health developments and personal autonomy

Yesterday I wrote an email to my physical therapist letting her know about the assault.

I did so because I’ve barely been able to keep abreast in my progress on taking care of myself. I haven’t been able to improve. If I can keep treading water right now, that’s really the most I feel like I can hope for.

Because my injuries and problems are all soft tissue/muscle/tendon/supportive tissues-related, something that is emotionally and mentally harmful can really express itself in injured soft tissue. Soft tissue injury is typically much more responsive to emotional state than a bone injury. As a side note, I think part of what stymied me for months in terms of improvement of my health problems was directly related to the stress generated by Lora. Given the current difficulties I’m having from one discreet event, I can see how a constant strain in terms of dealing with Lora would greatly exacerbate my health problems.

Anyways, my PT was really great. She asked for my permission to record what happened in my medical record, as well as permission to talk to my doctor, and permission for both of them (and/or insurance) to follow up with additional questions. The main issue was whether or not the assault involved violence that would have caused additional physical issues (it didn’t). The next issue was any behavioral changes, which I listed in my email: difficulty sleeping, anxiety in public places, difficulty focusing, sudden fits of grief and crying, increased sensitivity to how I’m perceived by others, discomfort and a feeling of disconnect when trying to relate to others, and (most importantly) a completely lack of trust in myself, in terms of being able to take care of myself during a future sexual assault (because let’s be realistic, chances are good that there will be others).

I am going to mention all of this to my therapist tonight, as well as let her know that I can give permission to her to talk to my doctors (or insurance company) as needed.

I feel emptied out and exhausted. It’s actually not so bad, compared to the rending grief and anxiety I had a few hours ago.

I texted a bit with Robert today. It turns out that Teacher cancelled the class last week. He’s been inundating Robert with texts, emails, and phone messages. Robert is ignoring them all. Robert wants to talk to me about them later (which I want to do, I’d like to know wtf Teacher is doing); he’s not sure why Teacher is so focused on him and getting a reaction.

Robert’s main thoughts now are that he doesn’t know if he’s simply never answers teacher again or if he wants to send an email to everybody, saying that he won’t return again. And he’s debating what/how to let Teacher know that he never wants to hear from him again.

I speculate, given what Robert already told me, that Teacher is hoping for Robert to be on “Teacher’s side” and denounce what I wrote/said. When Robert and Teacher talked, Teacher strongly insinuated that he expected Robert to be there for him, as Teacher had been there for Robert previously. What Teacher doesn’t seem to understand is that Robert is someone who has known me for a very, very long time. Our friendship has had various levels of closeness, mainly depending on geography. When Robert moved away for a good four years for work, we didn’t really keep in touch. But when he moved back (and quite close by) we picked up our friendship again, and got closer.

Robert and I have seen each other through a number of situations, family crises, relationship difficulties, heartbreaks, fallings-out with other friends, and job difficulties. Robert, for all that I haven’t mentioned him much in this blog (which is supposed to mainly be about polyamory, and Robert even remotely polyamorous), Robert is a really good, solid friend.

Most importantly in this context, he knows that I absolutely wouldn’t lie about this situation. Also, having described the exact details of what happened (how teacher first asked me for a hug and didn’t let me go when I pulled back), and knowing my reaction (that I do still feel some level of responsibility or culpability for not snapping out of it and saying no to teacher or getting away from him/leaving on my own), Robert is firmly (more firmly than me) in the camp that Teacher’s method of luring me in, then progressing quickly from kissing to groping was really morally and ethically wrong, and that Teacher should have never placed me in that situation in the first place.

I keep looking at this as a “Teacher should have never put me in this situation in the first place, BUT since he did, I should have done a better job of getting out of it sooner, and taking care of myself”.

Robert keeps looking at it as a “Teacher should have never put you in this situation in the first place, and he is culpable for your freezing and shutting down and not being able to defend yourself or even have the courage to speak up for yourself, because you were paralyzed with fear and confusion and upsetness, as a direct result of his actions. If Teacher didn’t know you well enough to know that that was a reaction you might have, then he shouldn’t have progressed forward”.

Is Robert right? Am I right? Are we both right? Are we both wrong?

Right now, I’m not only writing through the overarching story of my prior sexual assault(s), the ones that most strongly shaped my mental and emotional responses. I think those are important for me to better understand the layers and context that created the reaction I had. But I’m also thinking about an analyzing my feelings on what needs to change in society, in how we handle expressing our sexual and romantic interest to others in ways that ensure all parties have the time and space to opt out of sexual or romantic situations that they do not want to be involved in.

I don’t expect to come up with anything groundbreaking. To put it in the simplest sense, I think it all comes back to the platinum rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated. With the caveat that, in order to make sure that we do that, we need to ask them how they want to be treated first. Don’t assume; we all know what assuming does. You know that saying right? When you assume, you make an ASS out of yoU and ME.

In some cases – in this case – when Teacher assumed, he made a sexual assault out of what could have been an uncomfortable (but non-traumatic) experience of expressing interest in me, and being turned down.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where people understood consent and personal autonomy enough to make sure that didn’t happen, or at least happened far less?

Based on Teacher’s words and behaviors, I think he’s a lifelong predator. To put it crudely, I think his main concerns in terms of sexuality are to get his dick wet as often as he can, and without an outcry against him occurring. I don’t think he cares about whether or not he hurts or traumatizes any of his victims; it’s all about him getting what he wanted, and insisting that he did nothing wrong along the way. I would guess that enough of his prior students or women in his life were attracted enough to him (or unsure enough of themselves) that they either enjoyed his heavy-handed bullshit, or were too conflicted and full of too much self-blame to realize that the initial fault lay with him and his problematic way of coming on to women.

Then there’s the fact that he’s used different techniques at different times: Verbally coming on to one classmate to had marital problems (Inez), making physical grabs at Andrea twice, and luring me in with a hug that he turned into a kissing me and groping me before asking for my consent, or expressing any romantic or sexual interest in me (he did something similar in Andrea’s case, really. But her response was to fight in both cases, and she slapped him away. She also didn’t get lured in by a hug first, which made it easier for her to react strongly, I speculate).

I think in the case of someone like Teacher, who seems to be a predator, the only thing that would keep in him check is if women (in his case women, but this applies to all people) received better lessons starting as children, about how no one should ever touch them without their consent, that freezing is a natural biological response, that being compliant when you’re afraid is a natural biological response, and that the perpetrator must take responsibility and have awareness of when s/he is forcing another person into a situation that they didn’t consent to and are afraid to fight against, because of the consequences. Maybe this isn’t entirely a matter for legal courts, in their current structure. Maybe we need a different kind of court system, one where people who have been assaulted can register what happened to them, by who, and how. One that keeps track of those people, and notes if those same people come up time and again for doing things that aren’t strictly illegal, but do violate consent and boundaries. That would be a clue that those people repeat offenders need classes in consent and boundaries, the same as we currently have anger management classes for people who commit crimes out of poorly controlled anger.

I think the biggest hurdle to a system like this is that society at large still refuses to acknowledge both the autonomy of women in particular and the autonomy of all people on all (or no) sexes. Personal autonomy, our right to control what is done with our bodies and our lives are still not established rights. We have come a long way from since 1993 which is when the last martial rape law was declared unconstitutional. But some states do still believe that unless there is violence or “a higher level of threat” between spouses, then rape still hasn’t occurred.

You get that? In some states, if you’re a tiny married woman, and your big ol’ husband comes home drunk and wants to have sex with you, and you say no and cry, but he can just lay on you to keep you in place while raping you (no “actual violence/intent to physically injure”), that may not be considered a rape in Ohio, Idaho, Nevada and other states (where you unmarried, the exact same situation legally would count as rape regardless as to whether or not it made it to court. If nothing else, at least the definition of it would be rape.).

We try to teach our young men and women that no is a complete sentence. Maybe we should also let them know that in a number of states in the US, once you marry someone, “No” is no longer a complete sentence to them, and being forced to have sex after you’ve said no isn’t necessarily rape. Because you’re married. Because marriage = ownership to enough people that this is still an ongoing conversation.

Until more people are on the same page about personal autonomy and our individual rights, there are going to be millions (literally millions) of these miserable, emotionally exhausting, depressing, damaging sexual assaults where the victim spends months or years or even a lifetime trying to recover from having their boundaries violated. And meanwhile, the perpetrator can go on, blithely without consequence, carefully inflicting him/herself on others, leaving behind a wake of misery, fear, depression, and emotional pain, all so s/he can get the sexual gratification (and perhaps control gratification) that they desire.


I hope everybody reading this become committed to being part of the solution.


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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