[Advice] Rape and Reactions

I’ve started answering questions…with questions. If you have a problem that might benefit from other angles of consideration, send it to donovanable [at] gmail [dot] com.

I think I was maybe raped, but it doesn’t really bother me. I’m uncomfortable around people who remind me of him, but otherwise nothing’s really different and I’m not traumatized or broken or repressing; it was just an unpleasant experience which I don’t want to repeat. It hasn’t really affected me much. Is something wrong with me? Is that okay?

Anon, I am sorry this happened to you. I’m also sorry you’ve been worried about your reaction.

What outcomes would you want for someone else in your shoes? 

Picture this for me:
You’re not you, you’re listening to someone like you. “I think I was raped,” they say. “It’s not ruining my life…but you know, occasionally some stuff makes me uncomfortable. I’m managing just fine otherwise.”

You might worry that, as you said, they could be repressing it. But perhaps you have a conversation and you’re persuaded, convinced, otherwise made comfortable they’re not squashing down feelings.

What then, do you say to your friend?

What advantages would being more bothered have? What disadvantages?

It seems like an innate sense of being more normal might be one of the advantages for you. What else? What would it trade off against?

Consideration: What would you do if it did start bothering you? How would you know it was bothering you enough to want to do something about it?

Some people have a resurgence or appearance of trauma symptoms during significant events—the sexual assault of a friend or child, hearing of their rapist’s good fortune, a partner who happens to do or say something especially reminiscent of the rape.

Nobody benefits from wandering around expecting their brain to implode on them, so I don’t suggest you continually fear this. But please consider that if in five or fifteen years, you suddenly feel awful about this, that would be okay too. 

The “I shouldn’ts” sometimes stop people from seeking [professional or friendly] help.
“I was fine before, and I shouldn’t feel this way [amount of time] later.”
“This shouldn’t be giving me flashbacks, it was so minor!”

What would be a level of discomfort related to this that would be too much for you? What would you do then?

Opinion: Yes, you are okay. You are allowed (and encouraged!) to be different from the dominant narrative. You are allowed to be not hurt by something that can hurt others who experience it. I am glad that this is your experience; I don’t get to see this side enough.

If I ran an advice column that told people they should feel worse about things that happened to them, I would not be helping anyone.

A Caveat: Sometimes numbness is how the body/brain protects itself from strong emotions after a trauma, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. This is also not necessarily bad! If you think it might be happening to you, or you’re not sure, or you think it might be getting in the way of other things, you could talk to a counselor about it.

Related: Your Reaction Is Normal

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