Possible rape affecting ability to have romantic relationships

by Anne
(Texas)

I'm a 20-year-old female college student. When I was 17 I met guy at a large convention in my hometown at the beginning of the summer before my senior year of high school. That whole summer we had a long distance relationship, meaning we spoke on the phone every night, but had never explicitly defined ourselves as an item. I found him extremely charming, caring and easy to talk to. I became very attached to him, and so I thought him to me, and at the end of the summer I invited him to come visit me at my friend's house while her family was on vacation.

I was a virgin and had not given much thought to "giving it up" to him or anybody- I had no strong feelings on whether sex should be for marriage and love. I was worried that by inviting him to visit he would expect sex from me; so much so that I almost called the whole thing off. I only didn't because he became extremely angry (obvious red flag in hindsight!), and I still wanted to see him very much.

The first night of his visit we were fooling around and he tried to have sex with me without verbally asking, but I didn't object. It hurt very much, and when I asked him to stop he asked me to keep going, to do it for him. It started to hurt so much I cried and he hurriedly stopped- mostly because my friends were sleeping downstairs and I think he was afraid of being heard.

The next night the same thing happened, except he did succeed. I did not object when he started, I even liked it. But suddenly everything changed. He looked at me one time in the beginning with an expression I've never seen on another person- it was completely devoid of...humanity. It was not angry, but so completely blank, yet powerful, it scared me. In hindsight, it is akin to the look on the face of an animal hunting prey. After that he wouldn't look at my face again, keeping his head in the pillow. He didn't talk to me, but held my arms down. It was like I was not even there. I was suddenly very nervous and began to...laugh. Uncontrollably. (Haha, if that isn't crazy, I don't know what is!) But still he did not take notice. I continued to lie still because I truly did not know what else to do. Keep in mind, I never verbally objected or tried to get away.
Right after, he asked me if I felt like crying again. To my surprise I immediately burst into tears because I realized I had made the wrong choice. He did try to comfort me.

When he left, he told me he wanted our relationship to continue. He then promptly dropped off the face of the earth, and since I have had intermittent contact with him, usually spurred by him. I even had sex with him a year later. I didn't know why then, but now I know it's because I wanted it to be different. (Based upon other information I'm also convinced he is at least a pathological liar, if he is not more mentally ill. He most definitely displays characteristics of sociopathy, although that is my own biased and unprofessional opinion, haha.) Even after all this I wanted his affection desperately, and he would occasionally contact me and make plans to see me and never show up. (He told me later he delighted in this.) And three years later he very occasionally takes time to tell me how much he enjoyed controlling me and manipulating my feelings via text message.

He has appeared in my dreams as recently as two nights ago, and thinking about this automatically makes me upset. I'm almost crying while I write this, and I hate to admit I've not been able to beat this on my own, that he really has controlled me without even trying.
I can say with confidence I don't want his love anymore, and rarely think about him, at least on a conscious level. But since this incident I've always had very short lived relationships that were loosely defined and based on sex. Most of the time I break them off due to lack of interest and because it makes me feel powerful (though I hate to admit that) I have had two physically abusive relationships before this incident, but have no history of abuse in my childhood.
Since then I've developed a habit of acting out sexually with men I don't know from making out to having sex and everything in between (although I haven't had sex with very many people, and I am extremely vigilant about pregnancy and STD prevention and visit my gynecologist for testing annually). Everywhere I go I look at people I would want to be sexual with; it is a habit. I have thoughts of having sex constantly, but not so much that it interferes with my daily functioning. I consummate relationships early because, I have recently discovered, I always on some level expect sex to feel different, although I know this is unrealistic. I want sex to be the way it was supposed to be the first time, about love and commitment, but ironically, I can't commit to anyone very long and have never been in love. I want sex to be an expression of love, but the guys I have it with don't see it that way, at least in relation to me. So instead I (up until recently) saw it as an expression of power and accomplishment, and talked about my "conquests" in such a way.

I'm not sure if this was really rape/abuse, but whatever it was, I want to get over it. It's been three years, and I'm ready to have a fulfilling, normal relationship again that is not based on sex and power. Was it rape? If not, is it still worth speaking to a professional about, since that wouldn't make it a real trauma? What is your opinion? Your thoughts are appreciated, I am so tired of being mired in all this.

Ben's Answer:

It doesn't matter what anyone's definition of rape is - your first experiences with this guy had all the elements of rape and yes it is a real trauma. Anytime someone overpowers, forces, coerces, intimidates or otherwise manipulates you into submitting to sex for his own gratification - it is the same as rape, as far as I'm concerned. Legally, maybe not - but that's not the issue.

I'd say your assessment of him as a sociopath is probably correct. He sounds sadistic and gets off on power and control while showing no genuine concern for your feelings or needs.

The first sexual experiences we have leave a very deep impression on us, like an imprint, and often set the tone for future relationships.

If you want to have a good relationship, with real caring, and real intimacy, the best thing you could do would be to put off having sex for a long time, and develop your relationship in other ways first. This didn't hold true for that first relationship, because you only developed the relationship by phone, you were young, vulnerable, and missed the danger signs.

Getting some therapy with a focus on trauma would be an excellent thing to do. There is no question that this was a major trauma and obviously has continued to have a negative impact on your life and your relationships. EFT would be a very effective method of working on this, preferably with a therapist, but you could also try some on your own.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz

Comments for Possible rape affecting ability to have romantic relationships

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Mar 13, 2010
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Thank you
by: Anonymous

Hi Mr. (or is it Dr.?) Schwarcz,

I originally posted this question and wanted to thank you for your sound advice. I've scheduled an appointment with campus mental health services to pursue the therapy you recommended.

Thanks again. Had it not been for your comments I would've continued suffering in silence.

-"Anne"

You're very welcome!

-Ben


Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask a Therapist.