• Quote of the Day
    "Don't let what you can't do interfere with what you can do."
    John Wooden, posted by David Baxter

stargazer

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If this topic is best found on another already-existing thread, please advise me accordingly. I'm writing out of concern for a close female friend who was sexually abused as a child. In fact, she continued to have sex with her father until the day he died, even though she was in her late thirties or early forties by then. She told me that she had always enjoyed having sex with him, and that it was just a part of their relationship.

This person is a very sensitive person, and a decent person. However, I have noticed that she is unusually obsessed with sex, and that her ideas regarding preferred sexual behavior are often kinky, and without thought toward intimacy. When she has described past relationships, she often describes situations that are at least borderline-abusive on the part of her partner, which she claims has "worked for her."

I'm posting this at this time for a specific reason involving an incident that occurred over the weekend. But I'd rather not describe it in detail unless it seems appropriate at a later time. My reason for posting is that I'm hoping to gain information as to how sexual abuse in one's childhood might lead to distorted or unhealthy sexual perceptions and attitudes later in life.
 
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I am wondering does she see it as abuse?


I found this article which I am posting a link to (I was thinking it might be triggering):

article
 

ThatLady

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I'm not an expert in this field, by any means! I do, however, wonder how living such a warped life as a child (and even into adulthood) could not leave someone with very twisted views. I'm sure she had to keep all this a secret from everyone around her. That, alone, is enough to warp one's views on everything, including sexuality. She's lived a sick life. It's not surprising to find that her beliefs, her attitudes, and her practices are sick, as well.
 

stargazer

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She's been in therapy for about three years, and I think she's getting better. But, in my limited friendship with her, she never seems to acknowledge that her sexual views are far afield from the norm--or if she does, she will criticize the social norms rather than her own views. I still think she's getting better, though, because of strides she's made in other areas, having nothing to do with sex. I'll give an example.

Although I wasn't around when her father died, I suspect it was then that she had her breakdown. She had been a credentialed school teacher, but she let the credential expire and is now on disability. During the period of the disability, she has rarely left her house, but has connected with all her friends only through e-mail and telephone. Recently, she and I actually had coffee at a cafe about a block away from her house, and this was a big deal for her.

However, in the past, in the 80's (when I knew her before I left for a distant city for 16 years) she was extremely outgoing, always partying and making brazen sexual comments in casual conversations. When I came back after the 16 years, I found her to be withdrawn and isolated. This is after her dad had died.

In the course of the conversation at the cafe, she said something really bizarre, in which she used the word "molest" in what seemed to her to be a positive context, referring to a new person she was going to meet and that maybe she could "molest."

This bothered me so much that over the weekend I left her a phone message explaining that molestation is a vicious act of violation, and that people in our culture don't use the term casually or lightly when referring to preferred sexual activity. Because she is so sensitive, she at first took it as a total rejection of her person. I then sent a carefully worded e-mail which she was able to grasp, and suggested that this is something she needed to take up with her therapist. She replied in a voice mail message that she had counseling on Monday, and that she was going to take the e-mail to her therapist and discuss the issue.

I'm a little confused about her. I have noticed that she's also unusually compassionate and empathetic when it comes to an awareness of other people's suffering. That may seem to contradict everything I just said about her, but as long as her mind isn't focused on sex, and the strange sexual attitudes are not triggered, she actually appears to be more ethically and spiritually grounded than most of the other people I know.

I'm not sure what to do. My priest, to whom I go for spiritual counseling, thinks that I might be her connection to the real world. I discussed her with him because I have been heavily burdened by all that has happened. I'm skeptical that I have any purpose for her, but I hope that she can somehow, by some means, get in touch with what she needs to find within herself, in order to heal.
 

ThatLady

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Sounds to me like you're a good friend to this woman, and she needs that desperately. She needs someone to ground her and help her make the right choices. Her therapist can help her hugely, but a good friend in the "real world" is irreplaceable. Your discussion of her use of the word "molest" has brought her to the realization that this is something she needs to discuss with her therapist. There, alone, you have helped her. :)
 

stargazer

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I was actually surprised, but glad, when she took it well. I also just now got an e-mail from my priest, to whom I had forwarded a transcript of the e-mail I'd sent to my friend. He said that my e-mail was "very wise and loving," which of course is what I was aiming for. I edited it very carefully to try and make sure nothing I said would trigger in her a feeling of resentment, or freak her out. So I guess it worked, which is good.
 

David Baxter

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First, stargazer, let me caution you about something: You are a friend to this woman. You can't be her therapist and shouldn't try to be. That is ultimately going to be far too stressful for anyone - you can be a therapist (even a friendly therapist) or a friend - you cannot be both.

Second, what you describe may well be how your friend adapted to what was happening in her life and in her family. In a book called Men Who Rape, Nicholas Groth talked about normalization as a defense against being victimized. In other words, if I can help myself to see this as normal, I don't have to feel abnormal, damaged, or bad.

Similarly, talking about adolescent sex offenders, Ryan, Lane, Davis, and Isaac (1987) suggest that the offender may often be responding to a traumatization syndrome:

In puberty, when establishment of his male identity becomes important, he may conquer his earlier feelings of powerlessness, confusion, and/or victimization by taking control of others, even re-creating his own victimization but taking the role of the perpetrator... By overpowering, exploiting, manipulating, or controlling others, he may be attempting to undo or protect himself against the impact or implications of his own victimization... In his role as perpetrator, he now perceives himself as powerful and able to protect himself (p. 4).

Obviously, not all people react that way. Indeed, most probably direct the long-term effects toward themselves, leading to depression, self-hatred, self-condemnation, negative self-concept, etc. It may be that your friend, once her father died and she was now dealing with both grief and also the loss of the individual who most supported her "normalization" of the abuse, only then started to reevaluate what had been happening to her and perhaps that is what triggered her depression.
 

David Baxter

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stargazer said:
I also just now got an e-mail from my priest, to whom I had forwarded a transcript of the e-mail I'd sent to my friend. He said that my e-mail was "very wise and loving," which of course is what I was aiming for. I edited it very carefully to try and make sure nothing I said would trigger in her a feeling of resentment, or freak her out. So I guess it worked, which is good.

I saw this after posting my previous reply. That's exactly what I mean, SG. You are indeed being a loving and supportive friend to her, which is what she needs from you. She has a therapist to address some of her other needs right now. You may be the only one who is providing the friendship support and feedback, her connection to the rest of the world as your spiritual advisor suggested.
 

stargazer

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David Baxter said:
First, stargazer, let me caution you about something: You are a friend to this woman. You can't be her therapist and shouldn't try to be. That is ultimately going to be far too stressful for anyone - you can be a therapist (even a friendly therapist) or a friend - you cannot be both.

Your point is well-taken. I did mention in both my voice messages that I'm aware I'm not a counselor, and that in fact I have no expertise of knowledge in this area, and certainly no training. I'm trying to gather knowledge here and there, but that's only for my own edification, to help me to understand her situation. She also said she was glad I acknowledged that, but felt a kind of a "surge" as though I might be on the verge of crossing that line. So I do need to be careful.

David Baxter said:
In a book called Men Who Rape, Nicholas Groth talked about normalization as a defense against being victimized. In other words, if I can help myself to see this as normal, I don't have to feel abnormal, damaged, or bad.

That seems to be what she has done. She would rather justify or validate the things that her father did, so as not to have to face the fact that would took place was actually a manipulative act of violation and disregard for human rights--even the rights of a child. It makes me wonder if her father even deliberately might have fed her the message that this kind of a behavior is, or at least ought to be, perfectly acceptable. Therefore she blames the culture, rather than have to look at the essence of the act itself, which would be too painful for her.

David Baxter said:
It may be that your friend, once her father died and she was now dealing with both grief and also the loss of the individual who most supported her "normalization" of the abuse, only then started to reevaluate what had been happening to her and perhaps that is what triggered her depression.

That could very well be. She can only have held up under such intense rationalization against the truth for so long. And now, in her father's absence, she no longer has his influence validating and legitimizing this activity.
 

Holly

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Hi stargazer,
As a survivor of a violent crime, it was important part of my healing, was going to therapy, as Dr. Baxter has suggested/ recommended.
It is the most appropriate place to deal with the issues, feelings around being violated.
I truly hope your friend will understand the importance of therapy, look towards the path of healing.
In the future her relationships with others will be in a more supportive environment, if she finds therapy as a way to deal with the long term issues she was faced during her childhood.
It is also important for her to attend therapy, this way she is taking a honest look at her life, which involved her being abused as a child.
All the best to your friend, take care of you also during this time, I am sure it was not easy to address this issue with her.
I know it is important to have a plan in place in respect to therapy, I wish your friend all the best in getting the help she needs to deal with the traumatic events of her childhood.
Thinking of you both Holly
 

stargazer

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She's been in therapy for about three years now, Holly. That's why I mention she seems to have been making some progress in other areas of life, not necessarily sex-related. But she never discusses with me the content of the therapy as pertains to sexuality, and I don't ask. I also hope she finds healing there, and recovery.
 

stargazer

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Well, she hasn't called since her therapy appointment on Monday, and she might not for a while. In a way, that's kind of good. The priest might be right about my having a purpose in her life, but I'm thinking it might be more healthy all around if I only see her once a month or so. I had gotten drawn into her world. Yesterday morning when I was posting, it was almost as though I were itrapped nside the walls of her reality. At about noon, I snapped out of it. Not sure how to describe the sensation. Some of the things she said when we had coffee lingered with me, as though to try and give life to a similarly strange world in my brain. Whatever it is that's got ahold of her, it's pretty potent stuff. I'm her friend, but I don't think I can go there too often, without it sort of getting the better of me. I'm way too sensitive.
 

David Baxter

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I'm her friend, but I don't think I can go there too often, without it sort of getting the better of me. I'm way too sensitive.

I agree, SG. You need to be careful to protect yourself.
 

stargazer

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Well, it's been nine days since her therapist's appointment last Monday, and I have not heard from her. I had returned her call that Monday, when she told me she was going to take it all up with her therapist. Then I called her last Friday, friendly-like, and left a message. Normally she calls back right away. I'm thinking that the whole thing is too heavy, and I might have messed up our friendship by bringing it up. The counselor might also have said something to dissuade her from contacting me, although one can only speculate.

I have to admit, though, that the whole thing was burdening me. I think my priest might have been wrong. I think I crossed a line between a friend and a counselor, although I hadn't intended to. I had been freaked out by some of her statements, especially the one I mentioned. So I was just trying to get across to her that these attitudes are not normal, but I think I came across as judgmental. I'm pretty sure I messed the whole thing up, but in a way I'm slightly relieved. I just hope she's okay.
 

David Baxter

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How about writing her a letter or email? Trying to explain that if your choice of words came across as judgmental that was not your intention. That you were distressed by and for her and hoped it would be helpful.

Sometimes, that allows you to say what you want to say more tactfully (and you can edit and re-edit until you are satisfied with thr wording), and as well it gives the other person time to digest and ponder the comments before deciding how or whether to reply.
 

Holly

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Hi stargazer,
I think you may have to step back, give her time, she may feeling she was wrong with her remakes, she does not know what to say!
The letter writing is a wonderful idea, you can do that while you let her work out her personal matters.
What happened to her as a child, the effects of the abuse.
She maybe feeling the same way, I am sure she will see the concerns you had to be important. maybe she will realize that.

If your true friends stargazer, she may just need time to grieve all she has lost, her behaviours, the effects of the death of her father who happened to be the one who was her abuser.
I wish you all the best, take care of you, it not easy to be friend in this type of situation, friendships stargazer have challenges.
I think you give her time, maybe mail her a note, let know you do care.
Take care stargazer, OK
 

stargazer

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I think the letter's a good idea, but I agree that giving her some more time is probably best. After all, I called her only five days ago, and four days before that. If I were to send a letter or an e-mail right now, it might look as though I'm pushy or have some kind of agenda. Probably best to wait a while longer and see if she eventually contacts me.
 

Holly

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Hi stargazer,
I mentioned that because in my situation, I found out who my true friends were, the meaning of friendship, respecting boundaries. Also knowing what type of help to ask a friend, if I needed too?
My friends today, we still have disagreements, sometimes the past is part of it.
In the end we have compromises, I just went though that with a girlfriend, we cried, laughed, cried all in the same phone call. :yikes:
 

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