Michelle is a sexual assault and abuse survivor who is still healing and finding ways to share her truth to help others.
Love doesn't hurt
Love is a ton of things, but it shouldn't hurt. It doesn't cast stones. It doesn't leave marks on your skin. It doesn't make you feel like it's your fault. It doesn't scare you. It doesn't manipulate you. It doesn't ignore your boundaries. It doesn't leave you to die.
If love hurts, I have learnt that it comes from darkness. Sometimes, the hurt can be forgiven, like someone getting upset and saying something they didn't mean in the heat of the moment. But sometimes, the hurt is inflicted every single day leaving you nothing but wounds and lifetime scars, physically; emotionally; mentally; psychologically; financially.
This is called abuse.
SSSRS: The five types of sexual misconduct
In this world and age, there's a label for everything. I want to differentiate the different types of sexual violence so that maybe you can understand your situation better if you are a victim.
Sexual abuse: This term is mainly used regarding children as kids as they are in no state at all to be giving any type of consent. Any and all sexual acts upon children is deemed sexual abuse.
Sexual assault: This term is used to describe any type of unwanted sexual advances such as touching or kissing as well as groping and forcing someone to touch you in sexual ways. We usually use this term and rape interchangeably because both can include one or the other.
Sexual harassment: This term is much broader than sexual assault. There are three categories where this falls in. First is coercion, usually in a work setting. Second, unwanted touching, hugging, kissing, and consistent pressure for dates. This one can quickly go from harassment to assault and even rape. Lastly, there is gender harassment where sexist comments are often made based on women and men, for example harassing women about belonging in the kitchen.
Rape: This term defines any act of penetration in the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration of a sex organ by someone else without consent, no matter how small. "Just the tip" not excluded. Rape is rape if there is not consent, including false consent under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Sexual violence: This term is broader in its definition and can include all sexual acts such as sharing sexual pictures or videos without consent, verbal abuse to manipulate someone into sex acts, and even catcalls. This term embodies all the other terms into one without the specificity of which one.
I was 22 years old. I had just given birth to my first baby girl. I was on my way out to the club with my boyfriend, his best friend, and his best friend's girlfriend who was also my friend, for her birthday. I had gone out drinking a few times before with my brother but I was still fairly new to the scene. I had been a "good girl" most of my life and drinking had just become a thing after the birth of my baby. I know right, what kind of timing is that! Anyway, when I drank, I became a whole other person. I realized that the shyness and anxiety that crippled me sober, disappeared when alcohol entered my body. I became carefree but I could also be reckless and in no state to make rational decisions.
In the car to the club, I turned to my boyfriend of five years and asked him to do me a favor. He and I had a rocky relationship. I can say today that it was toxic yet I continued to choose to trust him. His best friend and my friend had a highly sexual relationship and they weren't scared to venture off and experiment. I guess in a way, I trusted them too. Based on those truths, I asked my boyfriend to have my back that night. "No matter what I say or do, PLEASE promise me you won't let me do anything stupid. If things go "there", please promise me that we will leave and go home," I said. He agreed. We had already pre-drank a bit at their house and I knew we'd be drinking more. I just wanted to cover all my bases. As I am writing this now, I'm thinking, If I was worried, why go out with them? Why drink at all? Why would I put myself in that situation? I wanted to have fun too. I wanted to celebrate my friend's birthday. I wanted to be part of the group. And I trusted them to not hurt me. I remember the club. I remember drinking and dancing. I remember the car ride back to their house. I even remember the walk through the underground parking lot where she and I sat on top of some car, laughing and being silly. That's the last thing I remember until I see myself pulling my head up. Now, apparently, I'm sitting on the edge of their bed. She is laying down beside me, legs opened, and my boyfriend is going down on her. Her boyfriend is standing in front of me, naked. I immediately freak out! I lose my mind, tell my boyfriend to stop what he is doing, and run out of the room. Then I just remember laying on the floor somewhere and passing out. The next morning, I found my boyfriend laying in bed with her, she was half-naked. They said they just talked all night. I tried asking questions about the night before and what happened. They told me I was all for what happened. They showed me pictured of me walking around the apartment, shot in hand, shirtless and braless. I felt humiliated and disrespected. To this day, I don't actually know what happened but that visual and the feeling it left me will never be forgotten. I never trusted my boyfriend again after that and we broke up soon after. I am also not friends with her anymore.
Prove your love to me
Love doesn't have to be proven and anyone who tells you to prove your love to them is abusive.
I was in a relationship with this guy for a year and a half in 2014. I won't go into extreme detail here because I am working on self-publishing a book about this relationship but this one still follows me today. He would consistently tell me that I had to prove my love for him, usually through sexual acts. He bribed me, manipulated me, guilt-tripped me, and resorted to tantrums if I said no until I gave in. I usually did. I loved him, it was my job. I still remember a conversation with my dad on the phone where he tells me to take care of this man. That's what I am doing. When he needed his fix, I was summoned, and if I resisted, negativity ensued. He would even demand sex while I had visitors and if I didn't go along with it, he would sit in our bedroom trying to convince me otherwise through argumentative texts. No matter how much of myself I gave him, he begged for more. By the end of the relationship, I was depressed and felt like I wasn't good enough. There was also rape in this relationship. No meant nothing. When I was sleeping it was fair game.
I ended this relationship after a threesome sent him over the edge of ecstasy and I knew that this wasn't the life I wanted.
I didn't realize that what I had gone through was sexual assault and rape until a year after the breakup. This relationship has made it extremely hard for me to trust men going forward.
Friends with benefits
In 2015, the guy I was madly in love with walked away from me for the second time, I kicked out my best friend from my home due to drug use and had my mom move in with me. I felt alone. I was depressed. I was craving a connection but was tired of putting myself in situations that would hurt me in the end. I knew I had some healing to do so I went on POF looking for a friend. I found a guy who had a girlfriend and was also looking for a friend. Maybe I was just naive or lying to myself, but I thought, Awesome. This will be safe. Not even five meet-ups to hang out and we were being intimate. At first, I was into it. It felt great to be close to someone who I thought actually cared about me. But, it got old fast. One night, he came over and I put on a movie. I told him that we hadn't just hung out in a while and I didn't want to do anything sexual. Just cuddles. Well, just cuddles turned into groping which I resisted at first. He didn't give up saying that he knew I wanted it and I believed him because my physical body was responding. I thought that if my body was responding then it must mean I want it. I ignored my brain and let it happen. But once it was over, I regretted it. My mind didn't want to. And he didn't listen.
Fast forward about a year, we came into contact again. On a weekend that I was in the mood, we sexted. It was fun. The next weekend, he invited me out for coffee. I agreed thinking nothing of it. We went to McDonald's, got coffee, and then he parked. We chatted a little bit. The next thing I knew, he was pulling his member out of his pants and telling me to touch it. I quickly said no. He didn't stop or put it away, he started stroking it in front of me, trying to convince me to go down on him. I got utterly upset and told him to bring me home. He did. Then he blamed me for his actions because I had sexted a whole week before. Umm no, not taking the blame. I never spoke to him again.
Corrupted view on love and relationships
As a child, my parents struggled with mental illness. Their happiness seemed to always rely on us being good and doing what we were told. Their anger and outbursts always seemed to get triggered the worst when we didn't. We were taught to obey and everything will be fine. Looking back at everything I've gone through and how I have acted and reacted in relationships and dating, I know it all stems from my childhood. It stems from wanting to make people happy despite how I feel. Wanting others to be proud of me and validate me. Maybe my need to fix others comes from not being able to fix my parents no matter how hard I tried. My relationships destroyed me and my views on love. They taught me that, if I wanted to be loved, I had to bow down and please them even when I didn't want to and if I didn't, I was worth nothing. They would leave. They would be angry. They would resent me. They might go somewhere else. From my first relationship at 16 up to 2014, I lived my life pleasing others in exchange for love and acceptance. In 2015 and 2016, after that traumatic one-year relationship, it got worse. I fell victim to one-night stands and reckless behaviors because I wanted to be loved and I truly believed that the only way that could happen was through sex. I spent a lot of years giving myself away and crying myself to sleep. Maybe I thought, if I was the one controlling the intimate moments, I wouldn't feel so taken advantage of. I could take my power back. But it didn't work that way.
Dating after sexual trauma
Before my healing journey, I tried dating. I got myself in a relationship that had us on opposite spectrums of sexuality where his preferences included the acts I had fallen victim to in my abusive relationship and his libido matched my abuser's. But I wanted to find love. I would give him anything to be loved. Naturally, the relationship didn't last. We broke up for a few months and then tried again. One night, he was at my house and I decided to give him what he wanted. I could do it. In the middle of the act, I couldn't anymore but I couldn't cancel. That wouldn't be fair. So I held on and stayed strong. Until I broke down in tears, the trauma filling my head with memories. I felt like I was right back there. My ex was very understanding and gentle but our dating came to an end.
When I started my healing journey in 2019 I noticed just how much I relied on other people for love, acceptance, and validation. I noticed how hard it was to be with myself and love myself without being intimate with someone else. Many times I had to stop myself from going on my phone and inviting guys over. I had to re-teach myself what real love embodied. I had to re-teach myself that my worth didn't lie in my ability to please someone. I didn't actively date for a whole year. I had to get myself in my power first.
A few months ago, I decided to give a guy a chance. He was texting me every day, supporting my business and endeavors, he was a gentleman, listened to my venting, and seemed to genuinely care. He knew about my mental illnesses and traumas through my IG page. I felt like maybe I could let him in. I thought I was ready. The first time we cuddled was a nightmare. I was physically shaking and my mind was spinning with past memories triggering a deep fear of mistrust. I tried to convince myself I was safe, but my soul didn't listen. He was rubbing my back and the entire time I feared what he might try. What boundary he might cross. As I pulled back from the cuddles, we hugged. As I pulled back from the hug, he tried to kiss me but I turned my head. He respected me. I tried cuddling again another time in my home. He had given me no reason to not trust him and seemed understanding of my struggles. I wasn't shaking as violently as the first time, but the fear consumed me. Before he left, we hugged and this time I reciprocated the kiss but then his intensity ramped up and I took a step back. I told him I couldn't. He left and again seemed understanding. This happened one more time and again, I stepped back. I couldn't. Safe to say, we grew apart and now don't talk anymore.
Dating is hard because I don't know who's genuine and who isn't. I mean, did we stop talking because he couldn't handle my darkness or because he didn't get what he wanted? Did I dodge a bullet or did my trauma and its effects scare him off?
Healing and helping others
At the end of the day, my trauma happened and I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason.
My trauma happened and I don't regret my dark experiences because it has taught me so much about myself and others. It has taught me to love myself and not rely on anyone else's approval. It has taught me to put up boundaries and if someone doesn't like them then too bad. It has taught me that my worth isn't based on pleasing anyone else. It has taught me to truly look within myself for my own salvation. It has also given me the purpose of sharing my traumas in order to help others get through theirs. It happened so that I could help other warriors.
Do I wish it didn't happen? Of course, I do at times but I also wouldn't go back and undo it if I could because then I couldn't do the important work I do today.
I am a survivor, not a victim and I choose to see the light in the dark.
I hope you know that you are not alone. Your trauma wasn't your fault. You WILL get through this and you WILL rise up beyond the darkness.
All my love warriors <3
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Michelle Brady