The only way you can help her is just be there for her and listen to her. That's it. You cannot make her press charges. That is something she has to decide on her own. It's easy for someone on the outside to pick away at the story and wonder why she didn't do various things that someone on the outside would think a "normal" person should do. In all honesty... people react to trauma in a whole different way than they would logically think they would when the scenario is just a theory rather than reality. People freeze up during trauma. Sexual violence is very personal and people worry about judgement or worse not being believed. Some feel they don't deserve to be treated better or do not know there are better ways to be treated. Survivors contrary to what it seems... are very intelligent. We know that if we tell our story that it would be picked apart and judged. And most the questions she will not know the answers to and has and will beat herself up for it. I do the same thing with my trauma. I relive it and keep saying... if only I did something different or trusted my instincts or sometimes I go even farther with it and think I'm a disgrace and pathetic for reacting the way I did but reality... is that I reacted the only way I could given the circumstances. And it's NOT wrong. It might not be logical to an outsider or even a secondary. But it is the only way I could. It was the only way she could. I survived. She survived! She lived through it. She will forever be marked by this. It changed her. However, it does not have to be for the worst. She just need to find healthy ways to deal with her trauma and the emotions and triggers and everything it comes with it. It is a battle she will wage on her own, but that doesn't mean she's alone. Supporting her is the best thing you can do. Just always be there and always be someone she can trust and it will help her tremendously. Trust is not easy for survivors. It is a sacred gift. Cherish that you are one she considers worth trusting. I wish you the best and hope you understand.
Thank you so much for reading and your advice! I'm afraid I have already tarnished the trust a lil bit. I got really angry as she was telling me this via Skype message. After we hung up I was enraged and in tears and couldn't sleep. I paced outside for like two hours teeth clenched along with my fists and almost every other muscle. I cursed at god and was so mad that he could let this happen to such a beautiful young woman. I found my self fantasizing about revenge. I just got back from visiting her this weekend. I told her everything I just told here. She felt really bad for making me so upset. This is not the first time I have been involved with someone that has been assaulted. My ex-gf was assaulted when we were at a party together. I felt the same way then. Anyways I have kind of diagnosed her myself from research I've done and she seems to be in the third stage of recovery. I have discussed this with her previously as well as prayed with her and just listened. This weekend while I was visiting her she made a comment or two about her ex "bf" and Oregon. I got angry again, not in front of her initially. I went outside to smoke. She eventually came out and we had a lil talk. I told her that he was not her boyfriend! (stupid right?) and she explained that to seem normal she had to call him that, which I could understatnd. I asked her to not use the word "bf" when talking about things with me. Is this wrong on my behalf? I also asked her to try and stop mentioning Oregon. I also told her that I want her to be able to talk to me about it, but to just give me a heads up so that I can get in the right mind state? Is all this okay? what do I do? Forgot to mention the next evening we got to talking about it some more and I showed her this site. I really hope she seeks some counseling as she feels no need to at this point.
It's okay to not want the assailant to be called boyfriend. I wouldn't press the issue though. I would rather not call my abuser my uncle, but... I will not say his name. Thank God it's so uncommon and old fashioned and stupid that I have not met anyone with that name. I'm incredibly biased I'm sure it would be a fine name if that psychopath didn't have it. My point being there needs to be some frame of reference that she's comfortable with. Right now she sees him as an ex-bf. It is a process to recognize that it was abuse and not a relationship. She was brainwashed and isolated from other people and if you can't trust people closest to you... well you cannot trust people who are strangers. That is the nature of the beast. I imagine her assailant was much like my uncle in several ways. That he was controlling and manipulative as well as highly charismatic. I loved my uncle. He is actually a likable guy. He won my affection the same exact way anyone else could. I trusted him with stuff I couldn't with my dad. We created a relationship. I do not remember when or how the abuse started so that's a mystery and one I honestly do not want the full scope of, but I do know he crossed the line. I do know he treated me like a secret lover. His "special boy." So, it did become toxic and abusive. I wasn't okay with it, but who could I tell? Everyone loved my uncle. I'm pretty certain he told me no one would believe me. He'd want me over a lot. He made me care about my cousins. If I didn't go over there I'd never see my cousins he had them isolated literally and in a way isolated me... only less literally. Eventually I did go home. He'd have my cousins call me and then he'd talk to me. He'd drop by my house with them. He'd seek me out at family functions. So even when he couldn't abuse me sexually he was still preying on me mentally and emotionally. I didn't have a lot of friends and the ones I did I wanted them away from my uncle and not know the sick stuff going on. My uncle made it seem like it was my fault. I imagine it works pretty similarly. That her assailant made her believe things that weren't true and isolated her or something to make her stay and believe she couldn't get free. He made her addicted to drugs which makes her dependent on him. It's a process realizing how wrong it was and that is was actually abuse. Lucky me... (not really) my memories were locked up so it's not something I had to deal with until recently.
It's perfectly reasonable to want a heads up, but what about something that triggers a memory or bad feeling/ thought from that time? That is random and happens any where. I'll be out with friends laughing and carrying on and someone will make a joke or gesture or hug me just a little too long for my comfort and bam my uncle is in my head again even though I haven't seen him in well over a decade! This will cause panic, nausea, difficulty breathing, and a long list of possible physical symptoms as well as emotional seemingly out of no where. It's harder when it's unexpected. Right now talking about my uncle I'm emotionally collected because I'm in control. Random thoughts and memories not brought on for a purpose... I tend to lose it real quick. It's something I think that is a real possibility and you should be prepared for. You both are going to have to navigate things.
Good to know that I'm not in totally in the wrong for her not to call him her "bf". I think she only does it to hide the fact of what happened to her around her friends and family. She would much rather them think that she was just young and stupid and in a bad relationship. She says that she does have flashbacks that are horrible and she feels like she is back in the place it happened. How can she or I help that? We went a little more in depth and detailed in her abuse this past weekend and I noticed that she was breathing very raspily. I think that might have been a panic attack...Then the next day we were at her friends house watching Special Victims Unit. I could tell she was upset b/c she buried her head in my chest and pretended to take a nap. I motioned to her friend to change the channel. What kind of things help to reduce triggers or flashbacks or what is the best way to deal with them from her standpoint and mine to help her? It's confusing to me as to why she brings the "bf" up at all. Or why she would even want to mention the word Oregon. It triggers me and I didn't even know her when all this happened. It instantly gets me thinking about this sick fuck, and enrages me to want to do unspeakable things to him. Thanks again for all your help! You have no idea how much I need help with this.
In these situations there is rarely clear right or wrong answers to process and handle it. I'm not a therapist, but it sounds like she's experiencing PTSD, which would be normal-- I also have PTSD from my experience. She told you about these awful things that happened to her because she trusts you and if you two are going to pursue a relationship then it may be helpful for you to know things like when she pretends to be asleep during SVU, it's really her getting upset. One thing I noticed is that you asked her friend to change the channel. Be careful when taking things into your own hands like that. If her friend doesn't know what happened, and she's not actively making it known that she is upset, then you don't want to draw attention to her saddness and inadvertantly tell a story that is hers to tell. That's just my thinking from past experiences. Triggers are tricky. With PTSD there sometimes isn't a trigger, then there are obvious triggers. Yes, the words Oregon and mentioning her ex-boyfriend may seem like they would be obvious triggers, but those are also words that she would say or hear often, which would allow her to numb herself to them; whereas watching a show about rape-- something that isn't discussed on a daily basis-- would potentially trigger memories that she doesn't wish to remember. What you have to remember throughout this process, is that is is a process. There isn't going to be a magical cure for it or something to make everything okay. Your anger towards the guilty is justified and you will need to work through it-- she likely already has and is probably working through getting through the flashbacks, paranoia, and self loathing. No amounts of wanting to cut off his genitals and place an iron there will erase what has happened to her. All you can do at this point is be her rock, her constant. You can be someone she can safely cry to, someone who understands why she doesn't like SVU, and someone who is willing to talk to her even during the weird hours of the night. She needs someone like that. But that's really all you can do. You can mention to her different things like therapy and this group, as long as you don't push her too much and realize in the end it is her decision. Just be there for her, but that doesn't entail making her talk about it 24/7 or relating everything back to the incident. Let her bring it up, unless you are feeling anger about it and need to discuss it right then.
Exactly. I don't like other people bringing up even small things around others that might not know what I been through. I'd have a fit if someone suggested to turn off SVU because I'm there. Generally, I avoid the show. There are episodes I can watch, but if there is a child involved or more than one assailant it will make me uncomfortable and want to avoid it, but I'll just go to another room or suddenly need to make a phone call or when I was smoking take a smoke break or busy work of some sort. Thankfully, it's only my mom that's obsessed with that kind of stuff. So, I can actually come up with something to do without her questioning me. She knows about one incident, but I don't think she realizes it bothers me and I like to keep it that way. I don't mind someone running interference when they make it more about them or play distraction. Like if they said they wanted to watch a movie and at least pretend it's not me that's the issue.