Helpless

I read something this week about a woman who says she was raped by her husband on their wedding night. She was a virgin and was saving herself for marriage. However, on the day of her wedding, she was sick. She was actually running a fever, and it was all she could do to get through the day. That night, all she wanted to do was get out of her gown and sleep. She explained to her husband that she was not feeling well, and wanted to put off their first sexual encounter until she was feeling better.

Instead, he told her that he had waited long enough and that she was now his wife, and that sex was an expected part of marriage. So, he flipped her onto her back, got on top of her, and had sex with his sick wife who begged, “please, no”. She went on to say that sex within the marriage never got any better after that night. It was always expected, and it was never pleasurable for her. Her husband criticized her sexual performance and basically everything about her as a woman. And she believed that it was all her fault.

Eventually he left her for another woman. It was at that point, after he left, that she began to see how she had been abused.

This story probably sounds familiar to many people. We probably also felt that something was off but that it was our fault. We were there. We were making out. Maybe drinking. Maybe without prior consent, someone just decided that they were going to have sex with you, so they did.

Or maybe you felt obligated to keep a partner happy because if you didn’t, your life would not be very pleasant, so you just had sex to keep from being made to feel like a horrible human being, or because not having sex meant sending someone into a rage against you and you had children and needed to keep things happy for everyone.

Except for yourself.

The woman in the story who was sick on her wedding night and asked her new husband if they could please wait until the next day when she felt better, was forced to have sex against her will by an abusive partner. He felt impatient and entitled and his needs were all that mattered. He forced her to have sex. That is marital rape.

I knew a woman who was in an abusive relationship. She was abused in every way possible. Her daughter told someone that her stepfather had raped her mother. I was not there, so I assume that for the daughter to say that she was raped, it probably happened after he pushed her around a bit and there was most likely an escalation of anger that was witnessed beforehand. I knew both the woman and her husband well enough to have heard stories that he was not such a great guy. He was psychologically abusive to the teenage daughter as well. I heard about how he would go into the laundry and take out soiled underwear when the girl had her period and hang them out on the line with the intent to embarrass her.

When someone is in an abusive relationship, they may realize that things aren’t how they should be, but they may fall into a pattern of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness happens in trauma bonding. It can happen when one partner has more financial power or more physical power or is able to psychologically intimidate and manipulate someone.

It can happen when life is unsteady and when the emotional climate can change suddenly, depending upon the mental state of the person who needs to have control. Children can develop this emotional state if they are raised in a situation where they are made to feel inept or never good enough, or if they witness abuse in the family.

When someone feels that things are hopeless or that there is nothing they have the power to change in their situation, or that they lack the tools to better their life, they can be experiencing a sense of learned helplessness. They have learned that they have no power and no voice and no choice in life. They end up learning to please others to keep life in balance.

It is said that feeling this way is one of the main reasons for depression. I think that is understandable.

The woman who I once knew who was in the abusive relationship ended up leaving…or perhaps she was forced to leave…a house she owned, leaving her child behind. By this time, she was already drinking heavily. She had no job and no way of supporting herself. At one point, she ended up living with someone in an apartment above a bar.

Could she have turned her life around? People in worse situations than her have done so. But she had learned that she was worthless and now she was very vulnerable. Family would not take her in because of her drinking. She saw no way out. She lived that way for years until she ended up in the hospital and at that time, did end up giving up the bottle and reconciling with family because she needed to stay with family in order to recuperate.

These psychological issues which can affect, and even ruin lives are often seen as the fault of the person who needs the most help. When these things happen within a relationship with a Narcissist, there is a double whammy. Support systems are cut off. Lies are told about the victim. Money can be cut off. The victim is blamed by those who believe the Narcissist’s charm and twisted version of the truth.

It’s a dark road of self-blame and depression with the whole world seemingly all too willing to mirror the disgust the victim sees in themself.

But this is something that many of us already know all too well. Because we have lived through it, in our lives and in the one place we thought we were safe…our church. And then when we go to seek help, we can’t find it. Because we were caught in something that we didn’t see at the time. So, we did stupid things. We cared. We made excuses for the person. We didn’t report what was going on. We let it continue. We knew that it was in our best interest to keep quiet.

But it wasn’t love that we felt for our Narcissistic abuser. And I call them that because it’s true. Our abuser felt they were entitled to abuse us. They were above the law. They felt smarter than us. They knew how to play the game so that they could make us lick their boots and have us thinking it was our idea. They could make everyone think that it was our idea. They could hold our jobs, our reputation, our feeling of safety, and our need for love, approval and belonging over our heads. They could terrorize us into behaving how they wanted us to behave. They could withhold their approval, or work benefits, or a status we enjoyed within the church community. They held the power. We learned helplessness because we had no power.

But, like some instances of rape, it can be hard to prove abuse legally sometimes when the victim appeared to have willingly participated in the crime. Or if they defended their abuser. Or if they continued to be in contact with the abuser. Or if they married their abuser.

And having to go through the humiliation of telling a legal person what you went through, only to have them tell you that you don’t have a case and that the person is going to get away with what they did…that can rip open the wound all over again as if it just happened to you.

Know that this does happen. Have a trusted friend help you through the legal process or help you get out of an abusive situation. And if you are alone with nowhere to turn, call a suicide hotline or other support hotline in your area for help. You don’t have to be actively suicidal to call the suicide hotline. If you are depressed, it can help greatly to talk to someone who will just listen. And it’s free. Or join a SNAP support group.

One of the most important things you can gain from reaching out for help is learning that having your soul trampled on by someone who does not have a soul, is not your fault. No matter how much abuse you put up with or how many “stupid” things you did and mistakes that you made because you couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

The next Abused as Adults on-line meeting will be held the first Sunday of July from 4pm to 6pm EST.

Be good to yourself. Be kind and gentle to yourself first and foremost. And have a great week.

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