Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Dumped Me After I Was Sexually Assaulted”

After I received the following letter, I reached out to reader, Kim Souder, and asked if she’d be interested in drafting a response. Luckily, she said yes. Kim is a geologist who spent three years volunteering as a rape crisis counselor through the YWCA while in graduate school (and received an award for Volunteer of the Year). Her work involved extensive training to complete crisis-counselor certification, answering hotline phone calls, accompanying victims to hospital exams and police interviews, and training to assist in hospital exams involving children.

My boyfriend and I have been living together for a year and a half. He moved in with me and my roommates fairly soon after we started dating (one month). February of this year we moved into our own apartment. Our relationship has arguments like any other, but it never changed the way I felt about him. We talked of getting engaged in the next year and made plans for buying a house in the near future.

Here’s where it goes bad: While out with girlfriends a few weekends ago, a man came up to me introduced himself as a friend of my boyfriend’s, and told me my boyfriend asked him to make sure I made it home safely. At this point, alcohol had greatly impaired my judgment and I agreed to let him walk me home, even though I had never seen met him before. While walking home in the dark I started getting a creepy vibe. I called and texted my boyfriend several times to confirm this stranger walking me home was a legitimate friend of his. No answer, no reply.

When I got to my door the demeanor of this man changed instantly. He forced his way in my house and assaulted me. He made a point to leave my boyfriend voice mail messages from my phone of me crying and asking him to stop while I was restrained. Skip forward five days after the hospital visit and police reports, and I am staying with my boyfriend’s parents. My boyfriend comes to me and says I need to stay with my family for a few days instead. I agree, thinking it’s a good idea to spend some time with them. The next day my boyfriend broke up with me. He told me he loves me but he isn’t in love with me. He still wants to be here to support me and visit my counselor with me. I can still call him when I wake up with nightmares. But our dating relationship is over.

My boyfriend does not know the man who assaulted me; the police (so far) do not have any leads on this person, and I feel like my life has been turned upside down in the last week and a half. The person I need for support the most has virtually walked away from the situation. I have lost 15 lbs. since the assault, my hair is falling out, and eating is nearly impossible. Why is he walking out on me? Does he feel like I’m dirty or tainted? I’m so confused and scared and hurt all at the same time. I feel like this person used me as a tool to satisfy a vendetta against my boyfriend, and that my boyfriend is running from that. How do I start picking up the pieces? — Upside Down

Kim writes: First of all, I want to start by saying I’m so sorry this happened to you — something horrible that nobody should have to experience. It is not your fault. You are not dirty. You are not tainted. I applaud you for having the strength to report this to the police, go through the hospital exam, and share your story with your family, boyfriend, and us. I commend you for doing what you can to make sure this person can’t hurt someone else. It’s completely normal that this horrible incident would occupy your every waking moment, cause confusion, make you feel scared and hurt, and cause physical, as well as emotional symptoms. But by seeking help and going through the process of feeling and dealing with your emotions, you will be on track to heal. At some point you will find yourself thinking about this event only 16 hours a day, then only 12 hours a day, and so on until you have some days that you don’t think about it at all. It will never go away – it will always be a part of you, but it won’t consume you anymore.

Now onto your ex-boyfriend. When a person you love and care for is hurt as badly as you have been, it can be hard to deal with (not nearly as hard as going through the event yourself, but still hard). Your ex-boyfriend is probably very angry and scared and doesn’t know how to process his feelings through this either. Also, this may have been a targeted attack on your boyfriend through you, and he may blame himself for your attack, making it difficult to look at you without feeling guilty and confused himself. None of this is your fault, and it does not make you dirty or tainted. My take is that your ex-boyfriend freaked out and didn’t know how to be your boyfriend anymore and bailed, which is a pretty jerky thing to do when someone you love needs you.

What does this mean for you? It means you need to find other people to rely on, so make a list of friends and family who can fill that role. Maybe in time, once your ex-boyfriend is able to process what he’s going through himself, he will want to come back and be more involved — maybe he won’t — but the key thing here is for you to find someone else to rely on and not worry about your ex-boyfriend’s issues right now. You both need to heal independently before you can really deal with your relationship. I hate to say forget about this long-term relationship with so much potential pre-assault, but for now you don’t have the emotional energy to deal with him and his issues while healing yourself. And you need to be your top priority.

As for your last question, you are already working towards picking up the pieces. You’re seeing a counselor (if he or she doesn’t specialize in assault, find a new person who does) and that’s a great first step. The process is different for everyone, but here are a few tips I can provide that may help. This is a bit trial and error, so do what feels best for you.

* Develop a support system of friends and family that you can rely on. Make sure these people are strong enough to really help you when you need them. If not, find someone else.

* Say these phrases out loud until you believe them: “It is not my fault.” “I am a good, strong person who will get through this.” “What I’m experiencing is a normal response to an abnormal situation.” “It’s OK to feel ______ (insert confused, scared, hurt, whatever you are feeling).” Add to this list with your counselor and support network.

* Take advantage of 24-hour crisis lines. I don’t know where you live, so I can’t point you to a location-specific one, but here is the link to the one I used to volunteer at. You can call any time (day or night) and talk about anything with a trained counselor. We would get calls from all over the country and never turn down people based on where they live. If you can find one specific to your county/state they can provide you with information on additional resources you can use, but you can call any 24-hour hotline just to talk.

* Look around this website to see if you can find any resources for your area.

* Continue seeing your counselor.

* Try to eat as much as possible. It is totally normal to struggle with eating and to lose weight after something like this happened. For now, it’s not atypical, but for some it can turn into anorexia or bulimia as a way to regain control over their lives. Be aware that these conditions can develop following an assault. See what you can do to force yourself to eat enough to stay healthy. If it’s simply that you just don’t have the energy to obtain food yourself, find a friend/family member who will arrange for your food for the next few weeks. If it’s a matter of nausea, see if the doctor can recommend anti-nausea medication to help you keep food down.

* Look into victim witness to see if you qualify to receive money. The funds are good for life, but you have to apply quickly after the assault. So even if you don’t need the money now, apply for it in case you want it later. The money can be used to pay for counseling, lost wages due to police interviews, and many other things.

* Try journaling your feelings. Write down everything you are feeling to help process your emotions. Sometimes journaling for an hour before bedtime can help people sleep better and get fewer nightmares.

* Another thing that can help with nightmares is putting Christmas bells on your door so you can hear if anyone opens your door. It sounds weird, but I’ve heard a number of people say they slept better after this.

* Do some physical activity. This can be running, going to the gym, playing a sport. When you do physical activity, your body releases endorphins and this can help you feel better.

* Do something to make yourself feel normal. Was there a hobby you had before this attack that you can start up again? Pick one or two things from your previous life that you can do start feeling like yourself again.

* Let your anger out. Punch some pillows, take a boxing class, cry, scream, whatever.

* This is more of a long-term thing. Assault is about power and control. Right now, your power and control has been taken away from you. Find some way to get that back. Work with your counselor to make a plan.

Not everything will work for everyone, but try some of these things to see what helps. Also, talk with your counselor or a crisis hotline about other ideas based on what you currently are feeling (your needs will change over time).

The road to recovery is long and bumpy. You will have good days and bad days, but hopefully with time the good days will get more frequent. You have shown that you have the strength to get through this. You will never be who you were before this happened, but you can hopefully find a new normal where you consider yourself healed. And you can never hear this enough: it was not your fault.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

98 comments… add one
  • avatar

    TheOtherMe September 13, 2011, 7:45 am

    Dear LW, I was so upset when I read your letter, I hope you can find the strength to get through this with the help of your family & friends.

    Kim wrote: …”Also, this may have been a targeted attack on your boyfriend through you, and he may blame himself for your attack, making it difficult to look at you without feeling guilty and confused himself.”…

    That was my first thought. I am unsure how this person came to know details of your relationship between you & your boyfriend ( maybe FB ? ) but your boyfriend must be feeling extremely guilty, maybe he is also traumatized by the messages left on his voice mail. I would never consider myself a behavioral expert but the circumstances of your attack seem to be pointing at something very personal, something directed to hurt you but also to hurt your boyfriend. I truly hope that with time & therapy you can come closer to feeling some sort of conclusion, some inner peace. Make sure you focus on you & your physical heath too.

    We wish you strength dear LW.

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    KD September 13, 2011, 7:48 am

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, but I just wanted to say that I admire your courage to get help by going to the hospital, talking with the police, etc. You’re doing the right thing and I wish you the best on your way to recovery.

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    honeybeenicki September 13, 2011, 7:57 am

    LW,
    I have nothing to really add to what Kim already wrote. I know it is a very difficult experience to go through and I am so happy you are getting some of the help you need. It takes a lot of strength to go to the police and hospital after an assault like this. One thing I do want to say is PLEASE don’t forget that you aren’t alone in this. You have your friends and family and there are many resources available for you, as Kim mentioned. There are hotlines, counselors that specialize in assault, support groups with other people who have gone through similar things, and many other resources. Please take advantage of them whenever you need them. They might be a life saver for you.

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    callmehobo September 13, 2011, 8:42 am

    Dear LW,

    I am so, so sorry this happened to you. I want you to know, that what happened to you was NOT your fault. You are not tainted- you are not dirty. I know that it feels that way, but it is not true. I don’t have much advice, but as someone who was once a victim, I want to let you know that you aren’t alone. Counseling is what helped me the most, and I also saw a sexual assault support group for a while.

    I promise you one day that this won’t be the only thing you think about. I know that invades your brain and your heart and your lungs until you feel like you are drowning in it. But I swear, this assault is NOT who you are.

    Good luck, LW. I am sending you so much love your way.

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    • avatar

      ReginaRey September 13, 2011, 8:46 am

      “The assault is NOT who you are.” I can’t “like” this enough. After any trauma, big or small, – assault, a bad breakup, a death in your family – it feels like that trauma IS who you are. You ARE this assault, this breakup, this death, and it feels that you’ll never be able to think or do anything without it invading every space that you occupy mentally and physically. But it DOES fade away. It happened, so it will always be present in your mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you’ll think about forever. Eventually, it will fade until you’re “you” again, and what happened to you is just that – something bad that happened in your life, but by no means who you are.

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        lets_be_honest September 13, 2011, 9:19 am

        Thanks for reiterating this. I have nothing more to offer to you, LW, but hope for the best for you.

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    Elle September 13, 2011, 8:57 am

    LW, my heart goes out to you. You will find the strength to go through this. You don’t know you have it in you yet, but it’s there. Don’t give up. It’s not your fault.

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  • Budj

    Budjer September 13, 2011, 9:00 am

    Great advice…I get really angry and also really sad that people are able to do things like this to other people. LW I wish you the best.

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    silver_dragon_girl September 13, 2011, 9:03 am

    Oh, LW, I am so sorry that this happened to you. What a horrible situation. Everything Kim said above is wonderful advice, and I hope you will follow it.

    I just want to reiterate what everyone else is saying: This is not your fault. You did not deserve this. You did nothing wrong. You are not to blame. You are not dirty, you are not tainted, you are a victim and a survivor. Please remember that.

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    soandso September 13, 2011, 9:04 am

    Sorry this happened to you LW. My advice to you is to cut off the boyfriend immediately. Don’t call him in the middle of the night, don’t go to therapy with him. If he wants to be there for you in anyway you tell him “you are either there for me 100% right now or 0%.” Having him there sometimes will remind you that he doesn’t want to be with you. He most likely is doing it out of pity and you don’t need his pity. Lose his number, defriend him on Facebook. Before you do this, if you have a chance tell him what you are doing first. Tell him you can’t have him around as a reminder of someone who doesn’t want you. Then tell him never to contact you again unless he wants a dating relationship and will be there 100%. If he needs assistance with moving out of the house y’all share then he can ask his or your parents for help. You don’t need him in your life at all.

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      MsMisery September 13, 2011, 10:19 am

      Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes.

      You only need TRUE friends and loved ones around you now. Maybe he bailed because he was scared and guilty but (to quote SATC) congrats on indentifying a feeling. Women do that all the time. Leaving you over it was shitty and it showed his true colors.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow September 13, 2011, 11:20 am

      A good test for a relationship is to see what happens when the going gets tough, and how each partner handles grief/trauma/stress, and how they relate to each other during troubled times. The LW’s situation is, of course, an extreme example. On one hand, I feel like the boyfriend is dealing with the trauma in his own way (because he, too, was definitely traumatized), or maybe he thinks that distancing himself from her is the best thing for her right now… but on the other hand, I would be scared that (if they were to get back together) he would just bail every time the shit hit the fan. She needs not only his support but also his ACCEPTANCE right now, and he’s not doing that for her….. which is unfortunate to say the least.

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  • MaterialsGirl

    Elizabeth September 13, 2011, 9:14 am

    Thoughts and prayers with you, LW.

    Another thing for all readers to think about: the attacker could possibly NOT have known her bf at all, but used it as a ‘line.’ It is unfortunate that there are such evil people in the world, but I hope that through the LW’s sharing of her story, we are all extra careful when we’re out at night.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray September 13, 2011, 9:45 am

      But the LW wrote that the attacker “made a point to leave my boyfriend voice mail messages from my phone of me crying and asking him to stop while I was restrained.” If he selected and called her boyfriend from her contacts, it would seem like he must have known the boyfriend… Plus, he must have known she lived alone – otherwise it would have been risky to take her back to her place if she had roommates there.

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        Addie Pray September 13, 2011, 9:49 am

        Come to think of it, does anyone think it a little weird that the attacker would call her boyfriend and let him (his VM) listen? I don’t know how long LW was restrained, but I would think the attacker would NOT want to make any calls in case someone did answer -they’d know the LW was being attacked (since the call was from her phone). And then considering they were at her place, that would probably be the first place they’d go looking for her. … Fishy? Or just a dumb attacker that got away with it? I guess what really matters is that Kim’s advice was great and all the comments have been great – this will help people in similar situations.

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        Riefer September 13, 2011, 10:15 am

        It’s possible the guy knew the boyfriend well enough to know she would be home alone, and that the boyfriend was far enough away that he couldn’t get back in time. But it’s weird that the boyfriend never answered any messages or picked up the phone, in all that time.

        It does sound fishy. I hate to say it, but it sounds like something was going on with the boyfriend. Is it possible he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing at that time, and this guy knew about it and wanted to punish him? Like maybe cheating on her with the assaulter’s girlfriend? I don’t know, maybe that’s a stretch, but it does seem odd that he wasn’t around. And that would explain why he feels so guilty.

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 13, 2011, 11:19 am

        I thought the same thing. If some strange guy was walking my gf home I would be running 3 minute miles to get back to my place…and multiple voice mail messages and no response? I don’t know….I hate to add more bs to the LW’s situation but it is way fishy.

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        lets_be_honest September 13, 2011, 11:24 am

        Who knows how long this took though. I’ve missed calls and not checked my phone for an hour before. Also, if it was late at night and the boyfriend was staying out, its possible he was sleeping.

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        jena September 13, 2011, 11:22 am

        “But it’s weird that the boyfriend never answered any messages or picked up the phone, in all that time.”

        I’m guessing it was late and if he knew she was just going out with friends, he may have been asleep. I don’t know how he sleeps, but I don’t wake up for my phone ringing.

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        Riefer September 13, 2011, 11:57 am

        He lives with her though, so he wasn’t at home asleep. I guess he could have been at a buddie’s house or something.

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        savannah September 13, 2011, 11:40 am

        While all of this speculation might be true, it is also entirely possible that the whole set-up (telling the LW he was a friend of the bf, calling the bf and leaving voicemail messages during the attack) is all a part of what the attackers MO, what gets the attacker off and that the attackers fixation on the bf being part of the assault experience has nothing to do with the bf and all to do with the attacker. None of this, however true or not, excuses the pain caused by the bf’s actions since the attack.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 13, 2011, 12:20 pm

        Exactly, there is a whole host of situations that could happen. This guy could have just been lurking by, and overheard the the BF was of town, and came up with this story. I think it is best to not put more ideas in the LW’s head right now so she can deal with her current pain.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        Elizabeth September 13, 2011, 10:19 am

        yeah, you could be right, but I could see someone using this as a line, too. I really hope the police catch this guy and that the exboyfriend cooperates with police ie: give them any information about people who might have it ‘out’ for him. this is just so so sad

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        Riefer September 13, 2011, 12:00 pm

        Yeah, if it’s someone who really knows the bf, then she should be able to describe him and the bf should be able to identify him. This monster should be in jail.

        Also, rape sentences need to be much stronger. For a premeditated act like this, he should get at least 10-15 years, if not life. It’s almost as bad as murder.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow September 13, 2011, 12:04 pm

        She said she was texting him while they were walking, so he could have figured out the phone number that way. Or he could have just forced her to call him.

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        soandso September 13, 2011, 10:49 am

        From the letter, I thought she lived with the bf (instead of with the bf and the roommates) – why wasn’t he home?

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        Addie Pray September 13, 2011, 11:22 am

        Oh good point. This just adds to the fishiness of it.

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        LW September 13, 2011, 12:21 pm

        First of all, I would like to thank everyoone on this page for your support and kind words. To clear a few things up, I was out with girlfriends and he was out with buddies on opposites ends of town, however, OUR house was only two blocks from where I was all night. The man approached me when I stepped out for a ciagarette (joys of drinking), introduced himself as a friend of my boyfriends and asked me where he was. I made the mistake of telling him he was out at such and such bar. Not with me. He asked if i had a ride home and I told him I was just going to walk. I didn’t think of the danger in this because I trusted him as a friend of my boyfriends. My boyfriend didnt answer the calls or texts because he was out at a bar with his buddies. As far as how this guy knew me or my boyfriend, I dont know. FB accounts have been deactivated since the attack.

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        Riefer September 13, 2011, 1:54 pm

        That sucks, LW, and thanks for the update. Hang in there, listen to Kim’s great advice and all the other advice that’s been given in the comments. All of us are thinking of you and sending our best wishes!

        Also, I don’t know how possible this is for you, but if you’re not already you could consider working with the police on catching this guy. If he really didn’t know your boyfriend and this is just how he gets his kicks, then he could be out there doing it to other women as well. Obviously your own health comes first, and I know you must be emotionally and physically exhausted, so don’t overreach if you feel that you can’t. But if you’re at all able to, any help you can give the police could save some other women from a similar experience.

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        LW September 13, 2011, 2:21 pm

        I have been working with the police. I had a meeting with them a little over a week ago. They are doing the best they can and I call to follow up to see if there are any ways that I can further assist the investigation. More than anything I want him caught, but in all honesty, its not looking promising.

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        Riefer September 13, 2011, 3:25 pm

        That’s awesome, it’s just another thing that shows how strong and brave you are and that you can get through this!

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        6napkinburger September 14, 2011, 10:44 am

        Seriously, you’re amazing. You sound like an incredible woman. Some people are victims of tragedies, and some people are survivors. You, my friend, are a survivor and doing everything right.

        But don’t for one moment think that you have to be strong all the time. Everything you are doing with the police and the hospital, etc, just demonstrates the inner strength and your ability to turn a horrific experience into an oppurtunity to help other women. For this, you earn an express ticket to eternal happiness, in my book. But now that you have handled that, done what “needs to be done”, you don’t have to stay a pillar at every moment if you don’t want to. You get to cry and feel self-pity. You get to wallow at moments you feel like wallowing, you get to give in to the things you want to do, at least a little bit, because you get to self-sooth; you’ve earned it, you deserve it, you are worth it. None of it makes you weak (you’ve already proven that you are, categorically, not-weak). This site is honest, if nothing else, and while we tend to stay respectful in situations that call for it, there is always a bit of tough love. If you weren’t clearly a capable, strong, loveable woman, we wouldn’t tell you that you are one. But you are.

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      • avatar

        Yammy September 13, 2011, 3:26 pm

        Thank you for sharing your story. I know I would have done the same exact thing that you did. I am way too trusting, especially if he would have named dropped my boyfriend. I’m so sorry that all of this happened to you.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph September 13, 2011, 5:16 pm

        I’m in my bf’s phone as [my name] – girlfriend. I don’t really know why… I teased him once that it was so he didn’t forget who I was after a night of drinking.

        Anyways, if she has him in her phone as “Boyfriend” or “Honey” or something then it would be pretty easy to figure out who to dial.

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        TheOtherMe September 13, 2011, 5:24 pm

        I think it’s more likely that (god forbid) in case of an emergency, then you would be the first one they called.

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        SpaceySteph September 13, 2011, 5:34 pm

        I have the ICE contact (my mom) programmed into my phone (something they told us to do in freshman orientation at college: .
        I would recommend to everyone that they put somewhere in their phone who to call in case of an emergency.

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    amber September 13, 2011, 9:21 am

    Dear LW,

    As someone who has dealt with sexual and physical abuse in the past I want to echo what Kim said, “It is not your fault. You are not dirty. You are not tainted.” It took me many years of counseling to allow myself to believe this. But, trust me this is not your fault it and you will get through this. We got foam bats we got to take home with us as kids and to bring to group therapy. We would vent our anger by hitting things. I also drew pictures of my father, my abuser, and tore them up/cut them up/whatever I wanted to do to the picture.

    Also like Kim said don’t let food become an enemy. I dealt with overeating as a child and teen as a way to cope. Try your best to work with your counselor now to prevent this from happening.

    I’ll be praying for you LW.

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    ReginaRey September 13, 2011, 8:32 am

    LW – You are much, much stronger than you think you are right now. What you’ve already shown us required SO much strength – reporting the assault, going to the hospital, getting yourself to counseling – these are things that courageous, smart, strong people do, and you’re already doing a great job of taking care of yourself.

    I’m not an expert on assault, so I’d like to concentrate more on the break-up aspect of your letter, because I think it’s important for you to retain as much of a healthy outlook on this breakup as possible right now.

    For whatever reason, your boyfriend doesn’t want to be in this relationship right now. Maybe he’s been traumatized second-hand by what happened to you, maybe he lacks compassion, maybe he’s immature, maybe he was telling the truth when he said he fell out of love with you, but the thing to remember is – it doesn’t matter WHY he broke it off, all that matters is that he DID. Right now, for a reason you may never know, he is not capable of being your boyfriend, so he ended it.

    What’s critical for you to do is continue to live your life as if he doesn’t exist. As Kim said, it’s highly important for you to lean on family and friends and your counselor for the emotional support (and ANY kind of support) that you need right now. Though again, I’m not an expert, I would advise that you cease all communication with him. It’s going to be VERY hard for you to develop any sense of a “normal” life if you are continually hurt over and over again by seeing him, and knowing that he doesn’t want to be your boyfriend. If you don’t see him, don’t call or text him, and don’t communicate with him in any way, slowly you’ll learn to rely on others, and then solely on yourself. I fear that not being with him, but still communicating with him, will lead to a very unhealthy state of codependence.

    This breakup will hurt no matter what, but it will benefit YOU far greater if you learn that you CAN live your life without him, that you CAN heal without his aid, and that you WILL feel good again, without his help. That’s a very empowering notion, and I know you have the strength to take that to heart. Right now, you need to surround yourself with people who are strong enough and healthy enough to help you. Your ex-boyfriend is not strong enough nor healthy enough to help you, and the best way to put yourself first is to cut anyone out of your life who will only cause more distress and hurt. Continuing to see your ex-boyfriend, even though he doesn’t want to be with you in a romantic sense, will only hurt you MORE. Keep making yourself your first priority, and remember that slowly but surely, you WILL be better.

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    • avatar

      ReginaRey September 13, 2011, 8:41 am

      And one more thing – THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. You may think “I brought it on myself for getting too drunk” or “If I had done this or that, this wouldn’t have happened.” Absolutely not. The ONLY person to blame for your assault is the person who committed the crime. Whenever you have thoughts like “am I dirty?” or “am I to blame for this?” ask yourself what you would say to another assault victim. If they asked you those questions, would you say “Yes, you’re dirty, and yes, it was your fault.” No, I know that you would not. I know that you would vehemently dissuade another victim from having those thoughts, just as we dissuade you from thinking those things. It is your RIGHT as a human being to be able to get drunk, wear what you want, do what you want, and NOT have someone assault you. The perpetrator took that right away from you momentarily. It was not your fault.

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        6napkinburger September 14, 2011, 10:32 am

        Also, you may want to consider asking your boyfriend not to contact you, even if you contact him. That way, you can have moments where you need to reach out to him and there’s no need to berate yourself because you do, but you still have control over the situation, so if he does not respond, it is because YOU told him not to and you get to remain on a healthy, non-communicative path.

        I can’t tell whether this is a good idea or not, but i can imagine myself doing this to make myself feel better.

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    Bricka September 13, 2011, 8:36 am

    Dear LW:
    After something like this there is no right or wrong way to feel, what you can do right now is take care of yourself, be nice to yourself and be patient. You may feel scared and extremely vulnerable but let me tell you something, you are already stronger than you think, you are an amazing person who is working for herself and using the resources she has at hand and with time you will feel proud and tall again.
    I wish you the best, you are a beautiful woman who diserves love and support and there is no one and nothing that will ever change that. You are not flawed, you are not broken.
    Take care.

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  • parton_doll

    parton_doll September 13, 2011, 9:42 am

    My thoughts and prayers are with you LW through this very traumatic experience.

    I completely agree with Kim when she says just focus on you. You have so much healing that you have to go through. I would encourage you to just let your ex-boyfriend go for now. And by that, I mean simply don’t rely on him and don’t focus on him. Please be open with your counselor about everything that you’re feeling and thinking so that they can help you. Even if it seems like you’re repeating yourself or not making any progress … getting everything out of you is a part of healing. When you are feeling more in control of you, however long that may take, then you may decide how to deal with the situation with your ex. By then you both may have had a chance to at least process the trauma that has happened and have a real conversation about the what happened between you and have some closure. I can’t imagine your helplessness in the attack. I can’t imagine his helplessness at having to listen to your attach. But I will be sure to pray for you during this difficult process.

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  • avatar

    Ginger September 13, 2011, 10:02 am

    Dear LW,

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing with us your story. I can only imagine how difficult the entire situation has been and want you to know that none of what has happened is in any way your fault, and that you are stronger than you may believe right now.
    I hope that your friends and family can give you the hope and strength to allow you to heal.
    My thoughts are with you.

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  • avatar

    Jay September 13, 2011, 10:24 am

    Wow! You’re so brave LW! You are on the right path and all you need to do now is continue on. It will be better, I promise! And if the guy you called your boyfriend for so long can’t be by your side in these moments, than you don’t need him at all!
    You’re not a victim, you’re a hero! An example of how anyone who’s suffered an assault should act.

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    • avatar

      savannah September 13, 2011, 1:56 pm

      Your comments are very supportive Jay, I just wanted to highlight something that is prevalent in your post and others as well. As someone whose sister went though a similar situation as the LW the brave/hero etc. rhetoric can almost be as harmful as the issues inherent with the process of prolonged victimization. She IS a victim of a sexual assault, that doesn’t have to define the rest of her life, but is really is what is going on right now. To deny this is to deny the depth of what happen to her. Heroes have to ‘act’ a certain way because thats what is expected of them since after all they are brave, they are strong and they are a hero. She should not have to ‘act’ any particular way because she did nothing wrong, and being sexually assaulted does not make her need to be brave or to be strong. it just makes her need to ‘be’ in the months and years after the attack.

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  • avatar

    redheadblogger September 13, 2011, 9:31 am

    There’s nothing more I can add, but I think I speak for the community when I say do what you need to get better, and we are all thinking of you. Lots of virtual hugs your way.

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  • avatar

    Bekah September 13, 2011, 10:33 am

    There is nothing I can say to make you feel better. I am thankful that Wendy put you in such good hands as Kim to answer your letter. I can only say from my own experience when you feel comfortable, talk about it to as many or as few people, whatever makes you feel better. For me, it was the only way I could let go of the fear. I never told anyone until 2 years after it happened and I had assisted on a 24 hour hotline and gone to the hospital with victims as a volunteer before it happened. I knew all the right information, but I was so scared. Putting words to what happened and being able to relate it to people gave me power over it. Just concentrate on you and surround yourself with friends and family who love and support you. It wasn’t your fault.

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  • avatar

    SherBear September 13, 2011, 10:40 am

    LW – unfortunately I can relate to your experience of being attacked and not getting the emotional support from the people you need the most. I was kidnapped and raped at 13 and while my family was highly involved in my attackers’ arrest and prosecution (life sentence) they wanted nothing to due with my emotional healing. Flashforward 10 years and I ended up in pysch ward of a hospital with severe PTSD – I literally could not function anymore and lost 10% of my body weight within a week (132 to 120). My parents were supportive in the sense that they paid for my medical care and sending me to a psychologist weekly.

    It’s now been 4 years since my hosiptalization and my life is beyond better – I actually feel like a normal functional adult capable of having healthy relationships with men and am able to communicate my feelings. The problem – my parents still cannot deal with the past. I have been trying to get my mother to go to a therapist (my father is too deep in denial) but she just makes a million excuses including my favorite “my friends don’t think I need a therapist”, because I’m sure they know the whole story! She tries to talk to me about my “issues” but as soon as I say anything about my dysfunctional relationship with my sister or how she disappoints me with empty promises of therapy and getting involved in charity work/lobbying for womens’ rights (she runs a nonprofit for a disease my sister has) she gets beyond defensive and turns herself into the victim. I am at the point where I will am going to have to give her the ultimatum – if she wants anything more than a “superficial” relationship with me (her words) she will HAVE to go to a therapist (I gave her a list of trauma specialists in her area recommended by my doctor) to learn how to communicate with me.

    Anyways, back to you (felt good to get that off my chest!) – my saving grace is that I have created my own “family” of people that will give me the emotional support that I need. Unfortunately none of these people are actual blood relatives, but they are people I can call at any hour of the day or night and I can have constructive conversations with.

    Your ex owes you the biggest apology in the world and even then I don’t think it would be productive to date someone that is capable of abandoning you in your time of extreme need. Focus on yourself, keep seeing your therapist and ask your friends and family for support and help – anyone that truely loves you wants to help!! Good luck, it’s a tough journey but life after an assualt is possible and worth working towards!

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    • avatar

      milli September 13, 2011, 11:03 am

      SherBear, I am really sorry for what you went through. But the message that you wrote hides a lot of anger and resentment towards your parents. I don’t know if you think that in some twisted way it was their fault for what happened to you, but you should be more supportive of your mother. I think if you think an ultimatum is a good idea, maybe you should see a therapist and talk about your anger.

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      • avatar

        SherBear September 13, 2011, 11:11 am

        I have a lot of anger and resentment towards my mother who continuely treats me like I am the family’s skeleton in the closet. I still see my therapist weekly or biweekly on my own dime as my mother stopped paying for it as she thinks “therapy is overrated” and that I shouldn’t need it anymore – apparently there is a timeline for PTSD treatment and I have passed it. I am done being supportive of her until she will support me through my good AND bad times. My therapist is supportive of me trying to save my relationship with her and also supportive if I need to take a temporary estrangement from them.

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        amber September 13, 2011, 11:27 am

        SheBear I have family that doesn’t believe in counseling either, at all. They wouldn’t have thought you would need counseling to begin with, they’re of the why would you ever tell your story to a stranger, what is that going to help mindset. It’s very hard to deal with them, but I love them and so my Mom and I found ways to cope with them and their attitudes with our counselors. The best thing my therapist helped me learn was that I can’t control them I can only control how I let them affect me. Not that it’s easy to do and some days I still want to throw something at them to wake them up. But, it’s getting better. The best thing to do is make sure you have supportive people in your corner who you can go to when your family can’t. So much of how my family at least feels about counseling is in the way they grew up and how they were taught to deal with feelings etc. Remembering that also helps, they’re also dealing with emotional trauma but were never taught healthy ways to deal with it. I’m glad you’re in a better place emotionally now and I hope your family can learn to be more supportive. It’s hard to not have them in your corner.

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        lets_be_honest September 13, 2011, 11:12 am

        Wow. This was inappropriate and unsolicited. She should be more supportive her mother?!? How about you thank her for sharing her story with the LW instead of telling her what you think she’s doing wrong.

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        SherBear September 13, 2011, 11:14 am

        @lets_be_honest – I appreciate you standing up for me 🙂

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        TheOtherMe September 13, 2011, 11:18 am

        This is where a PM option would come in handy… we’re in your corner, SherBear

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        lets_be_honest September 13, 2011, 11:20 am

        That made me so angry. I will never understand some people.

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      • theattack

        theattack September 13, 2011, 7:08 pm

        It’s not fair to tell someone how they should feel, especially about people who should have been there but were not in their time of need. SherBear isn’t the one who did anything wrong here, and she doesn’t owe her parents anything.

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    • fast eddie

      fast eddie September 13, 2011, 3:50 pm

      We all expect our parents to cover our backs and be supportive, I certainly did and it didn’t happen. After several decades of abuse and even the lack of simple compassion I shut them out emotionally and never regretted it. There’s not much if anything you can do about your mother’s attitude. You can work on your own reaction to it. I don’t recommend my solution and note that it’s not completely satisfying.

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        SherBear September 13, 2011, 5:24 pm

        @eddie…you said you shut them out emotionally but did you still try to maintain some sort of cordial relationship with them or was that not possible either? I’m just thinking about the upcoming holidays, don’t think I can do Thanksgiving if my mother doesn’t start therapy. Maybe one night for xmas at my grandmothers’ as she is almost 95 and might not see another christmas (although she is the root of all my mother’s issues).
        My father and I have an arrangement where serious issues are only discussed via email. Not the healthiest solutions but it works with his communication limitations and allows us to have a good face-to-face relationship where we mainly discuss our dogs, football, his muscle cars, working out and business/finance. I think I’d be able to be around my mother for a holiday if I we had some sort of communication arrangement.

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        Betty Boop September 13, 2011, 6:23 pm

        Sherbear, I’m having a terrible time writing a good reply, but I have similar issues with my mother for different reasons. The truth is, you can’t change her, you can’t fix her and you can’t help her if she doesn’t want help. I was able to find a good balance of emotionally distant but friendly relationship with my mother by setting strict boundaries of what is acceptable behavior when we spend time together and what she is, or is not, allowed to say to me. Things that are emotionally damaging or manipulative are very clearly off limits and I’ve only had to enforce the boundaries a couple of times before we began to be able to enjoy a relationship. We only talk on the phone a few times a year and see each other a couple of times a year, but it’s a vast improvement over not speaking for 5 years. You have come so far, you’ve done so much for yourself, don’t make the mistake I did of internalizing your mother’s issues as your own. Hope, this makes sense and is relevant!

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      • fast eddie

        fast eddie September 13, 2011, 8:48 pm

        Virtually all dysfunctional families never resolve their differences. My last relative was my mother and she died 4 years ago. For a few decades we talked on the phone a few times a year, exchanged birthday and Christmas greetings and that was about all there was to it. My wife never meet her until the wedding weekend by my design for fear of her making trouble. After that we communicated much more often, visited etc. but I remained hyper defensive and didn’t tell her a whole lot about what was happening in my life. Fortunately my wife also came from a dysfunctional family and had moved to the other side of the county to keep out of touch so she completely understood my attitude. The whole mess was unsatisfactory but I had to live my own life without my parents interference. I’m still unhappy about it and envious of functional families. That’s why I don’t recommend mimicking this approach.

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        SherBear September 14, 2011, 10:35 am

        Thank you everyone for your kind words, it was great to get such validation yesterday esp since I had just came home from a weekend with my parents were my mom went crazy on me. I am working with my therapist (who I saw last night) to set up boundaries with my mom (I already have some set with my dad) so I can maintain a friendly and cordial relationship with her – I do not want to be estranged from my parents bc despite all of their (major) flaws I do love them and they do love me. Maybe I won’t be able to join them during the holiday season, but I have been going home in January to go to the Detroit Auto Show with my dad – I can perhaps turn that into a 4 day weekend to make up for missing Thanksgiving. I will focus on making sure I am mentally in a good place and hope that can include them!!

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  • avatar

    SGMcG September 13, 2011, 10:47 am

    LW, I am so sorry that you had to go through all this. I don’t know why your boyfriend walked out on your obvious time of need. Maybe he couldn’t cope with something so heinous that occurred through no fault of your own. Maybe he feels guilty or responsible regarding your assault. It doesn’t matter WHY your boyfriend decided to end your romance – he obviously couldn’t be the person you needed him to be when you asked. So your boyfriend should no longer be your concern anymore.

    Instead LW, please focus on taking care of yourself! I know that it’s difficult considering the trauma of your assault, so try and take little steps at a time to help you cope and overcome. Find a counselor specializing in sexual assault, get an attorney in legal aid to help you with the police, talk to your family and friends you can trust – whatever you feel good with. There’s no wrong way to address your assault, yet the important thing is to speak up and ask for help when you need it.

    I truly believe that you will be all right LW. I know you are still hurting, but thank you for sharing your story. Although it sucks that you were subject to so much pain, other women, unfortunately, need to know that they are not alone on this.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow September 13, 2011, 10:57 am

    My heart goes out to you, LW. I cried just reading your story because it it’s so sad that you had to experience that, but also inspiring to see your strength and resilience. I too was raped (although in a less violent and traumatizing way) and unfortunately pushed all my feelings deep inside and went into denial instead of dealing with it. Needles to say, the crime went unreported. Like the others have said, you have already been brave and strong by reporting the crime and seeking help for yourself. It also takes a considerable amount of courage to share your story with others. I commend you and admire you.

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  • Lyra

    L September 13, 2011, 11:08 am

    LW,

    First off, THANK YOU for sharing your story. I know it’s difficult to relive those memories, but you are so strong for sharing it with the DW community. It sounds like you are taking the right steps towards healing.

    A few years ago, I was assisting with sexual assault training for student leaders on my campus. I was asked to act the role of someone who had been assaulted. Our supervisors told us to refer to people affected by sexual assault as survivors, not victims. LW, you are a SURVIVOR. You are strong enough to get through this. It will take time, it will take energy, and it will take effort, but you have the willpower to get through this. There were some awesome and thorough suggestions from Kim that I hope you will consider.

    When I was acting the role of the survivor, I was realizing how different people’s reactions were when I told them my “story” (which had been fabricated by my supervisors). Specifically some guys just didn’t catch on to cues that I didn’t want to be touched or sometimes they would just be very blunt in talking to me. Though some of the girls I talked to seemed to catch on quicker and would sit and listen and allow me to be in control but some still had absolutely no idea what to do or what to say. Realize that as you tell family and friends about your experience, they will all react in different ways. Some people just don’t know how to react to something as sensitive as this. Though I’m not a counselor or specialist on this topic, I’m wondering if your boyfriend’s reaction at first was to put distance between himself and what happened because he doesn’t know how to approach it. I agree with other comments that you should just let him go for the time being. Once you have healed individually, maybe try to reach out to him to see what–if anything–you can salvage of your relationship.

    After we were finished with the exercises for the student leaders, a friend came up to me in tears after seeing me act out my sexual assault situation. She gave me a huge hug and told me that she herself had been sexually assaulted years back and it had brought back memories for her. She told me how hard it was to see me, her friend, going through a similar situation even though it was a fictional incident. That shows that it will always be part of you, even years down the road. Things may trigger it later, but as a strong survivor, in time you will be able to find ways to cope with it.

    Good luck, LW. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  • Jess

    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com September 13, 2011, 11:12 am

    Thank you Kim for such a beautifully written response.

    LW, I cannot relate to what you are going through but I went through something very similar in regards to your relationship breakdown. I rarely share the whole story outside of close friends BUT I’ll share it here in case it offers any insight…

    I was in a relationship of pretty much identical timeline and situation (living together, happy, marriage/home purchase plans in discussion) and then, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with cancer. His family came to my aid as well. But as the crisis took on full bloom (hospital stays, surgery, job loss, financial concerns, etc), he broke down and told me he wasn’t sure he loved me enough to deal with it.

    One day later, he begged me for forgiveness, told me he’d just freaked, etc. and we resumed our relationship throughout the duration of my illness and treatment. But something was forever broken. When he told me he wasn’t sure he loved me enough… That he would faltered at the my most vulnerable time of my life…. It just couldn’t be repaired. I couldn’t trust him anymore. He couldn’t cope and started spending more and more time away from the house. Ironically, it wasn’t until I was “cured” that we officially broke up. Truthfully I was still wanting to work on it but he was checked out.

    I still look back and wonder sometimes. Was it the cancer? Was there some underlying problem that I hadn’t seen?

    In the end, I concluded that it doesn’t matter. The fact remains that he couldn’t be there for me when I needed him most. He had a weak character and that was never going to be enough for me in the long course of my life with someone.

    I discovered who I could really count on. And I don’t know who that may be for you but for me it was my parents that topped the list. For several months, I let myself be their little child again. My mom cooked for me a lot, my dad managed phone calls and finances, my sisters sent me fun care packages, and I put myself in their hands for awhile –a place that was the safest place I knew. At one point, we even went to Disney World (and yeah, at age 30 they bought me toys).

    Focus on those people and places that make you feel loved and sage. Hide out there as long as you need, until that love and support gives you enough strength to strike back out on your own.

    I know I speak for all the readers when I say, we’ll be rooting for you!

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    • avatar

      Slamy September 13, 2011, 12:51 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate it.

      I am dealing with some neato health issues and my mom has been incredibly supportive, and I have been letting her baby me, because I honestly need it right now. I tried not to tell her what was going on, but she has swooped in like a mama bird and has been calling me every day, feeding me when she can, taking me to dr appointments and paying for my medical treatment. I think part of it is to make up for *not* being there throughout my adolescence, but whatever. I need this right now and I will accept it.

      Anyway, Jess, I wish you many years of health and happiness.

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      • Jess

        Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com September 13, 2011, 2:42 pm

        Thanks Slamy! I wish YOU health and happiness too and hope you get through your current illness and feel better than ever.

        When that happened to me, I felt like my life was burning to the ground. And it was and it did. But the happy ending is that I got to choose how I wanted to rebuild it. I moved to a new city, got a new job, and …….eventually found a man with whom I have a much a deeper and more profound connection.

        I don’t want to wrongly associate cancer with assault because the emotional implications are wildly different as far as I can tell. But the notion of being gentle with yourself, stripping away what’s unnecessary, and bunkering down with those you trust –those principles relate to LW I think.

        My heart’s with both of you 🙂

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie September 13, 2011, 10:13 am

    Especially this letter, as in many of the letters to DW, I imagine myself to be a pseudo-father of some sort. First and foremost it is NOT YOUR FAULT, you are NOT dirty, tainted, guilty or anything other then injured. DW readers and commentators are a kind of family and when one is hurt we all hurt and more so in this case. Kim is great resource and Wendy is wonderful for bringing in her expertise to help you heal

    It would be a good idea to push the police to identify and capture the rapist. Yourself and all of society needs an animal like him caged. Send me an email through my web site and I’ll do what I can to campaign for that.

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  • avatar

    Rebecca September 13, 2011, 11:59 am

    LW, your ex-boyfriend’s reaction is horrible but, I’m sorry to say, not uncommon. I was raped when I was 16, and my then-boyfriend (as serious as any relationship at that age can be) reacted by pulling away, telling me he felt that he couldn’t see me in a sexual way anymore, and eventually breaking up with me in the most callous way possible. I was devastated, and furious with the few friends in whom I’d confided who didn’t see why I was making a big deal out of a breakup when I had something so much more serious to address. They didn’t understand that the two were connected—that I felt doubly damaged: still struggling to cope with the assault itself, I was suddenly faced with the fear that it had marked me for life, that nobody would ever see me as sexually normal again.

    In the years since then, I’ve figured out one possible reason why so many men react this way: they’re so sick with sorrow and (unjust, since not all men are rapists) gendered guilt that they become paralyzed by the fear of contributing to the crimes of their gender. They know what happened is YOUR trauma, not theirs, but they don’t know how to continue treating you as a sexual being without feeling as though they are somehow contributing to the harm that was done to you. Many times—it was the case with my ex-boyfriend and probably with yours—they are also just immature (who isn’t at that age?), and rather than staying to cope with this mess of feelings they bolt.

    It’s not okay that your ex abandoned you, the woman he loved, when you needed him the most. It’s not fair. But I can promise one thing: THIS WILL NOT BE EVERYBODY’S REACTION. There are loving, mature, brave men and women in the world who can accept that a terrible thing was done to you and help you heal WITHOUT withdrawing from you. There are people out there who will hear what you went through and love you and your courage all the more for it. And that love will not be timid or selfish or asexual.

    This will take time. It will also take time before you’re ready to accept that kind of love, because as you and I and every other survivor of sexual assault know it can be much harder and more frightening to begin healing than to sweep it under the carpet. But you will continue to be as brave as you have already been—and you will heal—and you will find friends, family members, and partners who will be able to comprehend the wrong that was done to you without letting it change who you fundamentally are. And someday you will look back at your ex-boyfriend and be glad that you did not end up with a man whose selfish fears were stronger than his ability to be the partner you needed.

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      Slamy September 13, 2011, 12:53 pm

      “And someday you will look back at your ex-boyfriend and be glad that you did not end up with a man whose selfish fears were stronger than his ability to be the partner you needed.”

      This. However sad, and however not true it feels right now, it is so true.

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    • Jess

      Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com September 13, 2011, 2:44 pm

      Rebecca,

      This is so bravely and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing it. Brought tears to my eyes.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't September 13, 2011, 12:05 pm

    Jesus, LW. My heart is breaking for you. Know that all the members of this community will be sending good thoughts your way!

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  • avatar

    Rachel September 13, 2011, 12:43 pm

    Wow, LW, so sorry that this happened to you. I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been better said already, but I wanted to agree with everyone else here – we’re all rooting for you and sending good thoughts your way. I’m sure you have the strength to get through this!

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  • avatar

    Slamy September 13, 2011, 12:55 pm

    I don’t have anything else to add that hasn’t been said already, but you are in my thoughts and you have already proven what a strong woman you are.

    “Everything is okay at the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

    However useless that quote above may seem, it has been my mantra for when I am feeling scared or lost or anxious, and I have carried it in my brain for years now.

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  • avatar

    Greebo September 13, 2011, 1:03 pm

    LW–I’m so sorry. You’ve been so very brave, and so strong. I wish you all the best as you work through this.

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  • avatar

    lk September 13, 2011, 1:26 pm

    I can’t imagine how difficult this situation is for you & I will keep you in my deepest thoughts. Focus on yourself & draw healing from the family & loved ones around you. I’m sorry that your boyfriend hasn’t been able to support you the way you need to be supported right now; it sounds like he has endured his own traumatic experience – he is inextricably woven throughout the narrative of your horror – & he should be in therapy as well as you. Possibly he would be willing to attend a therapy session with you at some point? That is something you could discuss with your therapist & with him.

    Though it’s been said: you are not defined by this experience; this was an extreme act by a disturbed individual – not an exposure of the true nature of other humans; you deserve to feel safe & to feel loved. You are changed, but you will be so much stronger as you re-learn to trust others & possibly, in time, forgive.

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    • avatar

      Turtledove September 14, 2011, 12:33 am

      I agree that the ex-boyfriend is also most likely traumatized by this experience and needs therapy. BUT, the ex-boyfriend is no longer the LW’s concern. There’s no merit in trying to fix him and she needs all of her energy directed at her own healing right now. Trying to fix a broken man or a broken relationship will divide her energies. He’s a grown man, he can be responsible for himself and find his own therapist. Right now, he’s not a good person for her to talk to, rely on, or think about since he’s so inextricably bound up in her horror. So unless her therapist sees some merit in bringing him along, I think the LW should just let it go for now. It’s hard to get the double blow of the assault and the break-up right on top of one another, but I don’t think stringing the break-up out will be of any help.

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  • avatar

    Nick September 13, 2011, 1:40 pm

    Just to add another man’s perspective on this situation:
    a) This is heartbreaking. Like everyone I’m sorry that the world we created includes people who would do this. Kim’s advice sounds masterful.

    b) If it happened to my GF, or even the GF of a friend, regardless of whether or not he was a stranger, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t rest a minute until this guy were convicted and incarcerated. Even after incarceration, I’d go to the ends of the earth to ensure he never is able to hurt someone again. Men in particular tend to look at the world this way.

    c) How this fails to elicit a protective reaction in one’s future husband is beyond me. It’s a double crime in that it’s compounded by the boyfriend’s leaving. I’d disown him for his treachery in her time of need and not waste another 30 seconds on him.

    Prayers, LW’s, for your peace and strength and for justice for your attacker.

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    • Lyra

      L September 13, 2011, 1:55 pm

      Nick, your girlfriend is lucky to have you. I consider myself a feminist, but I secretly love when guys pull the “protect the women folk” card. Even in this modern age, I’ll bet a lot of women greatly appreciate that feeling of protection. It means that their man will stick by them through ANYTHING.

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    • Budj

      Budjer September 13, 2011, 2:02 pm

      Well said.

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    • theattack

      theattack September 13, 2011, 9:35 pm

      As a woman (and yes, a feminist), I very much appreciate the sentiment that you would want to protect your girl. It makes me feel secure to know that some men still feel that way. Unfortunately, the desire to protect can sometimes actually push a guy in the opposite direction, which is what I suspect happened with the LW’s boyfriend. When a man has a desire and feels an obligation to protect his woman, and then something like this happens, it can feel like a failure for him. Like he should have been able to protect her from an attack in some way, should have been there to stop it. It can be a blow to a man’s perception of his masculinity, which could reasonably affect the way he feels about being in a relationship. Guilt is a very common and strong response to this situation for men. For the LW’s boyfriend, this could be especially true since she tried to contact him before this happened.

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    LW September 13, 2011, 2:16 pm

    I sat down this morning and read the letter Kim wrote and saw all the support coming from people I have never met. I spent at least 45 minutes crying and reading every word. I cant tell you how much it means to me to know that there are people out there that will give words of encouragement to a stranger. As of now, the police do not have any leads. I still talk with my (ex?) boyfriend and he is in a tough place too. I have seen him a few times the past couple weeks and he will sit and listen and offer the support the best he knows how. I’m not sure I have really processed the break up yet because of everything else that is happening. I’m having some PTSD symptoms for sure. But some days are better than others. I dont usually sleep much because of nightmares and when I do sleep its not a very deep sleep because I’m always listening for something. I am seeing a counselor a couple of times a week that specializes in this sort of thing. Friday will be my first “group” meeting. I am nervous to be around other people.. I’m not sure why, but I am.

    Again, I wanted to thank everyone here for your words of encouragement and all of the support.

    -Upside Down

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      amber September 13, 2011, 2:30 pm

      Honestly group therapy is a little scary at first. But, I found that if you stick to it and keep going it makes a big difference. I hope you find it helpful and you meet people who you are able to identify with and help you in the healing process. I made friends at group therapy who have transitioned to life long friends that I don’t think I could have completely healed without knowing. You may never be friends with the people in group therapy but just sitting with someone who gets what you’re going through without having to explain is almost like finally getting to relax. I didn’t have to keep the same guard up while I was there. I felt like I could feel whatever I needed to feel and I would be safe.

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      • Tracey

        Tracey September 13, 2011, 2:47 pm

        Good luck to you and to your ex-boyfriend. Since you’re still in contact, you may want to recommend he also get counseling. This crime affected – and is affecting – too, and he needs to learn how to get through this.

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    SherBear September 13, 2011, 2:16 pm

    You can also get counseling services at Planned Parenthood on a sliding scale – that is actually where I started and she help me decide that I did need to admit myself to the hospital and then helped guide me through finding a permenant therapist. I personally strongly prefer face to face contact over phone so just another idea of a place to try.

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      SherBear September 13, 2011, 2:16 pm

      this was ment to be a reply to @Tracey

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      • Tracey

        Tracey September 13, 2011, 2:45 pm

        I forgot all about Planned Parenthood. Thanks for that tip, and thank you for being brave enough to share your story. So glad you were able to get to a healthy place.

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    Tracey September 13, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I’m sorry you had to endure such a traumatic ordeal, LW. It sounds like you are on your way to getting well, despite the hurt of losing your boyfriend at such a difficult time. I hope the man who did this to you is brought to justice very soon. You deserve closure.

    On top of getting one on one counseling for yourself, I’d recommend finding a support group so you can build a network of friendship with people who’ve been where you’ve been, and truly understand your experience. I’d start with RAINN (The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and Recovery International (a secular support network designed to help people dealing with a spectrum of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues), and going from there. You also may want to ask the officer/detective assigned to your case if your local police department offers a victim’s advocacy group to help you through the investigation and (when he’s caught – say that not “if” – it’s important to believe he will be caught) prosecution process.

    I’d also recommend that as you go through counseling, if you find that you feel uncomfortable with the counselor or group you’re with, do not be afraid to say so and say why. If those groups don’t or that counselor doesn’t adjust to make you feel more at ease during your sessions, then find another. A skilled counselor and these support groups will not only help you work through your emotional recovery and help you realize this is not your fault, you will have better days in front of you, and that you are strong enough to carry on.

    Be well and hugs to you.

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    cmarie September 13, 2011, 3:30 pm

    My heart breaks for this LW. To have to experience such a trauma then lose a significant pillar of support must be so difficult. While I can’t know exactly how you feel I do understand how conflicted and terrible you must be feeling. As someone who survived a sexual assault as well I can promise you that you are not to blame, you are not dirty, you are not tainted, and you are not unlovable. You’re BF broke up with you because of himself, not because of you. It was something in him that had nothing to do with you and definitely nothing to do with the attack. You are taking all the right steps and doing all the right things to help yourself move on. I know losing your BF hurts but right now you need to concentrate on your own healing. Kim and all the other commenters have really great advice. The best move for you right now would be to concentrate on yourself, find who you were before the assault and get back in touch with her. Strengthen the bonds and relationships you do have, those that stand by you are the ones who you can count on to give you the support you need. This assault happened to you, not because of you, you have no blame in this. I wish I could say more, convince you that life will move on and eventually you will too; you can’t ever forget what happened but you will find that you are strong enough to remember it but not be destroyed by it.

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    OneSpiritEternal September 13, 2011, 5:13 pm

    No being in the universe should ever have to experience what you have endured. This is not your shame, Upside Down. This is not your blame, so if you are holding any blame against yourself, please, focus on finding the forgiveness for you, above all. You contacted the police, subjected yourself to further invasion by seeking immediate medical care, and have sought counseling – all good things, and all things placing those stepping stones in your path to healing. Dear Wendy, it is wonderful that you have the support network and people to go to when getting a letter such as this.

    Upside Down, so many of the other commenters on your letter are 100% right. You need to focus on yourself right now. This is not selfish. As for your boyfriend, whether or not he knows the person who used you in such an inhumane and inhuman manner, he has his own demons to face. I feel the biggest demon he’ll have to face eventually is the fact that he let you down; and that his actions of breaking up with you and pulling away, but his words of saying you could still call on him if you need to, are the actions of a coward. We all know that actions speak oh so much louder than words.

    You are a courageous woman for going to the authorities, and for not hiding yourself away and taking all this burden on yourself. You are a beautiful human being (whether or not you believe that right now). Please know that I am holding you in my thoughts and my prayers. I don’t know what your beliefs are, so I hope you take this as it is meant, and that is with the most pure of intentions: I pray that the universal love can shine through all your fears and all your doubts of yourself, and lead you back to the knowledge you are loved and cared for and important to this world. May all the love and light of all that is good and beautiful and healing in this universe surround you.

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    Foots September 13, 2011, 5:56 pm

    LW, so sorry for what ur going through. I hate to say it, but ditch the BF.

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    Betty Boop September 13, 2011, 6:34 pm

    I have no new advice to add, but you can’t hear this enough! You are NOT alone and it WILL get better. It’s been many years since I was raped and many years since I tried to commit suicide and I often forget it even happened because it’s just a part of my life now, not who I am. It sounds like you are doing everything right to get back your power back where it belongs. Best of luck and lots of internet hugs.

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    HmC September 13, 2011, 6:36 pm

    LW,

    I have no advice to offer in addition to Kim’s wonderful advice above. Just wanted to say from one anonymous girl to another, I am very sorry that this happened to you. You didn’t deserve it.

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    Sue Jones September 13, 2011, 9:42 pm

    The BF failed a big test. DTMFA.

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    the other guy September 14, 2011, 1:56 am

    Sorry but I get a completely different take from the BF’s actions.

    The attacker seemed to be more interested in hurting and humiliating the BF and used the woman as a means to achieve this. He knew enough about the BF to convince her that the BF had sent him. Doesn’t sound like a random attack to me.

    One possibility is that the BF knows exactly who the attacker was but for some reason (nothing good) doesn’t want this known. By breaking up with the BF he might actually be protecting her from future attacks, especially if this wasn’t just a random attack.

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      Mark September 16, 2011, 10:01 pm

      I didn’t want to bring that up, because the LW has enough to deal with, but I’d thought the same thing. The rapist’s behavior and the boyfriend’s response, and the way that everything went down, throw up a lot of red flags. I hope the that police have taken the BF in for questioning and really grilled him on this.

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    Max September 24, 2011, 10:59 pm

    A question I have to ask everyone. Is the guy really a jerk for breaking up with her? He said he would still support her through this crisis. Maybe this incident gave him a wake up call that he can’t be the guy the girl needs. The last thing that would help the relationship is if he stayed out of obligation. I have read stories on how a rape effects the boyfriend in the relationship. Things can become really strained. It may simply be that the ex just can’t be support structure the girl needs. He knows that and he broke it off. Better to do it now then down the line.

    If he cut off all ties then a serious red flag but instead the guy ended the romantic part of the relationship. For all we know maybe he has been thinking about this for a while and this is what did it in.

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    sarah September 27, 2011, 5:33 pm

    Dear LW,
    You are so strong. I have nothing to add but my admiration for your courage and strength. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers.

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