Healing from Sexual Abuse in an Adult Relationship

This post may trigger as it discusses emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in an adult relationship.

I originally posted this to a Songs of Healing post a couple of days ago, but I think it needs to be seperate and have it’s own post. Here is the song that relates to this post: Songs for Healing 45.

Some time ago, in my mid-twenties, I was in a horrible relationship that I was finally able to break off. We were together for more than two years. Finally I knew that I might not ever find anyone to care for me and didn’t care if I was ever with another guy for the rest of my life. I ended with him when he physically assaulted me one day.

He was excessively emotionally and verbally abusive. His words, demeanor, and actions made me feel worthless, ugly, fat, damaged goods, worthless, inferior. The list goes on and on. I realize now, and looking at the photos it is confirmed I was not ugly, I was not fat. I was what I would now describe as luscious. I was about size fourteen-sixteen. I look at this one photo of me I have and think what a beauty. I don’t know how I didn’t know that, but no one ever told me, and I was often told the opposite as well as being abused, so I guess those are the reasons.

He used to stalk me while we were dating, slipping out about things he could not have possibly known unless he had been lurking nearby where I lived. This was at a time when he lived miles from where I lived while he often insisted that I walk and/or bus to see him instead of being willing to pick me up with his car. Both walking and busing were necessary as there were no direct bus routes from where I lived to where he lived. I used to see him drive by my house, slowly. After I broke up with him he would still drive by and stare at the house, stalking my life until I moved to another place. At times I feared that he would do something violent again. My phone has always been unlisted since him.

Six weeks after I broke up with him, he called joking and casual, saying he had a few belongings of mine and wouldn’t I want him to return them to me. This is how he chose to speak to me after he physically assaulted me and after I did not contact him for six weeks. I instructed him to put them in the mailbox twenty-four hours of any day, that it would not matter whether I was home or not, as I would never open the door to him again, had instructed the relative I lived with to never open the door to him and that they wouldn’t since I had told them of the assault, and that instead I would call the police and press charges for the assault.

There were other abusive elements in the relationship that I find that I still have a lot of shame and humiliation about and cannot share about them in any detail. And have only shared with two friends a few of the specifics. I know that the shame is not mine, it is his. I know that I did nothing to deserve his abuses and that I was and am worthy of love and respect then and now.

It took me about five years before I even tried to process anything about the relationship. I cried so much while I was with him, just getting him out of my life was a magical end to the tears. I have never cried since about him. When your lover is your sadistic sexual abuser it is hard to feel anything. Numbness is a daily experience.

I got the book The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel from the library after five years away from him and was finally able to start feeling and thinking about what had happened to me and how to change my life story so no one could ever again come into my life and stay who abused me like him.

In the book the author writes about the different kinds of emotional abusers. I discovered through reading that both he and my mother were destroyer emotional abuser types. Things slowly started to make sense.

He was a mind fuck. He was a mind fucker. He loved to fuck with other people’s minds. I was soft and sweet and vulnerable and naive and he fucked me over. He was a fucker.

It is still hard to talk about any specifics, it is like admitting that  you let someone abuse you, as if you are to blame according to society, and you are the one who was the abuser, as though being the victim makes you the aggressor, as though being near someone is permission, even requesting them to abuse  you.

Being around an abuser doesn’t mean you are the abuser. It doesn’t mean you deserve it or want it. It means you don’t have the self-esteem and skills yet to protect yourself. It means that society, your parents, your teachers, your schoolmates, everyone really has abused you or reinforced negative beliefs and inferiority  and/or not helped you to become empowered, to heal. It means that you haven’t been able to increase your self-esteem, become empowered and heal enough by yourself either.

I will never be the same after what he did to me emotionally and verbally. I know that I am still quite nice and sweet and sometimes even vulnerably naive, but I will never have back what he cavalierly and gleefully robbed me of. So much like my mother to be eerily creepy. With the two of them in my life, sometimes I have to wonder how I kept anything good inside myself.

These two people were two of the most prominent sexual abusers in my life and were very similar in their emotional abusive approaches and in their sadistic ways of sexually abusing me, though at that time I was still repressing the mother-daughter sexual abuse memories and the realization that I was multiple. Also at the time I did not know or believe that he had been sadistically sexually abusing me. A week after we became sexually involved I started having severe hip, back, and neck pain; chronic health and pain issues that are still with me to this day. I see the connections.

As I said, it took me some time to figure things out, feel about them, and slowly heal. I had never had a lover before, I didn’t know what sexual contact really was, I only knew what sexual abuse was, and I think looking back on it all, I didn’t know it could be so painless until I was with another guy years later, whose’s gentleness inexplicably knocked me for a loop and allowed me to take a good hard look at what had been done to me by my ex and to accurately label it.

I don’t do a lot of healing work around this relationship now. It does come up, he was a big part of my life during and after. He was the monster that loomed large. Slowly my healing has brought me far far away from the emotional pain he so happily and easily inflicted on me.

I’ve never felt a strong connection to a song over this issue, until the first time I heard Rolling in the Deep when Adele sang it on Dancing with the Stars. The song is about a really bad relationship, though I don’t think she had one exactly like mine. I never believed that we could have had it all. He was too dysfunctional and abusive for that. But I am turning my sorrow into treasured gold.

I watch the videos of her a lot. It has been very validating and healing. The tears have finally come and are helping me to heal. I sing along to it a lot, perhaps too much, because I really belt it out and then end up with a hoarse throat. Each time, though, it helps me to heal a little bit more.

6 thoughts on “Healing from Sexual Abuse in an Adult Relationship

  1. I had a English professor when I was in college who was very abusive. She either did not know how to teach or was too lazy to teach. Whatever the case, she took the ability of girls who could already write extremely well and pretended that they had learned it from her. I, on the other hand, needed to be taught how to do research, but she wouldn’t teach it. Then she blamed me for not knowing how to do it. She told me I could not write and I believed her. In fact, she said that my writing got worse as the semester progressed and she was right. To be fair she did not just abuse me, she also abused some of the other girls. They were sick to their stomachs and crying all the time, but I was her special abuse project.

    I told the head of Student Support and my therapist about her and what she was doing. She was abusive to the Student Support psychologist too. I could not stand up for myself but they stood up for me. I was assigned to another class that of course I had to pay extra for, but it was so good to get away from her I was willing to do it.

    Because of this abusive professor I graduated a year late and didn’t enjoy my last two years of college. She told other students lies about me and my writing skills. I think she chose to abuse me because she could see that I was shaky about my self worth and instead of trying to bolster it she decided to tear me down. I think she was full of fear of her students and had a low self worth herself.

    It has taken me three years to try and get over what she did to me and I am still working on it. There all still books I cannot read from the class without becoming upset. I have not continued with school because I am afraid of meeting up with someone like her again.

    Dealing with that crazy woman made me lose my joy of writing. The thing is I would have done much better if she had had the skills of a real teacher.

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    • Hello Dear,

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. For one thing, the school should have allowed you to change to a different class even repeat a class or two for free, since someone realized what was happening and this was abuse by a member of their staff. I have known others who have been abused around writing as well and as unknown of a topic as it is, I think it is more common than we survivors realize. Writing is a way of finding yourself, loving yourself, valuing yourself, healing and finding your own voice. I’m so sorry that she robbed you of your joy in this way. This was a despicable person.

      I’m sorry that you have been so affected that you can’t continue with your education. I’ve had several bad and abusive teachers and professors in my time. I also had so many fine ones that my trust was not completely shattered. I will have to say that the same thing was not true of therapists and I cannot continue with therapy, due to therapists who are emotionally and verbally inappropriate and abusive. Trust is something that is fragile and is earned. I’m so sorry and so saddened that so many of us become targets of bullies and abusers after our childhoods.

      Good and healing thoughts to you.

      Kate

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  2. Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing this. It’s through such incredible courage and generosity that others have a chance to learn, and to see what might be happening in their own lives. As you know, one of the most destructive things that happens to abuse survivors in abusive relationships is “gaslighting,” where the abuser will make his target think that the abuse is imagined, that he/she is the only person who would ever have a problem with the abuser’s behavior, etc. Being able to see these things in the life of someone who is clearly living with courage and integrity may be what one of your readers needs in order to correctly identify patterns in their own life. The bravery you are showing here is so loving, Kate, not only to yourself, in acknowledging that you absolutely did not deserve to be fucked over like that — but also to others who may need to know that about themselves.

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    • Hi David,

      Thank you. You touched my heart. Your comment was very healing to read. Your friendship and support mean so much to us. Thanks.

      I think there was a healthy portion of gaslighting going on.

      Mostly when I would object to certain things his responses were always couched in reasons that said it was all my fault, not that I was imaginging things, but rather that his treatment of me was in accordance to my value as a person and as a girlfriend and so it was all my fault for all the actions he did and did not do towards me and that I had no right to complain or object. (Grotesquely and eerily exactly as my mother taught me to believe.) I believe that it was his own self-hatred and self-loathing that he was seeing and throwing onto me rather than me or who I truly was, pure projection. Just like my mother and my family. So often abusers peddle personal opinion as fact.

      He was always saying you know what you need, you need therapy. When I started therapy he shut up about that, but just increased his other blaming strategies. Like my family, it was always that I was “too sensitive,” rather than them being abusive and hurting me. I think “too sensitive” is one of the biggest lies that emotional and verbal abusers/bullies use.

      When I showed him a list of human rights he actually sneered at me and belittled a work supervisor who had shared it with me, I think she saw some really low self-esteem and abuse in my life; him calling her, among other things, an unhinged rabid feminist. Which is sort of odd because I considered myself a feminist at the time as well. My self-esteem was always rock bottom with him, but seeing him always managed to take me down to the basement.

      A few months after I broke up with him I called a friend of his and told him some of the emotionally abusive things he had done to his friend. The friend thanked me for calling him and said that he had noticed this kind of behavior by him in past relationships and he would talk to him and try to show him that he needed to change this. I said he always made it sound as though he was treating me that way because of me and who I was. The friend said no, he does that to every woman he is with, it wasn’t about you at all. I guess this friend cared about the next woman he would abuse, but not enough about me to intervene when I was dating his friend. Again both of them managed to make me believe that I wasn’t important enough to treat well or to stand up for. I don’t believe that he changed, not one little bit.

      He was very overweight when we were dating and the last time I glanced him at a distance in public he had gained at least 100 more pounds. It was my hope that he was having trouble finding another woman to abuse due to his weight, his looks, his sexism, his racism, sadism, homophobia, and his lack of basic compassion, empathy, and love for others.

      I stand proud, like I do about my mother, knowing that on my worst day I am 100 times the human being as either of them on their best day.

      Good and healing thoughts to you and those you love.

      Kate

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  3. Sorry Kate. I realize I was off the subject when I started talking about that abusive professor. What that experience had in common with sexual abuse as an adult is the self blaming. At first, I blamed myself for everything she did to me.

    Likewise, in some of my relationships with men I always believed bad things happened to me because there was something wrong with me. I thought I was cursed or had some kind of indelible mark on my forehead. There were several men who used me sexually.

    One was a young man I had a crush on when I was seventeen. He commanded me to do sexual acts on and with him and I just did it, but had no idea why. Years later after I found out about dissociation, I realized that a kid part came out to do what he said. That is how I was trained by the abusers. Before that I just thought I was crazy.

    Then there was a time when I was extremely depressed and sad and I didn’t know why. I just wanted someone to hold and touch me and so when my neighbor invited me to his house that was all I wanted. But he wanted sex and I didn’t know how to say no. I just let him do what he wanted to me. I felt ashamed and really didn’t know what had happened. Once again I felt crazy and bad. In my heart I knew that I was not totally there when we were together, but had no idea what was going on. The abusers taught me never to say no. No matter what. No meant screaming and a beating.

    When I met my husband I didn’t know what to make of him. He was very kind. I thought he was a kook. Almost thirty years later I know he is a man with faults but not an abuser. He had never intentionally hurt me. I know I am very blessed and very lucky.

    When I was a teenager I did have a couple of extremely positive experiences with boys and I think that they helped me to know a good man when I met him.

    Thank you for your post. As you can see you got me writing and thinking.

    Radicalhope

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    • Hi Radicalhope,

      No, I didn’t think your first comment was off-topic. Sexual abuse often and usually is accompanied by emotional/verbal abuse and one type of that is bullying. As my college professor who taught Child Abuse and Neglect class said over and over again was the fact that emotional/verbal abuse is present in every relationship where there is sexual abuse, usually at the beginnning, and it is important that we as a society, families, and individuals address that to help in addressing the environment that nurtures, fosters, and allows abuse to continue.

      I understand what you are saying about the self-blaming. Me too. I have gone through some bad class experiences.

      I understand what you mean about obeying automatically. I answer questions automatically myself, because the consequence by my mother was the same. I was able to fight some of the programming to obey orders by my mother. It was best to run and/or hide as much as possible afterwards, to be safe from her abuses. I think that went a long ways towards helping me say no to boys and men later on.

      I’m sorry that you too know the self-blame element. It is tragic that it seems so universal to all survivors. Good and healing thoughts to you.

      Kate

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