Emotional Abuse is more than just yelling

Seems like all I do lately on here is update how things have been lately. I guess this will be another one, with a twist.

Been going through divorce and custody battle (which is HELL), dealing with my baby being gone for the allotted summer visit time, and dealing with memories and emotions of the past… all while trying to get doctor visits, court dates, school, and birthday stuff done all within the last month. I don’t know how parents do this every year. I don’t see how anyone deals with a divorce or having kids with an abuser either. Before, when I was in (more of) denial, I could handle it easy-peasy, lately, seems to be more a struggle… especially since he threw a girlfriend into the works.

The more I deal with life and am reminded of things, the more I see how abusive he was and it becomes harder to deny it. To call it rape? Still haven’t gotten there. Sexual abuse? Financial abuse? Spiritual abuse? Emotional abuse? Yes, on all counts. No person deserves to be controlled the way I was. No one deserves to feel like a sex object or be demanded to do whatever someone wants and then feel guilty when it doesn’t go exactly how they want. Shoot, the other day, I was folding towels and out pops his criticism about how I was folding towels wrong.  Is there really only one way to fold towels? Am I wrong if they are neat and folded and put away? A few years ago, yes… today, hell no!

The one phrase that kept going through my mind today? ‘I am human, I stick my foot in my mouth sometimes, I’m not perfect. I asked for forgiveness, there’s nothing more I can do.’ I have to remind myself I am not perfect because for so long I had to be and I am afraid of not being a perfectionist. Emotional abuse is horrific. It’s not just someone screaming and yelling at you. It’s those who diminish everything you do, criticize you, and make you feel incompetent (among many other things). Sometimes its difficult to understand how things can be so complicated and how so many people don’t see that as Domestic Violence because the person did not hit them.

My ex said all the wrong things in the right tone of voice. He would tell me he loved me in the same sentence he would tell me that I was getting fat or was I sure I wanted to eat that or how I shouldn’t correct him or how I needed to let him be right at least once. I thought it was my fault. I thought I did things horribly wrong. He used to tell me that I was gonna leave him for a younger person, how if we ever got a divorce or separated that he would do anything and everything to get his child, and make comments about the people I dated in my past because they were a different ethnicity. Along with making comments about our daughter not being his, she being the mailman’s (which was a woman) and making other homophobic comments. All of this was “funny” to him. This was his sarcasm. He thought he was so funny. What he didn’t realize was that he was squashing the person I was and trying to mold me into what he wanted.

Even after speaking about my rapes, I asked him not to say comments about sexual or homophobic comments towards me as they trigger me and make me uncomfortable. His response? I’ll try but I cannot promise anything. Before I dealt with being raped by my female abuser, I used to lay in bed worried that I was gonna talk in my sleep about it, that he was gonna find out about what happened and blame me. I was going to go to my grave with her abuse because of the comments he made towards me. Eventually, he told me as his wife, he had a right to know about my abuse, then when I wrote it for him to read, he told me that he didn’t need to know because he knew how to handle rape victims (he used to be a cop), which was an obvious lie.

Who speaks to their spouse this way? Who thinks this is appropriate? A narcissist, controller, manipulator, abuser.

If anyone reading this has been put down by their partner and they think they have a right as your partner, please know that is not the case. The more I hear about guys and the games and relationship issues, the more I realize that I have no time or energy to deal with bull ish. After years and years of abuse, I realize that I do NOT have to settle for whoever looks my way. I am a loved individual, just like everyone else, and no matter who or what gets in my way, as long as I push forward in my healing and speak my mind when something bothers me, I can get to a better place… we all can! We don’t have to live this life silenced or confined into someone else’s mold of us. Speaking up is difficult, but so worth it in the long run.

I have never been more relieved to be away from my ex. I feel bad for his new girlfriend, but am relieved that the majority of the abuse has finally stopped… now if I can just get through this divorce in one piece 🙂

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I am sooo confused!

I sit here looking at my life wondering where it all went wrong? I keep running in my head the last few conversations I had with my husband and wonder where I am supposed to go from here. I mean, once you hit rock bottom, is there any way up? Is change possible if no change is allowed? Do people change after getting married, and should I feel guilty for changing towards a healtier self? Am I really healthy if I am no better off than I was months ago? … WHO KNOWS!

In our last conversations, he made some pretty confusing statements, and this is what I have taken from them…

  • “I hate that ring” — He didn’t stop me from buying the ring, but I guess I was supposed to know by him practically pushing me out the car when I didn’t want to give up my original wedding ring.
  • “Sometimes I don’t like touching you [there]. I think it has to do with our age difference, in fact, I know it does.” — He has no problems being intimate or fathering a child by me, but touching me must revile him?
  • “I didn’t want to pressure you or make you feel like I was pressuring you to sign for the car.” — In fact, he didn’t say a word. They threw out numbers and he sat there chill, not having any type of communication, which in turn made me feel like there was more pressure on me to sign the car or not… but as he sees it, I turned it around on him.
  • “We just see things differently and always will.” — Right after a conversation where he yelled at me because I wanted our daughter to be put in her booster, like the law says. Apparently, I was yelling and he was tired of it.

There are others, those are just some that have been on my mind lately. {sigh}

Freezing During Rape is Normal

This is all well worth reading! The last part especially. I have been going back and forth in my head and beating myself up tonight. So, when I read this, it definitely helped me with that. The whole FREEZING thing gets to me all the time. How could he see it not as rape? Hmmm. Well, if you need a little help in that department, its a good read. If you’ve never been a rape victim, this is very educational. I know A LOT of people who need to read this. Mostly Family!

Freezing and paralysis during rape
from Resurrection After Rape by Matt Atkinson, LCSW
http://www.resurrectionafterrape.org/

“I just lay there and took it!”

At first, few rape victims can tolerate alternate explanations for their rapes. For example, you may habitually tell yourself “I should have fought more,” without considering the possibility that you might have been harmed even worse had you done so. Because rape is about power and control, a rapist will use a level of aggression that exceeds any resistance in order to maintain that control. Furthermore, during a traumatic assault the body’s sympathetic nervous system takes over, instinctively regulating your behaviors for the sake of survival. That means your conscious mind stops choosing what to do, and your physical systems grab control, producing one of three basic responses: fight, flee, or freeze.

All three instincts have helpful and harmful aspects about them; they may either increase or decrease your safety. But contrary to what we see in movies and what we read in booklets promoted by the self-defense industry, the “fight instinct” is actually rather rare in both men and women. By far the most common instinct is the “freeze instinct,” in which the body becomes very still, rigid, and silent. This is called “tonic immobility,” and is a simple survival behavior. During rape, temporary paralysis is very common (it occurs in up to 88% of rape victims during the assault, according to studies) and entirely normal, and probably even quite healthy. (source: Heidt, J. M., Marx, B. P., & Forsyth, J. P. (2005). Tonic immobility and childhood sexual abuse: Evaluating the sequela of rape-induced paralysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy,43,1157–1171.)

However, until someone explains to a survivor that this instinct is normal and appropriate, she will often spend years criticizing herself (“What’s the matter with me? I just laid there! I’m such a fool! Why didn’t I fight, or at least scream?”), and even lawyers and juries can be misled into lenience toward rapists whose victims are inaccurately described as “passive.” This behavior is not “passive;” it is a biologically-driven form of resistance! But this fact is so rarely understood that rape victims often multiply their own sense of guilt and shame because of the freeze instinct. One study even found that the link between this “temporary paralysis” during rape and later feelings of guilt and self-blame are directly related to increased depression, anxiety, and PTSD later.

This is why it is so crucial that rape survivors receive basic education about the body’s adaptations to trauma, so that you can understand and accept these behaviors as normal, rather than as failure. “This is a biologically hard-wired response that just kicks in, typically when there’s extreme fear coupled with physical restraint,” states one study of victims’ temporary paralysis during rape. Jennifer Heidt, commenting on a study she helped organize, wrote, “if we can help to show them [in therapy] that they weren’t letting this happen to themselves, that this is an unlearned response, that they were incapable of changing it, that they were incapable of fighting back, then we can help deal with that guilt.” (source: Finn, Robert. “Involuntary paralysis common during rape – Legal and TX Implications.” OB/GYN News, Jan. 15, 2003. http://findarticles.com/p/articles…)

It can also be difficult to separate the issues of “compliance” with “consent.” In most rapes where the victim is conscious, there is some degree of forced compliance with the rapist, simply as a reasonable way to protect herself from further harm. Although this is a very normal form of self-preservation, it can also produce one hell of a stuck point afterward:

• “The fact that I stopped struggling when he ordered me to means I am guilty of permitting the rape.”
• “I removed my underpants when he told me to. That means I participated or led him on about sex.”
• “I kept quiet and never screamed. Does that mean I wasn’t really raped?”
• “My whole body froze and I couldn’t move.”
• “They always say ‘no means no.’ But I never said the word ‘no’ because I was paralyzed with fear.”
• “I can’t remember how I got into the closet [where the rape happened]…If I put myself there, it must mean I helped him rape me.”

When a person is mugged, they instinctively freeze and will typically say to the attacker, “Take whatever you want.” They will compliantly hand over wallets, purses, watches, anything demanded of them, in a desperate, terrified hope that the assault will end without further injury or death. And nobody questions this cooperation; police even advise it as the correct course of action. People will support you and assure you that you did the right thing. Nobody blames you for carrying money by saying, well, didn’t you realize that would only lead a robber on?” Nobody would blame you for all the times you willingly spent money by implying that this means you “have a history of giving it away, so aren’t you just ‘crying robbery’ now?” Nobody would claim that the incident was probably just a cash transaction that “got out of hand” or you regretted later.

Yet when the violent assault becomes sexual, many people implausibly lose all their insights about the importance of cooperation to reduce harm. Suddenly, the guilty questions begin: “Why didn’t I fight back? What if I had resisted more? Why did I stay quiet? Why did I freeze? Why did I take off something I wore when he ordered me to?”

These stuck points exist because of the gap between what we want to believe (“I would never ‘let’ anyone rape me”) and what the rape itself seems to prove (“I must have failed to prevent rape. Or worse yet, I must have permitted it!”). It may seem like an unusual statement, but analyzing your stuck points is really a form of forgiving yourself for whatever actions you had to do to survive, and for whatever it’s taken to cope since, and for whatever misguided self-blame you have felt in spite of the facts. When Shannon* wrote the words “I’m sorry, little girl” in her story, it was written after she had finished writing and reading it aloud, and she had recognized the many forms of resistance she had used. The comment was her apology to herself for spending the next three years crucifying herself. She discovered during her “stuck point” work that she was neither weak nor willing, and that her younger self had never deserved the heaps of blame and guilt she had carried.

After Reading My Rapists Reply

I do have to admit, although we know rapists are dumb, they are pretty smart too. They seem to get everyone on their side, play the victim, and get the REAL victim to blame themselves and hold onto their guilt. They don’t live with the consequences, the victims do. And only a small percentage are ever reported and even fewer put in prison. About 5% is a pretty tiny number. What other crime happens that the victim and everyone around them say it’s their fault? None. That’s right. So no wonder they don’t get convicted. In the court room, the guilty party is the victim who has to practically prove their innocence. This needs to change. Society needs to change. Rapists need NOT to rape! Nobody asks for it. If they didn’t say yes, it was rape. I don’t care what you “think” the person wanted. They HAVE to give consent! And we have HAVE to start believing the victims. The trauma never goes away. The survivors need to be accepted and given time to put their lives together. I don’t care if it was 1 month ago or 8 years ago. Rape is rape. And we all heal at our own speed. Will you stand up for your loved ones?

Messaged My Rapist

My message to him:

Hi Jack.

Do you remember me? Cause I sure remember you. We only dated for 6 weeks in high school. But for the last 8 years, I have been plagued by the memory of you. I have held so much blame and guilt for the night that I couldn’t comprehend. On March 5, 2004 (yes, I remember the day), you raped me. I told you over and over NO, I’M NOT READY and PLEASE STOP but you wouldn’t. I was so petrified of what my first experience would be like, and in no way, did I want my first time to be rape. I did NOT consent to have sex with you. It was like you couldn’t even hear me. You barely said two words to me and couldn’t even acknowledge my pleas for you to not pursue me. Not to mention how crappy you made me feel (all over again) the next morning when I found out you were trying to have sex with other girls. They begged me to break up with you after they found out I was your girlfriend and NOT your stalker, but you took something precious from me and I didn’t feel like I had any right to break up with you. I felt like a slut for “giving it up” at such an early age, but the FACT is, is that you took it. I guess in the three weeks we dated, I didn’t “put out” soon enough for you. You stole my virginity from me. I didn’t give it to you. I wanted to wait. I wanted to do it when I was ready, and I guess it was dumb of me to expect you to RESPECT my wishes! I wish I never met you! You were only after one thing the whole time we were together, weren’t you? Time after time, all I can ever remember is how you kept trying to get me to pleasure you. Why, when I said no those times, you stopped? Why couldn’t you stop the night you raped me? Did your friends think you were cool when you told them we had sex? Did it make you feel like a man when I laid there pleading with you to stop? You have kept me silent for too long. I have held this burden for 8 years, and I will no longer hold this in anymore. I am not to blame. I am not the guilty party here. What you did was a crime. You have no right pressuring someone when they tell you they are not ready. NO MEANS NO. Not once did I say yes or consent to anything that happened that night. Because of you, I now have to find a way to put back the pieces of my life. Because of you, I am in therapy trying to undo what you did. Because of you, I struggle to find that happiness that I so deserve! I want you to feel remorse for what you did to me and how you have made me feel for the last 8 years. I want you to know how violated you made me feel and how sick I get when I think of you. I never could understand how a boyfriend could rape his girlfriend. If so, I probably would have told someone. I wish I did. I trusted you. You came into my house and used all those vulnerabilities against me to get your way! I want you to admit what you did and sincerely be sorry for raping me. This is not my burden to bear anymore… it’s yours. This is all on you. Stand up to it. You can only run from it for so long. You might not have thought that much of me, but that doesn’t mean I am worthless. How do you live with what you did? Oh I sure hope you didn’t hurt anyone else too!

Sincerely,
Your victim no more

His response:

Im sorry you feel like this after 8 years but I was a virgin too. In no way did you act as if that time wasn’t consensual. We then repeated the act. We also went and ate years after and you said nothing. I do not know what this is exactly about. It was high school, relationships don’t last that long. Im sorry you feel this way.

My reply:

Wow. This isn’t surprising at all. EXCEPT for the fact that you told me that you told me that you had been with someone before. For the fact that I told you I wasn’t ready. You know know what, I wasn’t even mentally there the that night because I couldn’t believe what was happening. It’s called shock. I was hoping someone would walk in because that’s how petrified I was. Oh boy i wish i reported you. You don’t know what this is about? It’s about rape jackass. The FACT that I said no and you couldn’t respect my wishes. After that night it didn’t matter what anyone did to me because I was a slut for “giving it up” to you. I was damaged goods. You did that to me. And NO we didn’t go out to eat years after. You told me through MySpace that I was the best girlfriend you ever had at the time. I’m not stupid. I know high school relationships don’t last. But really why could I say no the other times and you not listen that time. I told Krystal back then but she told me she didn’t wanna think it was a possibility that you raped me so I suppressed it for a long time. THAT’S what this is about. Because every time people mention old boyfriends or something is said about virginities I breakdown and cry. Do you even remember what happened that night? I told you my mom was going on a date and told me I could go to the movies with you. You were helping your sister move and said you could come over real quick and tell them you were doing to the store to get drinks. Why would you think I would wanna lose my virginity by a quickie. You think that it was fun for me to watch you run to the bathroom (doing who the heck knows) and then grabbing your clothes and leaving? Then to wake up the next morning and find out that you were trying to hook up with priscilla. Yeah. If you hadn’t raped me the night before, I so would have broken up with you. The only reason I stayed with you was because you stole something from me. Something precious to me. I couldn’t believe that a boyfriend could rape a girlfriend. I looked it up and looked it up and couldn’t comprehend what you did to me. I felt so much blame and guilt and shame because of that. It might have taken me a while to come to grips with your actions, but I refuse to stay silent because you think I’m a slut or whatever you think of me. Do you remember me consenting? Saying yes? From what your response was, doesn’t seem like you remember anything. Maybe you should look up stuff about rape victims because you’d see how you’ve made me feel. Stay in denial if that’s what makes you sleep better at night. Just hope nobody you know is ever raped. Denial might save you for a bit. But I know the truth and God knows the truth. Own up to it.

Why Many Survivors Struggle with Acquaintance Rape

“The consequences of acquaintance rape are often far-reaching. Once the actual rape has occurred and has been identified as rape by the survivor, she is faced with the decision of whether to disclose to anyone what has happened… The percentage of survivors reporting the rape is so low for several reasons. Self-blame is a recurring response which prevents disclosure. Even if the act has been conceived as rape by the survivor, there is often an accompanying guilt about not seeing the sexual assault coming before it was too late. This is often directly or indirectly reinforced by the reactions of family or friends in the form of questioning the survivor’s decisions… People normally relied upon for support by the survivor are not immune to subtly blaming the victim. Another factor which inhibits reporting is the anticipated response of the authorities. Fear that the victim will again be blamed adds to apprehension about interrogation. The duress of reexperiencing the attack and testifying at a trial, and a low conviction rate for acquaintance rapists, are considerations as well.”

American Academy of Experts on Traumatic Stress

A little more on RTS (Rape Trauma Syndrome)

I find that knowing what reactions are normal in rape victims helps me understand that the feelings I have are normal and that I am not alone. I already posted another article on RTS that I compiled from a few websites, but this one helped me understand a little more and, for me, anything helps. I hope that someone reading this can be helped, even in the least.

Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that often affects rape survivors.

Not all rape survivors will experience RTS. Different women respond to the trauma of rape in different ways. Some women will experience severe RTS, while others have few symptoms or none at all. ALL rape survivors need to be believed, taken seriously and supported, regardless of whether they experience RTS or not.

Experiencing some or all of the symptoms of RTS does not mean you’re crazy. The symptoms of RTS can be very powerful and distressing. As a survivor, it may feel as if you’re going crazy, but that is a normal reaction. If you are supporting a friend or family member who has been raped, you may find the survivor’s behaviors puzzling or upsetting. HOWEVER, the symptoms of RTS are a NORMAL reaction to a traumatic experience, and they will fade over time with proper care and support.

A survivor’s individual response to rape, and the degree of RTS they experience depends on many factors:

  • If the victim knew and trusted the rapist
  • If family and friends are supportive and patient, or blaming and unhelpful
  • Treatment by the police and justice system, should the victim choose to report the attack
  • Age and previous life experiences
  • Cultural and religious background
  • The degree of violence used by the rapist
  • Injuries, illnesses or disabilities resulting from the rape
  • Whether the rape brings up memories of past traumas
  • The victim’s emotional state prior to the rape
  • The victim’s practical and material resources

Remember: Every rape situation is unique and it is very important to treat each rape survivor as an individual.

It is next to impossible to completely forget about a rape. Many survivors lose or suppress memories of all or part of the rape, but it is not forgotten; however, the memories will almost certainly resurface later, and the survivor will need to face them.

If the victim is very young, or experiences the rape as especially traumatic, they may block the memory of the rape even as it is occurring. They may not consciously recognize that they has been raped or may not experience any symptoms until months or years later, usually when another life event, such as a first sexual relationship or another trauma, triggers the memories. Once the memories return the survivor will never forget what happened, but will learn to live with the trauma. Recovery takes time. Survivors must allow themselves to remember the rape and feel whatever feelings it will bring, even though this is often very difficult and painful. They need to work through the experience, and integrate it into their lives so they can move on.

Physical Symptoms of RTS

  • Shock: usually an immediate response. May include: numbness, chills, faintness, confusion, disorientation, trembling, nausea and vomiting
  • Sleep problems: unable to sleep, sleeping more than usual, or other changes in sleeping pattern
  • Eating problems: no appetite and subsequent weight loss, or compulsive eating and subsequent weight gain
  • No energy or too much energy
  • Physical illness: the stress may weaken the immune system and making them more vulnerable to illness. The rapist may have infected the survivor with an STD, or other illness. A general feeling of “unwellness” is normal
  • Physical pain: this may be as a result of injuries inflicted by the rapist, or a physical reaction to emotional pain
  • Cardiovascular problems: heart palpitations, breathlessness, tightness or pain in the chest, high blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal problems: loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dryness in mouth, butterflies in stomach, feelings of emptiness in stomach, etc.
  • Exaggerated startle response: over-reacting to sudden noise or movement
  • Over-sensitivity to noise

Cognitive Symptoms of RTS

“As if” feelings or flashbacks: re-experiencing sensations that were felt during the rape, or actually reliving parts of the experience in memory or dreams.

  • Intrusive thoughts: sudden or forceful “intrusive” memories of aspects of the rape. Constantly thinking about the attack.
  • Memory loss: the survivor may be unable to remember the rape or parts of it; this is usually temporary, although it can last for many years
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased alertness
  • Speech problems: stuttering, stammering or other difficulty talking
  • Indecisiveness
  • Difficulty problem solving
  • Nightmares
  • Violent fantasies
  • Revenge fantasies

Behavioral Symptoms of RTS

  • Crying
  • Avoiding reminders of the rape
  • Pretending that it never happened
  • Neglecting themselves or other people
  • Increased washing or bathing
  • Self-blame
  • Fear of being alone
  • Not socializing or socializing more than before the rape
  • Relationship problems: the survivor may be irritable, argumentative or easily upset; they may withdraw from people they felt close to before the rape or form sudden new connections; they may grow overly dependent on others or become too independent.

Survivors may experience sexual problems after the rape. They may not want sexual contact of any kind, or may no longer enjoy it – this may be exacerbated if their partners blames them or are impatient with their recovery; alternatively, they might become more sexually active than before.

Survivors may make drastic changes in home, work, school or relationships; this can be an important part of helping them feel safe and in control again.

  •     Substance abuse
  •     Emotional Symptoms of RTS
  •     Denial
  •     Numbness or lack of emotion
  •     Rapid, inexplicable mood changes
  •     Shame
  •     Guilt
  •     Feeling dirty
  •     Anger or desire for revenge
  •     Fear
  •     Nervousness and worry
  •     Being easily upset
  •     Powerlessness and loss of control
  •     Grief and loss
  •     Feeling “different” from other people
  •     Loss of Self-esteem
  •     Losing interest in life
  •     Depression
  •     Suicidal feelings

RTS symptoms change over time.  In the first days after the rape, survivors usually experiences shock. They may be visibly upset, or may appear calm and reluctant to talk. Once the shock has passed there may behave as if nothing has happened. This is called denial or apparent adjustment and helps the survivor block painful memories and feelings that they may not yet be strong enough to deal with. This phase can last for weeks or months or even years, but is almost always followed by a long phase of active healing, during which the survivor will probably experience other RTS symptoms. With care, attention and time, the symptoms will decrease and finally disappear completely.

Many rape survivors who experience symptoms of RTS, may find it helpful to talk to a counselor trained in working with rape victims. A counselor can help them deal with the strongest symptoms, or to work through memory loss. Other survivors may find that the rape brings up other underlying problems, and in these cases, more help may be needed. If you would like to find a capable counselor, contact UASA or another women’s help group.

For more information contact United Against Sexual Assault (UASA). We offer a 24/7crisis line for victims and also offer training, education and information about rape and other forms of violence against women, teens and children.

http://uasasonoma.org/services/rts.html