Hayley's Comments

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Hayley Rose

Hayley Rose
HayleysComments.com, Connecticut, TheVeggieStand.com
December 31
I was born when Halley’s Comet last appeared overhead and named accordingly. Since then, I've become a writer, artist, and columnist. In addition to Open Salon, my work appears frequently in The Huffington Post, All Things Healing, Gender Across Borders: A Global Feminist Blog, and several other publications. I blog daily at my site HayleysComments.com I recently published my first book, "I Know Why They Call a Shell a Shell." The book is about domestic violence, a topic that I am very vocal about. It chronicles my journey away from tumultuous love affairs by weaving stories of her past with stories from literature, music, and visual art of both modern and classical significance. Find me on Twitter @HRoseStudios


MAY 29, 2012 11:53PM

Relationships After Sexual Assault

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Or should I say the “lack of relationships” after sexual assault. Trust is a difficult thing, especially when you’ve fallen victim to a rape. After becoming a victim myself and eventually seeking therapy, I couldn’t trust anyone, not even myself. Can you imagine the feeling of not being able to trust yourself? I am still very mistrustful and fearful. To understand why, I would have to revert back to the crime itself along with some common misconceptions.

Since writing about this publicly, many people, mainly men, have argued with me that rape is something that men cannot help doing because of their “natural” sexual drives and desires. This misconception is also the reason that victim-blaming excuses often fly without much questing from others. “She was dressed like a slut,” “She is very promiscuous,” and many many more excuses for rape crimes take the blame off the perpetrator and place it on the victim. At one point, I too thought that rape was a sexually motivated crime. When it happened to me I was young, cute and totally disinterested in the “friends” who raped me. I thought that maybe they had wanted me so bad and knew they couldn’t have me so they resorted to rape because it was the only way to “get” me. It made sense in my head, at the time.

This is of course wrong. Rape is not about sex. It is about control. It is a crime like any other where something is taken without consent. If a man walks into a bank with a gun, he uses the gun as a weapon to procure the money he wants from the bank. Rape is similar. A rapist overpowers the victim by using sex as a weapon much like a gunman scares bank tellers into submission by waving around a firearm.

Rape has never been about sex. It is all about control. A rapist is similar to a bully in the school yard picking on smaller kids so he could feel “bigger.” It is possible that the friends who raped me did it because they knew I would never sleep with them in a million years willingly. This still doesn’t make it about sex. Maybe they wanted to have sex with me but they knew that I wouldn’t and out of anger and resentment decided that they were going to have sex with me with or without my permission. That night, they put something in my drink so they could do it without fear of me remembering or finding out. In the end, they got what they wanted despite what I wanted. Yes, what they originally wanted might’ve been sex, but without my consent what they wanted from me surpassed the sexual and entered into the realm of control: they wanted me to do what they wanted.

Since starting counseling, my ability to trust has greatly decreased. For some reason talking about what happened has opened whole new metaphorical can of worms. Not only do I have trouble trusting others, even friends and family I’ve known for years, but most of the time I feel like I cannot even trust myself. This is a problem many victims of sexual assault experience and it often it results in isolation from friends and family as well as a failure to forge new friendships and relationships.

A lot of people have difficulties in relationships but a person who has survived rape and/or domestic violence will have extra issues. It takes a patient and special person to be their lover or even just their friend. Sometimes the additional trials and issues involved in relating to a sexual assault survivor are very very sad. Last weekend I was invited to an awesome concert by a good friend. It was an all day music fest and it would be just the two of us and one of her good guy friends. I wanted to go but the idea of crashing at her place along with some guy I didn’t know terrified me. Even though he was a good friend of her’s, someone she knew and trusted, I could not bring myself to trust. Because she is such an understanding and kind person, she wasn’t insulted when I told her why I was uncomfortable going. But not everybody is that understanding. Most people are not.

The friends and family I have both from my “real life” and those I’ve met online are the some of the most patient people in the world. I spazz. I am afraid. I do not and sometimes cannot trust. I overreact. I am overly emotional. With all those terrible traits, they are always there for me. They know I am trying but cannot help it. What has happened to me, to my emotions and my mind, is equivalent to a physical handicap. My perception of life and everyday occurrences will never be normal. They can never be put right again. Like a person who has lost a limb in an accident, the damage has been done and nothing will ever bring that limb back. Now that the limb is gone, they are presented with more challenges. They still must live life just like they did before they had a physical handicap it is just that now they have to find a new way to do the things that used to come natural to them. There are extra obstacles they must surpass to live normally; permanent obstacles that will be a new layer upon the structure of what they used to consider their normal daily life. Over time, things do become easier, but they will never again be the same and only the strongest people can be friends with an participate in relationships with a person who has experienced this type of emotional trauma.

I sarcastically said that this article should be titled the “lack of relationships after sexual assault” because it takes an empathetic and patient person to be supportive and understanding to someone who has experienced that kind of trauma. Many survivors, including myself,  have been dumped by a significant other after they learned that being a victim of sexual assault was part of our past. Though the term “survivor” sounds pretty tough, the truth is survivor’s are often fragile and find themselves being ditched by guys and friends alike who are often too callous or impatient to deal with the emotional rollarcoaster a rape survivor experiences and deals with daily. It is easy for a survivor to become overly dependent on friends once they learn that they can open up and trust again because it feels so amazing to finally be able to trust a person.

Sometimes honesty about your past as a survivor or even just being yourself ends up pushing friends who cannot handle it away. And though it always hurts, the heart knows in the long run that by being ditched, this “friend” was actually doing them a favor. I know that as a survivor of sexual assault, I do not need half-assed cold-hearted men or friends in my life; people who are scared of the mental scape that makes up my reality. Imagine living in my head? Imagine experiencing my fear and trauma first hand? If a person cannot be there to hold my hand when something becomes difficult for me, if he or she does not feel that my good qualities outweigh my bad ones and they cannot be forgiving of my emotional issues or way of handling things then maybe they do not deserve my friendship. Relationships after sexual assault are not always easy. In fact, sometimes the relationship with the self is as challenging as the relationships with the people around you. True friends will reveal themselves in time and it is those friends who must always be appreciated and never forgotten.

Hayley's Comments 2012

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Hayley,an editors ρick for me..this must be in first ρage.Meaningful,strong,real life writing so full of feelings,silences,exρeriences,difficult truths.What you have survived is one of the worst things that can haρρen to a woman..I am so sorry...and in your words "I couldn’t trust anyone, not even myself. Can you imagine the feeling of not being able to trust yourself?" I will answer a true yes..and this is the worst...So many rates with so much love and friendshiρ to you and my wishes for love!!!Best...
Thanks for your comment STATHI! I always love to read your words :)
Yeah. Trust and honesty with yourself... Whew...

My rape was over 20 years ago and I still have MAJOR trust issues AND lie to myself to downplay them, so I'm hearing you loud and clear hon.
thanks for sharing Amy :) its going to be a lifelong challenge i believe
Well articulated Hayley.
As a survivor of a very early rape I know all too well these daily issues.
yes, rape is all about control.
And trust is something that will never be easy for me again.
You touched me deeply with this piece Hayley.
I cannot imagine that most men would feel the way you describe, I don't think any man I know feels that way about sexual assault. I agree that there are many who do but I'm just baffled by it. An assault is an assault, it could be of a sexual nature but, it isn't, like you stated before about sex, it is about power and control. IMHO, you don't want those kind of people in your life.
"what they wanted from me surpassed the sexual and entered into the realm of control: they wanted me to do what they wanted."

Men want everyone to do what they want. It's not only sexual desire that men can't control, most men in our society have no self control at all. They want their own way all the time. They want toys they can't afford but aren't able to make themselves do the mundane things in life beyond whatever work is required at their job so they can gain admiration. Aside from their careers, self mastery is not required in men in our society so they can be weak in every other area and still be admired.

"It takes a patient and special person to be their lover or even just their friend." We never know when life will throw difficulties at us, it's best to find strong people. Those who had hard lives and still push themselves to be kind are the ones that build inner strength. Like heat tempers steel to make it strong.

I know myself well and I don't trust myself. I put up with too much crap and am too forgiving. I married 3 men who were abusive and it started with small bursts of temper, or coldness, when they didn't get their way. I have to be very discerning about the people I keep in my life and quickly eliminate those who can't deal with other people's problems. I've learned the hard way they won't be able to deal with major adversity. They'll become a massive energy drain should things not go their way and for the first time in their lives they're on an emotional roller coaster.

Though they are gentle, all my friends are tougher than nails. Most are survivors of something harsh. We have each other to love and lean on. My last husband once told me my "problem" was that I'm too strong. I think many are too weak, I guess it's how you look at it.

My last husband had a horrific childhood and instead of becoming an abuser, he was gentle, reliable and empathetic. It wasn't until then that I understood I would only find contentment with someone strong. And yes, he was very fragile in many ways too, I had to honor the hurt in him. To pull a wagon well, horses are evenly matched in a team. You need your equal in any close relationships, anything less will be difficult for you, and impossible for them.
[r] Hayley, once again you role model such incredible courage and wisdom. Thank you. There is a separation from those with good will toward us when we have experienced profound horror and they cannot and/or worse will not allow us to share the truth as a necessary means of our beginning to recover from such profound shock whether one outrageously horrific ambush that will haunt and harm onward the spirit such as a rape or a sustained series of toxic ambushes eroding and annihilating one's spirit relentlessly.

Rape -- it is from an off the charts malicious power and control addiction and not about sexuality. Blaming the victim or minimizing or denying the truth of the victim continues the cruelty too often. As Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, most people "can't handle the truth" until its dark side finally comes to them personally. Bless those with the capacity such as yourself to teach of the horror to others without their living through it but learning to have empathy and appreciation for the struggles of their sisters who were targeted. best, libby
I work with a young lady who was raped as a teen and she was talking with me the other day about it as her daughter is now that age...I told her to be careful of placing her fears onto her daughter to talk about it but she had to let her go make her own choices. After reading this it makes me wonder if I counseled her right?
Rita Thanks

Mission Thank-you for reading and commenting

Bobbot- yes I agree and was shocked at the comments that disputed the cause of rape (wanting to dominate/ control) and then them bringing it to an even more ridiculous point by blaming men's sexual urges- they certainly threw the male population under the bus with those ignorant sentiments...

l'heure interesting comments and observations... yes it is difficult to meet a man who is secure especially when you are successful...

Libby- so true- my own mother invalidates the fact that I was raped. Thanks- i love reading your comments- they are like short essays in their own right- and trues there is literally only "a few good men" who CAN "handle the truth"

LunchLady- I don't know what the right advice would be here... being a supportive friend is usually better than any advice you can give someone
This is good work, both in terms of the writing and the observations.

That a male couldn't control himself is a self-indulgent load of crap. A man who can't control himself to that extent isn't one. Period. He's a child in an over-developed body.

Friends who can't handle the consequences of what you've been through aren't. You're right, better you should know.
It does get better. And, then it gets bad or worse, but then better again. Recovery is a tricky thing that tends to be a roller coaster at times. I lost alot of friends who just couldn't handle the situation and pulled themselves away or I pushed them away. It happens. And, I believe, that the only advice I can give is the same almost as what I tell any woman with issues seeking a relationship, first be ok with yourself. If that means stepping back and doing some self discovery, then that is what that means. You have be able to love yourself before you can open up to others and truly make a good connection whether that be friendship or romantic. hang in there.
Insightful and lovely. You're on the right path. And men who say those things you mentioned in your first paragraph? Imbeciles. The good ones will be offended by that.
Thank you Reader's Pick!!!

koshersalaami agreed- thanks for your input

Darla- good advice!

Firechick- agreed! I know I was offended by it !
Thank you for sharing; this post was incredibly honest. I wish you the best of luck; I hope that one day it gets better.