this defies my ability to think of a title
January 13, 2009 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Sexual assault recovery filter: It's been 15 years, I'm well, but I still have some physical scarring that I'm self-conscious about my husband seeing (newly married).

I guess there are two parts to my question.

I'm not sure how I'm going to explain the evidence to my husband. He has not actually seen anything yet, but I'm sure that day will come soon. We have a great and adventurous sex life. My scarring is a result of being sodomized by my attacker. Some day, when we have the lights on, DH will notice and probably wonder what he is seeing. And I will, of course, explain the deal. While I am as healed psychologically as I will ever be- discussing the specifics of my attack is going to be uncomfortable for me and painful for him to hear. He knows the story, but I haven't given, you know, a graphic description of everything that happened.

Fretting about this has led me to wonder if I can have some sort of cosmetic surgery to fix/ mask the scars... but, that involves explaining everything to yet another doctor- this is a conversation that makes me seize up when I imagine having it. "Can you fix the scar that's around my xxx? Right, I guess you'll need to see it to answer that question..." I have a lump in my throat typing this.

I lean towards explaining all of this to DH. I worry so much that it will so upset him to know the extent of my wounds, that the carefree, fun, and GGG will go out of our sex lives- and I REALLY worked hard to get to a place where I can share this with someone. So then I flip-flop back to the idea of secret surgical repair...

Please help, if there is anyone at all out there who can deal with this question...and yes I have a therapist.

throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Your DH has probably already noticed this and hasn't asked. Your husband chose to be with you. This may not make for a happy conversation but don't define the possibility of the conversation to take on a heavy, dark feelings. Give some thought to what you want the conversation to be and where you want the conversation to take you. You get to define where it goes!
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2009

Copy this into an email and just send it to him. It's not the most healthy form of (future) spousal communication, but he'll understand when he reads it.
posted by aswego at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2009

"He knows the story, but I haven't given, you know, a graphic description of everything that happened. "

As he knows the story, he's guessed the provenance of your scar, and has refrained from asking painful questions.
posted by orthogonality at 2:41 PM on January 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ohhh I'm so sorry.

In my experience (nothing like yours at all, but FWIW), people who love you are amazingly accepting of what you consider your "flaws." It sounds like you have a fairly new marriage that consists of some good communication aspects (hence the adventurous sex). That bodes very well.

All that said, just tell him directly. It doesn't need to be poetic or overly invasive. And be gentle with yourself. Tell him you want him to know but you are emotionally limited in how far you can open up right now due to the pain that attaches. Think of it in smaller pieces, along the lines of, "Today I'm going to mention it and simply tell him it's there and it bothers me and I'm worried about what he will think." Then maybe a week or month down the road you can disclose a bit more, if that's even necessary for him. But don't force yourself to discuss more than you can handle at any stage. That's really ok to do.

This bothers you. I therefore wouldn't advise you to keep it hidden and have some type of secret surgery. Part of growing together as a couple is meandering through the sludge of some really painful things; use this as an opportunity to learn how to express yourself and trust your new husband. Of course this will pain him to hear because he loves you. But that has nothing to do with YOU causing him pain, this is pain based on someone hurting you and that is absolutely not your burden to bear.

As for plastic surgery, I'm guessing you'd have different feelings on it if your husband put his arms around you and continued to accept you as you are. In other words, you might not even care to pursue it if your husband responds in an accepting light. So please don't put that burden on your shoulders just yet. You don't have to make that decision now; thinking about it now is only making you feel more pain at this already difficult juncture.

This sounds so vibrantly painful, physically and emotionally. And this seems like one final unfair postscript to the whole trauma. For that I'm so sorry, but - again - please don't discount the likely capacity of your husband to love you just as you are.
posted by December at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Let me first address what I think is the irrelevant part here: while I for obvious reasons can't say for certain, it's entirely possible that he's seen this scar and doesn't realize it's a scar. People's nether parts have all sorts of oddities and developmental... I don't want to say "abnormalities," since that has such a loaded connotation, but really - a lot of people have discolorations and skin patches that look different than unmarred anatomic drawings or airbrushed magazine photos.

More importantly, from what you say, he's aware that you were sexually assaulted. If he ever does say "what's this scar?" you can simply respond that it's from your attack. And you don't have to say anything more than that.

There's no reason you should have to ever give a "graphic description" of what happened. This man loves you, and if you say "it's from the attack, and that's all I ever want to say about it" he's not going to push you about it. If you think telling him more than that will upset him - and it will obviously upset you - then don't.
posted by phearlez at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Am in a rush so apologies if this comment is terse or abrupt.

Your coping strategy seems to be, in part, avoidance/denial. Confronting and accepting your past may be a better route -- the clinical term is systematic desensitization. It may have been suggested to you by therapist -- it is well accepted as an effective way to deal with post-traumatic stress.

Plastic surgery sounds like a bad idea to me, like being in denial to the extreme. You need to talk about it, especially with DH whom you love. You might be surprised how much of a relief it is to share this with him. It won't be pleasant but as a caring person it's quite likely he will consider it a privilege to help you bear your pain, together.
posted by randomstriker at 2:55 PM on January 13, 2009

You have nothing to worry about. Nothing. I promise. Since you feel so uncomfortable about it, I would actually suggest you point it out and explain how self conscious you are about it. You don't have to go into detail, just say it was from the event that you told him about before. I suspect just addressing the issue will be a huge relief. Just talk to him so you can feel better. Don't be afraid, he loves you. This is part of love.
posted by Craig at 3:18 PM on January 13, 2009 [10 favorites]

From the way you describe your sex life, I'm guessing he's probably spent some time in intimate contact with your lady regions. If the scar is big enough to be seen, he has probably already noticed, and either assumed it's just a weird genitalia thing, or he's realized it is a scar and is being tactful about it. If you guys are active he is likely as familiar, if not more familiar with the visual appearance of your parts as you are, and the scar is not an issue he's felt it's worth bringing up.

However, if this is causing you enough pain that you're considering secret cosmetic surgery, this is definitely the sort of thing you should share with him. Not necessarily the details, just that it's making you upset. If he's a good guy he'll want to know so he can provide what support he can.
posted by schroedinger at 3:29 PM on January 13, 2009

I worry so much that it will so upset him to know the extent of my wounds

A guy who loves you enough to marry you is not going to think any less of you for this. The worst thing that could happen is that he feels more protective of you. I think you are concerned he'll think you're fragile (either physically or emotionally), and won't engage in playful, perhaps rough, sex or whatever it is you two like to do. I can understand your concern here, but I think you're much better off just telling him than having a secret surgery. How could you keep a surgery more secret than a scar, anyway? If he treats you gingerly after seeing the scar (which, as previously pointed out, he probably knows about anyway), then you need to be direct with him that you have moved past the attack and you want to continue the fun sex life you've had. If he's still acting like you're a delicate flower, he needs a therapist or doctor (especially if you have one who knows you well) to give him the green light.
posted by desjardins at 3:43 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

O.K. First:
Second: Just tell him. Sometime when you're sitting around the kitchen table having coffee and watching the birds at the feeder just mention it. Tell him it's been bothering you and you don't want it to be a big thing but trying to avoid it has been stressful. He'll get all teary and tell you how he admires your strength and your ability to integrate this experience into your self to become the amazing woman he has pledged his life to honor and protect, you'll both cry a little over innocence lost and the pain that has caused, then you'll hug and go about your day feeling a little stronger in your relationship.
I know it'll be O.K.
I promise.
posted by Floydd at 5:09 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Totally what Floydd said.

And also nthing that he's noticed it already, assumed where it came form, and out of deference for your feelings, chose to accept it as part of you and love you all the more for it.
posted by agentwills at 6:02 PM on January 13, 2009

Oh, honey.

Please don't feel like you have to hide this from the one person who you need to be able to trust. I know you know this, but it was not your fault, and it doesn't diminish the person that you are.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:29 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Communication, communication, communication. Really. Just bare your soul to him. Cry. Get mad. Let him get mad (at the attacker, not you.) Bring out all your feelings that you have been trying to hide. You are having trouble even thinking about talking about the attack and that makes me very sad for you, because you are giving that bastard, the man that hurt you, too much power over you. You are letting him intrude into what should be days of bliss and glory. So get it out, like a splinter. It may hurt at first, but you will feel so much better and I hope, it will become nothing but a bitter memory that fades with time. And don't worry about your husband. He has probably been walking on eggshells this whole time, afraid to intrude, afraid to ask for details.

I was raped as a child. My feeling is a great sex life is the best revenge.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:38 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am a guy and I have never been through anything like this. I am also not very emotional and it almost made me cry reading this.

He loves you. He is going to be upset that you had to go through this. That is part of what love is. He has probably already noticed, and I bet he doesn't/won't care about anything but who you feel. Don't subject yourself to surgery unless it is right for you. I would never want Mrs. Silvertree to go through something like that alone just for my benefit. You have a therapist, you might see what he/she suggests.

I am so sorry you went through that and I am very impressed that you have worked so hard to get in the place that you are. You should feel very, very good about yourself.
posted by Silvertree at 7:18 PM on January 13, 2009

I can't recall the last time I gazed at my girlfriend's anus and thought, "Hmm, I really need to ask her about the unusual appearance of that anus. That's something I really need to get closure on." So if you're waiting for that conversation to occur, you may be waiting a very long time. It might not be something that your husband ever thinks to inquire about.

That said, it sounds like this is something you want to discuss with your husband but are also afraid to bring up. That's a different issue, and one that has to do with trust, and intimacy, and your comfort zone. I think you should bring it up, when the time seems right - and trust him to respond in a way that is sensitive to your feelings and needs.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:14 PM on January 13, 2009

I agree with those who say that the likelihood of your husband asking about this is slim, but if you feel the need to get this out in the open, you should do so. If for no other reason than to have one less thing weighing on your mind.

Your husband loves you. You shouldn't be worried at all.

I wouldn't want my wife to try to protect me from something like this if deep down she wanted to discuss it. I'd want her to share that load with me. That's what I'm here for.
posted by YFiB at 7:15 AM on January 14, 2009

[This is a followup from anonymous.]

I am grateful for all of your thoughtful responses. And touched. Because for some reason I thought I was going to get a lot of practical advice on what is possible in terms of repair and how to talk to a doctor about it. And I would have thought it quite helpful. But not nearly as helpful as the answers you all gave.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on January 14, 2009

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