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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
Wingardium27 Offline
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Question Confused and Blaming Myself - Nightmares - April 2nd 2016, 07:48 PM

Hi

If this is in the wrong place, please let me know (I'm new).

I was sexually assaulted 2 months ago. My parents and the police know, although it's not looking likely that they'll find him as I don't know what he looked like (seeing as it was dark and I was more concerned with what he was doing than what he looked like).

I keep doubting and blaming myself, regardless of how many people tell me numerous times that it wasn't my fault, I shouldn't blame myself, I couldn't have prevented it etc. I just keep thinking over and over:

I was wearing a short (mid-thigh) low cut dress, heels and makeup - I must have encouraged him
I made myself an easy target by not dancing like everyone else (it was at a school disco)
I should have been more forceful the first time he touched me
I should have been more careful
I should have fought back harder

I also keep having vivid nightmares of it (sort of like replays) and occasionally re-experience it (feel his hands on me, feel trapped/scared etc). I'm also a lot more jumpy - I can't stand the sound of slamming doors, raised voices, the smell of mint mouthwash, flinch when anyone (including friends and some relatives) touches me etc.

I just really want some guidance or reassurance. Anything you have to say will be much appreciated!

Thanks!
   
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cynefin Offline
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Re: Confused and Blaming Myself - Nightmares - April 3rd 2016, 01:47 AM

Welcome to TeenHelp.

I'm sorry to hear you've experienced this. I am not a professional, but from what you've written, it seems to me like you might have PTSD. It can be really hard to cope with what you're going through and a lot of people who have been assaulted feel as if they are at fault. You aren't alone in that. It's a challenge because, though you might logically know you're not at fault, your feelings tell you otherwise.

I want to kind of debunk your reasons for feeling like this is your fault.

  • Your outfit did not encourage him. You are allowed to wear whatever you'd like. You were at a dance, so you dressed up for the dance. There is no fault in that. People who assault other people generally do not pick people to harm by what they are wearing. They just want someone to harm, regardless of their outfit or appearance.
  • You didn't make yourself a target by not dancing with everyone else. You don't have to do anything you didn't want to do, and you didn't feel up to dancing, so you didn't dance. This man could have chosen anyone regardless of whether or not they were dancing.
  • The victim is never at fault. Being assaulted has nothing to do with how you fought back, or how you didn't. People who harm others go to great lengths to do it. A lot of people freeze during an assault. That is a natural response to a traumatic event and doesn't make this your fault. You did nothing wrong. You did nothing to deserve this. The blame belongs on the man who did this to you.

Nightmares are difficult to cope with because it can be hard to wake yourself from them since they are so vivid. Something that might help, is to try and make your bedroom a safe place. Maybe you can leave a nightlight on, or keep a stuffed animal with you in your bed so you have something to hold onto if you get anxious. You can also do things to try to calm your mind down before you sleep, like coloring or listening to music you enjoy.

If you wake up from a nightmare, try to remind yourself that you're safe. It might help to turn a light on and walk around your house or your bedroom to get familiar with your surroundings. I suggest keeping a journal by your bed and documenting your nightmares so you can get them out of your system.

The physical feeling of being harmed again is called a body memory. Not only does your brain remember, but your muscle tissues remember, too, and it causes you to feel it all over again. The best thing to do when you feel them is to move if you can. Pace around your room, or take a walk, play a sport. Do something to keep your body moving. You can also take a shower, or put lotion on yourself so you have a different sensation on your skin. It helps to tell yourself that you are safe, and you can try to speak to yourself out loud or in your mind. During this time, you should consider talking to your body. I know that might sound a little funny, but it is a way of comforting your body while it is remembering.

Some of the things that you are struggling with are harder to avoid than others. You might be able to get a different scented mouthwash to use. I know some stores have mouthwashes in fruity scents, like grape fruit or orange. If loud noises and raised voices bother you, that might be something you want to talk to your family about. Maybe you can ask them to avoid doing those things so you feel safer. You can also talk to them about touching and maybe ask that you initiate physical contact so you do not feel forced into it. Don't be afraid to say that you don't want to hug someone. You have to do what feels safe for you.

You said your parents and the police know; do you have a counselor? I think you should talk to your parents and see if counseling is an option for you. It is definitely something to look into if it is available.

TeenHelp has some different articles that might help you. There's one on the myths of sexual assault, myths of PTSD, and creating a safe place.

Please feel free to send me a message if you have any questions or if you'd just like to talk.


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  (#3 (permalink)) Old
Wingardium27 Offline
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Re: Confused and Blaming Myself - Nightmares - April 3rd 2016, 09:39 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cassado View Post
Welcome to TeenHelp.

I'm sorry to hear you've experienced this. I am not a professional, but from what you've written, it seems to me like you might have PTSD. It can be really hard to cope with what you're going through and a lot of people who have been assaulted feel as if they are at fault. You aren't alone in that. It's a challenge because, though you might logically know you're not at fault, your feelings tell you otherwise.

I want to kind of debunk your reasons for feeling like this is your fault.

  • Your outfit did not encourage him. You are allowed to wear whatever you'd like. You were at a dance, so you dressed up for the dance. There is no fault in that. People who assault other people generally do not pick people to harm by what they are wearing. They just want someone to harm, regardless of their outfit or appearance.
  • You didn't make yourself a target by not dancing with everyone else. You don't have to do anything you didn't want to do, and you didn't feel up to dancing, so you didn't dance. This man could have chosen anyone regardless of whether or not they were dancing.
  • The victim is never at fault. Being assaulted has nothing to do with how you fought back, or how you didn't. People who harm others go to great lengths to do it. A lot of people freeze during an assault. That is a natural response to a traumatic event and doesn't make this your fault. You did nothing wrong. You did nothing to deserve this. The blame belongs on the man who did this to you.

Nightmares are difficult to cope with because it can be hard to wake yourself from them since they are so vivid. Something that might help, is to try and make your bedroom a safe place. Maybe you can leave a nightlight on, or keep a stuffed animal with you in your bed so you have something to hold onto if you get anxious. You can also do things to try to calm your mind down before you sleep, like coloring or listening to music you enjoy.

If you wake up from a nightmare, try to remind yourself that you're safe. It might help to turn a light on and walk around your house or your bedroom to get familiar with your surroundings. I suggest keeping a journal by your bed and documenting your nightmares so you can get them out of your system.

The physical feeling of being harmed again is called a body memory. Not only does your brain remember, but your muscle tissues remember, too, and it causes you to feel it all over again. The best thing to do when you feel them is to move if you can. Pace around your room, or take a walk, play a sport. Do something to keep your body moving. You can also take a shower, or put lotion on yourself so you have a different sensation on your skin. It helps to tell yourself that you are safe, and you can try to speak to yourself out loud or in your mind. During this time, you should consider talking to your body. I know that might sound a little funny, but it is a way of comforting your body while it is remembering.

Some of the things that you are struggling with are harder to avoid than others. You might be able to get a different scented mouthwash to use. I know some stores have mouthwashes in fruity scents, like grape fruit or orange. If loud noises and raised voices bother you, that might be something you want to talk to your family about. Maybe you can ask them to avoid doing those things so you feel safer. You can also talk to them about touching and maybe ask that you initiate physical contact so you do not feel forced into it. Don't be afraid to say that you don't want to hug someone. You have to do what feels safe for you.

You said your parents and the police know; do you have a counselor? I think you should talk to your parents and see if counseling is an option for you. It is definitely something to look into if it is available.

TeenHelp has some different articles that might help you. There's one on the myths of sexual assault, myths of PTSD, and creating a safe place.

Please feel free to send me a message if you have any questions or if you'd just like to talk.
Thanks so much for replying and for all your help

How would I go about getting diagnosed with PTSD? I'm just worried I might not fit the diagnosis and spend the rest of eternity wondering what the hell's wrong with me, or if I was diagnosed that people at school would tease me or that teachers might not believe me. It's just a bit of a new concept for me (seeing as no one in my immediate family has a mental illness) and I'm worried as to how my parents might react.

Thanks for the reassurance. It's just occurred to me now that if he was to have picked me based on what I was wearing, there would have been loads of potential victims (a lot of people got 'school disco' confused with 'strip club' LOL). I just feel that maybe if I had been less isolated from everyone else (i.e. by dancing) it wouldn't have escalated quite as much. I suppose I find my lack of fighting back more pathetic and annoying than anything - I know how to fight (kick boxing and some jiu-jitsu) but I didn't, which frustrates me.

Thanks for the tips about dealing with nightmares - I already have my CD player on all night and have stuffed animals. I'll have to try colouring or listening to music before bed (seeing as they are both hobbies of mine anyway!)

I try my best to reassure myself when I wake up, although walking around isn't usually possible as they most often occur in the early hours of the morning. I already do a similar thing with writing, except with poetry (or sometimes prose as well).

Thanks for the info - at least I know that what I'm experiencing is real and I'm no going crazy! I'll try some of the techniques you've mentioned. The problem is they usually happen when I walk past where it happened, which is a minimum of 3 times a week and it's not like I can just never go to that lesson again.

I am considering buying a different mouthwash, but it also affects me when I smell it on other people - maybe I'll eventually just get used to it? My family know I don't like it, but people at school don't and (as I am in a class full of gossipers) I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to tell them as some of them might slam doors, shout etc on purpose when around me because they think it's funny.

My parents, the police, the pastoral care people and two teachers know - I don't have a counsellor although the school has offered. I just don't feel comfortable talking to a stranger about really personal things like this. However, one of the teachers I initially told does mentor me (helps me get over my extreme shyness, supports me on bad days etc) and I sort of consider her to be the closest person to family I have outside of family (if that makes any sense? Like a 'school mum') and I would trust her with absolutely anything. I realise she is not a counsellor, but she has said she will support me in any way she can and is there if I need someone to talk to.

Thank you for everything!
   
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Re: Confused and Blaming Myself - Nightmares - April 3rd 2016, 01:39 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wingardium27 View Post
Hi

I keep doubting and blaming myself, regardless of how many people tell me numerous times that it wasn't my fault, I shouldn't blame myself, I couldn't have prevented it etc. I just keep thinking over and over:

I was wearing a short (mid-thigh) low cut dress, heels and makeup - I must have encouraged him
I made myself an easy target by not dancing like everyone else (it was at a school disco)
I should have been more forceful the first time he touched me
I should have been more careful
I should have fought back harder
okay i used to do this, and basically you gotta counteract this list with another list of reasons why it wasn't your fault. like
  • i was young
  • i didn't know any better
  • men should know better than to sexually assault and rape girls
  • i did what i had to do to not get killed (fighting harder could have gotten you killed)
  • being more forceful the first time he touched me probably would have just angered him more
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  (#5 (permalink)) Old
cynefin Offline
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Re: Confused and Blaming Myself - Nightmares - April 3rd 2016, 04:43 PM

To get diagnosed, I'd suggest going to your family doctor and talking to them about it. You can probably get a referral to someone who can diagnose you and go over some different treatment options. Remember that you don't need to get diagnosed if you don't want to; I know some people do not like that label. For some people, the diagnosis helps them begin to accept their past. The diagnosis and the fact that other people know help them remind them that their trauma was real.

If you get diagnosed, you do not have to tell the school if you are not comfortable with it. You can tell them as much or as little as you'd like because this is your story to tell. Some schools will give extra support if you do decide to tell them. Students do not have to know, and teachers don't, either, unless you'd like them to know. Since some teachers already know about the assault, they might already know that you're struggling. PTSD is common after sexual assault. If people don't believe you, that's their problem. You know the truth and no one can take it away from you.

It might help to keep a list of reasons why it wasn't your fault so you can remind yourself of it when you're struggling. It's hard, but sometimes repeating it to yourself kind of helps it sink in a little bit and you'll start to believe it more over time.

Is there another way to walk to your classes, so you don't have to walk past the area it happened? That could be something to talk to your teachers about. If you can't avoid it, maybe you can walk with a friend or try to avert your eyes and focus on something else while you're walking by.

Something that might help with the smell of mouthwash is to keep another smell on you. Keep some hand lotion, hand sanitizer, or some kind of candy or gum that isn't mint flavored. If you smell the mouthwash, use one of these things to allow your body to smell something different. If you overwhelm your nose with a different scent, it won't be able to focus on the smell of mouthwash.

Counseling can be scary sometimes, and the thing about a counselor, is that they may start off as strangers, but it doesn't end that way. You begin to trust them more and you'll end up developing a therapeutic relationship if you click with the counselor and that is something to consider if you eventually want to try counseling. I definitely think the teacher you trust can be a great support to have during school.


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The mountains are calling and I must go.
1941-2016

Nature does not rush, yet everything is accomplished
-Lao Tzu
Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever
Move the body, quiet the mind
   
  (#6 (permalink)) Old
Wingardium27 Offline
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Re: Confused and Blaming Myself - Nightmares - April 3rd 2016, 07:30 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by rosieposie6661 View Post
okay i used to do this, and basically you gotta counteract this list with another list of reasons why it wasn't your fault. like
  • i was young
  • i didn't know any better
  • men should know better than to sexually assault and rape girls
  • i did what i had to do to not get killed (fighting harder could have gotten you killed)
  • being more forceful the first time he touched me probably would have just angered him more
Thank you for the support and reassurance! I'll bear those in mind.

Have a great evening!
   
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