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Do you ever get over abuse like this?(28 Posts)
Was going to NC for this but then couldn't be bothered so being brave and going warts and all.
The problem I have here is relatively minor but I know is buried deep in my subconscious.
Fifteen years ago I had an affair- a long one, 7 years plus- with one of my teachers. It ended when I was 22.
He was, as you'd expect, morally bankrupt and troubled in the extreme. I have had a lot of therapy, a breakdown, taken antidepressants long term and all these years later feel over it. Or as over it as I'm ever going to be considering this started when I was a kid and so, to a certain extent, it's kind of part of me.
The sexual side of the relationship was very passionate but what started as normal passionate got weird quickly. He used to hit me during sex and dress in women's clothes. He would humiliate and hurt me.
He was never punished for his actions and still teaches. I know where he works.
He was married and during our affair left and went back to her lots of times. He eventually went back to her for good- choosing her over me- and as far as I know are still together now.
I am very happy. I'm married to an amazing man, who I met five years after my affair ended, at a time when I thought I'd never love again. I'm pregnant with our first child and we both have successful careers.
But in times of stress and anxiety I have these awful nightmares which focus entirely around the sexual side of mine and my teachers relationship and finally on the stinging rejection of his not ultimately choosing me. I wake up crying and shaking, devastated all over again that he did those things and then left me despite all the torment.
I'm currently unwell and in quite a bit of pain and the fever and illness seems to have brought these dreams crawling out of their hiding place.
No amount of therapy seems to have helped this feeling deep, deep in my psyche that I'm his damaged goods and, worse than that, that I'm his reject.
Is it just that time eventually heals or is this a horrible consequence of what happens? When I have these dreams and wake up this way I honestly think I'm done for and will never get over what he did.
Thanks in advance for any advice.
Do you think that because it was never reported you didn't get closure?
What sort of therapy have you done and what did it focus on?
I also wonder if the fact that there has been no justice here... no recognition of his many-level abuse ... is significant. Don't you feel very worried that he might be doing the same thing today with other 15 yo girls who are supposed to be safe in his care?
DH knows everything and is really supportive.
I've had CBT- four lots- talking therapy- two lots- and even hypnotism. They've all been helpful but they won't ever erase it.
I tried to report it when I was about 23 and it was awful. The police weren't interested and said as it began before 2003 (when the law changed meaning teachers and students couldn't have sexual relationships) it was basically not illegal. Even though I was under the age of consent when it began, because it couldn't he proven with hard evidence (like texts or letters or anything where it basically stated he had been having sex with me) the police said it wasn't worth persuing.
I then reported it to the school I attended but they said again, hard to prove and he didn't work there anymore. I reported it to the school he was working at at the time and it did cause trouble (and he did eventually leave because of my report) but his wife started coming to my house and making threatening phone calls to me (calling me a whore) which was terrible and made my life unbearable.
She is also a teacher and after he left that school she helped him get a job where she works (where he still is) which affords him a certain amount of protection and, I'm guessing, means she can keep her eye on him. Ironic as when it began with me she was also working at the same school!!
Of course I worry he will do it again but I've tried. No one cares
Your choice of name I think some how sums up how you feel about yourself a little bit. You were groomed by a very damaged individual, these people don't change their behaviour I have no doubt that he is carrying this on with whoever he is with in some shape or form.
Your other point was and is a very valid one, this has now become part of you, but it is not all of you or who you are.
From your post it seems that you are punishing yourself, you mention passion when describing the physical aspects of being with him before the abusive side started, do you fell guilty about this? our bodies can betray us in all sorts of ways including responding to things our minds don't want to, that's because we have zones covered in nerves that respond to touch and are very sensitive.
The memory of this sort of thing is and can be long lasting, coupled with your carrying your first child, hormones and the instinct to protect can be over whelming, including powerful dreams. You came through that episode in your life, and now you are in a safe place, you need to start seeing the positives and believe you have come a long way.
You didn't say whether you reported him or not and whether any action was taken? If not is this something you might be thinking about?
Thanks for that kind post. I think we cross posted as I've just answered about reporting him
No wonder it still haunts you.
No suggestions I'm afraid. It's nearly not as bad as yours, but I still get the very occasional nightmare with ex. I suppose it's something we can't completely get rid of in stressful times.
dizzy im so sorry to read this.
I have found that in both pregs, the sad and still very painful things in my life come back very strongly in vivid dreams. Specially (in my case) family stuff. Unresolved stuff and stuff that is mostly healed or at least I'm strong enough to carry usually seems to suddenly become much more in my mind, sleeping and waking. For me, past rejection is also extra-strongly felt, like it's still live and real.
I don't know if, when you're hurt deeply enough, things can ever fully healed though good supportive relationships now and good therapy can help hugely (its really good that you can talk of it with your husband). But people talk as if any wound can be overcome and it's just not always true, same as for physical damage. When things do heal scars remain tho, though not always in a bad way.
Almost everyone learns to live with and around major soul-wounds though, and sometimes that is the best that can be done. And over time, if you're honest with yourself about the pain when it does hurt so much, it does lessen.
Do think that once your baby is born, you may begin to feel better. The love is so immense that it sort of innoculates you to some degree from the shits in the past.
I don't think you do. There's a reason that child sexual abuse is considered so serious these days and what you're going through now is an embodiment of that. Abuse marks people forever. It doesn't necessarily ruin their lives because many people are amazing and resilient just like you, but it leaves an indelible mark.
So no, you don't get over it. And you know what? That's ok. Because it sucks. But you can find a way of learning to live with it. Not necessarily easily and not without times where it pulls you back, but in a way that allows you to lead a normal and happy life in the main.
And you're doing that right now. You are amazing to have come this far already. Many people without your background haven't managed a successful career and happy marriage. You might not feel like it but you already are finding your way of dealing with it, even if you're not actually "over it".
Sadly, as you've found out, abuse where there is a significant imbalance of power is difficult to get justice for, especially when it comes to historic crimes. The criminal justice system is much better at taking this seriously these days, so you may want to try again, but having tried already, your first obligation is to yourself. If it leaves you too raw to fight, you don't have to.
When you had therapy, did you focus on those feelings of rejection? Rejection is one of the most difficult human emotions to process. It is doubly difficult for those in abusive relationships because the imbalance of power has already fed the "you're not good enough" theme. There is a lot of exploration needed around that, far more than you'd get through two sessions of counselling I think. YOu sound intelligent and articulate though, so if further counselling is not an option, you could try some self-help books on the subject.
Good luck and congratulations on your pregnancy.
I'm not sure I was ever honest about the rejection with anyone. As stupid as it sounds I almost felt fortunate to have been rejected in the end because he was such a headcase that clearly- to everyone else around me, especially my parents who never knew til it was over- I was better off out of it. So I've almost not admitted that the rejection had a huge effect on me.
In terms of the sex, I don't think I feel ashamed of enjoying it, but it feels like a hurdle to admitting that it was real abuse. When it ended his and his wife's main arguments against it being a "real crime" were that I enjoyed it, so it couldn't have been abuse. If it had been abuse I wouldn't have had orgasms, voluntarily had sex with him hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times. In the back of my head I always sort of remember that and think it couldn't have been real abuse even though logically and obviously it was.
I was abused for four years from when I was five, and it only stopped when I was nine because the abuser died. So it never felt like I got any 'closure' or a resolution, as obviously he was never held accountable, and my parents didn't know for years and years. It doesn't exactly go away, and I wouldn't say you get over it, as such but I have had a lot of therapy - I mean a lot - and it does become livable with. I would say that I'm pretty much at peace with what happened. God that is almost unbelievable for me to say that (I'm now in my mid-40s) and it has been hard work, and a lot of tears, and a lot of anger and distress and general horribleness. But I truly feel ok. What happened to me is never going to be ok, but I can be ok with it.
But it has taken years and years of therapy once or twice a week and it's cost the equivalent of a brand new mid-range car, but worth every penny. I think perhaps you are more vulnerable at the moment because of the transition to becoming a parent, and it's quite possible that becoming a mother could bring up all kinds of issues about feeling safe, and keeping someone safe, and anger and fear about your child as they grow up.
Being brave enough to do therapy properly (and I also had to stop drinking first, another issue in itself) was a massive step for me, and I found that I almost needed therapy to become strong enough to do the therapy about the abuse! And once I started doing it, I wished I hadn't as it was so awful and painful. But I am so so so so so so glad I did, it has turned my life around. I'm now able to have more or less normal relationships, for example - I got married a few years ago, and I never thought that would happen.
So you can recover from this, I firmly believe that it's possible. My abuse was like an awful wound, and as I grew up the skin grew over it, but it didn't heal properly, it was infected and festering deep inside, but looked alright on the surface. Therapy cut into it with a sharp knife, scraped all the pus and infection out, disinfected it, closed it up carefully, and it has healed with a scar, but a healthy scar that doesn't hurt me any more.
Good luck - I wish you peace. X
Thanks for all that great advice Daisy. I think maybe I haven't been doing therapy "properly" but maybe I've been guilty of not approaching it properly from the angle of abuse. In real life I often get quite apologetic and end up saying "well you know it wasn't real abuse" even to therapists and maybe they don't get how badly it has scarred me. Just to confuse the issue my best friend, who has been my main consistent source of comfort and advice since the relationship/abuse ended, is married to his best friend. They don't talk anymore but because of that relationship confusing things I've often not admitted to her some thins about the relationship.
As someone said up thread I am lucky I can speak to DH. He is a rock and has never judged or questioned my feelings as being weird.
But Daisy, when I read about abuse like yours I do feel a fraud. I wasn't a "proper" child and do feel deep down that I brought some of it on myself. I loved and fancied and adored him. I was ripe for grooming and that was my fault.
No no no, please don't think that my abuse is 'proper' abuse and yours isn't. I sometimes thought that mine wasn't 'real' abuse as the man never actually raped me... I was five years old! He shouldn't have been doing anything to me! Anyway, it's not a sliding scale, one isn't worse than another, my abuser couldn't have fucked up my head more if he'd tried.
And you were abused, you were a child. When I was a bit older (12) I was raped, and that abuse carried on until I was 20, but after a while I just went along with it, I had sex with him willingly, I adored him and wanted him to love me. So I do know what you mean about feeling it's your fault. It isn't.
'when I read about abuse like yours I do feel a fraud. I wasn't a "proper" child and do feel deep down that I brought some of it on myself. I loved and fancied and adored him. I was ripe for grooming and that was my fault'.
I think that you havent dealt with the abuse because as you say, you are not allowing yourself to see it as 'proper' abuse - perhaps to protect yourself. It WAS 'proper' abuse and you need to be open to that idea. Try thinking of your child when he or she is older... in the same situation.. would you see it as 'their fault and not proper abuse'? I doubt it.
and as for 'I was ripe for grooming and that was my fault' ... really ?? how is being ripe for grooming EVER a CHILDS fault ?? again id guess this is a defence mechanism... you can blame yourself for being stupid/your fault ...so you can hide from the fact you were abused.
Thanks ladies. I guess I look back to how I was when I was 13, 14 and flirting with him and sitting there in class twiddling my hair and volunteering to clean out his cupboard and I think well, he was only human, he was only 26 or 27, and I looked like a woman I had breasts and a womanly figure... I do KNOW that none of that is an excuse but it's like a little brain worm that gets all mixed up in my logic.
No, of course, if that was my child it would cut and dried. I wouldn't be thinking around it- I'd know he was an abuser.
I don't think it helps that the nature of the relationship meant that at times he was very charming and lovely and we did have some good times. It all gets mixed up for me. That man who still gives me nightmares, who I've seen on the street and ended up physically shaking.... He took me to Scotland for my 21st birthday because I had said I always wanted to go. He brought me a first edition of my favourite book at great effort and expense. And I think they're not the actions of an abuser. But yknow, he hit me and raped me and left me alone to die. I've thought about his motivations for thousands of hours, wondered why he did what he did and I can never find an answer.
Oh OP, it's so confusing isn't it? I also didn't think I was really abused. I was (am) so ashamed and have never admitted that in real life. I do think to heal properly, then you need to do some work on understanding in your heart that you were not responsible and he abused you horribly.
I found alot of things got raked up when I was pregnant as I started to realise what a massive betrayal by an adult it really was. When my baby was born, I also reassessed alot of my mothers behaviour that I'd forgiven and excused prior to having a child of my own.
Misc I think that I do need to work on admitting to myself in my heart that it was real abuse. I think I've done well because for some years I couldn't even say out loud that it was abuse- I called it a bad break up- but I can tell other people now that it was abuse. I just think deep down in me a bit of me still believes I brought it on myself or deserved it or that it wasn't abuse.
I am sorry, I had to check, and this may be a bit intrusive, but, as you are being brave and asking:
"The Sexual Offences Act, introduced in 2003, makes it a criminal offence for teachers to have sex with any pupil at their school who is below the age of 18, even if the pupil is above the legal age of consent."
So how old were you when it started? I'd guess at 15 or 16 from what you posted. BUT he knew you before, as you say, so he may have been grooming you, or at the very least setting up a relationship. That would be the beginning of his abuse. It is totally immaterial that you were spangling at him. You were a kid, he was an adult.... sod trying to rationalise he wasn't that old etc.... he was old enough!
It may be that these days you will get a more sympathetic, more knowledgeable response.
You need to go back and start that process again, if you think it will help you get some control over those feelings. Listen to others brave enough to tell you about their own stories.... make yourself stronger, better.
Good luck xx
Hiya, I'm really sorry to hear what this man did, there's no question this is abuse.
The physical shaking when you've seen him and the nightmares indicate PTSD, which is very common in abuse. Have any of your therapists mentioned this?
The fact that you were 'ripe' for grooming does not make it your fault it simply makes him an arsehole. Only an abuser would do what he did, a decent man would have noticed your crush and left well alone.
What his wife said was bollocks, some abusers try to ensure their victim enjoys it because it makes abuser a) easier and b) more satisfying for them. I understand that she wants to minimise and blame the victim because she doesn't want to be married to an abuser but she is.
None of my business but I think you should change your username, please don't call yourself that even in jest, you are affirming the misogyny that you have internalised from your experience with him.
I relate to a lot of your post. I was in an abusive relationship as a young adult 17 years ago, I still get nightmares and discount what happened as being my fault. It is a deep source of unresolved shame.
You were a child. Take a look at someone the age you were then and imagine them in that situation. Would you blame them for it?
I don't know if it ever goes, it just gets quieter.
Aah thank you Twinkle but it's from The Smiths song Cemetery Gates and refers to the dead woman in the grave yard that Morrissey can't recall quoting. I promise it's geeky Morrissey love and not a deep seated self loathing thank you for caring though, I mean that.
I do know that what he did WAS abuse I just think for so many years- no exaggeration, almost 20 years- he was the voice inside my head telling me it was as much my fault as his and it's hard to shake that.
Yes I think I almost certainly have PTSD- I've seen him on a train within the past five years and had to get off it to physically vomit- but no one has ever mentioned it. Does anyone know of any good self help books or similar that deal with PTSD?
Think of it like this... whether you was 15 or 50 - what he did was abusive.
Ah that's ok then, don't like the Smiths so I'd never get the reference.
There's a book on PTSD called 'Overcoming Traumatic Stress' available on Amazon.
You might ask for some specific PTSD related therapy (obviously you feel like you've had loads but there are specific techniques to deal with it).
EMDR therapy can be enormously helpful for past trauma. I also have PTSD, and am currently having EMDR to re-process the traumatic memories to take the emotional sting out of them, I have made some progress - I no longer shake when I try to speak about it. Worth a google, and if you go ahead, find someone experienced
I'm sorry to read about your experiences.
Hope you get some emotional peace soon from all of this.
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