Trigger Warning - Sexual Abuse
Did you know that only about 5 - 10 percent of all the rape cases go to court (depending on which statistics you look at)? During last week's lecture, my social psychology professor talked about rape statistics. Not only that but also did she discuss the circumstances under which study participants would partially blame the victim for the abuse. Which of course would be for example about the short skirt the victim was wearing. What they also found was that people viewed the victim as partially guilty if she knew the perpetrator, even more so if he was her bofriend. Would that even qualify as a "real" rape case? What do you think?
Classic Example - vulnerable and lonely Girl meets bad Guy
This lecture was a hard one to listen to. Because around 16 years ago, I was that girl. I was 15 years old at the time. He was my boyfriend. The case never went to court. Not even to the police. My case is part of the statistics.
Think about it for a minute. I didn't want what he was about to do. And he did it anyway. He was much bigger and heavier than me. It was easy for him to push me down and keep me there until he was done with me. Why would this be partly my fault? People might think all sorts of stuff about girls like me who end up with boys like him. Some might even think, that girls secretly want to get raped.
We don't. This is utterly disturbing.
I met him at school. He was the kind of guy who had the worst grades. The one who you would describe as a bully, an alcohol abuser, a bad guy. After ninth grade he dropped out of school. By that time he had already repeated the school year twice. Why would any girl want to be with this boy, you may ask yourself rightfully. Let me explain. I didn't have many friends. And the ones I did have, didn't see the real me behind the fassade my parents taught me to put up for the world. By the age of 15 I could barely see myself anymore. I was so lonely. And lost. My father objectified me. All he'd ever seen in me was my pretty face and a tight but. Dad made fun of me whenever he got the chance. Never did he fail to point out that I was stupid. I was shamed for having needs and for being less than perfect. My parents starved me of love. To them it was always more important how I looked and what I achieved as opposed to how I felt.
And then I met this guy who showed interest in me. He was not an asshole from the first minute on. It wouldn't have worked if he was, would it? At first we only talked and he was kind of nice. Actually, he seeed interested and even made me smile at times. Then slowly he started pushing on my boundaries. At some point, he started telling me stuff like, that I would love having sex if I just tried it. That he knew how I wanted it too. That I shouldn't be so prude. And so I gave in after a while. It wasn't nice. He pushed me further and further. Until one day I had enough and said no. This was when the rape happened. Obviously he wasn't willing to take no for an answer. He pushed me down and burried me underneath of him. That's what it felt like. I was kind of in shock. I couldn't believe what he did to me. Neither could I move nor could I scream. Somehow I must have left my own body. The whole thing was over pretty fast. Afterwards he put on his clothes and smiled. This is what narcissists do, isn't it? They take what they want and they don't care if they destroy your soul as a consequence. They just don't care.
If a girl isn't seen by her father, if she is devalued and objectified instead, she has no sense of self worth. She feels empty and worthless. And so she'll put up with narcissists and maybe even psychopaths in order to feel loved in whatever distorted way. (I had a psychopath crossing my way in my mid twenties. Stay tuned for that story.)
Sometimes, you don't realize how bad it is until you tell your Therapist
Today my therapist questioned me about sex. I told him that most of the time sex to me was like a performance. More often than not it would feel as though I watched myself from the outside. Like I am not really involved in what my body does. My therapist asked me if there was anything in particular that was worth discussing in that regard. Of course, he tried to test whether I was ready to talk about the rape. I had written about it briefly in the patient admission form. He already knew that there was in fact something to discuss. But he is too gentle for asking me upfront.
I was ready.. However, that didn't make it easy. Full 16 years later I still feel panic rising inside of my body when I think or talk (or write) about it. And believe it or not, until very recently I thought too, that it was partially my fault. I mean, I had known about his repuatation. He had pressured me early on. I had been weak. But that does not justify what he did, does it? I had been only a child. I was scared and confused. This had been my first close contact with a boy. Apart from that, I had said no. Loud and clearly.
My therapist asked me if I had told anyone about the rape back then. I had not. There had been no point. I am just about to proof this to you. Because eventually, in my mid twenties, I did tell my mother. She reacted to the story by asking why I never said anything. And that was about it. Obviously it wasn't a big deal. Obviously it was not a deal whatsoever, because when I brought the rape up again another five years later in a letter to my mother, something remarkable happened. Guess how she reacted this time? She pretended to be outraged about it. She said if she'd only known earlier she would've found him and made him responsible. What she apparently didn't remember was that she should have known for around five years. She had forgotton about it! My own mother had forgotten that her daughter had been raped by the age of only 15! Believe me, in that moment, something inside of me broke, which can never be fixed again. The ugly truth I could always sense, but never admitted myself to accept, there it was. My own mother does not care about me.
A very different Kind of Reflection- Why Therapy works
In today's therapy session I cried the first time. When I told my therapist about the rape and when I told him about my indifferent mother in that picture. I could see the pain in his eyes, when I spoke. He reflected back the pain, I myself was feeling. There was no minimizing, no blaming, no shaming. He only sat there, held space for me and felt my pain with me. I remember thinking 'Oh my gosh, it really was that bad! I am not too sensitive and this was not my fault! I had been only a child! Oh my gosh!' Sometimes it feels like my therapist has wings. I do not idealize him. I am pretty much aware that he is a human being with flaws and that is very much okay. However, he is the most empathic person I have ever met. I could see deep pain in his eyes today while he was listening to me. There was honest concern in his expression. It almost felt like he did not want me to leave after I told him such a heavy story. But of course we had to end the session on time. Right before I went out the door, though, he said that I could write him an email anytime during the week until our next session. Just in case I needed to get rid of something. In that moment I realized something very important about therapy.
A child looks at her own reflection in her parent's eyes to define her self worth. She checks if mommy's gaze is full of love to determine if she herself (the child) is lovable. This is called mirroring in psychologal terms. I did not get mirrored. I was not seen. Accordingly, a big piece was missing for me to build a healthy psyche. Finally after all those years, my therapist is providing me with that particular piece. I believe what really makes therapy so valuable, and effective for that matter, is the accurate mirroring that for many of us never happened during childhood. We cannot fully comprehend what happened to us without the guidance of someone we trust. I could see my own reflection in my therapist's caring eyes today. It felt as though are lost part of me came to life. A human being can not define her own self worth on her own. We need some emotional goodies in order to be able to do that. Dr. John Bowlby has researched and written about this extensively. Check it out here if you like!
I hope that you find some value in what I am writing here. Even if this helps only one person, it is worth it. Please let me know what you think and reach out to if you are struggling too! I'd love to hear from you!
Thank you so much for reading. I am sending you lots of hugs... until next time!