My Abusive Partner Promises They’ll Change. Will They?

Woman on bed with head in her hands

“I promise I’ll change.”

These are four words most people in a relationship with an abusive partner have probably heard. Longed-for yet dreaded, the words can offer both hope and disappointment. Hope that things really will get better this time, and disappointment when, inevitably, the abusive behavior—whether emotional, physical, or verbal—begins all over again.

We’ve all heard that a leopard can’t change its spots. But what about an abusive partner?

Continue reading My Abusive Partner Promises They’ll Change. Will They?

Is It a Normal Fight or Verbal Abuse? Here’s How to Tell

Young woman gazing downward in a field

Even the most dynamic of duos has the occasional fight. Whether it begins with “Who forgot to take the dog out?” or “Do I really have to go to your brother’s birthday party?”, having arguments is a common — and healthy — part of any relationship.

But in some cases, what we call an “argument” is actually something worse. Ever had a partner who criticizes everything you do? Who shouts and uses cruel language when they get angry (and they may fly off the handle a lot)? Who makes you feel like you’re wrong or “too sensitive” when you try to speak up?

Continue reading Is It a Normal Fight or Verbal Abuse? Here’s How to Tell

Having Healthy Sex after Sexual Assault

Person reading with tea under covers

The summer I was nineteen, I researched and wrote a travel guide to Italy, journeying from Venice to the Cinque Terre armed only with a sundress and my handy dandy Macbook.

It sounds pretty ideal, and it was—except for the constant, terrifying, enraging sexual harassment. From being groped on the train to being kissed non-consensually by hostel owners and bartenders, the summer left me tan, skinny, with killer calf muscles — and with a feeling of total disconnect from my sexuality. After months of constant, unwanted attention and physical violation, I felt that my sexuality had become a weapon used against me rather than something for my own pleasure.

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Why Doesn’t My Friend Leave Their Abusive Partner – and How Can I Help?

woman hugging comforting her crying friend

You may see your friend crying, hear your friend’s partner make demeaning comments towards them, or notice they seem anxious around or afraid of their partner. Or your friend may open up to you on their own.

Knowing or suspecting that someone you care about is in an abusive relationship can be a deeply conflicting experience. You know it’s taking a toll on their mental and possibly physical health — and you want to help — but you may not feel equipped. You want to swoop in and “rescue” your friend, and yet you know you have to respect their right to make their own choices.

Despite these difficulties, it is possible to support a friend who is in an abusive situation — and often, a good friend’s support makes all the difference. Offering real support means putting our friend’s needs before our own desire to play the hero. It also means learning about the complex psychological effects of abuse.

We can understand the complexities of abuse by answering one common question: If this relationship is hurting my friend so much, why don’t they just leave? Continue reading Why Doesn’t My Friend Leave Their Abusive Partner – and How Can I Help?

It’s Never Too Late to Share A Story of Sexual Assault

woman with back turned in dark room

I was sitting on my couch, watching him sleep, sleep oh so peacefully, in my bed. It couldn’t have been rape, I thought, no one rapes someone and then sleeps over. I’d been waiting for the sun to come up, my computer on my lap, searching the internet for the closest Planned Parenthood. The air in my studio apartment felt thick and soggy. I don’t remember the weather, the season, only that I felt bone cold and at the same time like my skin was made of fire and would burn anyone who tried to touch it. He hadn’t used a condom, hadn’t listened when I’d said I didn’t want to have sex. I was confused by the slow and metered breaths moving in an out of my mouth; I felt calm, pragmatic even. I needed a morning after pill, I needed to get information about being tested for STDs. If it had been rape, I wouldn’t be making lists, I’d be a wreck, I thought. Continue reading It’s Never Too Late to Share A Story of Sexual Assault

7 Self-Care Tips for Sexual Assault Survivors

woman holding #METOO sign

Since news broke about allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, more than 40 women have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault. Like any time a high-profile sexual violence case comes to light — Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, R. Kelly — the conversation about sexual assault lasts for weeks, many times with survivors bearing the burden of the discussion.

So is the case with the viral #MeToo hashtag — based on a grassroots campaign started by activist Tarana Burke. It went viral after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted that people who had been abused or assaulted should post “Me too” in their status. The campaign caught like wildfire, with CNN reporting that Twitter has seen more than 1 million uses of the hashtag and many more on Facebook, creating an outpouring of assault stories for public consumption. Continue reading 7 Self-Care Tips for Sexual Assault Survivors

Who Bears The Mental Health Burden For Discussing Sexual Violence?

sexual violence survivor with stop written on hand

She was asking for it.

Boys will be boys.

What was she expecting dressed like that?

I’d bet you already guessed the topic these often-repeated phrases refer to — sexual violence.

Story after story on sexual assault, incest, rape, and abuse are written by survivors, explaining their situation ad nauseam to men and not letting them off the hook with “boys will be boys.” That, no, an unconscious drunk woman was not “asking for it,” and she was certainly not capable of giving consent to a sexual encounter. That wearing a revealing outfit also does not mean a woman was “looking for attention.” That “20 minutes of action” indeed merits steep criminal charges because a survivor’s life is invariably and monumentally altered by sexual violence — often for a lifetime.

Continue reading Who Bears The Mental Health Burden For Discussing Sexual Violence?

7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault

couple in bed holding each other tenderly

As a sexual abuse survivor, dating terrifies me. Abuse taught me that a relationship meant losing all of my agency and performing sexual acts I didn’t want to — “no” wasn’t an option. Subsequent relationships have been mixed at best, from the partner who got mad when I froze during sex, to the dates when I could barely squeak out what my job title is because I was so petrified.

Survivors like me are not rare, especially considering the statistics. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, including both male and female victims. This means at some point in your dating life, odds are you will encounter a survivor.

“If we’re going to be dating, and if we’re going to be dating a lot, we’re going to run into someone who probably is a sexual assault survivor,” says Cynthia Stocker, a licensed clinical social worker with more than 30 years of experience. “It’s really pretty common.”

Dating as a survivor often brings out traumatic memories, sensations, and emotions because of past experiences. When a current partner is empathetic, educated, and understanding, however, that can make dating easier to manage for both parties.

With that in mind, here are seven tips for dating a survivor. Continue reading 7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault

How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

gay man in corner abused

It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m lying awake listening to the sound of my boyfriend’s light snoring. The box fan is humming softly in the corner. Cool night air blows through the window.

Although I’m happy, I’m also torn. In the dark I debate whether the fan is making enough noise to keep him asleep if I get up to go put away the clean dishes. Half of me is kicking myself for forgetting to do so. The other half is wondering if it’s a good opportunity to also clean the bathroom overnight as a surprise.

I remind myself how lucky I am to have found a good guy. I wonder whether this is business as usual for domestic violence survivors everywhere. I tell myself I’m most likely not as alone and abnormal as I feel. I force myself to fall asleep.

This all sounds weird, but these little debates play out in my head all day, every day. When I shop, I try to find little gifts for him to keep him happy, like a new pair of shoes. Every time I make it home before he does, I try to use those spare moments to clean something. Getting into his car also means clearing out a few bits of trash as I exit. I always make sure he has everything he needs before he leaves for work and his alarm is set before we go to bed.

Sometimes scars make you sweet. Continue reading How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

How To Best Support A Survivor of Sexual Assault

How To Best Support A Survivor of Sexual Assault

It can take years for some sexual assault survivors to even acknowledge their experience. Now, putting yourself in their shoes, imagine how difficult it must be to make yourself vulnerable enough to share your experience with another person.

Experiencing sexual assault is one of the most difficult things to live through for anyone. It’s estimated that 1.7% of men and 19.3% of women have been raped in their lifetimes, and these statistics are only based on cases that have been reported. Researchers believe the actual numbers are much higher. In the event that you know someone who has experienced sexual assault, here are some suggestions on how to best support him or her.

Continue reading How To Best Support A Survivor of Sexual Assault