add in an emotionally abusive relationship, and another stint where I was legitimately seconds away from being date raped at a party (where there were legitimate bystanders who saw what was going on and did nothing). This is all to say: until we recognize the impacts of trauma within us, it is likely to perpetuate itself. It is also important in this conversation, and in any conversation discussing trauma, to recognize that trauma is everywhere and relative to the sensitivities of the person experiencing the occurrence: the violation or exposure to crisis. Trauma is fluid: it will not align to a set of diagnostic criteria. And I hope we all learn to grow and respect each other more, carrying each other’s stories considerately.

Ask me anything