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Can an adult be sexually abused (but I don't mean rape)?

(29 Posts)
PlantPots Thu 18-Jul-13 14:56:13

I have posted before about my abusive exs, but have nc'd here as this is quite sensitive. If you recognize me please do not say so.

I left an abusive relationship, and am having counselling currently. It's been helpful, but I am becoming increasingly stressed out by intrusive thoughts about something sexual that an ex did to me a number of years ago. This particular thing was not rape. It was very embarrassing though, and I tried to stop it but was afraid to.

I haven't been able to mention it to the counselor yet, as I said it wasn't rape, and it was some years ago, and I am very embarrassed I let someone do this thing to me even though I was an adult.There are much worse things that I have already talked to the counselor about, including actual rape, and something else that has far more of an impact on my life now.

This other thing really should not matter. But I keep thinking about it. I have woken up at night thinking about it.

Can adults be sexually abused even if it's not rape?

I have done some online searches and it seems as though adults can be raped or they can be 'adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse'. I know I put up with some shit but I am feeling pretty crap thinking that there must have been something really wrong for me to have put up with something like that and effectively been treated as a child by my then boyfriend. I.e. if that is the implication, that an adult is not usually able to be sexually abused by another adult.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 18-Jul-13 15:00:03

Yes they certainly can. Sexual abuse covers any kind of unwanted sexual behaviour/contact and may include coercion, threats, perversions, failing to stop when someone has said 'no'.... anything, in short, where one person was not a willing party.

HarderToKidnap Thu 18-Jul-13 15:00:45

Of course they can! The offence is usually referred to as sexual assault though. So sorry for what happened to you.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 18-Jul-13 15:01:40

There are many definitions of sexual assault... here's one

TVTonight Thu 18-Jul-13 15:01:52

Yes, it's another facet of the Whole Relationship.

If you look at it as another means to the end (of controlling and humiliating you) then it definitely can happen.

ImperialBlether Thu 18-Jul-13 15:01:53

Of course you can be sexually abused as an adult and it sounds as though you were. I'm so sorry you're suffering.

Sometimes things that are so clearly wrong are more easily admitted to and explained whereas others that may seem minor affect us deeply. I know this has happened to me.

Please, please speak to your counsellor about it.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 18-Jul-13 15:03:45

"I am feeling pretty crap thinking that there must have been something really wrong for me to have put up with something like that and effectively been treated as a child by my then boyfriend"

Victims are never the ones in the wrong. If someone sexually assaulted or sexually abused you, they were the one in the wrong. They had something really wrong with them. They are the ones that should be getting the nightmares and seeing counsellors.

Vivacia Thu 18-Jul-13 15:13:03

What others have said. Yes, it is possible to be sexually abused at any age. My experience of intrusive thoughts is that I have tried and tried not to think about them, let alone talk about them. I've learned that that is what makes them intrusive. Talking about them, sharing them, immediately halves their power over me. (The other half is talking about coping strategies).

CailinDana Thu 18-Jul-13 16:12:23

There's just a subtle difference in meaning, that's all. Sexual abuse usually refers to a series of incidents, including the way in which an abuser grooms his victim or convinces her/him to stay silent. If what you're referring to is a one-off event then it would more likely be called sexual assault, although IME assault within a relationship is rarely one-off and it's likely you experienced abuse (sexual or psychological) that resulted in you "letting" this person assault you. You absolutely did not "let" him do it to you, he created a situation in which you felt powerless to act, which is abuse.

You have absolutely no reason to feel any shame. Whatever he did to you, he did under his own steam and you have no responsibility for it. In time I really hope the counselling can let you believe that. Do tell the counsellor about it if you can, or feel free to talk about it here. No one will judge you.

PlantPots Thu 18-Jul-13 20:13:31

Yes of course calling it sexual assault, that is a word associated more with adults.

It's as you say Imperial something that's not clearly wrong, like the rape obviously is. With this thing, it's far more subtle.

It was something that, based on threads I have seen on MN, lots of women (maybe most, I don't know as I have not managed to read these threads through properly) do as a matter of course now for themselves/their partner. I didn't want to do it and made it very clear, but he kept joking he wanted me to do it and then engineered a situation where he did it to me.

Sorry if TMI but the thing was that he likes women completely clean shaven, not head obviously but everywhere else. I feel the need to explain how this is even possible to do to someone else against their will, but will stop there. This was a one off, but I was
in the relationship a long time before and after this incident.

So far I have got on fine with my counselor, but I feel really embarrassed about this one thing.

I think I am worried that the counsellor will either not really believe me (because who is really that controlled by someone else), or think I am making a fuss about nothing (because so many people do this anyway).

JuliaScurr Thu 18-Jul-13 20:19:25

the counsellor should certainly accept the validity of what you say, whatever that may be.
the embarrassment you feel is further evidence of the importance of dealing with this issue

PlantPots Thu 18-Jul-13 20:24:49

Yes you are right. I just don't get why I am so focused on this one thing when worse things happened in the relationship.

PlantPots Thu 18-Jul-13 20:27:01

But I guess I don't have to understand it. I just don't want to feel I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

FairyThunderthighs Thu 18-Jul-13 20:41:39

It was something he did to you against your will, therefore it was abuse. Lots of people like receiving oral sex (for example), but if you told a partner not to, and they went ahead and did it anyway it's sexual abuse. Even if the partner said "well all my exes liked it, I didn't do anything wrong".

I think you should discuss it with the counsellor. It's no less "worthy" of discussion than anything else that troubles you. That's what they are there for.

CailinDana Thu 18-Jul-13 20:47:56

No one can ever tell you you're making a mountain out of a molehill. You feel how you feel and you don't have to justify it to anyone. Fwiw what you experienced sounds absolutely awful to me.

Vivacia Thu 18-Jul-13 20:54:11

If the memories are unpleasant and unwelcome, and you have an otherwise good relationship with your counsellor, it can only help to talk about these things. You don't have to go in to detail. I think you may find that this memory haunts you because it symbolises other, deeper issues.

WafflyVersatile Thu 18-Jul-13 23:34:10

It's another facet of domestic abuse. You can be abused physically, emotionally, financially and sexually so yes there is such a thing as sexual abuse.

Many people prefer degrees of clean shaveness in their partners, both male and female, and in healthy relationships they indulge each other in these preferences to whatever degree they feel happy to do so. If they refuse their partner accepts that choice with good grace. This was evidently not the case for you if it is playing on your mind now. There is no shame on you in any aspect of what you experienced with this ex-partner.

Your counsellor will be as open and unjudgemental of you in discussing this as with anything else you have discussed so far.

JacqueslePeacock Thu 18-Jul-13 23:53:37

If you mean that your partner shaved you (or otherwise removed your intimate body hair) against your wishes, I think that sounds extremely humiliating and I'm not surprised you still feel awful about this. I would definitely class this as an assault, and a particularly insidious and controlling kind - a way of demonstrating power over you. Do talk to your counsellor about it if you can bring yourself to do so, as I'm sure that would help you.

YoniBottsBumgina Fri 19-Jul-13 00:10:53

That sounds horrible. Whether it would count as sexual assault or physical assault I don't know, but that's by the by, it was surely done with the same intent: to humiliate and control, therefore it is abuse pure and simple.

Doesn't matter if he did it by force or mental coercion it is still wrong and horrible for you.

PlantPots Fri 19-Jul-13 00:23:42

Thanks for this understanding.

Coincidentally I have noticed there is yet another of these body hair discussions going on in AIBU this evening, not that I can read it through. I do find it odd and very unsettling that everyone, or at least a lot of women, seem to have switched to doing this complete hair removal thing without me really noticing, if I am to believe what I think is written on here. It does make me concerned for my own dds tbh. As far as I can make out, it stems from porn films anyway.

But yes, I take the point that regardless of how many people do this or do not do it, it was done against my own personal will so I need to have faith that it therefore was wrong/abusive. It started through mental coercion not actual force but once someone is doing this it's very hard to move, and so it kind of becomes more than just mental coercion in a way. I will try to speak to the counselor and put aside my embarrassment. Thanks.

Vivacia Fri 19-Jul-13 06:02:58

Good luck Pots.

icepole Fri 19-Jul-13 06:37:54

Yes there is adult sexual abuse. Good website here:

http://www.aphroditewounded.org/

northlight Fri 19-Jul-13 14:38:43

PlantPots - he did this against your will. Yes it is abuse. Perhaps it plays on your mind because you see his actions as treating you like a child. In effect his actions made your body more child like. Does it at some level worry you that he might have been playing out an underage fantasy with you as an unknowing participant.

You are not responsible for other people's disfunction. This man abused you, the fault lies with him.

Try to speak to your councellor. He/she is there to help with your concerns and this seems to be at the front of your mind at the moment. If talking has helped with other issues then it's likely to help with this too.

Vivacia Fri 19-Jul-13 15:35:45

Blimey Northlight, I'm not sure how helpful your first paragraph is.

northlight Fri 19-Jul-13 18:18:41

I was picking up on the poster's own phrase 'and effectively been treated like a child by my then boyfriend.' I hope that it is clear that I am completely on her side.

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