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exploring love after violation

love. i'd like to be in love. i'm ready for that now.
-butterfly, 3/10/99

this is an interview i began organizing in late january of 1999, hoping that by asking different kinds of people in different situations about their feelings involving love, sexuality and intimacy after violation, i could provide a wider range of emotions and reactions. and it seems to have worked wonderfully! i'm very excited about this section of emergence and hope to possibly do more interviews like this in the future, on various subjects, including being friends with a survivor and so forth. please email me with questions or comments.

since some of these participants may have answered these questions as long ago as ten months, some of the situations have probably changed. i have opted not to update anyone's answers, because in the way they were submitted to me i found them quite pure in their emotional truth. even my own answers have not been changed, though i have changed in some aspects since i answered the interview. however, if you have been quoted in this interview, and you seriously object to information which is no longer valid, please contact me and i will remove your words from the interview.

how did you become involved romantically with your first or most influential partner(s) after the violation or how did you become involved romantically with a survivor (one of those how-we-met stories)?

butterfly: i guess that the my first semi-influential relationship would have been my first "boyfriend" when i was thirteen. the only romantic experience i'd had before this point was having the bottle point to a boy i thought was cute. i met this guy at a dance. he was really good-looking, tall, friendly. i finally asked him to dance, he said yes, we ended up calling each other and i asked him to be my boyfriend on christmas day. what followed was two and a half months of preadolescent sweetness; lots of hour-long phone calls, silly arguments about who's turn it was to hang up the phone, because neither of us wanted to. it was during this time that i really began to remember my past; things began to bother me. we never went beyond kissing each other, but there were still the choking feelings i would have while we were lying around cuddling, the fact that if he touched me in certain places (my throat, my wrists, my knees) i would feel like screaming, and the memories that always came during times that we were physically close to one another. even feeling his strong presence, behind me, invoked a certain eerie feeling of wrongness, as if one of us were disobeying some solemn rule.

steve & christine: While Christine was interested in Steve's best friend, Steve came home from college and we fell in love at first sight. Our friend reluctantly gave up pursuit and we started going out.

mr. black: We met in college, we were both working on the same play and began getting together after rehearsals. As is typical, we spent months claiming to only want to be friends, more months after we began being romantic claiming we only wanted to be "special friends" certainly not get married, and here we are some 18 years later, married for 12.

amy: The first male I was involved with after the rape was the father of my first child (born many years later). About six months after, he was introduced to me through a mutual friend. Considering all the stories surrounding me at the time, I felt lucky that he was courageous enough to brave public humiliation and be seen with me. I was 16 at the time, and while he was out of high school, he still had a lot of other friends that gave him plenty of grief over me. He ignored them all, and didn't ask me any questions. He gave me the space to heal, to trust him, and to recover my broken spirit. For these things, I will always be grateful. I couldn't have asked for a better partner at the time.

anna: I had been friends with this guy, Erik, for a while. I was (and still am) in a very difficult part of my recovery: learning to trust again. It was too hard for me to be able to explain to someone why I was acting so irrational about stuff, but at the same time the fact that I was acting that way made me realize I needed to do something about it. I wanted (and still want) to be normal, to be able to kiss him and not become sick or afraid. I didn't want to hurt him, but by pushing him away I was doing just that. Our relationship began to dissipate and it was very frustrating for me because I cared about Erik very much. We were still friends, but had not dated for quite a few weeks when we were at a party together. I had been going through a lot at the time, and all of the sudden, I became overwhelmed with it all and excused myself from the room and went into the bathroom and cried. I didn't think anyone noticed I had left or thought anything of it. Then I heard a knock on the bathroom door. I immediately tried to wash my face and I said just a minute. A quiet voice on the other side of the door answered, its me Erik, are you ok? I started crying harder I guess because I was so shocked someone cared enough to notice me. I opened the door and he came in and sat next to me on the floor. He just held me while I cried and told me its ok if I didn't want to talk about it, he just wanted me to know that he cared and he would stay with me as long as I needed. I just looked at him and said the words I didn't think I was still capable of saying: I love you. He leaned over, kissed me on my wet, tear stained cheek and said he loved me too. I was so amazed that anyone would still be willing to care about someone who had been acting so weird lately, that someone wouldn't just give up on a friend and get on with their life, that someone would be so patient and kind.

missy: After 9 years of being raped by my father I was finally set free or so I thought. I told myself that I would not become intimate with anyone due to what I went through and for years I did live up to that. Then when I was about 15 I met this girl who I will call Shadow (privacy purposes) and she became my everything. I didn't know much about bisexuality nor did i think i needed to know about it. I just knew I had these feelings for Shadow that i couldn't explain. She was gentle, warm, caring, firm, and everything I had dreamed of in a person. Ironically we met in a treatment center for adolescents so it was going to be hard to get around with no one knowing we were a couple. Nevertheless after about three months there it was out and everyone labeled me a lesbian. That didn't bother me though. We did everything together. We laughed, cried, showered, when we were together our worries seemed at ease. This was my first relationship after another horrible revictimization. At a treatment center you never know if your so called love affair is going to last because it is just a placement. I was wrong. We both left on the same day and the next week we planned to meet. and we did. That same magic was still there. And it was great. This time we could really show our love for each other. And this time we could also see how strong our love for each other was. It was a challenge that we were both willing to meet. I never felt so happy. I was able to be the Missy i never was. We went to the movies, shopping, we made love, we were like newlyweds. Our hearts were one. Me, not having parents were good in this case because we had to get her parents to accept that she was with a girl. That was tricky!

aimée: Gary was my best friend at the time (and still is). he was the first person i told when i knew some sort of intercourse had happened with a guy at a party i hardly knew. he was also the first person i told when i started remembering things and having flashbacks, and when i was sure that what had happened to me was rape. i have always trusted and loved him, and always will. he is the only person i feel truly safe with. i had been secretly in love with him for a couple of months before the attack, not knowing that he felt the same, and when our true feelings for each other came out and he asked me to go out with him, i had absolutely no qualms about saying yes, even though it was only a month after the attack. he's stuck by me through everything since, and i feel safe because i know he will continue to do so.

aramoro: I met my first survivor hanging out during the summer and it moved on from there and the second I met while I was having communication problems with the first.

melanee: I found that trust was a huge issue for me. I felt like every person, no matter how well I knew them, was out to hurt me. My first boyfriend was kind and gentle at first, but was distant, like me. I think that we both took comfort in our distance. I never told him anything about my experiences, so I never opened that sore with him. I was very withdrawn physically and emotionally. We eventually broke up, the distance just killing both of us, and neither having the guts to breach the gap.

what was your experience when first talked about sexual violation with your partner?

butterfly: the first and only time i've ever told anyone i was in a relationship with about my violation was when i mentioned it to a guy i had begun going out with a few days before. i said that i was afraid because i felt like all men would try to hurt me. he looked confused, said, "yeah, well..." and kissed my mouth. i just looked up at his ceiling and vowed not to talk about it anymore.

steve: when I first told her, she kind of blamed me and told me that she thought I wanted it. After we talked a while, though, she began to understand what happened.

christine: We had only known each other about two weeks and I had told the story to our mutual friend the night before. He encouraged me to tell Steve. I don't remember much about it, or how I felt.

mr. black: She first told me on a long drive we took together to her parents house. Driving made it possible to talk about it and still maintain some focus. She told me the entire story of her childhood molestation in one long stream and then I asked a great many questions. The only thing in my mind was how much she hurt and how much i wanted to make it all better. Oh yeah, and how much I wanted to torture and kill the bastard. And maybe her folks for letting it happen. The only thing that didn't occur to me was that this might be a reason to bail out. Never thought of it, so never did it.

amy: My current partner was shocked into silence. He had already guessed that there was something different about me, but I don't think he ever imagined something that horrible had happened. He allowed me to cry and vent my feelings, which coincidentally happened on an anniversary of the rape. He didn't understand just how much I had went through, but was not critical of me and believed every word I said, which was all I could have asked for at the time. He didn't have many questions afterwards, either, but took care of me emotionally as best he could.

anna: Mine wasn't that interesting, I just told him that I had been hurt very badly and that it was going to be hard for me to trust again, he knew what I meant.

missy: It was the first time we were making love, I was feeling scared. i never told her before because i was afraid of losing her. so I stopped everything that moment and told her that we had to talk. we went out on the porch smoked a cigarette and I poured my heart out to her. She was so understanding. She and I both sat and cried. I told her how scared i was of intimacy. So over time, we eased into things. I was new to this too because this was my first girl/girl relationship so we took it slow.

aimée: Gary was wonderful and supportive. he didn't doubt me for a minute, and encouraged me to get help.

aramoro: I was shocked that both of the two most recent "girlfriends" had both been molested as children.

melanee: The first partner that I told about my experiences has proven to me what true evil is. He knew my background, he knew my fears, hang-ups, issues, call them what you may. I felt that because he seemed sympathetic that he would respect my boundaries, and he did, until we went to Europe together. We had not had sex, and were not planning on it because of a church obligation he had. When I was drunk and stoned in Amsterdam, he tried to rape me. He was completely sober, and that is what angers me. He knew almost everything!! And still, he hurt me. That was only a few months ago, and I feel that I can never tell and expect trust. I hope that one day I can find someone that will not push my boundaries and give me a safe and loving environment, for I have never known one, and wish for one desperately. At first, I thought that it strengthened our relationship, but as time wore on, I noticed that he was uncomfortable that I was not a virgin, that he was, and I wasn't. He was almost jealous of the men that hurt me. That is so odd to me, who in God's name would be jealous of a rapist or child molester? That is pure evil. I felt the gap more and more, and when we went to Europe, I hoped it would remedy that, but it only made it worse.

how does the incident(s) make your relationship difficult? in which ways does it affect your relationship most noticeably?

butterfly: for me it seems that my violation really tends to affect my ability to be comfortable sexually. in the past, i've been very good at pretending most of the time, so sometimes when i've been kissing someone i've just forced myself not to feel shaky and made myself smile and laugh and flirt. usually kissing on the mouth, holding hands, hugging, is fine, but when it has gotten to more serious physical contact, it has become pretty hard for me to fake that i was having a good time. it's been awhile since i was in a relationship, and what i've decided to do for myself is be assertive enough that i can let my next lover know what has happened to me, what's now going on, how i feel...and if they aren't able to give me space when i need it and progress at a speed that's okay for me, then i won't be romantically involved with them anymore.

steve: I've zoned a few times when she performed oral sex with me, but I've since gotten past it. for the most part, the main problem that it caused was becoming comfortable with telling her that it was bothering me.

christine: Initially it inhibited any physical contact that Steve had with me and it caused me to zone out. But after talking a lot and trusting each other we grew closer. It affected our relationship because I was afraid Steve would turn out the same way - I knew nothing other than abuse.

mr. black: Obviously, it has had an effect on our sexuality. She was my first, and only partner. And our love life has been very sporadic. At present we are not really active. My wife is in therapy, and I am providing all the pressure less space she can need. But it has been a sore point over the years. She once told me all she can see is his face. That hurts. Both of us. In addition, the legacy also includes a chronic infection that makes lovemaking impossible. I sometimes blame her for that. I shouldn't, but I am human. In addition is the problems with trust that are a result of this. And the fact that I deeply resent her parents for allowing it to happen and for remaining blissfully unaware of what they have done.

amy: It affects my life and in turn, my relationship, every day. I feel as a result of what happened, I was warped emotionally and do not handle every day stresses well. I have horrific mood swings weekly, and am a very defensive person. Many times I have taken the defensive route only to have him shouting back at me that he didn't mean to anger me, that he was only teasing. Teasing is not something I take well. I was made fun of by me peers so extensively that I do not take even the most tactful, well-meaning teasing with a steady mind and heart. I will feel emotionally unbalanced forever.

anna: Physical intimacy is still a major issue for me. It was sometimes hard for my boyfriend to understand that, and to realize that it has nothing to do with him. I hate the fact that I can't be "normal" and that at times I can't show him how much I care about him. He is very patient and understanding, but I know it must be frustrating for him.

missy: Well being with a girl is not as painful as being with a guy due to mostly all my perpetrators being a male. I feel warm and safe with a female. It's harder being with a male because I still can't distinguish love from sex and i don't see what guys want from me. i get confused. Not to mention with guys i tend to have flashbacks.

aimée: i had a panic attack once when we were kissing and stuff. it was really bad. i felt terrible - one minute i was kissing him and the next i was crying and shaking uncontrollably. it was awful. i also suffer depression, so it isn't exactly fun being around me a lot of the time. i wish i could go back to being what i used to be, but i know it isn't going to happen.

aramoro: It's not difficult for me. I realize that she has gone through a traumatic experience and I just want to be there.

melaneeI find that it is my side that is affected most. I am withdrawn and scared. I flinch at the slightest, sweetest touch. I cannot trust anyone, and that is a huge barrier. I sabotage relationships because I "know" they won't work, so why get hurt? I build a wall, as long as the Great Wall of China, and much much higher. No one can scale it, and I honestly believe that no one really wants to. I am too hard to reach, and so I have almost given up that I can be reached. I can't even see myself sometimes because of the clouds. I am as distant as can be, and yet I stand in front of people and act as though I care, as though I am really there, but I am gone, to a "netherworld of consciousness," it is the only way I am safe. I just want to feel safe for one instant in my life.

is distrust an issue, if so, how?

butterfly: i find it very hard to completely trust people, especially my lovers. i think that it comes from being tricked and manipulated by my attacker, i frequently feel suspicious that my lovers will somehow try to trick me. it's irrational, and i never know why they would trick me or what about, i just feel a lot of distrust and suspicion toward romantic interests.

steve & christine: Not anymore, but a big problem was becoming comfortable with telling the other person that we were having a problem without being offensive.

amy: I trust my current partner, but it has taken 8 years to build up to that level of safety. All my relationships have started with a level of distrust that has only been broken down with time.

anna: For me, distrust comes in the form of my associating sex with the sickness and selfishness of what happened to me. It is hard for me to distinguish between what happened then and what I am going through now because I still associate those qualities with sexual encounters now, even though I know they are totally different.

missy: Distrust is most definitely an issue especially in intimacy because all my relationships have been either abusive or have fallen apart. The one girl whom i loved killed herself and I will never be able to give her the love I once did. I never had a stable relationship. I don't trust peoples' intentions. I am afraid of my vulnerability.

aimée: it isn't.

aramoro: I don't distrust her however I would be a little surprised if she didn't mistrust me based on how we got together.

melanee: I feel as if every move, every word, every look has a different meaning than the one being portrayed. I think that I am being lured in, I don't trust that people honestly care for me, would want me to be safe and happy. I don't allow people to touch me, I don't trust that their intentions are pure. So I pull away from people, isolate myself, and pull further and further into myself, although sometimes I wonder if I am safe with myself. Can I trust myself? I honestly don't know.

are flashbacks an issue, if so, how?

butterfly: unfortunately, yes. not always images, either. quite frequently i'll feel the weight of someone's hand or the sensation of their warm breath on my skin, and it triggers something. it makes me sad that things that have the potential to be so beautiful can hurt so badly.

steve & christine: hell yes. we both used to zone out and start associating what was happening at the moment with what had previously happened. Until recently, I (Christine) would even zone out from being touched on the tummy. I had a really hard time finding the difference between what was past and present. It seemed every time I was touched it felt like violation. I hated it because I could never feel any desire for anything.

mr. black: Mostly in her sleep. We don't talk about them.

amy: Flashbacks/nightmares have always been an issue for me. I definitely have more problems with flashbacks vs. nightmares. You can always wake up from a nightmare, but a flashback happens when you are conscious - and to me, that is the most frightening. Small things can trigger - from the loving touch of a hand on my neck to a "sneaking up behind me" joke. I do not tolerate being wrestled, even in a fun way. That can send me into a hysterical frenzy, and I have a hard time returning to reality at that point.

anna: Flashbacks usually come after physical intimacy. (the only times it has happened during, is when I had concrete reasons to distrust the person). Usually, I logically understand that this is different than what happened to me but afterwards, certain thoughts will trigger these flashbacks. This always makes me hesitant to repeat behavior that will cause these flashbacks. This has become my single largest factor in fear of intimacy.

missy: Yes, at bedtime it happens, in the shower, during sex, at baseball games, arguing with a friend, i live my life having to face the future, i get body memories, i get nightmares. anytime any where. my mind isn't very considerate.

aimée: i've already stated an instance above, where i started having a flashback that ran almost the same as what Gaz was doing at the time. sometimes i sit and cry while he holds me, which i'm so thankful i can do.

aramoro: Again they are not an issue with me, I'm not the one experiencing them.

melanee: I have frequent and horrific flashbacks. They haunt me at the most inopportune times. I am trying to enjoy myself and BAM! I am back in that house, scared out of my skin, trying so hard just to survive. Most people around me don't know when I have flashbacks, but some have been able to read the signs. I mask all emotion, and with it I mask all evidence of struggle. So I seem at ease, but my mind and heart are in turmoil.

is anger an issue, if so, how?

butterfly: i've had a hard time getting angry at my attacker. i don't usually get angry when people do something to hurt me. i do, however, feel anger toward him for the way he's made my mom feel as she realizes all this. it's her worst nightmare come true, and for that i am truly angry.

steve & christine: There's a lot of anger toward the people who did the things to us. One time recently I (steve) was flashing back when I was with christine. She got really pissed at the girl who hurt me because we couldn't do anything intimate at the moment.

mr. black: Yes. I feel a great deal of anger at HIM. At her parents. And sometimes at her, as if all of them have robbed me of some of my self esteem and sexuality. She feels anger for many people at many times, and a lot of it stems from her insecurities and fear.

amy: I think anger ties in with my defensive/moody side. I feel much anger at men in general, even 16 years later, and I tend to be somewhat overly critical of them. I have a superbly sarcastic side-obviously a defense mechanism-that I frequently chose to show. This can anger men, but I frankly don't care.

anna: Most of my anger is directed toward things outside of our relationship. Things like pornography, alcohol, and certain comments will make me disproportionally angry and this behavior on my part is usually misinterpreted by others, and is pretty confusing for them.

missy: anger is an issue because in everything i do and see i live with this rage of not being able to live my life abuse free. I feel so much rage and anger and it controls me. that's where the self mutilation comes into place. During sex when i get rageful i know if i don't get off my partner i'm going to kill him because i feel so trapped. i just cry sometimes. it's so confining.

aimée: i do lose my temper pretty easily, but mostly it's not really at him. i have what i call "anger attacks", where i get pretty emotional and violent towards my attacker, but i come out of them and Gary is really good about them.

aramoro: I am not angry with her I have no reason to be.

melanee: I wish that I would get more angry, but it just isn't in my nature. I have been working with my therapist to use anger as an out for me, but I can't seem to get angry.

is fear an issue, if so, how?

butterfly: fear is one of the emotions that people might say dominates me. there are so many times i've experienced fear, sometimes at moments when fear is normal, sometimes because someone said there was a bee in the house or something mundane like that. usually people can't tell i'm experiencing fear unless they're very observant; i become light-headed, breathe heavily, and i feel intense adrenaline. there are no images or sounds present, and i often don't even think about my violation, so it's not like a flashback. sort of like sense memory. yet i know that this intense fear has something to do with my attacks, because i never remember feeling like this until when i was about seven, and waking from a nightmare that was so incredibly real, and terrifying. ever since then fear has been one of my most difficult emotions to wrestle with.

steve & christine: It used to be, especially when the guy who hurt Christine would follow us EVERYWHERE with his buddies. Everywhere we turned, there was his truck. Now he has a friend telling everyone that nothing happened. That hurts. For me (Steve) it was scary to think of running into the girl who hurt me. Then one day she called me and she admitted guilt, and since then I haven't been afraid.

mr. black: Yes, she is afraid of trusting, of most men, often of losing me..she fears I will leave her, no matter how much I reassure and point out I've been here all this time. And it's not that in weak moments the thought has not crossed my mind.

amy: I don't fear many things, with the obvious exception of dark alleys, dimly lit parking lots, etc...the worst I can imagine has already happened to me, and I have an absence of fear about me. This can work to my disadvantage, though - I can be impulsive, childish, and ruthless. I don't care what people say about me or my actions - and this is a direct result of my rape and the verbal abuse I suffered afterwards.

anna: Fear is usually more of an issue when I am alone. If I am with a guy I trust, fear is not as big as an issue, but if I don't feel I have anyone to protect me, (which is a pretty arbitrary feeling) fear becomes a greater issue.

missy: Although no one would ever see it, fear is an issue. i am afraid of everything. from making love, to being alone. i am afraid of being hurt so i put up so many walls. i try to disguise my fears though.

aimée: not so much any more. it used to be.

aramoro: I fear for her safety knowing that she has done harmful things to herself and I fear hurting her emotionally. I think she fears the whole thing a little.

melanee: Fear is the dark spirit that controls my every thought, emotion, act, and ultimately, my entire life. I fear men, I fear women, I shudder at the thought of violence. I am stricken when I see another person in a dangerous situation. I fear for them. I am always looking over my shoulder to see the angel of death coming for me. I am almost to the point now that I do not fear death. I only fear now what can be done to me before death. I cannot bear to be hurt anymore. I cannot handle ONE MORE THING!! I would rather die then have one more man put his thick hands on me again. I fear myself, I fear the person inside me, who may or may not be me. I am afraid, cowering, just shielding my face from the next blow.

how sexual is your relationship?

butterfly: the biggest step i've made is to get to the point where i can say that i have willingly allowed three of my lovers to touch me in ways i hadn't been comfortable with previously. and i enjoyed it too. i take it in steps, i guess. there are some things i'm perfectly comfortable with the idea of doing (oral sex, for example, since it's never been involved with a negative experience for me), and others which i'm terrified of.

steve & christine: It's hard for me (christine) to accept anything other than sex. that was the only thing he didn't use to hurt me, so it's the only pure thing for me - I don't feel any past feelings from it. As for me (steve), I also feel a certain purification from sex.

mr. black: At first, it was very. It rapidly became not at all. It has been on and off all along. And when on, it has rarely been initiated by her. I think this has been my biggest error, in trying to make a sexual relationship a bigger part of our lives than she can handle. Today we have been essentially celibate for some time.

amy: Very. Like I stressed above, though, it took me 8 years to reach my current level of security, especially sexually. I had no problem involving myself with other men sexually - I just had a high commitment-failure level. My current secure level could have been impossible for me 10 or 15 years ago.

anna: Our relationship is not very sexual at all. It is still very hard for me because of the feelings and flashbacks that almost inevitably follow.

missy: Right now i am not very sexual. i think i cycle back and forth. It all depends on how safe i am feeling at the time that i am with someone. But i definitely go in cycles.

aimée: quite sexual. we do have intercourse fairly often.

melanee: Lately, my sexual relationship is nil. I have turned off completely out of lack of comfort, self-esteem, and the crippling fear I have. I am ok with my sexual relationship to a certain point, then I freak out. I wish that I could be comfortable, I wish that I could see sexuality as something positive, and not some torture devised to crush my spirit, and blacken my soul.

how comfortable are you with the level of sexuality?

butterfly: a lot of times the level of sexuality in my past relationships made me very uncomfortable. i would get involved with someone, and after a couple of dates we would go to one of our houses, lie around, start kissing, and the next thing i know they'd be trying to unbutton my pants or something. i guess i've learned to only become involved with people who i know will respect my boundaries, and who will be willing to talk about boundaries before we're in the heat of the moment.

steve: Sometimes i feel pressured a little bit, but i've learned to say no when I need to.

christine: I'm satisfied with the level in our relationship. However, it's hard sometimes because I can't find pleasure in anything less than sex.

mr. black: Mostly ok, sometimes not very. It has badly impacted my self esteem, made me feel less of a man, and in general been difficult. For her, it has been a constant challenge, a source of guilt, and anger. We work on our problems, but we are not always successful. I have managed to deal with it thus far, trying not to hurt her anymore than she already has been, but I am human. My needs have made for ugly scenes. And though I never have strayed, like Jimmy Carter I have lusted for a "healthy" sexual partner.

amy: I'm comfortable most of the time. The issue I have reoccurring problems with is what I can my "mental dislocation of self"-during sex I frequently find myself losing interest and even touch with my current surroundings. I then move my mind to another place-thinking about laundry, children, daily activities - anything other then what is going on with my body at the time. I really have to concentrate hard to forestall this problem before it happens, or while it happens. This is an obvious result of my rape - a removal of one's mental self from a situation. A familiar survival technique I perfected well long ago out of necessity.

anna: I wish more than anything that I could reclaim this area of my life and be able to feel safe on a more sexual level, but this is still a struggle for me.

missy: I am very comfortable with who i am and where i am as far as my sexuality. I think that i am able to be open with other and share to others what it's like to be bisexual and i definitely am not afraid to be exposed.

aimée: very. i have always had a healthy attitude towards sexuality, and i am NOT going to let a rapist take it away. i'm NOT going to let him stop me enjoying making love to my boyfriend, when it's a very special thing.

aramoro: I am comfortable with it but I worry a little that we may do something she regrets.

melanee: The more sexual relations I have, the level of comfort rises, but I still have relapses into my fear and problems. I try to be realistic and think that eventually, in a few years, I will be at ease with it all. I would like to be.

do you and your partner have coping techniques for nightmares/flashbacks/etc.?

butterfly: i've been doing so much healing on my own in the past year, and i haven't really been sharing it with anyone else, so while i have my own coping techniques which i'm sure will be integrated into my next relationship, i haven't really experienced how it'll work out yet.

steve: I used to have some pretty bad ones - cutting my wrists, drawing violent pictures, bulimia, and attempted suicide. now, I exercise, play guitar, and talk about my problems.

christine: I used to cut anything (mostly my wrists) and attempt suicide. I went into depression and had panic attacks. I also starved myself for a long time. I still have tendencies to do these things but I'm learning to control them.

mr. black: No.

amy: When a flashback happens with my current partner, he stops whatever is going on, look into my eyes, and repeats my name until I recover. I don't want physical closeness at that point, so he give me about three feet of space in which to get my bearings. It seems to work for me most of the time.

missy: No, I have never allowed any partners help.

aimée: we talk about them. Gary hugs me if i need/want it and if i'm crying he'll let me do it all over him : )

melanee: I have never been open enough with those. I hate asking for help, so I MUST handle everything on my own, I cannot trust another person in the picture. I should get better at asking for help.

how easy is it to talk with them about the issue of sexual violence?

butterfly: it has always been tremendously hard for me to talk about the issue with my lovers. i'm always so afraid they'll stop having feelings for me, be disgusted, think i'm dirty, tell me i wanted it. the fact is, most of the people i become involved with are good people, who wouldn't say things like that, and it's pretty much in my head, but that doesn't make it any less scary. also, i'm still at a point when talking too in-depth about the violation will bring out a lot of emotions, so it tends to turn into kind of a scene if i try to talk about it for more than just a couple of minutes.

steve & christine: Very easy, because we know where each other has come from. We understand the need to talk about it, and we understand the coping mechanisms involved.

mr. black: Not very...She is not of the opinion any of her difficulties stem from it, even thought they plainly do. Right now we are working on that denial. It is hard.

amy: It is not an easy topic for me. To this day, my parents and extended family don't know about my rape, and I wrestle with the idea of telling them every day. This is a personal issue with me, and only my closest friends know about it.

missy: I am not open with my partners until i feel less vulnerable and it takes a while. i am afraid of being judged.

aimée: very easy. he's a wonderful listener and cares about what i have to say.

aramoro: I am comfortable with it but I don't have to do very much talking. I just want to be there to listen and ask questions.

melanee: I find that I can talk about it easily when I am not the topic at hand. When it comes to me or my experiences, I clam up and curl up into myself. I find that is the only anger I can generate, is when a friend is hurt. I can feel angry for them, but never for me.

how do you feel about the way sexual violence has impacted your life?

butterfly: i don't know what to do with myself half the time. sometimes i just want to run screaming down the street and let the world know just how damaged i feel, and sometimes i want to hide myself away from everyone and the possibility of paradise, and other times i just wish i'd never seen his face, never spoken his name, never felt his hands on me. on those self-centered days, i ask, "why me?" and no one has answered yet.

steve: It hurt me more to learn what happened to Christine than what actually happened to me. It motivated me to become very active in the anti-rape movement, so I guess that has been positive in a way.

christine: It sucks in every way possible. Sometimes it feels like there's nowhere to turn and when you close your eyes all you can see is your attacker and the pain. It's so hard to get over it. Steve and tears have become my friend.

mr. black: Mad. Pissed off. Ready to do violence to the ones responsible. Sometimes like a man sentenced to life without parole for a crime I didn't commit. Abuse, the gift that keeps on giving. Sorry. Sad.

amy: It has made a lasting impression on my life, influencing how I think of myself and others. My personality changed in an instant - from a shy, backward girl to a sarcastic, bitter woman. I will never fully recover from the damage inflicted upon me, and have instead learned how to deal with what I consider to be a huge setback to what I could have been. If I must find a positive side to it all, I could say that is has given me a strong sense of commitment towards both of my children, and an increased awareness of teen sexuality. I can look at my son and my daughter, when the time comes - straight in the eye unashamedly and educate them firsthand of the dangers than lurk where you least expect it, and how to avoid causing this pain towards others. I am also interested in helping to reach other people in the same situation as I, if nothing else to be a willing and supportive ear. Sometimes that's all we need to have, or to be. My life will never be the same as a result of one long, lonely night, way back in my formative years. The impression it has made is truly unexplainable, and unfortunately for me, irreversible.

missy: In everything i do it has impacted my life. there is not a thing i do that it doesn't impact. it is as simple as going in the shower or going to the mall. i deal with it every day! it's very painful for me.

aimée: it has impacted my life in so many different ways...the fear, anger, depression, sadness, determination to rise above it all....but the best thing it has taught me is that i am still loved, wounds and all, and i have a wonderful friend and lover in Gary who will stand by me through anything. that's a gift i'll treasure forever.

melanee: If I were to try to define who I was, the sexual violence and violation endured in my lifetime would be the foundation. It has affected every facet of my life, every ounce of my being, every cell of my body. My mind and soul are saturated in it, and it will stay with me forever. It is who I am, and I don't know any better than to make it what I am. I am a survivor, I am a terrified person, I am here, now, then, to come, I am a child wanting love, hoping someone will see me for who I am and who I can be. I can be loved, loving, friendly, trusting, at ease. I can be me.