Why did she tell me she was raped?
October 24, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

The girl I've been dating for two months told me she was raped five years ago. What could be her motivation for telling me now?

After two months and nine dates (including an overnight at her place without sex), the girl I'm dating confided in me one evening at my apartment that she was raped five years earlier while in college. She told me that she had never been able to have a healthy sexual or romantic relationship with a man since her rape, until she met me. She said that I am a good person, that I showed her it's possible for her to perhaps love again, and to be open to a sexual relationship down the road.

I was supportive, thanking her for trusting me enough to share this with me and asked if there were anything I could do to be even more supportive and in her corner. She said that she would need time and my patience as she discusses this new development (dating me, being interested in an LTR) with her therapist.

Then she said something along the lines of this:

I am just really grateful that I met you and that you'll be there for me, although I may end up deciding that I'd rather explore my dating options now that I might be ready instead of settling with the first guy I am attracted to.

I said that I understand and appreciate her honesty and gave her a hug. She said not to contact her until she contacts me first, which could be a few weeks at least. She thanked me again and then she left.

I really like this girl. I would wait months if I have to, because she is just one of those rare good people you meet who are worth waiting for.

I feel conflicted, however: on the one hand she cares about me and trusts me enough to share this experience with me, but on the other wants to keep her dating options open, as if I were just a friend and not the man she has been going out with for the last six or seven weeks or talking on the phone for hours on end.

This thread provided some perspective before I wrote this: http://ask.metafilter.com/174696/Why-did-she-tell-me-she-was-raped

I want to do the right thing, but what is it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what all there is for you to do. She said not to contact her, and that she "may" end up deciding she'd rather date other people. I think you're free to date others, should you want to.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:52 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

This one is out of your hands, unfortunately. If it were just about you and her, I'd say to keep an effort to stay in friendly contact, but this is about you, her, and her demons that you can't touch.

Respect her wishes. Set a date you'll wait until, if you're so inclined, and then move on.
posted by zug at 7:55 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The right thing to do is not contact her until she contacts you first, like she asked. In cases like this (i.e. being told when it is okay to talk to someone) the right thing is, always, 100% of the time, to do what the other person asks.

I wouldn't wait, though. This honestly sounds like you've been dumped by someone who is not good at dumping people.
posted by griphus at 7:55 AM on October 24, 2012 [54 favorites]

I would take her at her word. Wait to copntact her. In the mean time, go about your life. If you meet someone, great.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:57 AM on October 24, 2012

You listen to what she told you. It sounds like she was very straight forward; she'll contact you when she's ready, whenever that may be.

I wouldn't hold my breath for her.... it may be best to start exploring other options.
posted by Diskeater at 7:57 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't wait, though. This honestly sounds like you've been dumped by someone who is not good at dumping people.

Yeah, I'm afraid I agree with this. I don't know what was going on for this woman, and why she told you what she told you, but her final request sounds pretty unequivocal. It also sounds more like she is unlikely to contact you than she is to contact you, given everything else you've written.
posted by OmieWise at 7:59 AM on October 24, 2012 [19 favorites]

The right thing to do is to move on. She has broken up with you. In the exceedingly unlikely case she does contact you again, you can decide at that point what you want to do regarding getting back together with her and/or any other relationships you may be in at that time, but waiting for her is not a reasonable strategy.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Time to move on. You can't have your cake and eat it.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:03 AM on October 24, 2012

It's not that she sees you as just a friend, but it could be that she's going to want to move on from this stage of her healing process, and you're an integral part of this stage. Right guy, wrong time maybe.

But think of it this way. At the absolute worst, you have helped a traumatized person who thought she was broken feel safe and open and free to explore her own emotions again. That is one hell of an impact to have in the world.
posted by headnsouth at 8:06 AM on October 24, 2012 [74 favorites]

Take her at her word that she needs some time to work this out in her head. I know when I have to face issues within a relationship, I need some time alone to work things out. I think it's a much more gracious way of thinking about her than she's dumping you by hiding out behind a rape curtain like a few people here suggest. I know she said not to contact her, but I think if you haven't heard from her in a few weeks, it would be okay to do so and ask if you should expect the relationship to continue at all.
posted by greta simone at 8:07 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

You were dumped just then.

The title of this should be "why was I dumped."

Time to move on.
posted by French Fry at 8:07 AM on October 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

Normally, when a woman dates somebody purely for emotional validation for two months, has no sex with him, and then dumps him to have sexual relationships with other men, the guy is entitled to feel a bit angry and used. Notice how this didn't happen in your case? The reason she told you she was raped was so that your first instinct would be to show compassion for her instead of getting angry about how you got played.

In the future, remember this: just because somebody got raped doesn't mean that they can't also be a selfish human being. The two are not mutually exclusive.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2012 [23 favorites]

No idea if she's awkwardly dumping you or if she's just overwhelmed and needs some breathing room. Either way, take her at her word and don't contact her. It sounds like she's got a lot of things to work through before she's mentally ready for a relationship, and she knows it. She could have handled it better and left it less open-ended, but given what she's gone through and where her mind is, I'd give her credit for being open with you about her feelings.

It's almost never a good idea to wait for someone to decide that they like you, even if they are ultimately worth it. Just like she has to take care of herself first, you have to take care of yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

To my ears you've just met someone who has demanded empathy from you and given remarkably little back.

She's going to date other people and doesn't want you to contact her. She has dumped you, yes, but she's also kept you tucked in the back pocket for hard times in the event she changes her mind.

I sympathise with her history, but her behaviour here does not do credit to the idea that she values you or respects you.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:17 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

I will offer a little personal experience as context:

In high-school my best friend (female) was brutally assaulted by one of our teachers. I was involved in the trial and afterwords I was the majority of her emotional support system for about a year. It was a hard time, she was destroyed, and getting her back to her life in even the most basic sense took a long time. I would help her get to therapy, visit her in-patient facility when she was hospitalized, walk her everywhere as her escort, let her cry though every hoodie i owned. The works. Probably the most decent thing I did before 22 (I was mostly a shitbag). We were enormously close.

But after a while we just couldn't be friends anymore. While she was like a sister to me, our friendship was just too wrapped up in the rape. That event defined our relationship. For her to move on, I just couldn't be a part of her life. I had essentially become a passive trigger.

To give this girl the benefit of the doubt, it's possible that revealing the trauma to you made you too close to it. It's not anybodies fault, but it's likely she won't ever want to be in a sexual relationship with you. So as above:

Time to move on.
posted by French Fry at 8:19 AM on October 24, 2012 [15 favorites]

She probably means what she said. She has a difficult time interacting with men but the way you treated her was so respectful/kind/pleasant that she became hopeful that men can be romantic partners for her, and that is a huge compliment. At the same time, realizing that a healthy relationship is an option is such a huge change for her that she needs time and space to re-orient herself and figure out what she wants.

You raised her standards, basically, by giving her hope . It's bittersweet.

Or she's bad at dumping people, but I generally give people who disclose rape the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming they're trying to manipulate.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:20 AM on October 24, 2012 [39 favorites]

Normally, when a woman dates somebody purely for emotional validation for two months, has no sex with him, and then dumps him to have sex with other men, the guy is entitled to feel a bit angry and used. Notice how this didn't happen in your case? The reason she told you she was raped was so that your first instinct would be to show compassion for her instead of getting angry about how you got played.

That's bull. OP, I think she's trying to figure out how to be as normal as possible and heal, so she doesn't feel traumatized again or get used.

You didn't get played. Women do not disclose being raped easily. She's going through a lot and probably wants to be healthy, in a healthy mindset, and has experience approaching relations healthily.
posted by discopolo at 8:23 AM on October 24, 2012 [16 favorites]

Yeah, I just wanted to clarify my comment in light of what I consider a bunch of distasteful comments re this woman manipulating you: given all she said, it does not sound like she will be calling you again, but as you've presented it here what she said seems sincere and not manipulative. Rape is incredibly shitty and often raises very complex feelings and sequelae for the survivor. There can easily be so much weird contradictory stuff to work out that survivors have a hard time recognizing it all themselves, let alone talking about it coherently. It sounds like this woman did a pretty good job.
posted by OmieWise at 8:26 AM on October 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

Or she's bad at dumping people, but I generally give people who disclose rape the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming they're trying to manipulate.

Er, I just want to make it clear that my "bad at dumping people" assertion is specifically and exclusively regarding the "maybe sometime later but don't talk to me for now" part and only that part. I'm not going to pretend to know or try to guess how letting you know she was raped figures into this.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on October 24, 2012

I should say changed her standards instead of raised them...it's something that happens when our view of the world changes. Our desires and priorities change as well. Sounds like that's what she is dealing with.

If this is a big deal for you, maybe take a few months off from actively dating. When someone seems once-in-a-lifetime they're hard to shake. When you're ready to let it go, let it go.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2012

I was in a brief relationship with a similar dynamic (although not identical - in my case it was disclosed up front, and it was not rape-related) and it also ended without any particular fireworks not long after we got over some of those hurdles. I often describe that relationship as my stint as a sex therapist, but I don't have any particular resentment about it - she needed someone non-threatening to work through these issues with, and we weren't all that well-matched other than that.

So yeah, I agree with the majority that the relationship is likely over for good, but I do want to add that you should walk away from it feeling good about yourself rather than the opposite. You may not be the perfect long-term fit, but it sounds like you were the perfect fit for something she really needed, and that's not all that easy to find.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think people are bring overly harsh about her behavior. Here's another possibility: it's common for people to freak out after hearing about a woman's rape experience. It's common for men to get angry, want to track down the rapist and beat him up, or have other intense reactions. It is also common for men to blame women for their rape and not want to date them once the rape is disclosed. It may be that she isn't ready to deal with your intense response, so she is taking a break to let you sort our how you feel for a couple weeks, and then she will check back in to see if you are still interested.

Disclosing a rape is also an intense emotional experience for her, she may want to be alone for a bit after doing that.

Also, it is very common for rape survivors to take sex slow in new relationships. (Guys who are harshing on her for not having sex within two months, what the fuck is wrong with you?) If you want lots of sex right away, this is not the relationship for you.
posted by medusa at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]

My read is that, yes, you got dumped. But she's been on a journey of discovery for herself and she wanted to tell you that you were a good person, were there for her, helped her grow, but that you're not the right guy for her.

And sometimes you don't realize that until 2 months in. Sometimes not until much later. Don't contact her until contacted. Move on.
posted by inturnaround at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

When people tell you who they are, listen and believe them.

It doesn't sound like she's telling you she's playing you, or that she's manipulative. She's telling you she's processing some really tough shit and needs some space to do that. She's also not just disappearing without an explanation.

Take her at her word. There are few things worse than sharing an experience and having someone respond, "I think you might be messing with me, consciously or not."

Seriously, that sentiment is so sucky to receive, I cannot even say. Please believe that her motivation is exactly what she says it is. Aside from the dangers of disclosing rape (not being believed; getting raped again is not unheard of, sadly; constantly having the person you disclosed to asking "are you really sure you want this? really really sure? Is this ok? Are you having fun? Tell me when to stop, ok?" (Being the sexual partner that (re)acclimates a rape victim to tender loving sexy sex can be very very stressful, and there is not really a lesson plan for how to be that person, so there is no standard response.)
posted by bilabial at 8:35 AM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

I should also clarify that I don't ascribe any negative or manipulative qualities to what this girl has done. I can't begin to imagine what a difficult process she is going through, and really, her honesty and explicitness in what she wants you to do next (not contact her) is much healthier and easier for you than stringing you along while she works through her issues.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:35 AM on October 24, 2012

Oof. That is rough.

Sometimes people are just really "in their process," which is sometimes necessary, to the point of not being able to deal properly with other people. These things happen.

Your question, reasonably, is now: what is the right thing to do now? Well she told you to go away, so, off you go.

When and if she picks this up again, just remember to be true to yourself. You're a person too. Your feelings matter. If you're game to do things in this highly deliberate and therapist-mediated way, great! Just keep an eye on yourself.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I want to do the right thing, but what is it?

Don't contact her. The next contact will come from her if it's going to happen. Be prepared for the possibility that it's never going to come; don't wait around for her. Live your live and meet people and see what's what out there.

Disclaimer: I am reading this post through the lens of my own experiences and may be wrong, but I'd be very comfortable betting that I'm not. Check it out:

She said that I am a good person, that I showed her it's possible for her to perhaps love again, and to be open to a sexual relationship down the road.

This is breakup language. She is couching everything in language that is complimentary and conciliatory. It's a statement of assessment, basically - she's looking back on her relationship with you and thinking in terms of "What did I learn from this?"

Then she said something along the lines of this:

I am just really grateful that I met you and that you'll be there for me

In a different context, this would be a sweet thing to say, but in context it sounds like breakup language.

although I may end up deciding

Again, my own personal experience, but I cannot think of a single exception to this I've ever seen, and again I'd be fairly comfortable putting a wager on this: Every time anyone's said "I may end up deciding not to keep dating you," what they mean is, "I'm not going to decide to keep dating you." All of this points to her trying to be kind about breaking up with you. She's trying to soften the blow. Society has a lot to tell us about how to handle being dumped, but very little about how to dump someone, so a lot of people tend to put things in soft, confusing language, thinking they're being kind about it.

that I'd rather explore my dating options

This was the tell, for me. This is someone who says "Explore my dating options" when what she means is "Not date you anymore." She's trying to be kind about all of it.

She said not to contact her until she contacts me first, which could be a few weeks at least.

She gave you a noncommittal timeframe which is at least a few weeks - a long time, when relationships are involved - and asked that you not contact her until she contacts you. It's really likely that she said this because she's figuring that by setting an indefinite period of no contact, you'll eventually meet someone else or stop being so into her or whatever. Maybe she's the one exception to this, but honestly I doubt it.

She thanked me again and then she left.

Thanking someone at the end of a conversation like that is, again, breakup language.

You got dumped. Don't wait around for her. Let yourself be a little sad and angry for a while and resist the temptation to talk shit about her or contact her looking for answers. She's dealing with a big thing in her own way, and she's a human being so the process is halting and imperfect. But - at least for now - it's entirely off your plate.

Date other people when you're ready. You're ready when you stop feeling a little tightness in your chest when you think of this girl, and even then, give it a couple more weeks. Spend time with friends.

If she contacts you again, treat it as a pleasant surprise, but don't expect it. If she does, she'll have been spending a while in therapy dealing with all this and will be able to explain what you can do that's helpful in terms of the rape. In that case, my advice will be that you should listen to her and treat her with patience and an open mind.

Anyway, good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:50 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Don't be anyone's backup option. Find yourself someone else, and think of the time invested with her as charity so you don't get too bitter about it
posted by MangyCarface at 9:00 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry friend, you were dumped.

She has a crazy-assed way of doing it, but you've been told that you're not the one. Not unless all these other guys she's considering bomb out, and then maybe you can buy her dinner.

The brilliant part of this is that if you discontinue contact, you're the asshole because you did it because she was raped (that's the story she'll tell) and if you don't then you're her backup and who wants to be that.

So write her off and rethink your opinion of her, because I don't think she sounds like "a rare good person who is worth waiting for."

She didn't ask you to wait while she got her head together, she asked you to wait while she fucks some other guys.

So. No.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:29 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'll the devil's advocate here, or rather, a concurring opinion with slightly different reasoning. I agree that based on what you've written, the only "right thing" we can tell you to do is to respect her wishes. However, I'm not sure I agree with the more general sentiments.

The prevailing opinion in this thread is that if a person walks away from you, then you must take them at their word. I don't think that is reality. Some people want to be chased. Some people have an emotional need to be pursued, to know in a charged moment that they are wanted and to feel that by seeing that the other person will not let them go easily. This is a real thing, it exists, and it is not uncommon. And pursuing a person in this circumstance, or even attempting to pursue to discover if this is the circumstance you're in, is not the same as stalking or harassing or behaving in a harmful manner. Like most things, and like some people have been discussing in this thread, it's all in the context and execution.

I can imagine a scenario that is not far-fetched, based on the facts you laid out, where a person might reveal something she is afraid will make her unwanted, and then walk away to discover if you will follow. Not necessarily because she is insincere or playing games. She might really believe that walking away is necessary for her, but she might also really want to be chased and "caught," to feel wanted and safe.

But here's the thing. Here on AskMe, we are working in a very limited format. We don't have anything more than the cold prose on our screens, which depicts (1) only your side, (2) only a glimpse into that, and (3) only through our own perceptions and biases as readers. It is possible, I think, that this girl wants you to come after her. It is equally possible that she wants you to leave her alone unless she contacts you first. Both these things happen. Both these "types" of people exist. We can't know who she is. And you have given us absolutely no reason or evidence, in your post, for us to think that she wants you to come after her.

So to the extent we're saying that you must always throw your hands up when a person turns away, I disagree with that. But in the particular question you have asked, I do agree that the closest we can give you to a "right thing" is to let her go and move on yourself.

I'm sorry you are hurting. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 9:31 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

I want to do the right thing, but what is it?

Most importanly, respect her wishes and don't contact her.

You may or may not hear back from her. Even if she does contact you, it may not be to tell you that she is interested in continuing to date you. I would suggest that you take a few weeks to grieve over the likely loss of this relationship and then move on. If she does get in touch and wants to resume a romantic relationship, that's great, but don't count on it happening.

I wouldn't take anything she's done or said as indicating that she's been dishonest or manipulative. I think some comments above are overly judgmental. You are the one who has spent time with her. Trust your judgment that she's a good person and just know that sometimes things don't work out with good people. Sometimes we meet people at the wrong time. Sometimes the chemistry just isn't there.
posted by Area Man at 9:41 AM on October 24, 2012

Normally, when a woman dates somebody purely for emotional validation for two months, has no sex with him, and then dumps him to have sexual relationships with other men, the guy is entitled to feel a bit angry and used.

I find this transactional view of relationships a little gross. Moving on.

Some people want to be chased.

This is sometimes true, even when they've said the opposite. However, pursuing someone who says they want the exact opposite of what they actually want is a recipe for a bad relationship.

So even if it were true here (and I really, really doubt it), you'd be much better off letting this one go.
posted by grouse at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm seriously shocked at some of the vitriol being expressed in this thread. How does that help anyone? So, if you pre-emptively assume that she's trying to fuck you over, then you can retreat into a shell of bitterness and cold rage and you'll never, ever, ever get hurt again? Frankly, that sounds like a really unpleasant way to live. From my perspective, it seems like a far better idea to take a risk on trusting her, even if that means that you might get hurt.

Here's my idea. How about you treat her AS IF she's the honest, reasonable, non-manipulative, caring person you believe her to be. Respect her request for space, wait for whatever you think a reasonable amount of time is -- I'd guess something in the range between 2 weeks and 2 months -- and see if she contacts you again. IF you're right, then you will have given her the space she asked for and earned her trust even if she ultimately decides that she can't be with you right now. IF you're wrong, then -- oh well. At least you will have given it a good faith effort and not acted like an asshole -- and I think that will ultimately make it easier for you to learn and move on from this experience. I think you're well along this path already -- good for you.
posted by ourobouros at 9:48 AM on October 24, 2012 [21 favorites]

Normally, when a woman dates somebody purely for emotional validation for two months, has no sex with him, and then dumps him to have sexual relationships with other men, the guy is entitled to feel a bit angry and used. Notice how this didn't happen in your case? The reason she told you she was raped was so that your first instinct would be to show compassion for her instead of getting angry about how you got played.

OBJECTION! Assumes facts not in evidence.

You don't know if that's the reason why she dated him. In fact, I find it entirely unlikely that's why she dated him. She likely dated him because he's a likeable guy. It's easy to say "No, I don't want to date this jerk and I want nothing to do with them." It's harder to be seeing a nice guy and know that you're just not right for each other. Seriously, that's what I think happened here.

She owed him nothing but the truth and the truth is what he got, however poorly presented.
posted by inturnaround at 10:08 AM on October 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

I disagree with those who say you've been dumped. It sounds to me like she was trying to be honest with you and process some complicated feelings. However, I do agree that you should respect her wishes and let her contact you first, and that you shouldn't actively wait for her. Just try to get involved with other things in your life for a while and if she calls, she calls, if she doesn't you'll move on eventually.
posted by Rinoia at 10:25 AM on October 24, 2012

It sounds to me like she was trying to be honest with you and process some complicated feelings.

That is not incompatible with dumping Anonymous. She said she wants to see other people and for Anonymous not to contact her. If that's not being dumped, I don't know what is.
posted by grouse at 10:27 AM on October 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Man, people are harsh. You say she's a nice gal. She's a nice gal that's conflicted with regard to relationships. Sounds like she's doing the best she can for her own mental health and being entirely honest with you about what's going on. That's a good thing. Becoming involved with the first guy that treats her right after her rape? Not smart for both of you. Good on her for putting some distance.

She'll either call or she won't. Don't get in contact with her. Do continue on with your life, including dating. Don't obsess waiting for her. If she calls back, then assess where you are and decide whether or not to continue your relationship. If you do, take it slow.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:34 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You've been dumped. It was a tentatively phrased deal, which is understandable, because the thing everyone is missing is that she hasn't had a standard sexual or romantic relationship since college, with tremendously unfortunate but understandable reason. Someone who's been checked out of dating since college isn't going to roar right out of the gate with a cushioned, tactful, 8.4 Best New Dumping. They're figuring this out too.

What she's saying, basically, is that she trusts you enough to share something that is very scary and often risky to admit to anyone, let alone men (fuck you very much, societal attitudes toward rape), but she doesn't feel like she can date you. Whether that means she doesn't feel like she can date you now, or whether she feels like she can date anyone else, now or anytime else, is immaterial.

It's probably OK to send a no-pressure email or whatever in a month to check in, as long as it truly is no-pressure. You can date other people if you like and if you feel like that's right for you. Just don't tell her if you do. It's not that you're in the wrong but that it would be a very bad thing for her to hear.

(Also, I really really really don't agree with all the people insinuating that she's "crazy" or that she's manipulative or a user. Even if it weren't a gendered thing, generally, when people are raped, particularly when it affects them enough to have an impact on their relationships for years, their thoughts are not "oh boy! Now I have this awesome tool at my disposal!" She's in therapy, she's trying to figure out healthy relationships, she's not trying to become dependent on you or vice versa. None of these things point to being "crazy" so much as they point to trying and being responsible.)
posted by dekathelon at 10:35 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've known a number of rape survivors who have simply freaked the hell out the first time they got into the possibility of a long-term healthy relationship, because it brought up a lot of self-doubt left over from the assault. Pulling away for a bit was generally the healthiest response for most of them (and better than things like self-harm, drugs or alcohol, or cheating, which are also fairly common responses to the situation). It sounds like she's trying to manage her anxiety about your relationship by pulling out of it for a bit.

If you're willing to wait, I think she very well might come back to you, but it's certainly a possibility that she's just not ready for an intense relationship yet.
posted by jaguar at 10:54 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Using even the best, most forgiving read of her statements: I'd advise you not to contact her for at least a month, AND to be open to moving on with someone else. You don't need to go out actively seeking someone new if you don't feel like that -- in fact, if you don't feel like actively seeking, you shouldn't anyway on general principle -- but you should NOT wait around for her to recover, get her head straight, or decide she really is interested in you.

The no-pressure how-you-doing? email in a month or so is reasonable, particularly if you aren't seeing someone else by then. But putting yourself on hold for her is only going to hurt you, and you need to think of yourself. Again, in the best of all reads of her situation, you've already done her a massive favor and you should feel good for that. But there are too many other potential variables here and you have to do what's right by YOU.

I don't really care for the harsh "yeah you got dumped" or "she's being manipulative" commentary here, but even if it's correct, the attitude is irrelevant. She needs space and has said so, therefore she's out of the picture and you need to think about yourself.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really like cribcage's second paragraph. I can well see that being the case here -- that she feels you can't accept her because of the rape and she wants you to prove you can accept her and do really want her, etc. But here is the thing: For a rape victim, that is a powder keg and you really don't want it going off in your face.

I was molested and raped as a kid. I am extremely open about that, so it isn't some special mark of trust if I mention it. But for many rape victim's, telling you about it is a huge trust issue. It sounds to me like she really meant all the nice things she said about you. It sounds to me like she is scared of how much she likes you. This is an emotional powder keg for her. There may be nothing you can do about that. If you don't have the savvy to just know the right response, it might be best for both of you to let this go rather than open up a can of worms and step into all kinds of drama.

However, if you want to give it a go: I have known men who were good at making me feel they really wanted me without making me feel "clearly, you are a dangerous asshole and potential rapist!" I found such men really baffling for a long time, so be prepared for her to not know how to respond (which is a positive because she is searching for something not already in her standard defensive arsenal). These men generally made themselves available and accessible without being too pushy. They backed off when something bothered me but did not go away or leave me alone or make me feel abandoned. They refused to engage in a push-pull dynamic and knew how to sidestep and disengage from such behavior. They did not let me hang my crap on them but were not ugly in pointing out that my assumption was in error. They made good judgement calls about how and when to pull me closer and did not just let things stay at arm's length. But I really can't tell you how to pull that last thing off. I think it is still a personal blindspot.

Best of luck. And if she never comes back, I hope you can find a way to look upon this as a special personal experience which you can cherish in some way. Sometimes we are privileged to be important to someone's soul even though we don't walk all that long with them.
posted by Michele in California at 11:16 AM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

When I told my ex about being sexually assaulted, it was because I needed him to understand that for us to have a healthy, sexy relationship, he would need to be aware that certain things and behaviors might make me uncomfortable due to the baggage I was carrying around. I felt I was doing the right thing because I was still recovering and I wanted him to understand that I wasn't using him to get over what had happened. It was hard to tell him, but he responded kindly and was extra thoughtful and considerate about power play during sex, coming up from behind me to surprise me, and other things he accurately deduced might affect me negatively as we moved forward with our relationship. I didn't say what I said to dump him. I said it so he knew what I was going to need and that there were certain things that would make me anxious. I therefore don't think you've been dumped, but rather just made aware that this girl is processing a lot of new and healthy stuff.

Now, you are under no obligation to stick around while she works through this stuff. If you are willing to wait and see what happens, cool. If you wanna move on, cool. The only thing that would be uncool would be to resent her for revealing this part of her history to you. My ex is my ex because he resented me for what the assault reveal did to our relationship dynamic (he felt he couldn't relax around me even though all I needed was someone to be kind, respectful, and loving). Just some thoughts from someone who's been there.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:12 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Rape is traumatic. It sticks with you, even after you've processed and talked and medicated and worked through. And it makes every relationship afterwords a little more complicated because it's always there. The world we live in teaches us that it was somehow our fault, that we could have prevented it. And some guys, not all guys, but some guys have a tendency to view you as damaged goods if you disclose the truth. Trust isn't something that comes easy. And neither is saying "no". Saying "no" becomes the thing you were punished for. By the rapist, by the authorities that didn't believe you, by the friends that left you because you were too much to deal with. You want to be in a relationship and be "normal" and sometimes you are *almost* there and you realize you are just.not.ready. That's what this sounds like. She got close, realized she wasn't ready, or got scared, or whatever. And she was honest. You've done big things for her by just being there and believing her. Pursuing her further will only push her further away. It's her choice now.
posted by picklesthezombie at 12:38 PM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Rape can be an incredibly difficult, complicated thing to work through. It can completely destroy your trust in men, no matter how much you want to rebuild it. She met you, you were very kind to her, she saw herself learning to trust again, and she realized that she wasn't completely emotionally present and she couldn't handle the intimacy. I truly do not believe she was trying to manipulate you into feeling sorry for her; that would be an extreme degree of manipulation, something someone with Borderline Personality Disorder would do, maybe. I have never been raped, and I can't even imagine "using" a rape story that way.

If I were you, I would move on and continue dating others. She may or may not get in contact with you in the future. I wouldn't hold my breath-- when you are dealing with the kind of emotional overload that follows a rape, it's common to be unable to use coping skills and feel the need to cut off and start anew in phases. If she's being honest (and I see no reason to believe she isn't), she's lived through a violent trauma, and while you are allowed to step away whenever you feel it's not working out, "selfish" and "manipulative" are really not useful or humane terms here. Really thinking of it in terms of emotional overload is usually what makes sense to me.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:35 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

On preview, picklesthezombie makes a really good point-- finding someone who will believe you, accept you and listen to you after you've experienced a rape is huge. Each person who doesn't blame or reject or accuse you is really a treasure. I've dated men who seemed very kind and sensitive but who balked and withdrew after hearing about issues of abuse I've dealt with, and those are the generally nice people. You've done something really kind for her. I'm sorry it didn't work out.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:39 AM on October 25, 2012

I read this as "I'm putting on my oxygen mask first before assisting others," which is totally fair and very mature. I think you can respect her wish for no contact "for now" while also respecting your own need for closure by contacting her in a few weeks' time. If after you contact her she still seems lukewarm or still wants no contact, respect that wish and move on for good.

If you really think your relationship was special, tell her that. You might want to write two letters, one you send and one you don't, because it wouldn't be appropriate to rehash everything in the letter you send. But definitely make it clear that you want another shot if that's what you want and also tell her why what you had was special.

OR you can treat this as a break-up and start dating again. Somewhat unintuitively, the ball is in your court. A reconciliation is a little less likely if you start dating others right away though, so give all dating time and space if that's what you want.

In short, one more contact after time is totally appropriate in this situation. After that, let it go.
posted by Skwirl at 6:28 AM on October 25, 2012

If it's meant to be, it'll be meant to be. Her sexuality is probably still in chaos; in healing, any huge shifts to the next level can feel like chaos. She doesn't want to break your heart or make commitments to you she's not sure she can keep yet. I think her mentioning keeping her dating options was a bit of an overshare, but perhaps her way of saying that she's not sure where not dating you is going to lead her. She needs some time to continue healing in the dark from you, especially if she wants to break her association between you and her healing from rape later.

Do take her at her word, and be open to dating other people. Don't put yourself on hold for her. It's 100% up to you, later on down the road, if you want to send her a low key email to touch base in a couple months. In these next couple months she may find someone else and decide to stay away from you. She may choose to be alone in her ongoing healing and then be happy to hear from you. She may feel stuck in her therapy progress and still apprehensive about involving you in her day-to-day.

The point is you don't know what's going to happen for her or you.

So keep moving forward with your own life and goals, take what positive lessons you can (as others have covered above), and keep an open mind. We don't know everything about how the universe works, but I like to think if you give it some time (to quote Martin Luther King) it tends towards justice. If you found something real with this girl, it will stand the test of time. And if not, you won't do yourself any harm by continuing to live your life with your goals prioritized. I think in this case, you've more than covered doing the right thing. Good luck OP!
posted by human ecologist at 5:15 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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