Alright people, I’ve talked about weight and depression so far so let’s keep it going – let’s talk about sexual assault. I’ve written this post I think a hundred times – each time it was never right. But today, I have found what I needed to post it.
You may have seen on Facebook a little while back women (AND men) posting “me too” in order to raise awareness about the statistics of sexual harassment and assault. This is a conversation we should be having. Something we can be vulnerable about and courageous enough to share. Because it isn’t just about me, or you. This information could actually help someone else one day.
Well, no surprise that I too have had my fair share of sexual assault and abuse. It seems that every day there are new allegations of sexual assault and/or harassment. I’m not here to call out anyone. Nor do I care to share all the details about my story. What I do want to talk about is sexual assault in general, and what I have personally learned by going through these experiences. I have had three instances of sexual assault/abuse but today I’m going to share one – the first.
Some people may be able to put together who this person is and that thought actually makes me uncomfortable. To me it’s ancient history. I don’t want to stir up any drama or get random texts from people asking for more details. I also for some reason don’t really want this person to find out I wrote this blog. Typing that seems absolutely ridiculous but I also think that life is really complicated and I do believe that people can change and redeem themselves. But to others that perhaps feel the way I do, here is a great quote by Anne Lamott:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Lastly, I turned to a lot of blogs while going through my own healing process and there were some that really helped. My only hope is that what I write here today, and perhaps any stories I share later, could help another in their journey.
So here we go.
If these two years weren’t a lesson in red flags than I don’t know what would be. That being said, I learned a lot from dating this person, most of which I didn’t realize until years later. Why is that? I was only 14/15 when I dated “the sociopath”.
That leads to the first lesson, when your parents tell you not to date until you’re much much older, and you want to rebel and be a shithead about it, don’t. If I had been older, I may not have experienced so much abuse by the this person because I may have recognized it for what it was. It wasn’t until I was older that I could piece together what really happened to me during this time.
Mental abuse is the most dangerous and detrimental of abuses. Mental abuse is what allows for more apparent abuses to occur. This person systematically broke me down over time until I believed I was nothing. I was depressed and suicidal. I participated in self harm. And I was thoroughly trapped.
You see, abuse is a cycle. If a stranger, or even a friend, came up to you and hurt you in some way, would you just take it? Probably not. So what has to occur for someone to endure such horrible treatment? I used to look at abused women and I would get so frustrated. “Why don’t they just leave?!” I didn’t understand and I told myself I would never be like that. Well when you’re in it, and it’s happening to you, it is so much harder to see what is going on – to notice what is happening to you.
This abuser was textbook. “Abusers are usually charming, manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, critical, vicious and cruel, and insincerely repentant.“
This person was certainly charming and charismatic and he was of course manipulative and very narcissistic.
He was critical about almost everything I did – get a snack “are you sure you should be eating that?”; miss a shot playing tennis “that’s why you’re at the bottom of the team ladder” etc. etc.
He was vicious and cruel. One time, for some reason, he was angry at my mother – and he joked about cutting her gut open and jumping with her intestines…WTF. Should have been a red flag right there but again, I was too young. Another time we were playing badminton when my cat brought a half-dead mouse over. Instead of letting my father take care of it, this person beat the mouse to dead with their flimsy aluminum badminton racket – laughing the entire time. (See where I’m getting the “Sociopath” title now?)
I had sex probably when I was 15 – much too young. To keep this short, I eventually told him I didn’t want to anymore. That is when the abuse started. I was required to give him pleasure in some form once a week because that is what he “deserved”. If I didn’t, he said I was a bad girlfriend. He said that I didn’t love him enough; that my best friend would do it for her boyfriend; on and on. This is when the mental abuse kicked into high gear. I was a child and all I wanted was to be a good girlfriend. To make him happy, which was usually an impossible task as I was always doing something wrong. One time my mother caught us engaged in inappropriate activity and she grounded me (probably was desperate to get me away from him) and I had to tell my father why I was grounded. I then had to call his parents and apologize for what happened.
If you are a parent reading this, have an open and welcoming dialogue with your children. My parents were learning too and I don’t blame them for anything in the slightest. My parents did NOT want me to date this boy, and according to them we DID have many conversations about it (I of course don’t remember these). I was adamant that I loved him but sometimes I think maybe if I told them all that was going on they would have just put a straight halt to the relationship. Or maybe we could have had conversations about abuse. As a teenage girl, everything is dramatic, black and white, end of the world BS, which makes everything difficult.
So what good came out of this relationship? Actually, a lot. My senior year of high school I started going to trauma therapy to address what had happened. That year, I ended up in class with this person every day. I started to piece together all the different abuse and the effects on my personality. My therapist was incredible. The best exercise she game me was the following, and I hope that you use it too!
Write two letters to that person. In the first, write down everything you are angry about. Write down everything you hate them for. Everything you feel they took from you. Just vent. After you are finished writing, burn the letter. This is awesomely cathartic. Then write the second letter. In this letter, write down everything you are thankful for, and then tuck the letter away.
I’ll admit, when she said that bit, I balked. Thankful? Are you f***ing kidding me? But then I thought about it, a lot, and I wrote. I realized that I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. I had never really thought about how it changed me for the better before then. I suppose this was one of my first exercises in optimism.
Well today, while cleaning out my old things at my parent’s house, I found the letter. I had duct-taped it several times and stored it since my senior year in high school – 6 1/2 to 7 years ago.
I opened it up (took forever, there were about 5 layers of duct tape) and cried while I read it.
[Name], I thank you for teaching me so much about myself. you were a test, a challenge, and I overcame you. Thank you for challenging me as a person and challenging me to be a better person. Thank you for teaching me what it is like to be in an abusive relationship; what it is like to be trapped in that cycle of not being able to escape because you feel worthless. Because of you I better understand, and am sympathetic towards, women who are in those situations and I can now educate and help others. Thank you for being such an influential person and teacher in my life, because the person I am now would never date you nor would I have stayed. Thank you for challenging my beliefs and my values. It showed me that they are strong and powerful and I didn’t let you take those away from me. Thank you for being an obstacle that I had to overcome. Thank you for happening early in my life so I could learn all of these important lessons early. Thank you for all of it. I am a better and stronger person now because of you. I will always be grateful for the lessons I learned from our relationship. With this letter, I release myself from you.
This person taught me many things I valued, like family and trust. He taught me that I am strong and resilient. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t gone through that relationship. He taught me how it feels to be an abused woman and that in turn gave me compassion for others. I learned how to be introspective and to think about how certain experiences are affecting me. I learned A LOT about what I do NOT want in a partner. I learned many red flags and what to look for in future relationships. I am thankful for what I went through.
Lastly lesson – time does actually heal all wounds, if you let it. I did go through therapy to make peace with this relationship (there is seriously nothing wrong with therapy), but eventually, I let it all go. This was now 10 years ago and I don’t feel hatred towards this person. I hope that they changed. I hope that they treated future partners better and with love and kindness. Like the letter said, I did release myself from their hold over me. I let it all go and I moved on with my life. Reading my letter confirmed this and I am so happy I wrote it all those years ago; and happier still I found it today. Now I can too burn this letter with a smile on my face.