Content Warning: Sexual Assault/ R*pe
Since February, I’ve been trying to process my own history of sexual assault in a way formerly unfamiliar to me; as a (former) sexual partner to two persons who have caused harm to others.
It was revealed to me through shady layers that a person I was dating had sexually assaulted someone in the past. She told me bit by bit about the encounter, making sure to leave out details that would sway me to be less inclined to stay with her. I realized that she was not doing the work to be accountable or admit fault to her victim, (who had already pardoned another person involved in causing the harm.) And with that realization, I terminated the relationship…after a month of distance and conversation surrounding her responsibility as a perpetrator and partner to someone who had been harmed by others. Also known as- a month of emotional distress.
The unfolding of these events was messy to say the least, and she attached to yet another host within weeks during quarantine by repeating the same non-disclosing behavior with them. Still convinced that I could change the outcome for someone else and change their potential for experiencing pain, I remained friends with her while trying to coax her to be a better partner and person in this new relationship. Once I realized she was still lying through omission to them in the same ways, however, I terminated my friendship with her as well.
Insecurity and paranoia followed me, and I felt incredibly down about my self image. She hadn’t physically cheated on me- we were both polyamorous- but she had rocked my sense of self by also protecting someone she was still in love with through her disclosures. This person is more transmasculine presenting and “passing” than myself, and I found it hard to stop comparing my body and interests to theirs.
I was in the midst of healing from all of this when I recently (Mid-June,) found out that a person I was having a Kinkship with had also sexually harmed someone.
He had not disclosed this to me previously, so I confronted him via Facetime one evening. He acknowledged that it was true, and I spent some time trying to field his victim-blaming assumptions that he expressed to me. I found out that the person he had harmed was someone I knew as well, and became sickened by hearing details about the encounter that mirrored my own experiences as a victim. I ended our kinkship, and after the call I felt entirely exhausted. I sobbed into the arms of my partner, mourning for the person he had harmed, and myself.
The next several days I stayed home from work and laid in bed and on my couch. The world felt heavy- and it still does. I felt defeated, and tired. All the time and effort that I’d put into protecting myself because of my past felt wasted. What was the point of vetting persons for months before being intimate with them, if they could still simply keep information like this from me, with clear conscience? How could I ever find the ability to trust others again?
The trauma part of my brain latched onto these new feelings surrounding old issues, and developed a new worry for me to ruminate over;
What had I done, or what do I do, to attracted not one, but two perpetrators into my intimate life?
I felt convinced to blame myself through the same lobe of logic that proclaims anything bad that happens to me is my fault. (Thanks childhood trauma!) And I felt responsible to ensure that no one else would feel the same ways; by sacrificing yet more of my emotional labor on both persons with accountability education.
Worst yet, is that I felt a sense of guilt- like I was unknowingly an accomplice to the actions they had enacted on others. Because I had only seen them both as persons who were kind and endearing to me.
I even experienced those shadows of doubt I had only heard of; discrediting the information others had given me by holding my own interactions with the abusers as more credible. I wanted to deny and run away from the truths. But they kept beckoning me back to my own memories of hurt and pain at the hands of others.
So instead of running, I sank.
Deep down into my truth, that rang too loud and close to home.
I cannot be in relationship with persons who have harmed others in these ways. It stunts and deters my own growth as a person who has been harmed.
I can still be an abolitionist, still offer resources, still demand accountability- but their guilt is not mine to carry. Their actions don’t reflect my innocence.
I am now back in therapy to try and restore my self confidence and sense of self after these two accounts of betrayal. Both of these persons knew of my history of sexual trauma, and they both chose not to disclose to me before forming physical bonds with me. As much as my brain tells me to blame myself- that blame would be misdirected.
I am allowed to feel hurt. I am allowed to feel betrayed. I am allowed to grieve. I am allowed to be angry. I am allowed to rest. And I am allowed to seek help and resources from others while doing so.
The weight of accountability should not rest on survivors.
It’s not our job to save everyone at the cost of our own mental health.
I am going to do my best to re-build beautiful foundations blocks from this bitterness I’ve encountered. And I’m going to do so with the persons I love and trust.