Resources for Husbands of Rape Survivors
November 13, 2014 11:00 PM   Subscribe

My wife was raped (drugged by a "friend", she doesn't remember the event). I need some help finding (online, books, etc) resources for comfort and perspective for myself.

We have a very good therapist, and he recommended I google "husbands of rape victims" and I'm really not coming up with anything that helps. Even the well-meaning stuff seems to be focused on how to initiate sex again, or husbands who rape their wives, or changing rape culture, advice to "take it slow". I do want to help her and support her, but currently it seems like I need help more urgently than she does. My problem is not asking my wife for sex, it's finding it impossible to even imagine sex with anyone ever again, even my own hand, and dealing with all the rage and despair and loss.

The only thing I found remotely helpful is which did seem to be coming from the same place I am and helped a little. The event was a couple months ago; we've been married 16 years.

I'm grateful for any comfort or well-wishes, but please, I'm not looking for more direct advice how to support her, or what she will need. Those resources are, for better or worse, much easier to find online. I'm asking for help to be more whole myself first.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am very, very sorry that your wife endured this horrible thing, and I am also very sorry that you are both in duress at this time. I applaud you for wanting to be there for your wife, and I hope that you are both able to find peace soon.

I have been raped twice, and have therefore had my share of conversations with my boyfriends about it. With one exception, every guy I talked to did what you're doing right now: over-personalizing an experience that did not happen to them and rerouting the conversation so that their grief about it became the focus. Imagine revealing that you've been violated and that it hurts and that it affects various things in your life, only to have to comfort the person you're telling this to even though the whole point of the conversation was how they can support you? Yeah, it's not fun. So, to me, you are having an unusually visceral reaction to an event and it's clearly consuming you in an unhealthy way, and I think that is the first thing that needs to be processed so that you can be free to support your wife as she moves forward from this event.

You mention in your post that you feel rage, despair, and loss right now in the wake of the rape your wife endured. It is natural and normal to be angry and upset after someone we love has been harmed, but I would like to caution you about the word "loss", simply because when it comes down to it, you personally have not lost anything. Your wife was raped, not you. She temporarily lost her agency, not you. I say this because "loss" on your part could signify to your wife that you see her as an object or possession that's been irretrievably damaged, or that the person your wife once was has somehow died and is now gone. Rapists inherently objectify their victims; if you're unwittingly doing so, too, you're unfortunately continuing to rob your wife of some of the things she lost during and after the rape. Please understand: I am not saying that you are FOR SURE doing this, but rather that these are things to think about and evaluate as you consider the answers to the following questions:

What does "loss" mean for you right now, and how can you reframe your feelings so that you're a) not assuming the victim role and b) not becoming phobic about sex of any kind?
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:11 AM on November 14, 2014 [78 favorites]

I just reread my post and I want to make sure you know that I am not implying that you are a bad person for feeling as you do right now, nor am I drawing any parallels between you and your wife's rapist. Basically I just wanted to issue one note of caution, and pose a possible lens through which to view your predicament right now in case it lends clarity to the fear and stress you're experiencing. Getting in touch with certain things we've internalized because society's ingrained those things into our world view can sometimes be really helpful because it pushes us to be more mindful and self-aware of when we're relying on defunct patterns of thought to process the world around us. None of what I said may be a fit for you and that is totally okay. Hopefully you'll find what you need, though. Much love to you and your wife.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:27 AM on November 14, 2014 [10 favorites]

Secondary trauma might be a good keyword, and I've found mindfulness helpful when dealing with truma and disproportionate personalisation. And I want to concur with Hermione's note of caution.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:28 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also so so sorry to hear this :(.. my thoughts are with you both. Yep would agree re: looking up secondary trauma.. also PTSD (and if you go for sole therapy a worker who has a good understanding of this, and/or abuse ).. EMDR is a trauma treatment that is evidenced based, though not sure how this would work if wife doesn't remember the actual event. You may find it helpful to look up disocciation (may have spelt it wrong, it's a bugger of a word) and Sandra Browns magazine. I wish you both much healing.
posted by tanktop at 3:03 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If there is a Sexual Assault Support Centre near you, they may have offerings for family and friends - if they don't, they'll know of anything local (or online) that has been helpful to others in your situation.
posted by VioletU at 5:02 AM on November 14, 2014

Good for you for looking for help.

I would absolutely recommend some sessions of individual therapy. Your couple's therapist may be happy to see you individually for a bit, or to recommend someone else. As VioletU said, many local rape crisis centers do offer counseling for partners and loved ones of survivors; if you're in the US, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) and it'll automatically route you to your closest crisis center (based on your area code), where you can ask if they provide services for partners (some centers do, some don't).

This is a bit of a stretch, but I've heard very good things about the book Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse. I know your wife wasn't abused as a child, but the author, Laura Davis, is wonderfully compassionate and her book The Courage To Heal, which is for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, has a lot of good information for survivors of all sorts of sexual assault. I have not looked at the Allies book myself, but it may be worth flipping through.
posted by jaguar at 7:28 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm struggling to say this in the most constructive way possible. You don't need help "more urgently" than your wife. You do need a lot of help, and you need it separately from your wife. But this awful thing happened to her.

You might not realize this, but there is often a lot of pressure for a sexually-assaulted woman to play down her trauma - and go right back to the caretaker role for her partner's distress. Women are typically expected to pack down their painful feelings for the convenience of others. But in this case, not only might she have to comfort you - she might feel as though she has to re-establish her value in your eyes. Even more reason for her to play down her pain.

The fact that you are having all sorts of Big Feelings, does not mean that your feelings are bigger or more urgent than hers. You need to examine why you have decided that your feelings are a bigger deal. From other things you have said and implied in your question, it sounds like you have some unsavory feelings about your wife's value post-rape, and I promise you that will cause her even more trauma.

I am not saying that this is your exact situation, but give it some thought.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:29 AM on November 14, 2014 [19 favorites]

Sort of previously:

Especially read anybodys' answer and the link: comfort in, dump out.

The book jaguar suggested upthread a few comments is also quite helpful.

MeMail if you want someone to talk to.
posted by ish__ at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

All I can say is I understand.

A lot of people will say unhelpful stuff about how your pain is unimportant. It's a huge loss finding out that rape actually happens and is usually not prosecuted due to lack of evidence, and that victims usually know who did it but feel too weak to do anything to (legally) hurt the assailant and instead will lie about it to most people. I knew a few women who thought I couldn't handle the truth and so told me half-truths that they thought I wouldn't understand.

What is lost is the idea that the world is just. Most women are taught this at a young age, but many men have enough privilege that no one thinks they need to know. Thus, your wife is going on with her life while you're struggling to rebuild a worldview that makes sense.

The choices when facing evil seem to be to ignore, fight, or join it. To ignore it, get therapy to focus on overcoming intrusive thoughts and living a happy life. To fight it, prosecute a civil lawsuit (lower standard of evidence than a criminal lawsuit) against anyone responsible. To join it, go read the James Bond novels if you haven't already and be a bit more selfish in your daily life.

I guess I'd recommend taking the time you need (months?) to learn how to be happy in this flawed world, and reassuring your wife that your horror and sadness is directed at the injustice in the world that no one told you about, not at her.
posted by sninctown at 8:10 AM on November 14, 2014 [14 favorites]

therapist, and he recommended I google "husbands of rape victims"

Why, did he get his degree from Google?

You need a therapist 1) of your own (a therapist for a couple should not be treating them individually) 2) who is capable of making an educated recommendation for resources, preferably one they are familiar with or can familiarize themselves with.

You could also contact a support organization (this is apparently an obscure concept your therapist has never heard your wife really super-attached to being treated by this person? Is she getting the best possible help?) like RAINN where they're going to have some curated lists of materials. And someone to talk to who won't tell you to google it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

A couple's therapist is perfectly within general standard of care to see one partner, or each partner, individually to work on issues affecting the relationship. And "Poke around online and see if something resonates" is not bad advice, depending on the question actually posed by the client. And many local organizations don't have support groups for partners, and RAINN has the exact "how to help a loved one" advice that the OP said he doesn't want. Can we not demonize a therapist that the OP actually finds helpful?
posted by jaguar at 8:50 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mod note: One comment deleted. Folks, I know it's a tough subject for people, but OP is looking for help finding resources, to help him deal with his own feelings. Not to judge him for having those feelings. Nobody's required to answer if they don't have helpful resources to offer. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:05 PM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Here is a resource for partners of rape victims. It's hard, but you will survive this! Take good care.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 9:26 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will suggest that if you are unable to find sufficient, satisfactory resources, you consider "growing your own."

I have some experience with rape recovery myself and with growing my own resources for some of the challenges I have faced in life. You are welcome to contact me.

I'm sorry you are going through this.
posted by Michele in California at 10:31 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please don't be discouraged by advice that diminishes your lived experience of your feelings, and your powerful and personal reaction to the events. I would suggest you seek comfort and understanding in the company of other men, in real-time, who will "get" what you are struggling with, and won't judge you for it. There may not be local men's groups specific to your trauma, but you may be able to find a more general-interest type support group of guys who you'll be able to open up to without being scolded for not stuffing down your feelings in support of your wife's. You are allowed to feel pain, to have weird/irrational and strong and "politically incorrect" feelings of loss.

You very much suffered a loss, and you should feel very free to advocate strongly to get whatever support you can, and to be taken seriously in that effort.
posted by nacho fries at 11:21 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

(To clarify: Being to to "Google it" is an insufficient response from your therapist; it suggests to me that you are not being taken seriously. Hold your therapist to a higher standard, or seek another therapist to supplement your current therapy.)
posted by nacho fries at 11:41 AM on November 15, 2014

From the anonymous OP:
Hi everyone, thanks for the kinder words. Sorry about using the confusing word 'urgently', I meant that she is finding good resources in our therapist (her choice) and her friends, at her own pace, and there seems to be easier-to-find resources for that online too.

I would still like to hear from men who have been through, and come out the other side, the same thing as me, and it seems those stories aren't told much, or I can't find them. Mine is the lesser story but I am still asking.

The kind of resource I think I'd find comforting would be men's personal stories of recovery, both themselves and the relationship, from men whose spouses (men or women) were raped while they were in the relationship.

For now online is better, we also have 2 small kids so there's only a couple nights a week I can go to a therapist or group.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:33 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

« Older switching to a PC laptop and have no idea what any...   |   Scenes where people are having a hard time to have... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.