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Rape and Abuse If you or someone you know is being abused in any way and you need support or advice, don't hesitate to reach out to us here.

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Indecent exposure - January 21st 2016, 07:19 PM

This thread has been labeled as triggering by the original poster or by a Moderator. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

Warning: graphic sexual content.

I'm not entirely sure this is the right place for this to go, but it seems the most fitting category. Feel free to move it if it isn't appropriate.

Yesterday I decided I wanted to get dressed up for the day. There was a guy I was hoping would notice me at a restaurant I frequent so I put on a low-cut dress and some makeup and headed out. The day went fairly normally at first- I walked to my bus stop and caught the bus, listened to music on my iPod during the bus ride. Then it came time to switch buses. I got off and headed towards my second stop, where I had a fifteen minute wait until the next bus came.

It was chilly so I zipped up the hoodie I was wearing as I got to the stop. I moved to sit down at the bench and this guy crosses the street (where there is no crosswalk) and waves at me, raises his eyebrows. "Oh geez," I thought, "not one of these guys." I didn't really feel like being hit on at the moment and I could already feel myself getting frustrated.

He moved to sit down next to me, forcing me aside without even asking me. I was still listening to my iPod and it irritated me because it got caught in the bench as I was scooting over. He was talking to me, introducing himself while I was trying to untangle it. "I'm Daniel," he said, "what's your name?"

"Jordan," I answered frustratedly as I managed to free my iPod from the bars of the bench.

He said it was nice to meet me and held out his hand. It was quite dirty and he smelled bad. I was very uncomfortable at how close he was sitting to me and I have a germ thing about shaking hands with people anyway.

"I don't shake hands with strangers," I said.

"I'm not a stranger," he replied.

"Well, I don't really know you, so you're a stranger to me."

He kept trying to talk to me, asking about the bus, making small talk, invading my space. At this point I was texting my girlfriend saying I was scared because he wouldn't leave me alone. I don't remember what he was saying, partially because I've probably blocked it out and partially because I was still listening to music. Finally I blurted out "please stop talking to me," and moved even further down the bench. He muttered something but I didn't hear what it was and I really didn't care.

I was still texting my girlfriend, telling her I was stuck sitting next to this guy and it was awkward. She suggested I get up and move elsewhere. I grab my stuff to move and I happen to look over at this guy as I am getting up and-

He's got his trench coat open so that people on the street can't see, and he has his penis in his hand and is stroking it, staring right at me and smiling. At first I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I have no idea how long he had been doing that, but I was frightened. At this point there was another guy standing closer to the actual stop. I grabbed my stuff and hurried over to this person, nearly crying and hyperventilating, asking him to please pretend to talk to me because the other man at the bus stop is jerking off under his jacket. The gentleman was nice enough to keep me company for the next little while until my bus came; it turns out we were trying to catch the same bus. When I got on the bus I could see out of the corner of my eye the man on the bench was still staring at me. All of the buses that stop at that particular stop had come and gone and he hadn't gotten on a single one of them.

I ended up calling my girlfriend and crying as soon as I was off the bus. I was very shaken up. I kept blaming myself and saying it was my fault, that if I hadn't been wearing that stupid dress none of this would have happened. She assured me it wasn't my fault, but I don't know. That night when I came home she tried to be affectionate with me and I just couldn't handle it. I felt bad, even though she reassured me it was okay.

I feel so stupid. Logically I know that what I was wearing had nothing to do with it, but I feel like I must have looked like I was asking for it because of my dress. I don't think I can ever wear that dress again without feeling shame. I also feel like I'm making a big deal out of nothing. I mean, he didn't try to touch me; once I refused his hand shake he kept his hands to himself. I wasn't raped or assaulted in any way but I still feel so violated. I have been raped in the past and I know that after it happened I felt exactly like I did after I was raped. Last night I couldn't sleep because I kept having terrible dreams about what happened. Today I am still upset.

Am I just being stupid? Do I have a right to feel this upset about what happened, or am I making a big deal out of nothing? I just don't know what to do; I don't know how to move past this. It doesn't help that I feel awful for not calling the police, but at the time all I could think of was escaping. How can I move forward from this? I just want to forget this whole thing ever happened but I can't. I'm terrified of every guy who stares at me now; I don't know what I will do the next time one tries to chat me up again. What do I do?


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Re: Indecent exposure - January 21st 2016, 07:53 PM

Hey Jordan,

I'm so sorry to hear what happened! I can't imagine how frightening that must've been. It's understandable you would feel a bit shaken up over this and not in the mood for affection. That's a natural reaction.

I want to reassure you, that it wasn't your fault at all. And it had nothing to do with what you were wearing either. You can wear whatever you like- you have the right to. When people complain about how certain clothes are too short or too revealing, they are actually taking the side of perpetrator. In order to indecently expose themselves, they need to convince themselves, that somehow, what they are doing isn't that bad or their fault. They tell themselves that the other person was dressed in a way that MADE them do that, and that it's the other persons fault for wearing that particular outfit. But that's all a lie. No-one can make or influence someone else's sexual behaviour based on what they are wearing. They are simply trying to blame the other person, when it's their behaviour that is at fault, not yours.

I also want to say that you were very brave to tell him to stop talking to you, and move away and talk to someone else to keep you safe away from him.

You aren't making a deal over nothing. Indecent exposure is a type of abuse. Even though there was no physical contact, you were still forced to see something sexual that you didn't want to. You have every right to feel violated.

I'm sorry to hear that you were raped in the past. It's natural that having been through such a trauma before, that this indecent exposure would stir up all sorts of memories and feelings and even cause you to have bad dreams. As for the dress, it may take a while to move from feelings of shame, to being able to wear it again, but I firmly believe that you will get to that point where you feel comfortable wearing the dress. There's no need to feel shame or guilt- you did nothing wrong and you have every right to wear that dress and not associate it with difficult feelings, though I understand the pain is still fresh at the moment.

Don't blame yourself for not calling the police at the time. You were very brave trying to escape and instead of blaming yourself, you should be proud of how you reacted.

It may be worthwhile looking into counselling for this, if all these feelings continue. It's definitely a good idea to let your girlfriend know about your feelings and how you are feeling about affection at the moment.

It may take some time, but I believe that you will be able to move forward from this


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Re: Indecent exposure - January 22nd 2016, 09:14 PM

I'm so sorry to hear about this, I bet it was awful to go through that. You're not making a big deal out of nothing because this is a big deal. Like Holly said, indecent exposure is abuse and it's wrong. That kind of experience would be hard for anyone but I think this caused more feelings in you since you were raped in the past.

I know you said you feel bad for not calling the police but it's okay that you didn't. It took a lot of bravery to tell him to stop talking to you and it makes sense that you were more focused on escaping. You had to look after yourself and you did the best you could do under the circumstances.

It can be hard not to place blame on yourself. Even though you know it wasn't your fault it is natural for those feelings to still be there. Maybe you can put that dress away for a while until you feel comfortable enough to wear it. Or if you don't think you'll feel comfortable enough, you can donate it and treat yourself to a new one.

I like the idea of looking into counseling for this and do talk to people about how you're feeling too. If you don't want to talk to anyone, write it out somewhere so you're not keeping it inside.


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Re: Indecent exposure - January 22nd 2016, 10:53 PM

Thank you both so much for your replies. It was good to get this out there. I feel better after sharing.

Logically I know it isn't my fault and it had nothing to do with what I was wearing. I can't know for sure but my guess is he was waiting there to prey upon someone and it could've been any woman; I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just still feel so strongly that it's my fault, despite the fact that those feelings don't reflect the reality of the situation. The feelings of blame and self-hatred are so strong it actually drove me to self-harm again for the first time in a couple of weeks.

I think you are both right in that this is made so much worse by the fact I was assaulted in the past. All together I've been sexually abused by two people and raped by one, so I until this incident I have had three people violate my consent in my lifetime. Those times I always blamed myself because I didn't say no; I was too scared in one case and in two cases the person was in a position of power over me. This time I did say no and something still happened. It's just brought up all those feelings of shame and worthlessness and the thoughts that there must be something wrong with me that things like this keep happening to me. I think on some level because this is the fourth time someone else has forced their sexuality upon me I must deserve this or encourage people somehow without realizing it.

I was actually on my way to therapy when this happened. I ended up telling my therapist about it. She said he was a sick asshole and it was upsetting. Then she went on to tell me what I should've done or should do in the future, i.e. call the police or snap a photo of him to scare him. It was very invalidating and I felt uncomfortable sharing with her. It's all well and good for her; she had the luxury of thinking this through from her comfy office, while I was actually there in the moment. My girlfriend said she was proud of me, though, for how I handled it, much like you guys have said here. I appreciate that a lot. If other people are proud of me maybe I did do something right.

I think I'm just going to retire the dress for a while. I probably won't donate it because it's really cute on me and it's one of my favorites, but I'll give it a break. I'm still having trouble with physical affection, though- anytime my girlfriend starts to do more than kiss me I involuntarily flinch. Do you know how to get past that? Should I just stop trying to engage in physical contact for a while? It's frustrating for me because we express affection through physical affection/sex a lot and I feel like I've been robbed of that. It's very upsetting.

Thank you again for your replies. It means a lot.


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Re: Indecent exposure - January 24th 2016, 05:10 PM

I'm glad you feel better after sharing.

We'll probably never know for sure, but I agree with you in that he was waiting for someone to prey on and chose you because you were nearby. I know you logically know that this isn't your fault and it is hard when you know it isn't and the feelings are still there. I do hope that those feelings will fade over time for you.

I can definitely see how this brought up all of those past feelings and they sound quite painful to go through. There's nothing wrong with you, though. It seems like this guy just chose you because you were nearby; you were convenient. Saying no doesn't mean you said yes to those other people. And, abusers that know their victims on a more personal level often choose them because of that; trust. Nothing is wrong with you. Something is wrong with all of the people who hurt you.

I'm sorry your therapist made you feel invalidated. Have you thought of sharing this with her? Confronting your therapist can be tough but I think it improves the therapeutic relationship as a whole. If you do decide to confront her, she shouldn't take anything you're saying personally. She should expect clients to be unhappy with her from time to time. I think it's important for you to consider confronting her so she doesn't make you feel invalidated in the future.

I'm not sure how to get past flinching. I also struggle with unwanted attention and I struggle when men flirt with me outside of the house, but somehow I block it out to a point that I don't realize they are flirting with me or even looking at me. If there's something in particular you are comfortable with, or a small affectionate gesture, maybe you can only focus on that and move to something different when you feel more comfortable. For instance, try letting your girlfriend touch your arm for a while and once you're okay with that, move to a hug or a kiss.


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Re: Indecent exposure - January 24th 2016, 10:31 PM

I think the feelings will fade eventually. It's been a few days, though, and while it doesn't preoccupy my thoughts as much of the time the pain is still very fresh when I think about it. It doesn't help that this event started off the cycle of self-harm again and now I think about hurting myself a lot for no real reason other than the fact I hate myself. Which sucks because I don't really think I'm that bad a person; my brain just tells me all these negative thoughts about myself and they get so overwhelming that I act on them.

My past is pretty painful to think about. I try not to. There's nothing that can be done about it so I don't like to ruminate on it. I try to remember to tell myself it was never my fault. I just feel so unlucky, that it can't be coincidence, you know? I recognize it probably is; that there's no real reason for it, but it still hurts.

I think I am going to confront her. At the very least I am going to let her know, no, we aren't through talking about this. This isn't some "Wow, that happened to you? I'm sorry that really sucks," and then move on. I wish it were, but it can't be simply because of how it's affecting my relationship.

As for my girlfriend and I, I think you're right; I've got to start slow. We did end up having sex and it was incredibly triggering for me; I kept having to stop and images of what happened just wouldn't stop flashing through my mind, which is very unpleasant and distracting. I pushed through it, though, and told her about it afterwards. She was upset that I didn't say something. So I think for a while we will stick to lighter forms of affection.


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Re: Indecent exposure - February 2nd 2016, 01:44 AM

What happened to you was a horrible violation and I think you did the right thing by getting to safety. It is easy to say to yourself 'it is not my fault' but it is quite another thing to believe it. You can go through all the what ifs and it will do you no good. What's more, is punishing yourself after the fact by hurting yourself won't make things better. In fact, it could actually reinforce the misplaced feeling of guilt you're having.

I know you like the dress you were wearing but I think it is a dangerous trigger to have around. You didn't deserve that not matter what you were wearing but I believe the dress might serve as a reminder of that night which won't do you any good. I don't want the dress to serve as a trigger that might lead you to hurt yourself. Also, you mentioned that you thought that the fact that you've been asulted more than once was more than random; implying it was somehow your fault. That is just another way to blam yourself over something you have had absolutely no control over. A staggering number of women get asulted and being in the wrong place has nothing to do with 'asking for it'.

I am glad to hear you have an understanding girlfriend and I hope she can help you to heal. If you ever need to talk to someone msg me anytime.

Take good care,
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Re: Indecent exposure - February 2nd 2016, 04:03 AM

As an update: my mother convinced me to file a report with the police. It was incredibly embarrassing and nerve-wracking and I'm not sure I really believe it will do any good. They basically told me "well, you should have called 911 when this happened," which isn't exactly helpful to hear. Still, at least they know someone out there is doing this. I doubt he's doing it to just me and maybe if other people report it, too, they'll be able to catch him.

My girlfriend and I aren't able to have sex. We've tried several times and I always end up a panicked, crying mess. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but every time we try images of what happen flash into my mind. More disturbing than that, though, is I feel disgusted and violated every time we have tried. I am very disturbed and disappointed by this new development. For now I have said we should not engage in intercourse, but I'm not sure how to proceed. Do I just go a few weeks without it and then try again? What if we try again and it's still awful? Do I keep talking about it with my therapist in the meantime and, if so, what do I talk about? What happened, happened; there isn't much to say. It's just difficult because I still have sexual desire, it's just that once we start doing things I suddenly panic and cry. I don't know what to do.


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Re: Indecent exposure - February 2nd 2016, 06:02 AM

I'm glad you filed the report. I definitely understand how it was hard to hear what they said about you calling 911, but you did what you could in the situation you were in and I do hope other people report him so he can be held accountable for his actions. Reporting it to the police can be a stressful experience but I definitely think this will help you feel validated.

What you're experiencing is normal. You associate sex or things with that nature of what happened recently, and of what happened in the past so it is making you feel violated and uncomfortable. If you go a few weeks without trying to have sex, maybe you can work on the memories going through your head. I know you have talked about them but have you written them down anywhere? Try blogging about them, or writing them down in a journal, and talk about them some more. Talk about them until you're all talked out. There are some good CDs out there for trauma survivors, I know Amazon has a few. Some of them are pricey but they're worth it. You can also go on YouTube and listen to positive affirmations or look up ones that are specifically related to trauma. You can listen to it and keep your mind blank or you can think of the memories while you listen to it. It can be hard to keep up with it but it does help a lot of people. I think you should continue to talk to your therapist about it for as long as you need to. Maybe you can ask her for some advice regarding how to proceed with sex.


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Re: Indecent exposure - February 2nd 2016, 08:29 PM

Thank you for your suggestions. I do keep a journal and I've been trying to process what happened. I just reach dead ends in my journal. I've been trying to pinpoint why sex is affecting me like it is. I know it's probably do more to the trauma from the past than what recently happened. During the sex I do think about what happened; the images flash into my mind. More than that, though, is feelings of disgust. The act of being penetrated feels like a violation, like my body is being assaulted. I plan on talking to my therapist about this. Do you have any suggestions on dealing with that particular feeling, or is that more something my therapist should help me with? I just wonder if you or anyone here has similar experiences if they can help me with that. Sometimes getting the opinion of multiple people is helpful and I feel safe asking about that here.


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Re: Indecent exposure - February 5th 2016, 06:02 AM

I'm glad you're journaling about it even if you feel as though you've reached some dead ends with it.

I'm not sexually active but I do re-experience my abuse through body memories on a daily basis, and I often feel as though I am being penetrated again. When this happens to me I usually try to distract myself by moving around and just generally keeping busy. If it gets too painful and I can't move I normally do whatever I can to ease the pain. It definitely does feel violating and I see where you're coming from. I think it might help to remind yourself that you're in the present, and what you are doing in the present is consensual and you can remind yourself that you can stop at any time if you're uncomfortable with things. If you're planning on having sex, it might help to try to make sure you keep yourself grounded beforehand. Maybe you can say calming things to yourself, or use different fidget toys to keep yourself in the present. And you can do the same thing afterwards to try and calm yourself. I do think you should ask your therapist to see if she has advice about dealing with these feelings.


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The mountains are calling and I must go.
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Move the body, quiet the mind
   
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