Intimacy after rape, let me tell you it is not easy. I was raped at least once a week in the last nine months of my marriage. For my ex it was his one last attempt to regain control over me. We had been caught in an abusive marriage for over a decade. At the time the rapes started I was “waking up.” I was seeing him for who he was, an abusive man who enjoyed hurting me. I was going to counselling and learning that I did not deserve this abuse, that I deserved a life free of abuse and I was starting to stand up to him. When he started to verbally abuse me I asked him firmly to stop talking to me that way. I was calling him on his abuse and was standing up to him. I was getting stronger and he did not like that. An abusive relationship is all about one person (my ex) wanting power and control over another person (me) and for a very long time he had that control. My world revolved around him and his moods. I tailored my behaviour in hopes that I would not rock the boat and wake the monster in him. I walked on eggshells and our kids did too. He had gained his power through fear and intimidation.
Then one day, as I said before, I “woke up.” I could no longer swallow the abuse. I could no longer deny what was happening to myself or my children. As I said earlier I started to see a counsellor and I learned about the abuse cycle. I started to unisolate myself (he, like most abusers had isolated me from family and friends to be able to control me better), I went out with friends and started to have outside interests, interests that did not involve him. I no longer let my life revolve around him. Now let me just say I was careful. I was still living with this man and I knew what he was capable of if pushed too far. He could see though that he was losing control of me and it drove him mad. He yelled more often, screamed at me that he would Never Stop Abusing Me, criticized my friends and outside interests all in an attempt to deter me from having a life away from him and his control. It didn’t work. I kept rebuilding myself.
Then the unthinkable happened. From January 2010 to September 2010 my husband came into my room (we were sleeping in separate rooms) and he exerted all of his power over me, stripping me of my power, and he raped me over and over.
At the time I felt nothing. I couldn’t let myself feel anything. I still lived with this man, a man I had tried kicking out, but he kept coming back and now he had suddenly upped the danger level in our house. I simply existed. I was numb.
We did end up separating and I started to live a life free of abuse. Eventually I dated again. Yes I did date after being raped. I started to date a man that I had dated in high school. He was my first love and I was very happy that we were back together. I felt safe with him. Intimacy was easy. I, despite what I had gone through, felt no fear. I was honestly surprised by that, but did not question it.
Unfortunately as time passed intimacy became harder. I started to have panic attacks when we were close, fear would run through my body and I would freeze. Let me state that my boyfriend never hurt me when we were intimate. My reactions were not due to something he had done. My reactions were trauma reactions. I was getting stronger in my day to day life so my unconscious self decided it was time to deal with the trauma memories. You see my cells, my nervous system, my muscles and layers of my brain all held memories of the trauma. Per Wikipedia;
Traumatic experiences include natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis; violent events such as kidnapping, terrorist attacks, war, domestic abuse and rape. Traumatic memories are naturally stressful in nature and emotionally overwhelm people’s existing coping mechanisms. When simple objects such as a photograph, or events such as a birthday party, bring traumatic memories to mind people often try to bar the unwanted experience from their minds so as to proceed with life, with varying degrees of success. The frequency of these reminders diminish over time for most people. There are strong individual differences in the rate at which the adjustment occurs. For some the number of intrusive memories diminish rapidly as the person adjusts to the situation, whereas for others intrusive memories may continue for decades with significant interference to their mental, physical and social well being.
Ok so I was trying to proceed with life, but the trauma memories were getting in the way. As a result I had to do more counselling and I have learned new coping skills. My boyfriend and I will often just cuddle with no pressure of anything more. It’s not always easy for him or I, but we do our best to be patient and understanding of each others feelings. There are days where I skirt affection all together. When the fear takes over, I feel like I am screaming from the inside and any kind of touching stresses me out. We try to talk through those days and reassure my whole being that I am safe. It’s not an easy journey actually some days it really sucks, but I am glad we love each other enough to get through it together. One step at a time.
If you have been raped practise these acts of self care;
-Be gentle with yourself. You may be recovering from physical injuries plus mentally and emotionally you have been hurt. It takes time to heal.
-Reach out to loved ones, friends or family for support.
-You may notice that your appetite has diminished due to stress. Eat small, frequent nutritional meals. Try to avoid large amounts of sugar or caffeine.
-Get outside. Feel the sunshine, breath in the fresh air, get out for a walk.
-Keep a journal about your thoughts and feelings.
-You may have trouble sleeping and feel extra jumpy. These are normal reactions to trauma. If these symptoms last longer than a month please see your doctor for extra support.
-There are many forms of counselling to help with trauma. Your local Sexual Assault Centre can offer extra support or your family doctor can refer you to a therapist.
-Check out RAINN’s website rainn.org for helpful information.
-Please know you are not alone, you did NOTHING wrong and you did NOT deserve this happening.