The Situation That Made Me Realize Why It’s Dangerous to Minimize Assault
If you’ve experienced domestic violence, 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 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
I will start this off with a trigger warning: this contains content about assaults and not being believed and even called a “liar.” Not detailed content, but just to be safe, I want that said.
Recently, I found myself in a dangerous situation with a male. All the red flags were there within days. I saw them. The last time I saw him, his advances became hostile. I brushed it off. Told no one. Just decided I would not answer my phone and texts, no matter what he said or threatened.
He tried to go through my friends, unsuccessfully. The last text was him telling me he would leave me alone, then I blocked his number. That day, I was happy to be done, and just wanted to ignore it and be done. It wasn’t until the next day that everything sank in.
I touched my arm and realized it hurt. I looked down to see thumb-sized bruises on my arm. Standing in the shower, I broke down. The things I brushed off, ignored and made light of all became real.
I sat in my therapist’s office today, discussing this subject. She knows me well. Being lucky enough to have the same therapist for 10 years, they know you. She knows what to say so I will keep talking and realize things. So, telling her how stupid I felt for not telling anyone — how I didn’t understand why I made light of it, minimized it or ignored it completely — she knew to keep that going.
Sadly, like many victims, this was not the first situation I have been in similar to this: I was abused as a child. Later in life, at 16, I was told I was lying about it. Of course, being told the years I went through this was something I just made up was devastating. In high school, I had a Lifetime movie stereotypical situation, featuring the star football player getting ready to play a “big game” and the girl who claims she was pinned against a wall by him. The next day at school, when said football player followed the teen girl in the halls at school, she broke down. Of course, the teen girl was me.
The school resource officer came and asked me if I was sure that was what happened. This boy had a game that weekend, so I needed to be sure. It ended with a phone call to his parents, because he came from a “nice family” and he played in his game (and lost, so there). Of course, this was followed by the reassurance that it was probably a misunderstanding on my part.
My therapist let me tell her these stories and waited for it to click in my head. Of course, it did. I had beat myself up for a few days, wondering how in the world I let it go. How was I so stupid not to see how dangerous this was? How dangerous he was? How did I make light of such things? Looking back, it makes sense why I did! In every situation, I had been taught I was either lying or being overdramatic about it.
Sadly, there are more times than these two examples, but each time I was the one who “blew things out of proportion.” It was me that was the problem. The people I trusted most, who were supposed to protect me and validate my feelings, told me I was wrong about the situation or made it up completely. So, fast forward to adulthood and this situation, I automatically did it myself. It’s second nature to minimize it — a learned habit to tell myself “it’s not that bad, you are being dramatic.” I am grateful I have such a close relationship with my therapist.
When she validated my feelings, told me I was not being overdramatic and that I wasn’t “stupid” but just acting on learned behaviors, it was such a relief. I still take responsibility for not seeing things for what they were, not trusting my gut and running on fear. However, I can also see how the messages I received caused me to do it.
I didn’t want this learning experience, but I have it. So, instead of focusing on my negative feelings and beating myself up, I am going to learn from this. There is a good lesson in it — another lesson that the messages I was given when I was younger need to be questioned and looked at. Not me as a person.
Photo by Kevin Laminto on Unsplash