Tag Archives: sexual assault

Drowning in Triggers

It feels like they’re everywhere right now.

My mother wants to talk about Ferguson and how people just need to take personal responsibility because clearly that would solve all the problems.  My sister the cop posts an “I support Darren Wilson” badge on Facebook.  She wants her department to have more riot gear to crush the race riots she thinks are inevitable.

These are two people who know–know–what cops can and will do to people who can’t defend themselves.  They’ve seen it; they’ve lived it.  Just like I have.

My father, my mother’s first husband, was a cop.  He sexually abused and raped me for sixteen years.  He hit me.  He nearly drowned me in a bathtub when I was three years old.  He regularly suffocated me, though I don’t know whether it was to keep me quiet during the abuse or to make me think he would kill me or both.  He put his gun to my head more than once.  He made me watch him kill my dog.  He forced me to choose whether he’d rape me or my sister.  He let his criminal justice students rape us too.  And he taught me that no one would ever believe me if I told because he was a cop and I was nothing.

My mother doesn’t know the details, but my sister the cop does–she lived it too.  I sheltered her from as much of it as I could, but she still got hurt badly.  She was the one who told, originally.  I would’ve gone on denying it forever because I needed to have one parent who didn’t hurt me, but once she disclosed, I had to support her.  She’s my sister.

We tried to have him investigated–well, my mother did, really.  I don’t recall her ever asking me or my sister if that’s what we wanted.  It was a complete joke.  No jurisdiction wanted it.  The abuse occurred across three states and several cities, so no one wanted it.  Everyone said it was someone else’s jurisdiction because who wants to investigate the cop-turned-criminal-justice-professor?  Finally, the Iowa State Police took the case.  They wouldn’t talk to me at all because I’m crazy.  They interrogated my sister, who would’ve been 16 or 17 at that point, until she threw up in a trash can.  They polygraphed my father, got an inconclusive result (OMG, a cop might know how to fake the notoriously unreliable polygraph?  Inconceivable!), and dropped the whole case.  Welcome to the Blue Wall of Silence, where victims don’t matter because cops have all the power.

Do they really not see the connection?  Do they really not think that giving people nearly unlimited power over people’s lives, freedom, and even bodily integrity with almost no oversight is dangerous?  Do they really not understand that the system that let Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown and abuse protesters and journalists is the same system that let our father get away with raping us for 16 years?  How can they not see that?

I feel so, so alone in all of this.

And then there’s Bill Cosby.  Another upstanding citizen who gets away with sexually assaulting women for years because he’s such a nice guy and has influence and power.  It’s all the same: the victims don’t matter because the rapists are such nice guys, you know, aside from all the rape.

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Triggers

Sorry I’ve been absent.  I have been/still am really triggered, and I haven’t been able to read–blogs or anything else longer than a few sentences.  Still really struggling and not sure I’ll be able to write coherently.

See, Thursday we went to Boston for a post-election party.  I thought it was just going to be the party, an overnight at someone’s place in Boston, and then home.  Instead it turned into bar-hopping with the campaign staff.  If you’re thinking that sounds like fun, you’re wrong.  See, alcohol is a trigger for me because my father was often drunk when he abused me.  Between the UC and the meds, I can’t drink.  Well, everybody else is getting fucking wasted, and they just leave me sitting in a corner by myself for hours, not even talking to me.  I told my RFD that I’m not physically capable of running all around Boston, and it was raining to boot.  Usually he’s really considerate about my limitations, but that night, he really didn’t seem to give a shit.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was just that it was his last night with the rest of the campaign staff.  Whatever it was, he basically treated me like I didn’t matter–I got dragged to four different bars, and predictably, I eventually fell on a slick sidewalk at 1:30 in the morning and couldn’t get up for several minutes.  Oh, and for most of the time we were bar-hopping, our 20-year-old intern was just left sitting in his car because she couldn’t get into the bars.  I wanted to go sit with her instead, but my RFD made me stay because his phone was dead, and he needed my GPS to find our way back to where the car was parked.

In the second bar, while I was sitting alone in the corner, the only sober person, this drunk businessman in a nice suit comes over and starts hitting on me.  Then he grabbed my breast, and I just froze.  I just sat there and let him.  I have extensive martial arts experience, and even though I’m not physically capable of as much as I used to be, I could’ve gotten away from him.  If nothing else, I could’ve hit him with my cane.  But I didn’t do any of that.  I didn’t say no, I didn’t say stop.  I just sat there and let him do it.

Now I really hate myself.  It’s just like with my father.  I mean, okay, when I was a kid, there wasn’t really anything I could do about it.  Even as I got a little older, he had me believing that he’d kill me if I fought or if I told anyone, and I didn’t have the reasoning skills to realize he wouldn’t have gotten away with that–he’s really just not smart enough.  So back then, I had an excuse.  But I let it go on when I was old enough that I knew he wouldn’t kill me and I really could’ve stopped him.  I mean, I was 19 the last time he raped me.  There’s no excuse for that.  I just let him.  If I’d fought or said no, he probably would’ve stopped, but I never did.  So that’s on me.

Now I just want to tear myself to shreds.  I want to cut my breasts off–I never wanted them anyway, and if I did that, no one would want to touch me.  I’m also really struggling with sexual self-harm urges.  It’s something I used to do but haven’t in a long time.  But I can’t stop the flashbacks and the body memories, and it would put me back in control.  I know how fucked-up that is, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works.  If I do something worse that any of them ever did to me, then what they did can’t hurt me anymore.

And on top of everything else, my roommate is being horrible.  I came home to a gross apartment–mold in my microwave, a half-empty beer on the kitchen counter, an unflushed toilet, and sopping wet washcloths and a giant hairball in the bathtub.  I just pulled the washcloths and hairball out of the tub and dumped them on the bathroom floor, and this morning, she pitched a hissy fit over it, stomping around and slamming doors and shit.  (Another big trigger, on top of all the other triggers.)  I’m sorry, but you’re fucking 29 years old, and I’m not your goddamned maid.  I pay rent too.  I don’t mind messiness–books and papers and stuff sitting around is not a big deal, but I don’t want fucking mildew growing in my bathroom or mold growing in my kitchen.  In general, I don’t want things growing in my living space.  (Although right now growing some pot for myself sounds pretty ideal.)  How fucking hard is it to dump out the rest of your beer or to hang up your fucking washcloths?  But EVERY FUCKING DAY when I go to take a shower, there they are.  I don’t leave my shit for you to clean up, and you have the goddamn nerve to pitch a fit when I move your messes somewhere obvious as a reminder that maybe you should, you know, be a fucking adult and clean them the fuck up?  Bitch, get on the NOPE train to Fuckthatville.

My landlady is away for the weekend, but I’m thinking about talking to her about this when she gets back.  I’m hesitant to do that on the one hand, because I feel like we’re both adults and should handle our own problems.  But on the other hand, I’m so triggered by her screaming and slamming doors and stomping around that I literally CAN’T deal with it like an adult because I dissociate and switch, either to a terrified child or a really aggressive teenager (hence all the swearing in the last few paragraphs), neither of which is good for dealing with a tense situation.  Plus, if I do want to kick her out, I’m going to have to go through my landlady because Roommate is on the lease now.  I’m not even sure I legally CAN kick her out.  I just know I can’t deal with much more of this.  I’ve been taking photos of the grossness when it happens as documentation, but I’m not sure what the laws are.  I just know I can’t live like this.  I spend a lot of my time afraid to come out of my room when she’s home because I will snap if she starts yelling or bitching at me.  I just have so much other shit to deal with that I really cannot deal with hers on top of everything else.

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Fuck Off, Dawkins: An Emotional Response

Okay, I already wrote a rational response to Richard Dawkins’ inflammatory tweets about the relative badness of various types of rape and sexual abuse…but I have feelings, too.

Mainly rage.

Dr. Dawkins, have you ever sat in a room full of survivors of sexual abuse and rape and listened to them tell their stories?  Have you heard them disparage themselves, saying that they didn’t deserve to be there because their trauma wasn’t as bad as someone else’s?  I very much doubt that you have.

I have.  I’ve been in that room.  I’ve been the one saying I don’t deserve to acknowledge the devastation sexual abuse and assault caused me and don’t deserve to get help, and I’ve also been the one reassuring another woman that her feelings about being raped were legitimate even though she hadn’t been subjected to the same degree of violence that others were.  It rips your heart to shreds.

I was sexually abused by my father for 16 years and then repeatedly raped for several months by another person.  My father was occasionally violent and sometimes threatened to kill me, but most of his abuse was not violent.  The person who raped me as an adult wasn’t violent and never threatened me.  By your definition, my trauma is bad…but not bad bad.  But I have severe, debilitating complex PTSD and dissociative identity disorder, which are a direct result of those traumas.  DID is generally recognized as the most severe trauma-based disorder, but if my abuse and rape weren’t bad bad, then why is my life so devastated?

It’s incredibly offensive to use rape or sexual abuse just to make a point.  It’s like the movies and books where the writer needs something bad to happen to a female character to move the plot along, so he uses rape even though many other traumas would’ve worked just as well.  It trivializes rape.  You could’ve just as easily used theft as an example for your fucking syllogism.  Clearly you knew that, since you later tweeted about that as a cruel, sarcastic response to people who objected to your comments about rape and sexual abuse.  You’re not a stupid man; you clearly did this to be provocative and offensive, and you did it at the expense of all the people who have been traumatized by nonviolent rape and sexual abuse.

You know what?  I think “nonviolent rape” is a contradiction of terms.  Rape is an inherently violent act, even if it doesn’t leave visible injuries.  It is violence against a person’s soul–in many cases, the emotional equivalent of murder.  To suggest otherwise is incredibly offensive.

I hope you’re ashamed of yourself, but I’m pretty damn sure you’re too narcissistic to feel that.  I am disgusted by you.  I wouldn’t wish rape on anyone, but I wish you could live a day with the emotional aftermath of it.  Then you’d stop being so fucking insensitive about it. 

I want you to hurt the way I do.  I want you to feel the guilt and the shame and the self-hatred and the self-blame every day.  I want you to be afraid of almost everybody, especially anyone with a penis.  I want you to be completely isolated because you can’t trust anyone.  I want you to live on constant red alert because you can never feel safe again.  I want you to live with the flashbacks and the body memories and the nightmares.  I want you to live with the feeling of despair and hopelessness because you will never be able to undo what was done to you.  I want you to feel what it’s like to want to die because the pain is so constant and unbearable.  I want you to know what it’s like to realize the person abusing or raping you doesn’t even see you as a human being.  I want you to feel the utter helplessness when you realize there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.  I want you to fucking HURT.

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Define Your Terms, Dr. Dawkins: A Rational Response

The other day, Richard Dawkins decided to illustrate syllogisms for his Twitter followers.  Fine, good; more people should understand logic and how to use it.

The part that’s not fine and good is that he used child sexual abuse and rape as examples of syllogisms.  “Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think,” he said in one tweet.  Then, “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”

Here’s my syllogism: “Punching someone in the face is bad.  Murder is worse.  That’s not an endorsement of either one, but Richard Dawkins makes both look like attractive choices.”

This is his typical MO.  He likes being provocative.  It gets him attention and free media coverage.  I’m sure his stunt generated thousands of tweets responding to him, mentioning him, and retweeting him.

But for a guy who claims to be trying to teach people about logic and rational thinking, he’s committing some pretty glaring logical transgressions.

First of all, most US statutory law doesn’t differentiate between acquaintance/date rape and stranger rape.  There aren’t separate charges for raping someone you know or raping someone you don’t know.  There are often more serious charges in cases where more force is used or cases where the victim is a child or disabled, but that wasn’t what Dawkins was arguing.  So that’s strike one for his logic.

(To be fair, I don’t know if English statutory law has different charges for acquaintance rape and stranger rape.  I doubt it, though, since English law is in most regards very similar to American law.  But if someone knows differently, please correct me.)

Also, his argument assumes that date/acquaintance rape isn’t violent.  There’s nothing to keep a date rapist from raping his girlfriend at knifepoint or inflicting violence upon her.  Strike two, Richard.

My freshman year of college, I had this stereotypical mad professor who would shout at us in his Irish brogue, “What exactly do you mean?  Define your terms!”  He was nuts, but he taught me the importance of crafting an argument using precise language so the audience understands the precise point you are making.  Apparently Dawkins needs to study with this guy.

How is he defining worse?  I think it’s fairly clear that he wasn’t making a legal argument, so I don’t think he means worse in a legal sense.  I assume that what he means when he says worse is that it has a more negative effect on the victim.  If that is indeed what he means, then he’s still wrong.

The degree of violence inflicted on the victim in the course of sexual abuse or rape does not necessarily correlate with the emotional impact on the victim.  What Dr. Dawkins is employing here is a good ol’ logical fallacy, folks.  There are tons of studies showing that when several people experience the same trauma, some develop PTSD, while others don’t.  Dawkins implies a correlation between degree of violence and degree of negative emotional impact on the victim, but the data doesn’t support that conclusion.  In point of fact, sexual assault perpetrated by someone the victim trusted is often more emotionally traumatic than stranger rape because the victim has to deal with betrayal trauma and rape trauma.  Strrrrrrrrike three!

Or maybe he’s trying to make a moral argument: that violent sexual abuse or rape is more morally wrong than nonviolent sexual abuse or rape.  To make that moral argument, he’d first have to define the moral code by which he is judging the degree of wrongness.  In general, we base our moral codes on a set of values that can vary widely from one culture to another or even in different subcultures within a single culture.  Almost every moral code recognizes that it is bad to hurt another person, but the specifics of what’s more or less acceptable vary.  That’s why logical arguments are usually recognized as being separate from moral arguments, something a very educated scientist should already know.  Strrrrrrrrike–wait, you’re already out of strikes, so shut the fuck up.

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I Hate PTSD

It’s midnight.  Someone just knocked on my bedroom window.  Twice.  A window that does not face the street, meaning they would’ve had to come around the side of the house.  And there’s a car on the street outside my bedroom window, right by the house, just sitting there with the lights on.  They didn’t knock on the door.  Just my window.

My heart rate is 124, and I feel like I can’t breathe.  I’m trying to breathe, but it feels like there’s no air.  I am fighting the urge to hide in the closet and pile clothes and blankets on top of me to hide me.  Every little noise is making me jump.

Now I’m terrified someone is going to break in through my window and rape me.  I was almost ready to go to bed–I have to be up early in the morning because I’m doing a cross-state trip with my boss and the other regional lead.  Now I doubt I’ll sleep at all tonight.  If I do, I’ll have nightmares about being raped.  I’m afraid whoever’s in the car outside saw me peeking out my window at them, so now they’ll kill me after they rape me so I can’t tell anyone.

I know this is irrational.  I know my mind is going way too fast, but I keep hearing noises at the window someone knocked at, and I’m terrified to go look.  I’m just sitting here paralyzed, hoping they’ll go away.  But even if they do, even if they already have, I’m not going to feel safe.  I’m going to jump at every little noise, and there are a lot of them tonight because it’s raining and windy.  It’s been almost 15 minutes now, and my heart is still racing.  I still feel like I can’t breathe.

If my father hadn’t spent 16 years abusing me, if I hadn’t been physically and sexually assaulted in the state hospital…I wouldn’t be panicking like this.  If people hadn’t thought it was okay to fuck me, I’d be okay right now.

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Blame

I’m so angry right now I can’t think straight.

A “friend” of mine who I was stupid enough to trust and tell how much I’m struggling has been on my case about going to the hospital.  I said being shamed and treated like I’m less than a person was not what I needed to get better, and she asked why I was so opposed to getting “help.”

So I told her.  I told her about how I’ve been yelled at for self-harming or being suicidal.  How a doctor refused to suture a cut that clearly needed it because he had “real patients who didn’t cause their own problems.”  How I’ve been strip-searched.  How I’ve been watched while showering and using the toilet.  How I’ve been forced to take medications that made me sicker.  How I’ve been threatened with restraints and worse “treatments” if I refused.  How my attempts to get help have been written off as “attention-seeking” and “manipulative.”

I told her about being in the state hospital.  I told her that one night, another patient came into my room, grabbed me by the throat, and hit me in the face over and over again.  Staff refused me any medical attention (I later found out the woman had broken my nose) and told me to “forget about it and move on because she didn’t know what she was doing.”  No attempt was made to protect me.  I told her that one of my roommates repeatedly sexually assaulted me, but I didn’t tell anyone because I knew they wouldn’t care and wouldn’t help me.

And this “friend” blamed me.

She said I should’ve reported any doctor who treated me poorly.  She said if I’d fought back against the woman who beat me up, she would’ve stopped.  She said I should’ve told someone I was being sexually assaulted and they would’ve stopped it.

She blamed me for all of it.

I’m trying to hang onto believing she’s wrong, believing I did the best I could to survive, believing it wasn’t my fault.  But I’m not doing very well.  Not hanging on very tight.

I want to hit her.  I want to beat the shit out of her.  But that turns almost instantly into wanting to slice myself to ribbons and then kill myself.  This is the hardest thing for me–I try so hard to stop blaming myself for all the traumas, but when someone I trust blames me, I fall apart.  I blocked her email and cell number, but her words keep replaying in my head.  I can’t stop that.

I’m really not okay right now.

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