Lesbian assault help
December 3, 2009 1:00 PM   Subscribe

My first lesbian experience quickly became assault. What do I do to take care of myself now?

While I'm a queer female, I've never actually been with a woman before. I was at an event that promoted safe exploration of female sexuality. I'd sussed out the org for a while and did research before going in; they had a long list of rules and procedures and had a history of organising such events so I figured I'd be OK.

I spent most of the night observing what was going on before jumping in. Unfortunately I happened to get the one psycho of the group - a crazy hyperactive (later I found out she was drunk) girl who didn't know what she was going, was rough to the point of pain and bleeding, and was very insistent. Despite me begging her to stop and be gentle (she knew it was my first time), she kept going, or she'd change up and then go back to being rough and painful.

I was in near shock and it didn't hit me that it was assault until I got into the taxi home and started crying. Ever since then I've been having flashes of memories, the smell of people's bodies would set me off, and I just feel so lost.

I've been talking to some friends (esp those active with the queer community here) and they've been fantastic with support and resources. But I'm not sure where I can go for help. Looking up "lesbian assault" on Google gets me porn. A lot of the abuse/assault resources are for women attacked by men; not so much for women attacked by women.

I've emailed the organiser (though I think she knew what happened already, just emphasising the gravity of the situation) and I have a doctor's appointment today to check that there hasn't been terrible damage. I did use to see a psychologist for other things, but I'm not sure if queer sexuality is an area she's experienced in. But where to now? I'm going to a big family event overseas in a couple of weeks and they're really conservative (even my very liberal sister was a little bit judgemental when I told her) and I don't want to start breaking down halfway through the event. My boyfriend has been really supportive of everything, but I don't want to rely on him alone for help.

What can I do to take care of myself? Where can I go? (I live in Brisbane) I seem to go from feeling OK to feeling like crap as a yoyo. I keep feeling like I should apologize to someone but I don't know who. I don't want to press charges - I don't want to go through that whole process and I hardly remember the other girl's name. I just want to be able to heal.

Emails can be sent into agirlinpain@care2.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been a situation of lesbian date-rape, it's awful. Go to your psychologist, if she's not able to help you, she can refer you to someone who is.

Be gentle with yourself. Don't apologize. THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. If you don't want to disclose exactly what happened to your family, just say that you had a really bad experience recently and you're getting over it, but you're still a little sensitive. No need to go into detail and don't worry about breaking down. You can be safe and vulnerable with people without telling them exactly what happened. In fact, you can say exactly that - "I need to cry a bit, but I don't really want to talk, would that be ok?"

You will heal, physically and emotionally. In the mean time, just be good to yourself and remember that this was NOT. YOUR. FAULT.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am sorry for what happened to you. Know that while survivors in some respect have little agency over how their bodies and minds recover, you are doing a very courageous and good thing by purposely seeking out resources to offer you comfort and hope. My favorite resource is the message board of Pandora's Aquarium. It's a large group of overwhelmingly caring survivors and supporters. It helped me immensely for many months. It also has a relatively active LGBT forum where I'm sure you could find some more specific support.

One thing I learned in therapy was to retell my story (on paper, or to the therapist), over and over again. It helped to make the experience less foreign and less startling (when it appeared in my head) and helped to realize what situations or emotions would trigger flashbacks or sadness.

Other things that helped: be methodical about comforting yourself. It helps to think, how would you comfort another person who has just been hurt? Make a list of 15 things you can do to find calm (take a bath, light a candle, etc). Keep a notebook stuffed with messages or images of solace, along with printed-out emails of comfort. Perhaps acquire some item, like a blanket, to symbolize your survival. Don't be afraid to move slowly from time to time. It will get better, but it might get worse before it gets better. It helps to be prepared. Don't be afraid to be silly, or corny, or achingly sad, or anything else.
posted by acidic at 1:21 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

(link to pandora's aquarium forums and main site-- the forums require quick moderator approval, but there's a great deal of public info while you wait a day or two)
posted by acidic at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2009

Rape crisis centers are there for any sexual assault. Contact BRISSC.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconding talking to the psychologist you went to before about this. Your rape (assault, if you prefer the term) needs to be addressed, and the whole "lesbian sexuality" side is really secondary to the trauma and stress you are suffering as a result of the attack. Your psychologist can help you deal with what is essentially PTSD and help you work your way through to recovery. Talking it out in a non-judgmental setting is the first step.

I am so sorry that this happened to you, and I hope you do find help.
posted by misha at 1:34 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, a psychologist is absolutely necessary. But also the police, because she's no less culpable than a male rapist and she will likely do it again to someone else.
posted by mattholomew at 1:58 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Depending on how old you are, ZigZag might be able to help. I found their services invaluable. If they can't help you directly, they'll have the resources to help you find someone who can. That's if you're in Brisbane Australia.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:20 PM on December 3, 2009

deciding to report a rape/assault is an incredibly personal and private decision. choosing to be revictimized by the police in a case which will probably end in a not guilty verdict isn't automatically the best choice. and using guilt against a victim ("she will likely do it again") isn't helpful.

go to your shrink and if they seem unwilling or unable to help you, here is a list of resources i found from RAINN. RAINN is centered around the US but their page has a lot of resources which you might find helpful.

there is no right answer or right path to becoming healthy. for me, therapy didn't work and made things worse. for others, it's a godsend. during my most confusing years, a mailing list for survivors/tori amos fans was the most useful (it is sadly defunct now, i think), along with reading about eastern religions/meditation/thought focusing.

for finding specific to your circumstances resources online, might i suggest a google search for lesbian domestic violence date rape. some of these results are very clinical papers and some are "how to get help" resources. you might find that reading other people's personal stories is helpful and you might find that they are emotionally triggering (triggers are something you'll sadly probably become really well acquainted with, it's the term used for things like "Ever since then I've been having flashes of memories, the smell of people's bodies would set me off, and I just feel so lost.").

your journey to being ok will probably not be an easy one, but you are not alone. if you need anything further, or just an ear to bend, feel free to memail me.
posted by nadawi at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry to hear about your experience. It's your choice whether you want to define it as "assault" or "rape" because you were there and I wasn't, but please don't feel like the word "rape" is reserved only for male offenders, or that people will disbelieve you if you choose to use that language.

I don't know enough about Brisbane to know whether or not the first people you turn to for help will have experience with helping victims of woman-on-women sex crimes, but if they don't have the information they need to help you, I want to encourage you to state your truths and know that if they don't get it, they're the ones who need more education. You were the victim of a crime, and my thoughts and good wishes are with you as you do all the hard work of working through this traumatic experience.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:47 PM on December 3, 2009

If you decide your previous therapist really is not the right one for this situation, then I would think your local LGBT resource center would also have references for therapists in the area that are LGBT and kink-community friendly, and possibly familiar with trauma therapy as well. Most large cities have therapists who are experienced with these issues in a non-judgmental way. A little Google-fu came up with this site.
posted by ga$money at 3:48 PM on December 3, 2009

Mod note: Updated the email address.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:07 PM on December 3, 2009

Others above mention BRISSC; my experience with them is limited but I once knew a few people who worked there and they were very queer-friendly.

I was able to get referrals to psychologists specialising in serving the queer community (just as a means of assuring queer-friendliness) by seeing doctors at the Gladstone Road Medical Centre (Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill), which is also queer-orientated. The Stonewall Medical Centre at Windsor is also queer-friendly and many people rave about a GP there, Dr Wendell Rosevear, who's known for being a great counsellor and I believe offers services just as part of GP visits (so, non-expensive).

Also (and if you need to talk to someone before you can set something like that up) the GLWA Gay Line/Lesbian Line peer counselling phone line (despite the name) caters for more than just G & Ls and may have more contacts/resources in their database that they could tell you about: (07) 3017 1717 between 7-10pm every night.
posted by springbound at 2:16 AM on December 4, 2009

I've emailed the organiser

This person owes you at least some legwork on whatever help you need from a professional perspective. On the face of it they fucked up pretty badly.
posted by rodgerd at 11:08 AM on December 4, 2009

If you're feeling at the end of your rope and not sure where to go, try the resources you've mentioned: rape crisis counseling, and the psychologist you know. They might not specialize in exactly what happened to you, but don't make too much of your particular circumstances. You've been violated, you're experiencing some PTSD. People have seen these things before and can help. Consider if you're experiencing shame, too, and if that is preventing you from asking for help. Do you want someone who specializes in exactly these circumstances because you think others will judge, etc? Don't let shame prevent you from asking for help. Best of luck.
posted by scarabic at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2009

Mod note: This is another followup from anonymous.
Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. The doctors didn't find anything obvious, but since my body was spasming too much they asked me to come back next week to do a closer examination. I also have an appointment with my psychologist booked for the coming week, and have called a couple of helplines.

It's weird. I don't really feel overwhelmingly angry or sad or whatever. Right now I feel really distant, like this is something that happened to someone else. I could probably remember the details if I wanted to but I don't really want to (it'd be like remembering a bad porn). I feel a bit like a slut for having gone to such an event and being involved in the first place - I know intellectually it's not my fault but still. Hm.

This year and a bit has been a pretty interesting one with regards to my sexuality - I started burlesque performing, I've been doing tons of research and reading about the area, I've been involved with sexuality-related arts and community projects. And yet reading up about all sorts of alternative expressions of sexuality never does prepare you for assault. Nothing does I suppose.

All I really want right now is a house full of friends and a cup of tea. Hopefully I won't have a breakdown overseas. Is there an email counselling service I could use for then?
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:50 PM on December 4, 2009

RAINN offers online support.

the distance you're feeling is very common. prepare yourself for the idea that the shock will wear off, that things will become more vivid. if you try to hard to push things down, you might find them coming back up at exactly the wrong time.

learn about sexual abuse/date rape/acquaintance rape. make it part of your studies into alternative sexualities. you might be surprised to see just how common it is to feel like it's your fault. maybe in reading other people's stories, you'll realize more truths about your own.

you went to an event to have some fun and fool around. you did NOT go there to get assaulted. you did NOT go there to have someone ignore your no. you did NOT invite this upon yourself. you do NOT deserve this.
posted by nadawi at 3:01 PM on December 4, 2009

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