Behind a cut for sure. Reasons are in the title, and it gets pretty detailed, so be warned.
Dear Captain Awkward (or appropriate guest blogger),
I recently had a fight with my mom over the definition of rape and the concept of enthusiastic consent and I don’t know how to handle the outcome right now. First I was talking about some sexual abuse I experienced from a coercive ex-boyfriend, who both ignored explicit verbal “don’t do this, ever” commands by pushing boundaries until I stopped verbally saying no, and also never seemed to acknowledge negative, uninterested body language. My mother basically said we were BOTH to blame and I didn’t say no “properly” or “forcefully” enough.
Then it came to light that a close friend of mine was raped by her ex-boyfriend while she was under the influence of Ambien–they were even broken up at the time but he drove over and sneaked into her bed, raped her, and left her sore, knowing she was taking that medicine… I called him a rapist and mom spent a long time saying the word was “too strong” and trotting out the typical rape apologist excuses, up to and including “how do we know she isn’t lying about it?”
Turns out the issue was really sensitive for my mom because my father has had sex with her on many occasions while she was on Ambien, and if I define it as rape in my cousin’s case, it would be rape in her case, and she doesn’t “see it that way.” Apparently after the first time it happened, my mom told my dad not to have sex with her while she’s on Ambien, but he’s done it anyway.
Mom doesn’t call it rape but I don’t know any other way to see it. Not only is she unable to consent or think rationally while on Ambien, she specifically told my dad not to take advantage of her in that state but he has in spite of that.
So now I find out my dad, whom I love and am very close to, may have raped my mom more than once. A close friend was raped. Both of my parents hold me partially to blame for my own sexual abuse.
I’m confused and hurt, tired of getting in shouting matches with my mom, and don’t know how to relate to my dad, or men in general, right now.
On the Verge of Tears
Dear On The Verge of Tears:
Right now, your mom is not a safe person for you to talk to about your experiences coercion and sexual abuse. She is too caught up in her own point of view, her own experiences, the things she was taught, etc. to support you now the way you need to be supported.
And right now, YOU are not a safe person for your mom to talk about these things with. As fucked up as it is, she does not owe it to you to define her own experiences in a way that you agree with. She gets to label, process, and define her own experiences in her own way, and if she is wrong about what she calls what your dad did to her, she gets to be wrong.
With any rape or assault victim, some good steps are:
- Believe them.
- Treat them like an expert on their own experience.
- Don’t argue them into a point of view or derail what they are telling you.
- Ask them if there is anything you can do to help.
- Respect the decisions they make about how to handle what happened to them.
She should have given that to you when you told her what happened, of course she should have, but she couldn’t for whatever reason. It’s too close to her own pain and struggle with the same issues. If she calls what happened with your friend/cousin rape, then she has to call what happend with your dad rape, and then she has to literally destroy everything she holds to be true about her life and her family. So she’s fighting for it to not be true, so she doesn’t have to (further) wreck her life. She is NOT in a good place to help you, and hearing about your experiences are triggering hers all over the place. It’s not like being raped magically plants seeds of feminism in your head that help you counteract all the messages you’ve gotten from the world about how it was probably not that bad and if it was it was your fault anyway.
You didn’t do anything wrong by seeking comfort from your mom or having this discussion, and I think your definitions of what happened are (sadly) the correct ones. But her situation is that she cannot give you what you need right now.
My suggestions for you are to call RAINN and talk to someone, today. And work on getting a therapist into your life, and make there be a safe place where you can talk about what happened to you. Talk about how you were raised. Talk about how your mom reacted and how that hurt you. Talk about your dad and your fears about him. You deserve that. You are not going to get what you need right now from your folks, and if you keep talking about this with your mom you will shred yourself against her denials and she will shred you with them, too. You don’t have to be her superhero. Take care of yourself.
My other suggestion for you is to have on conversation with your mom about the awful conversation you had. “Mom, I’m still feeling sad and scared after that conversation we had. I’m going to talk about what happened to me with a counselor and hopefully find some peace with it. If you need anything from me, if you ever need me to make a phone call and try to find someone for you to talk to, or for me to come get you, or to stay with me for a few days, you let me know, okay? I love you.”
She might not react well to this, but hopefully she’ll file it away, and you will have said what you could.
Oh, and since it’s coming up: You don’t owe her playing happy holidays and pretending nothing is wrong. You just don’t. Celebrate with people who don’t make you crawl out of your skin.
As for how to relate to your dad, or men in general, hell, I do not know. I think getting as much space as you can from your family and surrounding yourself with trusted people is a pretty good idea. Talking to trained counselors is a good idea. Those are first steps. They will help you figure out the next steps.
God, I fucking hate rapists. They poison everything, and their gross, horrible, evil, entitled deeds ripple out in waves and waves and waves. Where does it stop?