Last year I had several separate incidents where authority figures crossed the line with me, harassment issues and an unwanted sexual encounter. I've been somewhat vocal about these incidents. I was honest about it. This has caused me to lose some casual friends. I've lost some credibility, sank into a depression, suffered nightmares, I moved because I didn't feel safe, I've developed trust issues. I could go on and on about the consequences that I've been dealing with, they seem to be endless. I thought that speaking up against these issues was the right thing to do. I've given up on trying to get people to believe me or to simply understand, they just don't. How do I move on from this with a little bit of dignity?
Dear Moving Forward,
You showed immense courage in being open and honest about the things that have happened to you and it is shameful, though not entirely unpredictable, that you are being met with less than the respect that you deserve. We (the collective we) have a hard time understanding the complexities of sexual harassment and sexual assault. You only have to turn on the news to see a culture full of victim blaming and inappropriateness when it comes to matters of sex, intimacy and consent. And sometimes our friends and family don’t know what to say and lean toward avoidance. I’m sorry that this has happened to you and I understand your wish to move forward with dignity.
Luckily, dignity is a feeling of one’s own self-worth, and while I’m sure those feelings have been tested, take solace in the fact that dignity comes from within and can be reclaimed. Recognize the strength that you showed in coming forward and telling someone what happened to you. The vast majority of sexual assault victims will never tell their story but in telling yours, you have taken a huge step toward regaining control over your life and your body.
The anxiety, nightmares and lack of trust you are experiencing are normal reactions to the experiences you’ve described and I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking professional help in dealing with these ongoing issues. Find a local counselor or call your local rape crisis center and ask them for a referral. And give yourself time. Trauma does not heal overnight, especially emotional trauma.
Turn to the friends that have supported you through this and let them continue to support you. While you may have lost some friends, the reality is that those people have shown you their true value as friends. The people who have stuck with you know that you are worthy. They will help you find your dignity in the moments when you feel it is beyond your grasp.
You've come to me looking for perspective, and here it is. You continue to reach out and to speak out which tells me that you want to heal…and so you will. Seek help. Hold fast to your friends. And insist that your boundaries are respected. You can overcome this.
I have been seeing this guy for about a month and we had not had sex until last night. I have intimacy issues due to a past relationship and I was not ready for intercourse. Last night we were at his house and things were progressing toward intercourse and I expressed that I was not ready and wanted to stop. At this point we were both mostly undressed when I changed my mind and told him to stop. He complained to me that it wasn't fair to go this far and tell him to stop. He continued to guilt me and persuade me to continue and I regretfully let him. After he was finished I began to cry and went to the bathroom. I mildly gained my composure and got dressed. He seemed irritated that I was upset and did not ask me if I was ok. I left with an awkward goodbye because I wasn't sure what to do. As of tonight he has not called or texted. I am so lost about what to do or where to go from here. Help please!
What happened to you was not ok and I'm going to be very honest with you. In the best light, it was disrespectful and lacking empathy. In the worst light, I think you could view this as an attack. Sexual assault is complex and more subtle than people usually think. It involves coercion and using manipulation and guilt to get sex counts. Everyone…wait, let me say that again….EVERYONE has the right to refuse to have sex AT ANY TIME during a sexual encounter. That means that even if you are in the middle of intercourse and you decide you are done, you are completely within your rights to stop and to expect that your partner will respect your decision.
The fact that this guy was not sympathetic to your tears tells me that he does not get it. And the fact that he hasn’t contacted you should be the final kick in the pants you need to run fast in the opposite direction.
So, let’s talk about you. I would like you to consider talking with a counselor (your local rape crisis center can refer you to someone who knows what you've been through). You may find that you are able to move forward with ease, or you may struggle. If you struggle, don’t wait to get help. What happened to you was not your fault and the fact that you are reaching out to me shows me that you might benefit from talking to someone who can help you sort through your feelings. Take care of yourself and know that your wishes deserve respect.
I recently started seeing this guy, we've been dating for about 3 months. He is sweet and charming and we have great chemistry inside and outside the bedroom. We are both very adventurous sexually and comfortable with exploring the other's likes and dislikes. One night he invited me to join him and his friend at his friend's house for a movie night. When I arrived both him and his friend were very intoxicated and actively drinking. I myself don't enjoy drinking and chose not to join them in taking shots. Only 15 minutes into the night things became very uncomfortable for me. My boyfriend was being extremely affectionate in inappropriate ways in front of his friend. Even though I told him to stop he continued in making sexual advances towards me in front of his friend. I didn't want to start a fight so I played it off as much as I could and just kept pushing his hands away. When he began undressing me forcefully I said that I was done and left the house as quickly as I could. The next day he texted me as if nothing had happened and only when I brought it up did he apologize. I am still feeling upset and shaken up by the experience and am not sure how or if I should address it with him again. Should I let this go? If I should bring it up with him what should I say? He didn't physically hurt me but I feel taken advantage of. I need an outside perspective, please.
First, let me say that it is not at all surprising that you are still feeling shaken. Your boyfriend put you in an awkward and dangerous situation. When it comes to sex, consent is key and the second you said no and he continued the advance, he crossed a line.
So, there are two things that I want to bring up here. The first has to do with talking to him. Yes, you should most definitely bring this up again and I implore you to use this opportunity to draw a very clear boundary. Regardless of whether you are open to sexual exploration, no means no. In fact, it would be better to think of this in terms of “yes means yes.” Unless you are giving a clear and enthusiastic yes to his advances then he needs to stop and check in with you.
The second thing I want to bring up has to do with your emotional well-being. Bringing up previous openness to sexual exploration makes me think that you are feeling like you may have brought this on yourself. You didn’t. Period. Each time we have a sexual encounter with someone, it is its own unique experience requiring the same enthusiastic yes that every previous encounter had. In other words, just because you did it before doesn’t make it OK this time.
Talk to your boyfriend and maybe look into seeing a counselor, either on your own or as a couple (assuming you want to stay with your boyfriend). Make sure that your boyfriend understands that this behavior is unacceptable and will not happen again. Set firm boundaries. And then talk to a counselor. It sounds like you may need to talk this through in order to feel better. And you should, because you are important and your emotional well-being is worth protecting.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.