Abuse Survivors Need Empathy Not Sympathy

Abuse Survivors Need Empathy Not Sympathy.

[Extreme trigger warning, not for the link, but for the following text about my life.]

You’d probably [should be] be appalled at some of the ‘at least’s people come up with for rape survivors.

“My boyfriend keeps raping me and forcing me to do really disgusting things and sleep with other people when I don’t want to.”

“At least you have a boyfriend. Plus you’re getting laid!”

“He doesn’t allow me to leave the house unless I’m going to work, and then he has to drive me — I’m not allowed to learn how to drive.”

“At least you have such a nice house, I mean, not everyone gets to live in a huge house, you know! At least someone drives you to work, I mean, jeez, what a hassle, but he does that for you!”

“But I have to give him my entire paycheck. I’m not allowed to spend money on myself beyond $100/mo for food.”

“At least you have a job and food on the table!”

Can no one understand that I was paying $1200/mo for the privilege of being viciously raped every day and that he also literally tortured me and kept me locked in a room as ‘punishment’ when his best friend also raped me.

Even therapists have ‘at least’ed me and refused to discuss how bad any of it was.

I would never have gotten out if I had not become close friends with a coworker (whom I was constantly ‘jokingly’ accused of fucking and dealt with jealous rages over) who put my things in his truck and drove me very far away to live with someone who cared about me, but whom I couldn’t ultimately continue living with. But who did give me nine years to try to get my feet under myself and fed me when I couldn’t work because I got sick.

Even if they also turned abusive during the last four or five, until it was quite bad with the yelling and emotional blackmail and blame for everything they had to deal with, and I felt very unsafe and constantly attacked and on guard.

Leading to the recent housing crisis. I was slated to be on the street come January if I did not find a place.

Yet how can I not be grateful and more or less elevate them both to the collection of saints in my life.

I would otherwise still be in that house.

“Why didn’t you go to a shelter?” one therapist asked.

What shelters? How would I get there? Who would even let me in? There are some very good shelters and networks and evacuations conducted by women for women, but I have never heard of anything, anywhere, to help men get out. This was also ten years ago and in the south.

Maybe it’s occurred to someone, somewhere, because there are LGBT shelters in NYC, which end up taking in a lot of young people who are thrown out, and more people are talking about abuse inside of the LGBT community, and perhaps someone has realised that some of us desperately need help to get out, including concerted efforts to extract someone/more or less kidnap them with their permission, because they cannot leave the house unsupervised, and their partners read their email and go so far as to dig into the router and intercept any messages being sent on IRC or AIM, somehow. Why not just use a keylogger, like any other terrible person?




I’m crying.

I can’t explain how helpless and trapped and scared I was, how alone, how desperate. And how everyone acted.

I think he’s a wonderful man and you’re extremely lucky to have him.

Stop exaggerating.

You’re lying to make him look bad.

You’re the one with the attitude problem and if you weren’t so selfish and ungrateful for everything he’s done for you, he wouldn’t get angry at you.

If you’d just behave.

Everything that ever comes out of your mouth is whining or complaining. I never hear you say anything good about anything, and the only thing ‘wrong’ with your life is that you hate it for no reason.

I stopped talking.

Since I got out, I’ve spoken increasingly less about anything I feel, any problems I’m having, anything I’m going through, because it is a universal statement/belief that I constantly whine, complain, exaggerate, and am in love with my own misery. That I cultivate it and refuse to be happy. I make everything, in every single conversation, completely about me.

And anyone who does care, I burn out in a very short period of time with all of my bullshit.

And, for reasons I truly cannot understand, and that no one else can figure out, I rub some people the wrong way so perfectly that any time I am around them, they end up infuriated and upset.

So I try not to be around.

I try to stop existing. I’ve already shut my mouth so no one has to hear anything. But existing in the same area as other people ends up upsetting them severely.

Sometimes I wonder if the ideal solution is to live totally alone and only leave my home for solitary errands that minimize necessary contact with other people.

I can summon the cheerful mask at will in public (I worked retail; I went to work after I was raped until I bled and had to be extremely functional and make $40+/hr in sales or risk being fired) and whatever interaction is necessary to make sure checkers and clerks have a slightly better day than they were having before comes easily to me. I have extreme empathy for anyone who has to deal with customers in any capacity.

I daydream about an unrealistic tiny house far away from anyone and anything. Books and shrines. How would I acquire food?

V. offered me the keys to his car last night so I could go to the store, but I still can’t drive, though I’m meant to take lessons some time in the next year.

I worry about it because I have a lot of PTSD problems that revolve around driving and cars in some fashion (his best friend drove me about forty or fifty miles from home when we were supposed to be coming home from a movie, and he and my mother had truly terrifying road rage that usually turned around onto me because I was there and convenient). But it has to be done.

I’ve lived in a lot of places famous around the country for how bad their traffic is, but Albany has the special position of actually frightening me with the highways. I don’t think anyone but V. drives fewer than 85mph. Rain and snow are meaningless and involve no adjustments to speed or swerving around people who are only going five over the speed limit.

At least I will mostly only be driving for errands, which are all fairly local.

I did start learning to drive when I was 16, without a permit, in the middle of the night. I could somewhat inexpertly drive a stick, even. I also made left turns in right turn only places and drove over a median.

I should study for the test to get a permit and resume driving in the middle of the night. The streets around here are mostly one-way and slightly labyrinthine, but they’re numbered and they’re never busy.

I think this is supposed to be empowering. A ‘fuck you’ of sorts to my ex. What if this is not a power I’m interested in, and is something that I see solely as a method of transportation when nothing else is possible? I was more empowered (much more, actually — it was like an epiphany) by my Metrocard in NYC.

And, I find, looking at the clock that I wish I’d asked V. to take me to a church not tremendously far away that has bus service for their healing service and communion, because he was going out anyway, and I could’ve taken the bus home.

No one knows me there. But I can’t explain how it feels to have someone put their hands on my head and beseech god(s) on my behalf to give me relief from my suffering, pain, nightmares.

When nearly no one has ever cared enough to ask me, with sincerity, wanting to hear the answer: “How are you?”

I’m bad.

I’m really bad.



8 thoughts on “Abuse Survivors Need Empathy Not Sympathy

  1. tanishal

    Holy Mother. I am deeply sorry. I will Tonglen for you, especially this weekend. I don’t know what else to say, but I am desperately sorry, and I hope that your bravery here inspires someone to leave their own abusive situation.

  2. naiadis

    😦 This breaks my heart, which doesn’t matter, because in this me and my feeling don’t matter. But, dear gods. I hatehatehate the “at least” bullshit, and I hate it worse when we buy into it ourselves and start doing it.

    I’ll join you in you “FUCK YOU” because, fuck them, and more importantly YAY you! And i’m sorry that so much of all this is a struggle. But, yay you!

    I wish you were closer; I’d offer a cat of your choice, or a dog, to snuggle for a bit. Which is how I really say, I wish you comfort and healing.

      1. naiadis

        Were that I could let you borrow Zerk, who is our snuggle-bug. And huge. And a purring machine. And who may or may not decide to pet you back by stroking your cheek with his massive paws.

  3. Vin

    First of all, thanks for linking my post. I do hope it helps you and others!

    However, I’m so sorry all this has happened to you. Abuse is so debilitating, long after said abuse as actually stopped.
    It’s great that you want to have that “fuck you!” moment, heck I’d even join you for that but you’re ex, fuck him, he’s not worth it, he’s not worth involving in your achievements. This is about you now, not him. It’s time to do what’s good for you, what makes you happy. If you don’t want to drive again, that’s fine. Or maybe you’re just not ready to yet, that’s fine too. One step at a time.

    I’m not religious, but I wish I could give you some relief from the pain, nightmares, etc. I can’t. But I can offer you an ear to listen and possibly a friend.

    I hope your getting some help with your PTSD. Hugs

  4. Beth

    Oh, Shannon. My gods, I cannot even imagine what you have had to deal with, but just the description you gave here fills me with fury. I will be praying for you that you find what you need, and there will be less kind prayers too, that those who have hurt you find what they deserve.

    1. shannonkotono Post author

      Mainly I need to talk about it, because I’ve been taught extremely thoroughly to never mention any of it, and my insurance doesn’t support the sort of intensive therapy that might be helpful (anything more than 45 minutes a week). By the time I see my therapist, all sorts of other things have usually come up that are current, and we end up talking about that the entire time, leaving anything to do with the past untouched for the majority of any given year.

      It would benefit me to have spoken to someone every day for the past several days for a couple of hours, but it isn’t feasible, and the foot plus of snow we’re about to get is likely to make me unable to travel to the city to see him for the aforementioned 45 minutes — which is every other week, now.

      I know that the one who did the worst things to me has also raped other people (at least two) and was, with apparent parental consent, sleeping with a 15 year old girl when he was 40 (and lying to everyone that he’d been born in the 80s instead of the 60s, somehow). She ‘inherited’ my position, after I left, so I have felt somewhat forced to assume that he also did disgusting things to her, but whether he did or not, she was a child. I knew her; she came to my job on a regular basis, which is where he met her.

      It is one of the worst idealogical struggles for me, whether to forgive him (forgiveness is not an excuse or saying something is all right/acceptable/let’s be friends) or feel no obligation to do so and complete freedom to wish him all sorts of ill in equal or worse measure to what was dealt to me.

      There are many people who have wronged or hurt me in some way or another, or hurt someone I care for deeply (V.’s two rapists, for example — one was a teacher when he was fourteen, and the other was a boyfriend), but no one seems to manage to override all of my nonviolence and staunch pacifism to such dark depths as my ex, on certain days.

      Today is such a day. Most people who know me would be astonished at how dark and bloody I can get. Partially because I try so hard to shield people from all of my negative emotions, but especially ones that could be destructive; even if I am angry and murderous toward someone like my ex, being very angry can trigger people that I love, or frighten them.

      I suppose it’s another thing with no outlet, though in this case, it has none at all, because, like many crazy people who are trying to avoid getting put in the hospital again, I am loath to mention anything violent, no matter how unrealistic or impossible (it’s hard to murder people one thousand miles away when you can’t drive, or afford a plane ticket, and when we pass people in the street who even vaguely resemble him, I have collapsed or lost significant amounts of time) or how much of a lack of intention I have to act it out.

  5. Pingback: Tracy's smear campaign and emotional blackmail begin full-force--Tracy's Reign of Terror: True Story of Narcissism, Bullying, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse, Part 16 | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

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