'Stop' Is Not a Safe Word. Yet.


Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I was talking about safe words with a guy I have casual sex with, and he said I could just use the word “stop.” I instinctively said no I couldn’t. That’s absurd. But then I thought to myself, well why not? That is the logical word to use. One syllable. Clear message. Then I had an epiphany — I realized I don’t have faith in the word “stop.”

When I was sexually assaulted/raped the word “stop” didn’t make him cease his actions. Nor did the words “no,” “ouch,” or “get off me” or even using the ever more considerate “stop, please.”

Instead, he continued and it got more violent. When I was trying to cope with the trauma I oversexualized myself and started hooking up with a lot more people. I never said “stop” in these encounters. I wanted to be one step ahead of them, and make whatever uncomfortable act or position that could happen be my idea, and thus in my “control.” Because all I really wanted was that control back. That sense of control.

I realized I don’t believe the male species understands the word “stop.” I have scared myself from using that word based on traumatic experiences that were not my fault (concluding that I was not to blame is a whole other post…).

I have scaled back on the amount of casual encounters, and have slowly raised my expectations. I am also extremely committed to regular STI testing. I have come a long way, but there is always room for improvement.

Although what me and this guy have is only casual, I do trust him. I trust him enough that I think I can try using the word “stop,” maybe to take a quick pee break, just to see if it works.

However, until then, I’m sticking with my safe word: Scotland. Or pumpernickel. Or refrigerator. I guess I have some thinking to do…

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via proud_natalia


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

beautiful woman with wavy hair

What the 'Stress' Part of PTSD Looks Like for Me

Author’s note: This was written to illustrate the process following being triggered by news reports of assault. What does the “stress” part of PTSD really look like? Why do trigger warnings matter? Terror. Memories. Embarrassment. I experience a sweeping feeling of uncontrollable exposure. Who knows my story, who might connect this to me? I know [...]
union of man and nature (Cbm painting)

The Difference Between Being 'Alone' and Being 'Lonely' as Someone With PTSD

Am I learning to be alone, or am I drifting into silent loneliness? Are my mindful days, lack of thoughts and constant urge for change considered “resting,” or am I flowing into an abyss of blackness? Is my contentment to be OK with a sparsely-filled calendar, an awakened new period of self-discovery and growth? Or [...]
young woman lying in bed unable to sleep lost in thought

What It's Like to Feel an 'Emotional Flashback'

I awake highly anxious. It takes me hours to realize that perhaps I’ve had another nightmare — only this time, despite being triggered, I don’t remember the nitty gritty. I can’t shake the anxiety; something awful is about to happen, surely. But nothing comes, nothing happens. I feel it in every inch of my body, stomach flipping over, [...]
Vector fashion illustration sketch girl in red dress. EPS

Why You Shouldn't Tell a Trauma Survivor 'It Could Have Been Worse'

The world we live in is so often built upon comparisons. Is she thinner than me? Is he in a better job than me? Do they work as hard as I do? So much so that even mental illness seems to have been categorized. Upon discussing my mental illnesses, the reactions I have had have [...]