Posts Tagged ‘rape’

Trigger warning: I need to write about some my worst experiences with my father, so this post is full of triggers. It does not contain graphic details of physical acts, but it does talk about rape and the details of the emotional effects. Please be aware of what is safe for you to read.

I am struggling to learn how to support and being to safety some of the parts that were most traumatized by my father. Two of these hold experiences of being raped and the third is younger and seems to remember a time when he tried to have sex with me, but I was too small and he stopped.

I also have been struggling with accepting that the rapes really did happen. What I sense of them is so mind-blowingly overwhelming that it makes me feel as though it would have been impossible to survive that level of abuse over a period of years. I don’t mean that it would have killed me physically, but it seems as though it would have destroyed what makes me essentially me. What makes me human, empathic, capable of loving. When I told Mama Bear this in our last session, her first response was that it was the dissociation that allowed me to survive, which probably is indeed true, but it wasn’t enough of an answer. Then she thought about it more seriously and agreed that my experience was a lot to survive. She paused for a moment and then said, “I don’t know if I could have survived it.” But then she went on to point out that humans have an amazing capability to survive extreme situations. “Think about slavery. Think about the Holocaust. Many did not survive, but some did survive with their humanity intact.”

What I went through was no where as extreme as slavery or the Holocaust, but when I thought about it afterwards, I realized that she hadn’t chosen those examples at random. There are many facets of what I went through that are similar, but thankfully on a much smaller scale. I felt that my body belonged to my father and I was in the frightening situation where it seemed that he could do anything to it that he wanted to, whenever he wanted. No one would stop him. No one would help me. The way that my grandfather did things, it felt like he was constantly experimenting on me, using my body to see what reactions he would get when he changed the variables. I also experienced what was happening as him wanting to destroy me and there were times when I was afraid for my life. Seen from that point of view, it makes even more sense why my abuse story can seem so unreal to me. It involves elements that a child would not be capable of fully taking in and processing as being real. I lived it, but I couldn’t fully live it, both because I had to dissociate what happened and because I wasn’t intellectually and emotionally developed enough to process the dynamics of what was happening.

Writing it all out sounds like the process of coming to that understanding was mostly intellectual, but it wasn’t at the time. It was instinctual and emotional, as I was waking up from a nap. Immediately after that, I first experienced the memory of my father trying to have sex with me, and then since then I have been dealing with these three parts pretty much around the clock.

Previously, what happened in age range of the attempted rape was just a blank. I have a bit more information about the year after, but none about this year. I get a very strong message that I was 8. It makes me want to cry, thinking about being 8 and having this happen. My guess is that he tried and then decided that I was too small for him to have sex with, without doing real damage, so he stopped. Frankly, the memory is hazy, although it seemed sharper in the flashback. I remember laying there, afterwards, curled up in a ball, feeling like a part of me died. It seemed like the world became a darker, more silent place after that. Even with other people, I was alone. I know that there was a period of time at either 8 or 9 when I stopped speaking for a few months. I wonder if this is when that happened. This part isn’t as frightened as others, maybe because it was a one time thing, but she is devastated. Quiet, alone, and devastated. The way that this part feels matches with what I remember about feeling when I lived in this house, except I don’t remember feeling that devastated. I also don’t remember ever feeling really happy unless we were away from the house and doing something that I really loved.

Then there is the part that is most in need right now. She has been largely hysterical over the last few days; for awhile she was screaming, “No! No! No!” on and on. It is with her that I get the strongest, “Oh, my God. He really did rape me. This really did happen” realization. She is slowly calming, because I have been doing here and now exercises and pointing out how I am in a safe time and place for the last couple of days. Interestingly, writing all of this out seems to have calmed that part even more.

This part insists that she is 10, but I know that I lived in the house that these memories belong to between the last few months of age 10, though 12. This is when he started to rape me. Ten. Ten. My daughter is ten. I can’t imagine her dealing with being raped, especially not having to deal with it all alone, without any help.

The memories of the rapes themselves are weirdly focused. They took place on the floor of the back room of the house and I remember looking to my right side, focusing on the rug on the floor, clutching at it, and looking at the leg of the piece of furniture that the TV was set on. I was completely separate from the rest of my body, it was just my eyes and my hand. I wouldn’t hear the sounds that he was making, feel what was happening to the rest of my body, smell anything. It would have been too much. I couldn’t avoid seeing his motion out of the corner of my eye and that alone was almost too much. I have gotten very brief snatches how it felt emotionally to the part of me that was really experiencing what was happening. All I can say is that it was horrible beyond words for me. My body was being invaded in the most intimate way possible by my father. Words simply fail me when I try to express what that meant to me. I know that it sounds horrible, but I you haven’t experienced it, let me assure you that it is even worse than it sounds. It’s one of those sources of isolation, knowing that no matter how much someone cares and wants to understand, they can’t fully understand unless they have experienced it. Even Mama Bear. As experienced and empathic as she is, she will never fully understand how horrible this was then and now is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that most people do not know first hand what it is like to be raped by their father. I am grateful for those who are able to put aside their revulsion at the very idea and use their empathy to try to come as close to my experience as they can. And I value those who love and support me, even though they never come close to understanding what it was like because their experiences don’t take them close, and even though they sometimes think that they do understand. It’s just that I was completely alone with the abuse when it happened and other than a few people that I know via blogs, I’m alone with fully understanding it now; that current day aloneness sometimes reverberates with being so alone as a child.

And then there is the teen part. Or really there is a collection of teen parts. This is the most chaotic and confused area. I was going though physical changes and I think that my body started to respond differently to him during this time. I remember sitting in the shower, crying, but I think that some of the time I didn’t even know what I was crying about. The dissociation was so effective that it cut off my everyday self from the abused self, with little to no exchange between the two.

What I access now is such a confusing array of emotions and thoughts from that time. Why is he having sex with me instead of my mother? Rage. Fear that it is all my fault. That it is something about my body that makes him act this way. Confusion over pleasure and pain together. Desperately wanting to escape, but believing that there is no escape. He is in control and always will be able to do whatever he wants. Knowing that he can hurt me badly. Knowing that he can make me feel extreme pleasure. Wondering how my mother cannot know what is going on? Tired. Resigned. Depressed. Always, always, always trying to look normal for everyone outside.

So, I have these three segments of me, from three different times, all with real needs, all waiving their hands, going, “I need to be heard and believed,” all profoundly traumatized in their own ways. What do I do? I have decided that my first step simply has to be helping each of them find safety. I did it with my youngest parts and then they could finally talk about the worst traumas without getting stuck in them. If I don’t do it with these parts first, then I am going to go around for at least a day or two after each session, with echoes of the parts’ trauma bouncing around in my head. It’s much better for all of me, if I help each part find safety first. That is my plan for the session tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure what it will look/feel like for each of the parts, but that doesn’t matter, as long as it is something that I can help that part reconnect to when she starts to relive the trauma.

Actually, now that I think about it, writing here has helped me to identify what the most in need part probably needs in order to feel safe. All of my parts felt extremely alone with the abuse, but I seem to be experiencing that most keenly with the 10 year old part right now. She is the part that clung to Mama Bear on Tuesday and desperately didn’t want to leave her office at the end of the session. She is the part that needed for me to call Mama Bear that evening, because she felt so crushingly alone with my understanding that I really was raped. She is the part with whom I strongly get the sense that if she had only had someone to hold her and work out all of those hysterical, horrible feelings at the time, things would be so much better. She doesn’t just need me, she needs someone else, as well, to help hold her in all of her trauma, at least until she has worked a good portion of it out. That can easily happen in session, but that’s only for two hours a week. Mama Bear is available via email, text, or phone, but I try to not over use those options, especially phone, which is what is most effective for my parts. I think that she and I need to work together to establish a safe, nurturing place for this part that involves both my internalized version of Mama Bear and me. My sense is that this can work.

This is hard work. Some of the hardest that I have done. But as painful and overwhelming as it is, I can also tell that this is the work that I need to do in order to feel more whole. These experiences forced me to dissociate large chunks of myself. I won’t ever be able to integrate dissociated aspects of my sexuality until I am able to deal with the rapes and all of the responses that they evoked in me. I don’t think that I will be able to figure out what I want to do with myself, who it want to be when I grow up, until I have better worked through learning to feel safe fully being. I’m afraid of what it might mean, but I’m also tired of a half life of mostly existing. I want to learn how to fully live.

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Trigger warning: There are references to rape and talk about how my sexualized traumatized parts function.

I struggle with sleep and have for many years. Really, I have struggled with it periodically for as long as I can remember. The last three years have been particularly bad, with it getting worse and worse over the last year. At this point, I am just plain exhausted.

Because of my severe sleep issues, doctors have had me on an antidepressant with the side effect of drowsiness (Trazadone) for years. Most of the time, this will allow me to get to sleep to start with, but first I have to force myself to get into bed, which sounds like it should be simple, but isn’t really. And then there is the little matter of staying asleep once I fall asleep. It simply doesn’t happen these days. And then there is the matter of the dreams…

I used to feel really badly about needing a sleep aid and I kept on taking myself off of it, thinking that I would just grit my teeth through the transition and surely my body would eventually get tired enough that it would give up and sleep on its own. I spent multiple vacations going around in a sleep deprived, cranky haze, attempting this, but I never stopped waking at the slightest sound or movement in my room, especially during that falling asleep phase. Eventually I conceded that the PTSD startle reflexes were just too strong and it wasn’t a matter of ‘learning to sleep on my own’; I was simply too easily stimulated into a startle reflex while I was falling asleep. There is a place for sleep aids, because long term sleep deprivation is harmful physically and psychologically. Everyday psychological stability is hard to maintain while sleep deprived, but heavy duty psychotherapy with parts can become all but impossible when I am too sleep deprived.

Getting into bed is where I seem to be having the greatest difficulty these days. It has taken me a very long time to come to the point where I can start to look honestly at what is contributing to this problem. In the past, I have tried to say, “X is the problem” and then just leave it at that. For instance, “I am afraid to go to bed.” Yes, there is fear, but what is the fear about? How do I address it? Is it current day fear, or is it fear based on the past?

For whatever reason, I simply was not looking at how much of my difficulty with getting into bed was parts driven, even though I should know by now that when I have an intractable, long term problem, I should take a look at whether parts are involved in some way, because they almost always are. Over the last several days, I have come to recognize that not only are parts driving this problem, but there are multiple parts involved.

There is the part who is afraid to get into bed because she is afraid that she will wake up with someone on top of her, assaulting her. I think that this has been an underlying fear all of these years that I never allowed myself to acknowledge. Some time in the last couple of weeks, the memories that this fear is based on have started to rise to the surface in bits and pieces. Last night, I had a bit of a breakthrough, though. The part who has this fear realized that my husband knows to not even touch me when I am asleep. He would never, ever do what she is afraid might happen. She realized that not only is she safe from my husband, but if she should come awake to someone assaulting her, it’s OK now for her to fight as hard as she can to protect herself. She doesn’t have to allow herself to be raped in her own bed now. I am not in the ’80s, I am in 2015 and it is safe for me to protect myself now.

Then there is the part that is just angry at me and doesn’t think that I deserve to be taken care of. It’s so incredibly angry at me for having a body. If I didn’t have a body, then I wouldn’t have been hurt. It’s all my body’s fault. There is so, so much rage and a desire to destroy. A desperate wish that my body could be made to go away. An even more desperate desire to go back in time and obliterate my body, so it couldn’t have felt anything. She feels panicked at the thought that I should be compassionate towards my body, because she just wants to reject my body because it feels so dangerous.

Something else is going on that is similar, but not quite the same: the belief that I am not worthy of being taken care of. There is a sense that I am so worthless that I am not worth the effort of overcoming all of the pressures to keep me out of bed. I am not worthy of being protected and comforted so that I can sleep. I just have to learn how to deal with it.

I also have the parts that are afraid to get into bed when my husband is in bed and still awake. He has problems with insomnia, so it can take quite a long time for him to get to sleep. These are parts that are afraid that he might make any sort of sexual advances at all. They know that he won’t attack me, but it is like they are programmed to go into action as soon as he touches me with any sexual interest. These parts aren’t always this active, but at the moment they are right there at the surface. In the rules that they exist by, there are two of them, because it was too big of a job for one; this way they can take turns. They have to do whatever they sense that the man that they are with wants and they have to act like they want it. I can’t quite tell if one of them actually holds being able to somewhat want what is happening and the other holds not wanting it or if both of them go back and forth, but I believe that the truth is that they really don’t want sex. They are too young for it. Closeness, yes, but absolutely nothing that makes them feel sexual feelings. Those times when I have had sex with my husband over the last year or two, when I have been able to recognize the presence of these parts, I have just wanted to hide my face and cry during the act. If he would sense that something was off and ask me if I was ok, I used to be able to get away with telling him that I was ok and just avoid looking at him. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t keep on doing that to myself, so one day when I wasn’t in one of those parts, I told him that if I won’t meet his eye, then there is a problem, no matter what I say. Fortunately, he wants to help me stay safe and he has no interest in having sex with traumatized parts, not even cooperative ones. The man now makes sure to look into my eyes, unless the lights are out (which is the next thing that I need to tackle.)

There may be more going on than just these four things, but it think that they are the four strongest forces at work right now: a fear of waking up to being assaulted, a self punishing aspect, a feeling not deserving help, and a fear of sexual advances. I guess that it’s more than enough. My feeling is that if I can deal with them enough to get myself to a place where I feel safe enough to go to bed without a fight, then the problems with the dreams and waking up also will ease. It will have to help. Anyways, just getting into bed is the first step.

Sleep. It’s such a basic need. I wish that is was simple to satisfy that need once you have been traumatized, especially once you have been woken up out of your sleep to be traumatized. I have to fix this problem, though, or at least make it better. I can’t go on this way.

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I have been struggling over how to name what happened with my father, now that I have started to talk about it with Mama Bear. I try to make myself go ahead and use the “proper” terms for body parts and acts for a couple of reasons. First, it increases clarity with Mama Bear. If I say, “He hurt me down there”, it gives her a general idea of what I am talking about, but she is left guessing as to what I mean exactly. Sometimes it isn’t important, but sometimes it is. The second reason is that it helps me to stay in my adult self, when I am trying to. The child parts are starting to us some of the specific words, but not all of them can and they can’t when they are very upset.

Any of this language is difficult for me. Unsurprisingly, I am not someone who is at all comfortable using sexual language. Even after working with Mama Bear for all of these years and working through a severe phobia of sex, I still find it incredibly difficult to talk about sexual specifics. This has become a problem, because my parts are increasingly insistent upon telling Mama Bear just what happened to them. Some of this I have been telling her by email, but much of it I need to talk about in person.

Right now, the single hardest thing is naming the rapes as rapes. Oddly, I was able to call them rapes when I first starting talking about accepting that they had happened. As they have become more real to me and more memories have come back, I can’t bring myself to name them for what they were. It isn’t because I believe less that they were rapes, really, what else can you call it when a man in his mid 30s has sex with a 10/11 year old? That isn’t anything that a girl that age would ever choose for herself. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t overtly violent. It doesn’t matter if she felt responsible. He chose it for her and all she could do was to make the best of what was going to happen. That’s rape.

It’s such a harsh word, though. It is incredibly difficult to use in relation to my young self, because in my mind it implies such violence. The parts of me that dealt with what happened remember what happened before and what happened after, but only have an impression of sheer sexual and emotional overwhelm during the period when the intercourse happened. It still is too much to fully remember what happened, and I find myself feeling protective of those parts and the level of trauma that they still are dealing with.

The word rape just makes my skin crawl when I am connected with them, so I find myself talking about how I “had sex” with my dad, even though I know that it is totally the wrong term. It’s just that right now it is the kinder term for me to use and it’s more important for me to be as kind and gentle as possible to these hurt parts. I know what am talking about. There is no denial of the seriousness of my father’s actions.

As I am slowly able to fully take the awfulness of what happened to me, I am sure that I will come to a point when I am ready to name it for what it was. I may even come to the point where I am so angry that I want to use the coarsest, most rude words that I know just to express how I feel about the acts. For now, though, helping the hurt parts to feel as safe and cared for as possible maters far more to me than how I use the language, as long as I don’t lose track of what I know happened.

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	 Katie Pasquini Masopust

Katie Pasquini Masopust

“He raped me.” There have been days when I probably heard a little voice inside say that every 5 minutes. “He raped me.” It started before I could let myself know who the “he” was. I wanted to believe that I was only talking about my grandfather, but I knew in my gut that there was someone else and underneath that I was terrified that I knew who “he” was, even though I would rather have torn myself to shreds than accept who it might be. In fact, I pretty much was tearing myself to shreds.

I didn’t have any faces to my abusers in my memories for over 20 years, so I could save myself from facing just who had perpetrated the abuse that I was re-experiencing. But re-experience it I did, physically and emotionally. Over and over. I spent years in therapy dealing with the sadistic abuse with my grandfather and that helped a lot. It probably allowed the body memories to pretty much stop for a time; at least they became much less frequent and I was able to “put them away again” more easily for the years I was not in therapy. However, when I started therapy again, the flashbacks/body memories were frequent occurrences to me.

Almost as soon as I restarted my work with Mama Bear, I heard a voice saying, “He hurt me.”

Some of these flashbacks were the same body memories that I wrote about experiencing before I started therapy over 20 years ago. Some of them were new ones that I hadn’t dealt with before. Month after month I lived with them and suffered from them. For awhile I felt as though they threatened to take over my life and I was going to lose my mind- at that point Mama Bear got serious about reteaching me the containment and coping skills that I lost along the way. She hadn’t realized for months that I have no memory of the therapy work when I learned them the first time, so I had no idea of how to help myself through the flashbacks. It’s inside me somewhere, but I still haven’t come across wherever that period of time is stashed.

“He hurt me.”

Five or six times over a period of about 18 months, I would have a memory that involved my dad. The first time, I sent a panic stricken e-mail to Mama Bear, begging her to tell me that I was crazy, that it couldn’t be true. She phoned me, scraped me off the ceiling, and calmed me down by reassuring me that it might not mean what it seemed to on the surface. And in therapy I started to look at and admit that I don’t trust my dad; maybe he isn’t the ideal person that I have always felt obligated to believe he was.

“He hurt me.”

The next time, I was walking down a path and I was literally forced to my hands and knees by the force of the memory of having to do oral sex. I couldn’t get up for awhile and then I was consumed by rage at a world where “everyone else could live normally” while I was knocked over by such horrible, unbelievable things. I was furious with myself. I was furious with Mama Bear. I wanted to destroy everything and everyone around me, particularly myself.

“He hurt me.”

Another time I was on my 2 hour drive back from my session to where I lived at the time and I had to pull the car over, because a child part had pulled me into an understanding that I had a “day time Daddy” and a “night time Daddy”. One felt like someone I could trust and the other was a monster that I wanted to escape.

At some point “He raped me” joined “He hurt me.” He raped me?!? I couldn’t imagine how I could ever deal with that and I wanted for that voice to go away, but instead it became the predominant one.

Each time I would go to Mama Bear, tell her what I had experienced and then vacillate between going all the way to “my dad definitely abused me and did everything that I remember” and then ricocheting back to “there is no way that any of this happened, and there is something terribly, terribly wrong with me to even think about it.” Mama Bear just tried to steer a middle course, reflecting back to me that I didn’t yet know what happened and assuring me that either it would eventually become clear to me or it would not, but we did need to work with what was becoming increasingly clear to me: I wanted to have nothing to do with my father. I wanted him out of my life, I trusted him not at all, and I had a great deal of anger at him. Each time, I would deal with whatever crisis the flashback precipitated and then try to proceed as if it hadn’t happened, pretending as if all of the memories that I was dealing with related to my grandfather only and I didn’t know deep, deep down that my dad abused me.

“He hurt me. He raped me.”

Then my parts became increasingly involved. Last summer, they told me that I needed to listen to them and to believe them, because I wouldn’t be able to heal until I did so. I could understand why I needed to listen to them, but I was heartbroken, because I knew that I did not want to “hear” what they had to say. I proceeded to have flashback after flashback of being abused by “him.” I found myself admitting to Mama Bear that I was afraid that my dad had abused me but then I would step away and fall back into denial again. The numbers of different memories added up and eventually I had to admit to the obvious: my grandfather didn’t have enough access to me to do everything that I was remembering. There simply wasn’t enough time for that many different things to have happened. Admitting that there had to be someone else allowed something in me to relax, but also frightened me in other ways.

“He raped me.”

The flashbacks began to more clearly have my father in them some of the time and I started to do a terribly self destructive dance. I would have a flashback that lead me to the horror filled realization that my dad abused me and then I would find some way to bludgeon myself into explaining it all away. A day or two later, it would start again. I doubted my sanity and my integrity. What sort of a horrible, sick, perverted person was I to keep on thinking these things about my father? It was like I was shredding my soul 2 or 3 times a week and I began to feel as though I was killing some essential part of me by doing this over and over.

“He raped me.”

And then, at last, something changed inside and I just wasn’t willing to treat myself that way any longer. I finally found some self compassion and the strength to believe that the essential me needed to be treated gently and respectfully, which I had not been doing. Refusing to believe what my parts had been screaming at me for months wasn’t working, maybe I needed to give believing myself a try.

I still find it hard to believe myself much of the time. Who would want to believe such a thing? But I have found that even when I cannot tolerate believing the specifics, I can still believe the general fact that my dad hurt me badly and that hurt was sexual in nature. The rest of in I go in and out of depending on which part I am in contact with, how much stress I am under, how tired I am, etc.. The part of me that experienced the normal childhood and was completely walled off from the abuse still can’t accept it at all, which makes sense, because her job was to have no awareness of the abuse.

As I have started to tell Mama Bear about what happened with my father, that voice has quieted, not completely, but most of the way. I have come to understand that while, yes, I do seem to have memories of the sort of sexual contact that most people think of when they hear the word ‘rape’, what this voice was trying to tell me was much more than that. It was trying to express the sense of outrage and violation that I feel about all of the abuse. ‘Hurt’ is too mild of a term to describe what even less physically invasive sexual abuse is like for a child. It is an act of violence, pure and simple. Even when the perpetrator tries to disguise it as something “loving”, it is an act of violence. Even if it feels pleasant because of the way that the child is being stimulated, it is an act of violence. Even when there is no physical force or overt threat used, it still is an act of violence. Even if the child has to believe that she wants to be there, because knowing how much she hates it would destroy her, it still is an act of violence.

So, yes, that voice was telling me the truth, he raped me.

** Edited **
I feel a need to add an addendum… There is the way that the general public tends to define the word “rape,” which is quite limited and actually far more constricted than the legal definition. Too many of my experiences and I am sure the experiences of other sexually abused children satisfy the legal definition. In fact, for some people who experienced multiple forms of rape, the other forms of rape were even more traumatic than penile/vaginal rape. I say this because I really want for everyone who has experienced this type of violence to give themselves the full amount of self compassion that they deserve. The violence that you experienced was what you experienced, even if you think that it “should” be less serious than another type. And for those who have someone share such an experience with them, please don’t think, much less say, “At least it wasn’t rape.” Please listen to and have compassion for the pain that you hear, not what you believe you should hear.

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