My girlfriend is a rape victim and behaves erratically towards me; it's affecting our relationship
I'm new to the forums and just happened to stumble upon this site yesterday. I'm extremely desperate for some feedback and input and would be thankful for any sort of response. I don't know where exactly to start with my explanation of matters, it seems that there's so much to say and I'm sorry in advance for gushing out and I realize this is an extremely long and tedious post to read, but here goes.
My girlfriend and I are both 20, we attended the same high school (although we didn't know each other back then) and go to the same college now. We've been good friends for about 2 years now, and have been boyfriend-girlfriend for about the past 5 months.
When she was 18 she was violently raped by a family friend during a summer vacation. She was a virgin and that was her first sexual encounter; she had never done anything sexual prior. Just to add in extra info, she didn't pursue charges against the rapist until much later on, so he was never busted and is still out there, although she has a restraining order against him, he's not in jail and is still living his life. She was also impregnated during the rape, but ended up having a stillbirth. The issues pertaining to her rape and her day-to-day struggles to heal and survive are directly impacting our relationship, and I am at my wit's end regarding what to do.
I love this girl very much, with all my heart, and even though we haven't been together as a couple at that long yet, we have a phenomenal connection that I cherish and want to preserve dearly; she means the world to me. She's very sweet and kind, intelligent and beautiful, and we really do just connect and click well with one another, for the most part. She feels the same about me, and loves me very much as well.
When we were just friends, I had already been aware that she was raped as she had confided in me about it, mentioned it briefly, but never went into any depth or details about it. When we started talking about getting into a relationship, my main concern was if she was truly ready for one, knowing what had happened to her just 2 years ago. She assured me that she was, saying that she trusted me immensely as she has never ever felt safe or secure around any male since the incident (aside from her dad and brother), except for me, so of course I trusted her judgement and placed my faith in her.
Initially I thought I could overcome this with her, that we could work together and I could be her rock, her strength whenever to pull her through whatever it is that she would face. I knew it wouldn't be easy at all, that there would be a lot of difficult times, but I believed she was worth it all and we could persevere and I could help save her so to speak. After a while of being together, she began to open up about the incident and tell me everything that was on her mind. She told me all the details about the rape, every sexual position he performed on her, every sexual act he forced her to do, his smell, his taste, the pain she felt, the blood, every thought that crossed her mind, every feeling she experienced, how degraded and dehumanized she felt, how the rapist laughed at her and called her names and hit her. Everything. It broke my heart hearing all that, and it absolutely killed me thinking about how my girlfriend was violated like that. I was furious, enraged, upset, destroyed, sick to the pit of my stomach, I cried, very emotional. I broke down.
The thing is, on the outside, my girlfriend seems like a perfectly normal, functional person. By being around her and talking to her, you'd never be able to tell anything is wrong. But when it's just the two of us, she always tells me everything she feels about the rape, always brings up the memories and thoughts. I try to be as supportive as possible, and I'm glad to listen since it helps her, but it kills and destroys me every single time. She has flashbacks often. In the beginning I couldnt even put my hand on her back without a flashback occurring. Flashbacks still occur just as frequently, almost every day, but she's a lot more comfortable with my touching her or having physical contact with me. Most things that used to cause flashbacks don't anymore, but the frequency is still the same.
The rape is always on her mind, whether she's awake or not. She has nightmares every time she tries to sleep, about the rape. About random guys raping her, about me raping her, beating her up, etc. They're extremely morbid, sometimes the rapist and I take turns raping her in the nightmares, sometimes she gets gang raped in them, sometimes she gets stabbed in them, etc. She tells me she feels all of this happening to her, as if it were happening to her in real life, as if she feels herself getting raped again as it's happening. Because of this she's extremely frightened to sleep, most nights she doesn't, sometimes she goes for days on end with no sleep. Her flashbacks are just as bad, as I think she's still suffering from PTSD, whenever they occur it's as if experiencing them a if they were happening to her in that moment. She's always tired and exhausted, who wouldn't be, and breaks down a lot, but only around me.
I just love this girl and support her, and Iím entirely okay with doing nothing sexual, but she wants to and insists that we do. She tells me itís important to her not only because itís between us, but by doing do it helps to erase the past and give her new memories about being sexual, ones that donít involve the rapist or pain or feeling dirty. Iím a virgin by the way, and she and I have never had sex, though we both want to. We attempted once, and she had a horrible flashback before I could even go inside of her, so we stopped. We do everything else though, upon her insistence, and flashbacks still occur often, but a lot less than when we first started. When they do itís like sheís back in the moment, and she doesnít even see me or hear me or know im there. All she sees is the rapist and she feels him raping her again and again.
Iím greatly concerned for her health, as I really think she could end up dead if this continues on this way. She barely sleeps, hardly eats, is off school this term, but works, sheís always depressed and breaks down every day. Sheís always mopes around and doesnít function productively. Iím the only who knows and sees everything about this, she hides it from her friends, and though her family knows she was raped, she masks whats going on with her so they donít worry. She only lets everything out with me. She only feels comfortable and secure when sheís around me, any other time sheís scared and fearful about being raped and about other men in public. Sheís afraid to be home alone, canít even sleep in her own room at night even though her parents are in the room next door. She makes me stay on webcam with her with the lights on the entire night. Sheís admitted to me that she contemplates suicide a lot, even though she promises she could never do it.
Her issues are directly affecting me as well. I feel overwhelmed and on the edge of a nervous breakdown frequently. I have broken down several times myself. I stay up late every night comforting her, sometimes until 3, 4, or 5 am, even though I have to be up at like 6 or 7am for my morning classes. Iíve havenít been able to eat properly anymore either, and Iíve dropped 15 lbs since being together with her. Iím constantly stressed out and exhausted, physically and emotionally. I feel like I canít handle this. I used to go to the gym and work out 5 days a week, now Iím hardly ever able to go. I canít do everything I need to throughout the day because sheís very clingy and needy, and texts or calls me all the time, even if she knows what Iím up to or that Iím busy. Iím very family oriented and I havenít been able to spend much time with my family, and I havenít hung out with any of my friends since being with her, because I give her any amount of free time that I have. I feel as though my life is no longer mine, but belongs to her.
I keep insisting that she go and attend therapy or talk to a counselor, and that I will go with her and be there for her every step of the way, Iíll support her and I wonít abandon her and weíll work through it together, but sheís completely against it. She said that she attended counseling before we were together and it didnít help, though personally I think she left pre-maturely as she wasnít there for even a year. She feels that by going to therapy it would be admitting defeat, and taking a step back, even though I assure her that allowing yourself to get help is a huge step forward and one of the best things she could be doing. I realize though that I canít force her to do something she doesnít want, I can only offer the help. It kills me though that she refuses.
She also makes me promise not to talk to her friends or family about whatever she tells me. She said friends of hers have done that before and she felt so betrayed and that she was stripped of her sense of control.
To make matters worse, we get into constant arguments almost all the time. I feel as though the arguments are uncalled for and that she starts them with me. I know Iím not perfect, but I really do bend over backward to be supportive, and even though this may seem mean I feel as though my girlfriend is unstable and erratic most of the time. Some days sheíll be very sweet and affectionate and it feels like Iím having a great time with my girlfriend. The next day sheís randomly cold, mean, distant, and wonít even talk to me, as if we were strangers. It's like I have to win her back and get her to warm up to me again every time i see her. When she gets frustrated she calls me names and makes me feel belittled and labels me as close-minded and that I donít listen to her, and sheís really mean to me. Iím no pushover though, and whenever I try to bring this up with her, and call her out about it, that it hurts me to hear her say that stuff to me when Iím only trying to help, she says Iím being too sensitive. Iím very frustrated with her behavior though, and I tell her not to act that way towards me, because it makes me angry and I donít want to yell (she hates being yelled at). She then ends up yelling at me, and if I raise my voice back she starts sobbing and accuses me of enjoying hurting her and that I like to cause her pain and make her upset. Then she tells me im just too sensitive, and that she cant even tell me what she wants to because she always has to think about if it will make me angry or not. She tells me Iím always starting trouble with her, even though I honestly donít believe that I am. I can admit if Iím being stubborn or hard-headed, but I really feel as if Iím just trying to be supportive and non-argumentative. She tells me Iím impatient and not understanding or caring enough of her situation, and that I should cut her more slack. I know sheís got it so much harder than me, but Iím suffering too, and I just really wish she would realize that although sheís got it the worst, Iím going through a lot also.
Sometimes sheís very sweet, and tells me I donít deserve to be in a relationship with a girl as broken as her, that she thinks I should leave her and have a normal life. Other times she cries and begs me to stay with her, to please donít leave her and that sheíll try harder. Sheís very moody and her disposition and behavior towards me fluctuates on the drop of a dime.
I forgot to mention that in addition to the rape when she was 18, when she was 14 or 15 she was violently beat up along with a female friend while they were walking home from school, so she is extremely paranoid of being harmed at all times.
I know my life would be so much easier without her, but I really do love this girl with all my heart. I donít want to leave her or give up on her or abandon this relationship, but Iím also not naÔve. I realize that this is extremely unhealthy and toxic and I wonít be able to handle it much longer, that I have to protect myself and look out for my own sanity as well. Itís one thing if she was more open to getting therapy and actually proactive to counseling, but sheís not and refuses to do so. I feel like thereís nothing else more I can do to help her. Iím giving her everything I have, and she tells me sheís trying her hardest too. Some days she tells me I make her so happy, that I heal the hurt and make her feel whole again. Other days she talks about how hollow and empty she is, how broken she feels, how something inside her died and sheís giving me whatís left of herself, that she has nothing more to give and I canít expect any more from her. She'll tell me I make things harder for her because I always start arguments with her and that i'm mean to her, then she'll say i'm perfect to her and i'm the only thing keeping her fighting and alive.
She told me the other day that this is not a normal relationship and she is not a normal girl (which i of course realize), and that I canít expect normal reactions from her. That sometimes she herself doesnít understand her own reactions and feelings. Oftentimes when I try to talk things out with her she becomes furious and tells me if I canít handle her baggage I should just leave. Thatís the biggest slap in the face for me, because Iím giving everything Iíve got to be here for her, and at other times she begs me not to leave her. I love this girl with all my heart, but she drives me crazy. I feel like Iím stuck in an impossible situation, and thereís no better alternative to fix things.
I donít even know how I got into this position. I feel like her sense of lack of control over her life is now controlling mine, and Iíve always been the type of person not to tolerate disrespectful or negative influences from any person, but I think I let things slide with her because sheís going through so much. I realize sheís under immense stress and pain, but I am now as well, and she doesnít make things any easier on me. Itís hard enough facing this situation when weíre on the same page, how much more when we argue and arenít united?
Iím really at a loss on what to do. I really donít want to break things off with her, I truly love this girl as much as I possibly can, but I feel that ending our relationship is the only thing thatís left to do. I can't handle her erratic behavior, I need some consistency and stability. The good times between us are really great, some of the best times of my life so far; they're what keep me hanging on. But they're scarce and seldom, and there are so many more bad times with her. What do you think? Is she beyond help? Any sort of feedback or input would be highly appreciated. Thank you so much.
Tbh, even though she isn't in therapy, it sounds like she's using you as a surrogate therapist. But that's unfair to her and to you.
While she thinks that going is accepting defeat, she's not enabling herself to move on, keeping herself there.
You need to decide whether you can keep playing this role for her, though I don't think that's right for anyone involved here.
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. - Confucius
You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too.- Anais Nin
I think she really needs your support but she really needs professional help what she went through is horrific no one will ever be able to comprehend the destruction it has done to her mental health. She needs to seek counseling and support but she will need your support too you sound like a truly great guy and she is very lucky to have you. Having suffered abuse nothing on the level of what she has gone through I know such a thing can take a long time to be able to move on, know that she will never truly be able to forget or recover but hopefully with the right support she may be abe to heal enough to move forward with her life. Im sorry I cant offer anymore advice but there are support groups out there which may be able to her.
"Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, and ends with a teardrop"
I am a dreamer, I dream of things I want the most, the things I shall never have and the one that makes those dreams come true
To love is to risk not being loved in return
Fake friends are like leaves found everywhere, true friends are like diamonds precious and rare!!
i agree with the others that she really really needs to see a professional therapist about this issue. not just you. obviously, as her bf, you need to be (and are!) very supportive but this is a serious issue and she needs a serious therapist. please encourage her to talk to a therapist, i am sure that the university should have some sort of health services where she can get some counseling. this is a big issue she needs to deal with and needs more than what you can offer to her.
There's no place like 127.0.0.1.
I believe what's going on is that she wants this relationship as much as you do, but the destruction of wholeness she feels is making her act in a way that will unconsciously (maybe even consciously) sabotage the relationship. Meaning, there is a part of her that's hoping you will get fed up and leave. That after a while, you'll tell her yes, the baggage is too heavy, and she will be done with having to try to be a good girlfriend despite feeling there is no way she ever can be, given what happened to her. She is living, but she has also given up on herself as being viable as a partner -- and probably wants you to leave as much as for you to stay (and the part of her that wants you to stay is that kernel of life that CAN heal, and wants to heal.)
Right now, she is clutching at every straw for a sense of control, control she lost when these terrible things happened. Whether that means controlling you, controlling the situation and mood, or controlling her self-image -- and possibly, going to a therapist feels too real as an admission that she was a VICTIM. It's probably equivalent to giving the rapist the control again, to say "I am broken enough to announce I need this help, I've become his victim to need fixing the mess he made of me." And that is very painful, even if it's not a rationally balanced way of viewing things. Of course, the current state of affairs is as out of control as anything can be, so as I see it, the things you should say to her, to try to get her to therapy, is to empathize with why she must be wanting to not go. First, you have to take her position about therapy, in order to perhaps help her see why it's not the way to go.
I agree she is suffering severe PTSD. And I wonder if you and she have talked about that. If she recognizes this or not.
Because I think it's important for you to tell her that there is a very high percentage of women who suffer PTSD after rape, and that it makes for emotions that are distorted. But that these women do eventually get out of the hole she is now in, by confronting this diagnosis. You must tell her that right now, you know what is happening: that you feel she is trying to get rid of you. Tell her you understand that she feels unacceptable with what has happened, and know that it feels hopeless that she would become normal enough to have a healthy relationship. That you know that she feels broken beyond repair, but that is a product of distortional thoughts that are involved in the trauma and shock, they are not truthful. That this happens to others, and they feel the same -- and they are not beyond being salvaged, are they? Make her acutely aware that her perception is like a dirty windshield she can't see out of now. But that it's possible for her to have a healthy one again, that right now, there is far less control in her life over her life right now, than if she gets the help with you and a therapist to reclaim that which is still vital and healthy and loving. Tell her that you both need tools to get back to that, and that's why you need guidance from a professional, and that even tough veterans, big tough marines, need to deal with PTSD as a real condition, before they can get their lives back. Express to her that the part of her you are in love with is the part that is whole and untouched by this rape and these fears, but it's a matter of just getting back to that and sustaining it. So this is a matter of her REFRAMING the notion of what therapy means.
Tell her that the part of her that wants to get rid of you is the rapist winning, and maintaining power.
The part of her that you are in love with, the part of her that is kind and intelligent and sweet and all who she really is, and her functioning that way in a healthy relationship with you, on a reliable basis, is HER winning -- and having the power.
And that she needs to choose between the rapist winning, and her winning.
You want to be there for him to be defeated, once and for all.
And that is why you want therapy with her.
Good luck with this, you are a wonderful man, mature, steady and understanding way beyond your years.
Last edited by tiredofvampires; 02-15-2010 at 12:54 AM.
BURN TO LEARN
"Pay no mind to the distant thunder
New Day fills her head with wonder"
It is not generally a characteristic of being brainwashed to know that you've been brainwashed.
You can live a life, or you can have an existence.
Love is its own reward.
For it to be affecting her life as profoundly as it has, she needs some serious therapy. If she refuses to go, then you have to decide if you can handle this long term. She won't get better if she won't get help.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents--H.P. Lovecraft
If I got rid of my demons, I'd lose my angels--Tennessee Williams
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I agree with everyone else, that your girlfriend needs professional help to push through this. You are an amazing man for supporting her and she needs that in her life.
I am speaking from experience. I, too, have been raped and my boyfriend and I have had some major ups and downs. Tiredofvampires hit the nail on the head about your girlfriend possibly unconsciously sabotaging the relationship. I still remember the fight I had with my boyfriend when he said, "I think you're picking fights in order to push me away. You're trying to make me leave." I had to take a step back and ask myself, am I going to "let the rapist win" or get help and get back to the real me.
I don't mean for this post to sound hopeless. I have been in counseling for a while now and notice a marked improvement in my mood, interactions with others, job performance, outlook on life, and physical health. I started exercising regularly and getting a manicure every couple weeks. I had to take my life back and stop filling it with things that the rapist took from me. By the grace of God, I have a wonderful man in my life (such as yourself) who loves me for who I am and hasn't given up on me.
"Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old. " Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hello again everyone,
I talked to my girlfriend and am back with an update.
I just wanted to start off by saying thank you so much to everyone for responding and showing support, it really means a lot. I'm glad everyone agrees with me that she does indeed need professional help. My girlfriend, however, doesn't agree.
I explained to her how crucial and vital professional help and therapy is for her, and told her in my own words what tiredofvampires suggested. I even told her I was so desperate for her to get professional help that I joined several forums pertaining to rape survivors and their partners, just so that I could get some feedback from people with similar experiences. I've also been doing a lot of extensive research on my own, and told her about all of the information I've gathered. I told her about how nearly all the couples who fall apart after a rape incident are the ones who don't seek professional help. I also told her about all the success stories I've read about and the ones that people have told me about ( like catmom32008 ), and that the one common thread between all of those success stories is that all of those people went out and got professional help. I even showed her the responses that people gave me from these forums, just so she could really get an idea of how imperative therapy and professional help is for her, that it's a must.
She's totally against the idea of therapy or professional help, and isn't willing to change her mind. She got mad at me and told me that I don't listen to her, and that I'm rushing her to heal. She said that I only want her to get better so that I can have a normal girlfriend, and so I don't have to deal with these issues anymore. I assured her I do listen to her, and I understand she doesn't want professional help, but I really think this could save her life. I also told her I'm doing this all out of love for her, for her sake and sanity, not mine. I told her this isn't even coming from me just as her boyfriend, but from one human being to another. I care about her, regardless of whether we're in a relationship or not, and even if we were just casual friends, I would still want her to get professional help for her sake, not mine. She said I'm just trying to make her do what I want and what everyone else thinks is the right thing, and that I'm not listening to what she wants.
We were also talking about her mood swings and behavior, and she started a horrible argument with me. She admitted to me that yes, her behavior is uncalled for, but that because I'm not I'm her boyfriend and the guy, I should be able to suck it up better without as many complaints. She called it a double standard and told me it was unfair, but said because she is the rape victim and I'm not, I should be better able to handle it and her. She said "try having someone touching you and f**king raping you everyday, you would be erratic too!" I asked her not to take her frustration out on me, and I was again accused of "overreacting" and being "defensive" and "impatient" and "insensitive" to her feelings but "too sensitive" about my feelings. The argument took a turn for the worst, it turned out to be the worst one we've ever had, and it continued onto today.
I agree with tiredofvampires, that she is trying to sabotage our relationship, whether she realizes it or not, and I feel like she keeps doing all these things to push me away and make me want to break it off with her. It's working.
I honestly cannot tolerate this anymore. I do my best to be as supportive as possible because I realize what she's been through and is currently going through is hell, but I can't keep fighting for her if she's constantly going to be fighting me. I also can't help someone who isn't willing to also help themselves. There's constant accusations where she tells me I hurt her by starting arguments (which I really don't think I do, given my understanding of her situation I'm very passive with her), that because I'm so "impatient" and "unappreciative" of her she feels unloved. I always tell her how special she is to me and how much I love her, even if she's being moody and doesn't say it back to me. I understand the moodiness and unpredictability are effects of her trauma, but she absolutely refuses to seek professional help.
I also feel it's very important to say that she has previously told me, when things were better between us, that in some of her nightmares where I rape and beat her, I'm extremely mean and uncaring towards her. She admitted before that even though she's not scared of me, sometimes when she sees me in real life, it's difficult for her to differentiate between the real me and the nightmare me. Like she can't tell if the one that did those things to her is the me she's with in person. I think that's a huge reason why she treats me the way she does, though she may not realize it. She says I've "changed" and am not the same boyfriend she used to have, though I feel I'm still the same as ever and her PTSD and nightmares and distorting her perception of reality.
I know this part may sound selfish of me, but I really feel as if my health and sanity are on the line here as well. I don't feel healthy and everyone I know always comments on how exhausted and haggard I look. Getting almost no sleep is killing me grade-wise at school, I'm not eating properly at all, and the constant fighting is making me lose it. I was hyperventilating yesterday due to how overwhelmed I feel and I felt as if I were about to pass out. Again, I feel as though the situation is impossible. She tells me I am her only solace of happiness and escape from all the hurt, but then she blames me for hurting her and being difficult and picks fights with me.
Things are so rocky between us at the moment that she's repeatedly said she's done and doesn't want to be in the relationship anymore, yet before the end of the fight she'll turn around and say she wants to keep trying and "we'll see what happens." She won't even talk to me anymore about what she's feeling. She makes me stay on webcam with her all night, and cries and sobs but when I ask her what's the matter she doesn't want to tell me. I keep insisting but she refuses, so I respect her decision. Then she'll turn around and say I don't care about her. It's an impossible situation.
I'm the last person who would ever want to throw in the towel, but in this situation I don't know what else to do. Please let me know what you all think. Is this situation, with her refusal to get help, really beyond repair? Thanks.
I'm am sorry to hear that your situation has not improved. It was hard to read how tortured you are and how much you hurt for your girlfriend. Not many men would stick around like you have, so I hope you do not feel guilty. (This coming from someone who has to constantly fight the "guilt stick.")
Some people are lost souls. My guess is that your gf doesn't want counseling b/c she doesn't want to face her past in order to move forward. Ironically, she does it everyday through her nightmares, hallucinations, etc. What she does with that is her choice, and unfortunately, one you cannot force her to make.
While you do not sound self-serving, you have already asked yourself if this relationship is worth your health and sanity. Now you just have to answer that question. Sometimes the best thing you can for someone is show your love and support...and then walk away. It's not like you didn't try - matter of fact - you have gone above and beyond! One of the traps people fall into is worrying that your separation will cause the other person to go off the deep end. It's not easy, but you cannot torture yourself with that. You cannot control someone else no matter how hard you try (and I have 2 marriages to prove that).
My heart breaks for your gf. She sounds like a beautiful person who had something precious ripped away from her and she doesn't know how to get it back no matter how long it stares her in the face (i.e. You).
Please stay in touch and let us all know how you are doing.
"Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old. " Ralph Waldo Emerson
I know this is old, but soulsearching, if you're reading this, I'm curious as to how things turned out.
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