Letting Myself Be Assaulted

As you might imagine from the title, this post carries a TRIGGER WARNING. Maybe no one else really should read this. But I need to write it.

I was going on more than three years of severe depression, with at most a few good weeks in between long spells of burning myself and warding off suicidal thoughts. I was in therapy about half that time, which had brought me to the realization that early sexual abuse had contributed to my willingness to be in an emotionally poisonous marriage. I had ended that marriage, which I thought meant I was “better.” So I was puzzled about why I still didn’t feel much better–and I did not recognize how vulnerable I was to other forms of abuse.

I got a new job and needed to move again, to another new city. The new job asked if I could come down a few weeks early for a day-long planning session with the team I’d be working with. It seemed like a good time to look for a place to live. But I was so extremely broke that I didn’t know how I could pay for a place to stay overnight.  “Luckily” (I thought at the time) I had been meeting and talking to a lot of people online, one of whom lived in the city I was moving to. Stephen was a little flirtly, though in an admittedly creepy way. He often made comments about how much he liked S&M. Rather than pulling away, I was intrigued.  That’s different, I thought, and he even has the nerve to talk about it openly. At the time, I literally had no ability to scan for danger.

So when we chatted online and he offered to help me look for a place to live, saying I could spend the night at his place, I was grateful. I drove down on Sunday so we could spend the afternoon apartment hunting and then I could go the team planning session at my new job on Monday morning.

As soon as he opened the door of his apartment, I had a bad feeling. The way he looked me, clearly assessing my body. The lonely look of his apartment, with plenty of elaborate computer gadgets but no decoration, no indication that he ever had friends over. But I shook it off. After all, he’d been so kind in his offer to help. I couldn’t be rude.

We drove around some that afternoon, checked a couple of places. I talked about my new job. He talked about meeting women online. I talked about the price of apartments. He talked about the ways in which “submissives” could manipulate their “doms.” I had never heard anyone talk like that before. I didn’t want to seem naive or judgmental.

I agreed to go to dinner with him. At the restaurant, he behaved as if we were a couple, in a controlling sort of way. He was dressed all in black, with a leather jacket. The waitress eyed me curiously. I could tell we didn’t seem right together but kept pretending it was all fine.

I kept pretending things were fine when we went back to his house after dinner. I kept pretending it was normal and ok when he told me to take off my clothes so he could examine my body. I did what he said. Why not? I had long ago learned that this is what I was supposed to do.

But sometime not that much later it became not fine at all. He tied my hands. He beat me, with his hands, with a hairbrush, with a whip, with a stick. He grabbed my breasts and twisted the nipples until I screamed. He hit me over and over until I begged him to stop. He used me sexually until I fell asleep, exhausted. Then he woke me up to keep going. I had to ask permission to use the bathroom, and he gave me strict rules for how I could use the toilet. I kept moving but was in a trance. I can remember many of the things he did, but not everything and I don’t know in what order things happened. I remember wondering how his neighbors couldn’t hear me screaming, why no one came to the apartment. I was dizzy and confused. I was afraid of making him angry, so I did what he told me.  Or more precisely, my body did what he told me to do. My mind had checked out.

He finally let me rest at about five in the morning. The alarm went off at seven. He pushed me out of bed, untied my hands and told me to get in the shower with him and wash him off. I had to override my horror to touch him, but I did it. Then I washed myself, but carefully, because everything hurt so much. I couldn’t let the water spray against my breasts. I was limping a bit. I pulled my clothes on gingerly. He told me to hurry up and leave, because he had to get to work.

So I left and drove my car to a nearby shopping center. I parked and stared at the nearly empty lot. I could barely breathe. What just happened to me? What had I done? I was an idiot! How could I let that happen! What kind of woman was I anyway? I was disgusting, an animal.

Somehow I went to the team meeting for my new job. I don’t remember anything about the content of the meeting. I do remember that it was hard to sit on a chair for several hours because I was so sore. I wore a pad because I was bleeding some, even though I didn’t have my period.  My hands shook.  I felt I was hearing everything that went on, but as though from far away, as if I were not really there.

When the meeting was over, I still had to drive a few hours to get back to the city where I was still living. I felt I couldn’t do it. I just wanted to curl up and disappear. Yet my children were waiting for me at home–again they were the reason I could not retreat from the world.

So I called my friend Gina and said only, “I’ve been assaulted.” I was too ashamed to tell her the details and about my own complicity. She heard the anguish in my voice and didn’t ask me to explain. Instead, she gave me a pep talk so I could drive home. “Listen to the radio,” she advised me, “and distract yourself for a couple of hours. Don’t think about it, just for a little while. And call me when you get home.”

I did what she suggested. I made it home, hugged my children, paid the babysitter, drove her home, bathed the kids, put them to bed. I was a robot, going through the motions. Then I called Gina back. She advised me to talk into a clinic or hospital and tell them I’d been assaulted. “That way you can get the morning after pill,” she said. “You don’t need to end up pregnant from this. And call your therapist for an emergency appointment. It took me about two days before I could do what she advised, but eventually I did. The doctor wasn’t very sympathetic, but my therapist was.

This experience haunted me for a long time. To me, it was my proof that no matter how much I had experienced abuse as a child, really I wanted it. I asked for it. I deserved it because I let it happen. I could forget about it for a while, but then I would read something in a book about a woman acquiescing to a sexual liaison she didn’t really want, and I’d spin off into new marathon of self-flagellation. Later I met my second husband, who is gentle and loving, and as much as I loved and trusted him, sometimes I’d dissociate when he touched me. (Sometimes I still do.)

I’m still somewhat ashamed of this experience–and nervous to let you all find out that I let this happen to me–but it no longer carried the same extreme pain it used to. A year or two ago, I never could have posted this, even anonymously. But recently I have come to realize that I let this happen because I had learned as a child to let things happen to me. I had learned that I didn’t deserve protection. I had learned to override my own instincts in favor of being agreeable to men. This experience was a natural outgrowth of experiencing child sexual abuse. It doesn’t mean I actually wanted to be violated. It doesn’t mean I deserved it. It doesn’t mean I was inherently filthy. It doesn’t mean it was acceptable for Stephen to hurt me like that. It means only that I needed to learn to trust myself, set some boundaries, and protect them. It just means I need to love and care for myself. I’m working on that.

15 thoughts on “Letting Myself Be Assaulted

  1. I am so glad you wrapped up with all those accurate statements in the last paragraph. That might be worth printing off and tacking up to the fridge or next to your bed to see every morning upon waking. The barrage of negative self-talk is a daily battle. I like waking to my latest posts in mind, “Showering kindness…”
    It so saddens me how many ways a little girl is traumatized and how being sexually attacked as a child affects her in all aspects of her growth, her ability to cope with the world, and her ability to love and protect herself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad I ended that way, too. I didn’t know that I would. I didn’t really have a plan for that post except that I wanted to process that painful, frightening night. But as I got toward the end, I was a bit stuck. How should I finish? Did it make any sense to just say I got home and felt terrible? What was really the point of it all? And then I realized that the point was what I could learn from that experience. And I have learned something, partly from therapy, and partly from reading the blogs of other women and learning from their stories – including yours, for which I am very grateful! And then the last paragraph just sort of emerged.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t know what to say. To read something so brutal and so honest and so painful, it leaves me at a loss for words. At the risk of sounding inappropriate, I would, if I could have, just hugged you and cried a little. I hope you move past this with the resolute effort you have shown in sharing this experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m glad you shared this. It’s so important to connect to other people who can understand what you went through. If we never felt safe as a child, our internal compass that is supposed to help us distinguish between safety and danger doesn’t exist. I engaged in all sorts of risky behavior, in part because it made me feel something, anything other than numb. And I wanted to please people and be liked by them, even if they were unsafe and untrustworthy. That cycle is a direct affect of trauma and sexual abuse. As we confront what happened to us, we learn about boundaries the way we were never able to as children and we can change our self-perception. Your last paragraph is right on and shows tremendous self-compassion. I’m inspired by your courage. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, that’s exactly the type of interpretation I am trying to arrive at. I am getting closer and feel hopeful that I will reach a point where I will consistently be able to hang on to a gentle, compassionate view of my role in that terrible night.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I almost did not want to read this. I am in may ways still coming to terms with my own complicity in allowing the abuses of my first marriage, and the feelings you describe are still very clear and fresh for me almost 20 years later. But, I decided I needed to read it. It was hard, and my heart is still in my throat, but I am also glad that I did. I need to grapple with my own abuse, and I have yet to be willing to do so on my own blog (though I hope I can change that soon).

    Thank you for opening yourself up and being this raw and vulnerable all over again. It helps to feel less ashamed and less alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I experience the same thing reading other people’s blogs, and I think makes it easier to come to terms with my own experience. It was kind of scary to write about it (and to push the “publish” button last night), but I already feel glad I did. And the kind and supportive responses from others also make it easier.
      Sending you warm and encouraging hugs, — Q.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Mujer hermosa, I can’t imagine what you went through. So strong and so brave for sharing. Abuse can be obvious, slow and insidious or happen in a flash so there’s no time to process. Your honesty and self-reflection not only helps you but sharing it, putting it out there helps all of us. Cuídate mucho!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. so similar yet so different to what i did / what happened to me. And the talking to people online and wanting help and friendship and kindness…it’s all so weird. And I never said I was assaulted and predator van guy never “hurt” me and I am thankful for that. We might have had dinner the first time but I don’t remember after that and I think we just stayed in the van and oh my god, what was i thinking and really I don’t think I was. I’ve never really processed what happened. In therapy I do think she asked why or what I was looking for or I don’t even remember. But then it turned into the fact that I never did it again and that it was a sorts of end to the danger seeking. At least an end to actually doing it. It still makes my head spin. And as I read what happened to you I could so see myself doing the same thing. Like talking to him online and thinking hmmm, that’s different and interesting and I don’t know why I’m talking about sex but it’s maybe exciting or more so he really likes me and I’m pretty and goodness knows what went through my mind. And I have so much to say but I think I’ll stop. Sending you compassion and love and strength.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Bad Start, Good Ending | la quemada

  8. Pingback: Therapy Session Part I: Not Being Brave About Steven | la quemada

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