Archive for October 26th, 2011

On my blog entry entitled Strong Trigger Reaction to Visiting a College Campus, a reader wrote the following question:

You saying about the group of boys who thought you were consenting made me think: how do you feel about people/incidents where you were abused unintentionally? For example I used to frequently be ‘starved’ by people who had been told I felt too Ill to eat, when they didn’t feed me they were contributing to me being abused however they were trying to be kind. And times where an abuser scared me beyond how a child should “normally” feel but without trying to, my fear being based on previous expereinces or expectations. For me a major part of healing is working out how I feel and relate to people or experiences but this is something I really struggle with. I am only now understanding how I feel about people who trigger me by accident, but that has taken a long time, do you ever feel any anger about that? ~Sophie

I touched upon this topic is the blog entry Many Facets of Teen Rape, where I discussed Jodi Picoult’s book, The Tenth Circle. I wrote that blog entry while I was still reading the book. My conclusion after finishing the book is that the boy experienced the intercourse as sex while the girl experienced the intercourse as rape. From a legal perspective, I would not convict the boy of rape because there was no intent. However, unquestionably the girl experienced the sexual contact as a rape victim and needs to work through all of the same emotions that any of us rape survivors do.

The same dynamic applies to my “gang rape” situation in college. I am using quotes because I do not believe that any of the boys who participated (other than the one who intentionally triggered me) had any idea that I was an unwilling participant. A traumatized, compliant child alter part was triggered and gave no indication to those boys that I was being traumatized by their actions. I would not convict them in a court of law. While I do not morally agree with a string of boys receiving oral sex from a consenting woman, that’s not a crime.

Now let’s get to my reaction to the same event – It was an extremely traumatizing night for me, so much so that 25 years later, I almost passed out on a military parade ground by being triggered by college boys in military dress. Until reading Jodi Picoult’s book, I did not appreciate that I could be traumatized this badly by people who had no intention of traumatizing me. I suspect this is one reason why my therapist advises me to stay out of my abusers’ heads – He doesn’t want me to cheat myself out of necessary healing based upon the motivation of the abuser.

Like Sophie, there were people in my life who contributed to the abuse in more subtle ways without even knowing that I was being abused. My father falls under this umbrella in many ways, and it has been hard work sorting through my conflicting feelings of seeing him both as my “savior” and “abuse enabler.” I also feel conflict toward my grandparents (my father’s parents) for not stopping the abuse, which I will cover in tomorrow’s blog entry.

Image credit: Amazon.com

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