One of the most basic, daunting questions you ask yourself, if you were ever raped and got through it: when(or if) should I tell this person?
It could be your partner, your family, a close friend. There are people that don’t tell anybody for decades. In my experience, holding the hard things in myself only ends up blowing up in my face later.
Anyway, I never had much of an answer to this question before, but I do have a tip now. I am in no way an expert, but if you need an extra opinion while you consider what to do, here is mine: relax, breathe, and follow your intuition. You will know the exact time.
* Disclaimer: this is not for those of you considering to press charges officially. Obviously this is a fully different decision that you have to make for yourself. This is for those of you that didn’t, for any reason, and sooner or later you do not want to feel alone in it anymore, and you want the people in your life to know about it. Some people anyway.
For those of you new to my blog, I was raped 5 years ago. For the most part I have recovered, I believe, although there are still some sore spots to work through. There is also a lot of chaos I created in the way of dealing with it, in my life, things that I missed, and I am still trying to sort all that out.
In the time until now, I have told several people, including some guys I dated right after, selected close friends, my current long-term partner, and a few friends which I do not know that well, but I am already getting close with. It sounds like a lot, but I guess it was my way of dealing with things when there was too much that I couldn’t deal with.
But here is the thing: I didn’t tell my parents yet. I am pretty close with my mom and it’s an odd feeling that she doesn’t know about this part of my life. It also felt necessary at some point. Now, so many years later, and starting to actually catch up to my present, I am starting to feel I’d like her to know, and the reasons not to tell her are starting to feel more obsolete.
But still, thinking about telling her, there is the usual clatter of thoughts- remember that one?
You sitting across from someone you care about, and your stomach sinking at the idea of saying those words, telling that story. That inadequate feeling- is it really ME saying those things, ME that this happened to? The panic at the idea of how they will react, your brain going in all directions and over every scenario. The wondering if you can even get the words out…And the even bigger panic wondering how they will act after that. And whether you can handle their reaction, whatever it is. It’s a head spin, for sure.
And this is why, I’m going to say this once more:
Trust yourself. You will know when it’s time.
Yes, I know.
For those of you who still feel close to their trauma, for whom it still feels fresh and recent(whether it was weeks or months or years ago) you may be thinking that you can’t trust yourself or your intuition, at all. I remember that feeling. I felt betrayed by my brain, my body, everything about me. I had done everything the best way I thought was possible, I had trusted myself 100% and I had not been able to get out of that situation.
And so I felt lost.
How can I trust myself, ever, ever again?
So I put everything from myself into reasoning about it. Thinking of the right choice(there isn’t such by the way, it’s a personal decision). As I was not ready to deal with things, at first the idea was to move on, and I threw myself into it. Obviously, that did not work for long.
In the time in which I told people, I’ve told them for different reasons. Sometimes I felt like I had to tell, and for the most part I have regretted that decision. Other times I felt like it was the right time to tell a certain person, and told them before I can really overthink it. Whenever I followed the second decision, I was always nicely surprised at the result.
The times when I had chosen to tell because I had to were choices of necessity, that didn’t bring too much risk. It was risk I was willing to live with. Times when I was trying to “move on” with a guy and panicked in the middle. Seemingly concerned new friend who begged me to share what’s been “off” with me, and then reacted like they do not want to know- which complaining about their own problems only. All those times were met with different reactions, most of which made me feel worse about myself, but ultimately, I figured I could live with that reaction. And without those people in my life.
Still hurt and confused about the turn my life was taking, I somehow thought that those reactions meant it must be me. That if I tell my friends or family, I may be met by the same lack of understanding. Hell, I couldn’t really grasp what had happened to me, how could anyone else? I had no answer to that question, and so I didn’t tell. Those relationships, I am not ready to gamble yet, not ready to see what will happen if they don’t respond well to what I tell them.
On numerous occasions I felt close to telling, and then “bailed”. I couldn’t yet, and I beat myself over it, again and again, feeling low for my own weaknesses. Don’t make that mistake!
Eventually, I started to deal with the situation. Breathing started to become easier, moving on started to seem like a possibility- a very, VERY distant one, but one nonetheless. Eventually, there came moments when I was with a friend, and all I wanted to say was at the tip of my tongue, and the holdup and that feeling that I couldn’t say wasn’t there. Instead, there was slight, scared, nervous urgency- it was time to tell. And to this day, that feeling never betrayed me.
I told those people (over the course of years, not all at once), and I am happy I have.
Last year, I had this moment I was wondering if to tell my mom, and then I couldn’t. It was still progress. Two years prior to that, one of my best friends had asked me if I thought of telling mom, and my answer was a very sure NO. Not now, not in a million years, never. I couldn’t. Eventually life took it’s course, and I had to do other things, so I didn’t think about it. In the last weeks, especially now when I’m visiting home, I am starting to feel that urgency again. The need to say it and get it over with, and move towards a better (hopefully) relationship with my parents. I feel the need to tell my mom, at least part of the truth. Not really into telling my dad yet. I figure my mom will tell him anyway.
In any case, it’s starting to get closer to the tip of my tongue. I don’t know how long it will take- last year, I thought it was time- and yet there has been almost a year since. So I may tell tomorrow, or the next year, but I now I am getting stronger, and more able to do so every day. It’s not this huge eclipsing thing anymore. Day after day, it’s starting to become more and more just a piece of my life, a piece of the past, but not all of it, not by a long shot. With every day I feel closer to the day when I’ll be able to say it.
And I know I will recognize the right moment.
I know that now. I didn’t before though. So to all of you who aren’t sure- trust yourself, trust your instinct. You will know the right time. Whatever happened to you, no matter the reasons of why you may think it’s your own fault, it’s not. It’s not something you could have avoided by being somewhere else, acting in different way, or anything else. Obviously being careful is a good thing, and there is no need to intentionally put yourself in dangerous situations, but those things happen to some of us anyway. Whether you were good or bad, or careful, or careless. It’s unlucky draw, it’s unfortunate incident. Like a train wreck or car crash.
So trust yourself, work on getting better, and you will know the right time to tell someone.