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Forums / PTSD & Trauma / Hello everyone. First post, seeking support for sexual harassment and PTSD.

Topic: Hello everyone. First post, seeking support for sexual harassment and PTSD.

10 posts, 0 answered
  1. brian23
    brian23 avatar
    14 posts
    14 September 2020

    Hey, everyone. I hope you're all doing well in your own journeys. I am very thankful to anyone who takes the time to connect with me here, and offer some comfort.

    I'm here because my PTSD has been triggered by recent sexual harassment. I'm a young man, and a middle-aged woman made sexual comments towards me in a digital setting. (She is probably 20 years older than me.) She was very judgemental when I expressed discomfort, and ultimately deleted her on social media. I have taken practical steps to separate from her, and have informed a relevant community organiser, who will be speaking with her about boundaries, etc.

    Practical safety aside, I'm feeling hollow inside, and scared. This is bringing up some negative stuff.

    When I was in year 8, an older girl emotionally manipulated me, and sexually harassed me into having a relationship with her. She performed sex acts in front of me, with her older boyfriend. When I was in year 10, two adult women sexually harassed myself and a friend, and instructed us to kiss in the backseat of a car, telling me afterwards not to inform my mum about what happened. It made me feel dirty and shameful, as though I had done something wrong, when I was simply the victim of adult inappropriateness.

    Those feelings are returning now, even though I logically know I am not at fault. My childhood experiences conditioned me to think "how could I have avoided this" and "how am I responsible for what happened", and even though I deliberately try to resist these nonsense impulses, they still creep up on me.

    I am happy about one thing. I told this woman that I was uncomfortable, I sought accountability, and I removed myself from the situation. So, this is a victory.

    Because in the past, I didn't resist. I was too afraid to stand up for myself. I would be unable to sleep, sick with terror, stomach in knots. Throughout all these experiences, I was never attracted to women (I am a gay man), so that made their perverted sexual advances even more frightening. At a young age, I knew I only liked boys, but I tried to convince myself I liked girls just to appease female predators.

    I think this is a fresh start. I will never allow another woman's inappropriateness to go unaddressed.

    I feel empowered, but I also feel disgusted. I feel angry. I want women to stop doing this to me, to just leave me alone. I want justice for the sexual harassment that occurred when I was young, but I don't know if I'll ever get it.

    Thank you for reading.

    1 person found this helpful
  2. Sophie_M
    Community Moderator
    • Works for beyondblue moderating these forums
    Sophie_M avatar
    6608 posts
    14 September 2020 in reply to brian23
    Hi brian23,

    We're so sorry to hear that you have been recently subjected to inappropriate behaviour and that this had triggered memories of past experiences for you. We can hear that this has been overwhelming for you. Please know that this is a safe space to talk about your feelings and experiences. Can we ask if you are receiving mental health support? Please do feel free to contact the Beyond Blue Support Service anytime on 1300 22 4636 or get in touch with us on Webchat 3pm-12am AEST here: www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport

    One of the friendly counsellors can offer you some support but also provide you with advice and referrals for seeing a counsellor in a more ongoing way if this is something you feel would be beneficial.

    We hope that being part of the community is of some comfort to you. If you would like to post further, please tell us more about what's on your mind and how we can best support you through this.

     
    1 person found this helpful
  3. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    romantic_thi3f avatar
    3151 posts
    15 September 2020 in reply to brian23

    Hi brian23,

    Welcome to the forums and thank you for being here and making your first post. It can't have been an easy thing to do.

    I feel totally mixed feelings reading your post - so frustrated and angry that you've had to go through this, upset in the way the woman reacted and sharing in your victory and empowerment for being able to set some boundaries.

    It makes sense that you're having these impulses of being at fault and being responsible. I have this too, and I've learned that this is our own way of trying to make sense of really terrible situations - feeling like we had some sort of control can sometimes feel better than accepting that it was just an awful and vulnerable place that you didn't deserve.

    You are not alone in being triggered for your PTSD or even going through sexual assault - if it feels safe to you I encourage you to have a read in the other PTSD and trauma threads here.

    Feel free to let us know how we can support you here and I hope this helps a little

    rt

    1 person found this helpful
  4. brian23
    brian23 avatar
    14 posts
    15 September 2020 in reply to Sophie_M
    Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to me, I really appreciate it. I have called the Beyond Blue Support Service, and been referred onto 1800RESPECT. I didn’t know I was allowed to access that service, even as someone who has suffered sexual harassment multiple times, and multiple times while I was underage. So it feels good to have my experiences and pain legitimised by someone saying, “that was wrong, and it WAS abusive”. I’m still feeling very violated and tired, as well as angry, but this is a good start. I’ll be calling 1800RESPECT later in the day. Cheers.
    1 person found this helpful
  5. brian23
    brian23 avatar
    14 posts
    15 September 2020 in reply to romantic_thi3f
    Hey, thanks so much. You’re very kind.

    I think part of the reason that I tried to say “I am responsible for what others did to me” was because responsibility gives the opportunity for avoiding harassment in the future. Even though I did nothing to solicit any of the abuse I endured, thinking that I did allows me to then rationalise, “well, if I change my behaviour, women will stop sexually harassing me”. But there’s no behaviour to change, because I didn’t do anything to invite what happened. I can’t escape abusers by changing what I do, and that’s the terrible truth of it all. The fault lies squarely at the feet of people who abuse, not people who are abused. There was nothing I could do to stop people from being awful.

    When I was a kid, I was just sitting in the backseat with another underage kid. Two adult women took that as an invitation to sexually harass us both, and encourage us to kiss, which we did. That was not my fault. It feels good to type these words, because I’ve never really reassured myself so openly before. They told me to keep my mouth shut about the incident afterwards, because they knew it was wrong.

    I don’t think I’ll read through other threads yet, that might be too much for me. But I appreciate your advice, and I would like to continue discussing my situation here. That feels good.

    I have made a video recording, speaking to my younger self. I actually cried while doing it, which is rare, because I (generally) can’t cry. I talked about what had happened to me, and apologised to my younger self for going through it. That helped, a bit. I felt very raw afterwards, but these are words I’ve never said. They did need to be spoken.
  6. brian23
    brian23 avatar
    14 posts
    15 September 2020 in reply to romantic_thi3f
    One thing that haunts me is the desire to get justice. I still know the two women who sexually harassed me when I was underage. I want them to know that what they did was wrong, and that they shouldn’t treat anyone that way, especially not people who are so powerless. Faceook keeps suggesting them to me as “friends”, and it makes me sick. I hate them. They shouldn’t have done what they did. It was a violation, of me and the other kid. I want to message them and say “you were disgusting, to treat children that way”, but I’m terrified of them laughing it off and then gossiping about me behind my back. They live in a small town, and I don’t doubt their ability to give me a bad name if I say anything negative about them. Speaking up about sexual harassment is not considered serious in their (and my) hometown culture. I would not get the result I want. I wouldn’t get an apology. And that makes me angry. I want justice, and I want them to admit that what they did was f*cked up. But they won’t do that. For my own sake, I should stop wanting this, but I don’t know how to give up on this dream of right versus wrong.
  7. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    romantic_thi3f avatar
    3151 posts
    16 September 2020 in reply to brian23

    Hi brian23,

    It's really good to hear back from you and I'm so glad that it's helping to talk about things here.

    Holding that responsibility makes complete sense. It's so validating that you see that it has a purpose and that it really wasn't your fault - that can be so hard to believe (I'm very guilty of saying that and not believing it!).

    Thank you for sharing about the recording - I can't imagine what that would have been like to do, what gave you that idea? I imagine that it would have been really intense but also really therapeutic at the same time. My own therapist often wants me to communicate to my younger self but it can feel so confronting at times - but the reality is that there really is a kid in us that needs to hear these things.

    I hear you in the need for justice, even if maybe it's not truly doable - I wonder though, how much of that justice and right vs. wrong has to do with them, vs validating and working through your own childhood experiences?

    rt

  8. brian23
    brian23 avatar
    14 posts
    17 September 2020 in reply to romantic_thi3f

    Cheers for taking the time to engage with me romantic_thi3f. Even though I'm attending telehealth therapy sessions at the moment, it's nice to have this place to engage with a community as well.

    I've worked through the idea that I was at all responsible. My trick is reminding myself how certain actions/comments would have been unacceptable if committed by an older man to a younger female. Society would recognise that situation as being unacceptable. Just because I was targeted by women, as a male, doesn't mean their actions were any less unacceptable. If I ever fall into the trap of thinking "it was nothing, get over it" or something similar, I just remind myself how the social inverse would be perceived. As a man, I can still have been abused.

    My therapist was very shocked when I told him about what had happened to me. He said that he was sorry I'd been through that, and that the incidents were unacceptable. It felt really good to hear the words in someone else's voice. Really affirms my pain, y'know?

    I currently feel very raw and exposed, I think I need to be gentle with myself for a while. It's been under a week since the latest incident happened, and in all that time, I've ripped off the band-aid and rapidly confronted what happened to me in the past, too. I need to pause, let the dust settle, and recalibrate.

    I got the idea of a video recording from a suggestion to write my younger self a letter. I've always found video diaries to be a good way of expressing emotions, preferable to writing a letter. Things come more organically, and you can work up emotion as you speak. It's also a record of how you were feeling, so if you ever doubt your experiences, you can look back on recordings and see how much you have been affected at certain times.

    The right versus wrong dichotomy is intrinsically tied to my own needs, yeah. I'm not going to rely on that, though, and I don't want to confront the people who harassed me in the past. I'm not going to put my comfort in their hands, and wait for an apology that I likely won't get. I won't give them that power. I'm not gonna sit in my home, waiting nervously to see how they'll react if I send them a message. I don't want to be in contact with them at all, it doesn't interest me. No matter how appealing the ideal scenario is (they apologise and I feel vindicated), I don't want to pursue that.

    I feel very tired at the moment. But things will get easier.

  9. brian23
    brian23 avatar
    14 posts
    22 September 2020 in reply to romantic_thi3f

    Here is an update... (TW for discussion of eating disorders.)

    I had a new appointment with my therapist, who was shocked to hear about the inappropriateness of what occurred during my childhood and teenhood. It felt very validating, to see the shock in someone else's eyes as I described the incidents, as vividly as I remember them. I spent so many years convincing myself that what happened was normal and fine, but now I feel free to say, "no, it WAS wrong to treat an underage person this way". That is a freedom that I did not previously have... Or, it was one that I didn't know how to access. Seeing horror in someone else's expression made me feel satisfied. Yes, it WAS wrong. What delightful proof!

    I feel much better today.

    In response to the trauma, I initially binged on food. It felt so comforting to indulge so recklessly, even as it made me physically ill. I've stopped myself from doing that. At the moment, I'm exercising more, waking up at 5:30AM every day, and eating responsibly. I've made a huge batch of vegetable soup that tastes really good, and the urge to comfort myself through overeating isn't controlling me. I feel good. Still struggling with some anxiety and darkness, but my general mood is much happier.

    I was NOT responsible for what women and girls did to me when I was younger. I was NOT responsible for their actions, nor did I solicit them at all. Children cannot solicit sexual attention. Children cannot consent. I believe this, now.

    I am not responsible for my abusers in the present, either, and I do NOT have to contact them to seek peace of mind. I won't find happiness by placing the power back in their hands, waiting for an apology that won't come.

    I am a strong man, and I believe this. The weak, scared, trapped boy that still lives inside me needs nurturing. I'm taking care of him. I love him. I wish someone had kept him safe all those years ago, but I can keep him safe now. I can keep myself safe now. I can't change what happened, but I can be gentle with myself in the present.

    I don't consider myself "fixed". That's impossible. This is just a pleasant upward curve on a continuing rollercoaster... like all mental health journeys. But, this is the update. I'm happy it's a good one.

  10. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    romantic_thi3f avatar
    3151 posts
    23 September 2020 in reply to brian23

    Hi brian23,

    It's lovely to hear back from you and I'm so glad that you're feeling better -

    I was reading your first post again and how you said you were feeling hollow inside and scared - it seems worlds apart from how you are feeling now. I'm almost picturing as if you were curling up and then now being able to stand up straight and tall. You are a strong man, and I believe this too.

    I don't think the little boy was weak, but I do think he was scared and trapped. I have no doubt he did the best he could, but he's safe with you now and you can take care of him. Things are different now.

    Take care,

    rt

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