Getting past sexual trauma
I'm a 49-year-old woman and a member of an online dating site for a bit more than 1 year now. Actually, I had 2 memberships to two different sites and 3 to other sites. As of today, I am a paying member of one dating site and a free guest at two others but will keep only one pretty soon. I have always been careful not to say too much about me - I do not give my phone number, address and so on. I always chat a while before meeting. I've gotten pretty good at finding the lies pretty fast just by talking or by asking the same question in a different way. So of the ones I've chatted with, most of them got "eliminated" because one of us found out that this was not what we were looking for or not what we expected. But it's ok, its part of learning about each other.
About three months ago, I met one guy that seemed ok while chatting but turned out to be different in person. I know that this too can be expected so I go on with the search. Sometimes I would chat via IM on the dating site. Whenever I would have a man that wants to meet just for sex, I would turn him down saying that I am looking to meet someone for a long-term relationship. Sometimes the conversation would end right there and sometimes I would continue.
On December 26th, I had a man contact me through IM. He seemed like a nice man and we exchanged e-mail addresses. We chatted a bit and he wanted us to meet. I thought it was a bit fast but I remembered a sentence I read in a Christian Carter e-book "Catch Him and Keep Him". In essence, it said that if a guy wants to meet right away, just say yes because the faster you meet, the faster you will find out if things could work out or not. So I said ok to meet. We met in a public place, we talked a bit and he asked if he could hold my hand because he is a "touchy person" and I said it was ok. I was very upfront that if he was looking for sex only I was the wrong person for him, but he said no and that he wanted more. He proposed that we go talk and walk in a shopping center. I thought it was thoughtful of him since I just said I do not like the cold. When we got to the shopping center, he gave me a few kisses and I did not mind because it was just that, a few kisses. So we went in and talked and again, he seemed like a nice gentlemen, polite, nice manners, and being one that trusts my feelings a lot, I felt ok with him. I'm not saying that everything was perfect - at times he seemed a bit controlling, but I always give the benefit of the doubt no matter who and no matter the situation. So I just told myself that I would wait and see as time progressed.
After a while, we left and when we got back in his car, this is when it turned pretty bad. The fist kiss was ok, but then he grabbed me and tried to put his hand between my legs. I pushed him back and I said no. He apologized, saying that he found me pretty sexy, said I was beautiful etc. He grabbed me again and started unbuttoning my coat. To make a long story short, I felt scared, I felt trapped. I lost count of how many times I said NO, how many times I said PLEASE STOP but he did not. At one time, he even told me that I am the one that does not understand. He said he is a "hot man", he is one to "live in the moment" and "enjoy the moment", and my response was that I do understand that but this is not me. It did not change a thing. It came to a point where the only way to get out of this situation was to let him do what he wanted. I am a good pretender when I have to be and I am a good liar when I have to be so this is what I did. I pretended that I liked him, I pretended everything was o.k. How long did it last? 20-30 minutes? 60 minutes? I don't even remember. All I know is that I was so scared but I forced myself to stay calm, I forced myself to look at him when he asked and I even smiled, I touched him when he made me do that. We finally left and I asked him to leave me at the bus terminal but he refused, saying it was too far from my place without knowing where I live. I managed to have him drop me at the metro station. I was so scared. At one time, he cut off a bus and the road was slippery, but the bus driver managed to stop real close. And here I was hoping he would hit us, it would have been my way out! He asked me to make reservations at a nice hotel for the next day and of course I said yes and that I would call him the next day.
I went inside the metro station and exited on the other side. Luckily, my bus came a few minutes later. I went home and realized I could not go inside for fear that my teenager would see me like that. My neighbor that I hardly know asked me what was wrong. At first I said nothing, but being a nurse, she said she new something was wrong and I just blurted out what happened. I went inside my apartment, took a shower, and I cried and cried so much! I felt dirty, I felt awful. I thanked my guardian angel that I got through this ordeal, that I managed not to get raped. I managed to keep my pants and my top on.
When I was young, I was physically, mentally, and sexually abused. At fourteen years old, I was raped by my sister's boyfriend. My birthday was 4 days later and it was his birthday gift for me. Anyway, for years and years, I went through the motions of living, even if inside I didn't feel ok. I got married, had kids. Around my thirties, I got fed up of always being afraid of going out alone after dark, always being distrustful. So I started to face my fears. Over the years, I read articles on the net, watched TV programs that helped me, and instead of always putting myself down thinking that I wasn't good enough, I learned to love myself. I learned that I have good qualities and faults like everybody else.
Last January I had the opportunity to go back to school to learn the computer skills that I needed to work in an office. Granted it took a work related accident to achieve that but I worked hard both at school and at home 7 days a week. It was an intensive 5 months, one month training, and last July, I was hired as a receptionist in a law firm. I had goals to go to school, have my diploma, find a job that I like, have a car and a boyfriend (although I don't remember which one came first, the car or the boyfriend!). Starting this year, I was planning to put aside some money on my budget (which is very tight) to go out once or twice a month. Go dancing in a bar one time, go to a museum another time, go to the jazz festival or the other festivals during the summer, meet someone, get new friendships and who knows, maybe meet the right one for me. But with what happened, just talking online upsets me. I cry easily. I was supposed to finish painting my apartment but guess what? I'm not doing it. I read a book a bit, I watch a bit of TV and I try not to cry too much in front of my daughter because I know she hurts for me. I am intelligent enough to know that this reaction is normal after what happened. I know sexual abuse is not rape but it is still an ordeal. Not having a lot of money, I cannot afford to see a therapist so I contacted a lady from the community center that I saw some months ago. Maybe she can help I know I need to talk about it. I wrote him a letter telling him what he did and how I felt. He answered me back. In one sentence he apologized, in another he said he respected me sexually, in another he blames me and said he will not go to the dating site anymore which is a lie, because he is still there. I was not expecting much from him but I did this letter for me, only for me.
I also told a friend what happened and she said that I played it smart and she thought that I was very intelligent because there are things that she would not have been able to think about to get out of this. And as I am one to face my fears, I went back to the shopping center the next day and although I was shaking and checking everybody, I managed to calm myself down and enjoy the shopping I did by telling myself he will not come back here since he does not know this shopping center. I saw a friend that works in a store and I told her too what happened, but I know I'm not ok. I was eating my dinner and a man approached me and just asked me if the table next to me was taken - I said no but I was scared and I was unable to finish my dinner.
Yes, I got out of it. Yes, I am stressed, and yes, I am hurt. I eat because I know my body needs the food but I eat less and if I try to eat as I did before, my stomach aches and I feel like throwing up. Yes, I will get over it one day. But for now, I have trouble sleeping. I know all of this is because of what happened, but my question is, is there something more I can do to help myself? I know there are no miracle cures but I hurt. Even though I have to live with some physical pain due to my work related accident, I accepted it. I was where I wanted to be. A job that I like, fantastic bosses, very humane bosses, nice pay that would help clear my debt faster, the goals that I wanted to reach. But now? How can I even think of meeting a man? IF and that is a big IF, there comes a day that I meet another man, how will I be able to trust my feelings? I always did and it rarely failed me no matter the situation. How could I have been so wrong? I would like to meet someone some day but right now, I am so hurt and so mixed up. Please help me!
The first thing to get very firmly in your head is that NONE OF THIS IS YOUR FAULT. You are not damaged, not dirty (that fellow is the dirty one). All along, you gave him very clear, firm messages and then, when there was nothing else you could do, you used your intelligence to survive a very nasty situation.
Rape is not a matter of penetration. It is not even a matter of sexual behaviors. It is a matter of the abuse of power. In terms of his intentions and the effects on you, it was rape.
Unfortunately, this trauma has triggered the one from your youth. That's why it has hit you so hard. I strongly recommend that you find a suitable therapist to overcome the effects of this recent event, as well as of the one when you were a teenager. The quickest way of achieving this is to find someone who can do "Traumatic Incident Reduction." Look up www.tir.org and see if they list a practitioner near you. This technique can clear up the effects of a traumatic event in one session, but that session may last some hours. I would expect that TIR could help you in a matter of two concentrated days, so traveling to a practitioner may be a good option.
In the long-term, you will find a lot of benefit from taking on a certain kind of sport. Several of the martial arts that originate in Asia have a strong philosophical component of building up your inner strength. At the moment, you may be sending out a nonverbal message that you are vulnerable. The predators focus in on that. If you get training in one of these activities, you will instead send out a message of being strong, content within yourself, invulnerable. Then, you will attract the kinds of people you want around you: those who respect you. The relevant sports are Judo, Karate, Tai Kwan Do, Kung Fu and Tai Chi. Of these, Tai Chi is probably the most suitable for a person who is no longer as supple as a teenager, and has some pain from past injuries.
Finally, I'd like to suggest a different way of meeting men. I have no doubt that many of the guys who register at these dating sites are perfectly decent, but you can't tell from what they say. Besides, it's an artificial way of meeting people. They will be on their best behavior, and you just can't tell how they will act when they are being their natural selves.
It is much better to get involved in activities that interest both men and women. These could be a sport, playing music, amateur theater, church groups, volunteer work, photography, activist groups for a particular cause, etc. This depends on what your interests are; the kinds of things you either used to do or always wished to do some time or another. Choose one now, and get involved. This way, you'll meet men who are not "on show," but acting the way they always do.
You deserve to achieve the good life you are aiming for and can get there.
This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com