I had therapy last week. It was a good session. My therapist had already had some really great points and thoughts about previous problems with Lora, so hearing some great realizations from her about this sexual assault was not surprising, but extremely comforting. Especially since I had been really, really stressed about talking to her.
I keep expecting people to judge me. I’ve been judged before after sexual assault and that’s still often the general societal response. I mean, I judge me, mainly for freezing. Why wouldn’t someone else?
But my therapist made a really great point early on. She talked about how the primitive brain doesn’t have two responses to danger; it has three: fight, flight, or freeze. Play dead. Stall for time. Or shut down, in the mind is so afraid of the implications of something that it simply can’t process all of them without having a complete breakdown.
I think part of what bothers me the most about freezing is that I’m usually one of the most unfreezing people. I spring into action during crisis. I assess, I triage, I call 911. I get flooded with adrenaline and hyperfocus while reminding myself that time isn’t passing as quickly as it feels in my head. I do my best to stay calm and use that surge of energy to figure out where I’ll be most helpful, and then do what I can.
I related that to my therapist, as well as examples of when I sprang into action: When I was walking down the street and a horrific car accident occurred in front of me. When a friend I was cooking with slipped with a knife and ended up with a gash that needed 12 stitches to close. Hell, even when a guy grabbed my ass on the bus, I turned around and confronted him, then stared him down until he jumped off at the next stop.
So she asked me what made this different? What happened (or was absent) in this situation that caused a different reaction.
It was the betrayal, I said.
It was the betrayal of a ten year relationship that hadn’t been based on sexuality, not even a little bit. It was the betrayal of friendship. It was the blatant betrayal of trust; using the long-established trust between us to lure me in for a hug and then take advantage of the physical proximity to assault me.
My mind kicked into a scrabbling, desperate desire to figure out how to navigate this situation in a way that stayed true to myself, extricated me from this physically and emotionally overwhelming experience, and also allowed me to not “lose” anything. Not lose the class. Not lose my teacher as a teacher and friend.
It took me a while to realize it, but from the moment he pressed himself onto me, completely unexpectedly and totally unwanted, things had been lost. If he had called or texted in the following days with some kind of explanation or apology, there were still things that would have been lost: I definitely would have made it clear to him that touching between us in any form was no longer an option. Finishing this semester’s class probably also wasn’t an option, but depending on what he said, returning in the future may have been an option. Our relationship would have also been in a serious state of probation – in order to ensure no further episodes occurred, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be along with him again for a very long time (if ever).
As things came out, with his total lack of a response over the following days, the options for salvaging any kind of relationship became fewer and fewer.
So, I wrote all of the above late last week. It’s all still good, which is why I published it. There have been further developments, which I’m going to share next.