One of the comments that struck me the most when I wrote "Riot Proof" was Eric's. You can go back and read it if you want but the gist of it was how hard it is to be a man in love with a woman who is a survivor of sexual violence. I don't really think that these men get enough credit for how hard their job is - to love someone who has been so deeply hurt and betrayed in such a physical way. So I'm writing this post for those men.
This one's for you, Eric.
The first thing to know, guys, is that you aren't the doctor OR the wound; you're the nurse. This means that whatever is going to get healed, it's the woman's job to heal. You cannot heal her wounds - she must learn to heal and to find her own power and strength again. If you do that for her it's not going to work. Trust me on this one - I spent a good couple boyfriends putting any hope I'd ever feel normal again on them. So not fair.
As much as guys long to fix and save the women they are with, women who are survivors have to learn to rely on themselves. So, guys, you're not the doctor who heals a patient - you're the nurse who can make things better by listening when she tells you what hurts, being supportive, and assisting with the first-aid when there's an emergency.
Nor are you the cause of your partner's wounds. She might try to make it seem that way - but no, not all men are equal, and you loving her and wanting to be intimate with her does not make you a lecherous, insensitive dickhead. It makes you human with a pulse. Congratulations.
The two things I hear the most from guys who are with women who are survivors are: 1) Why can't I fix it, and 2) I feel really, really guilty for wanting to have sex with her.
I've already addressed #1. It's not your job to fix her, heal her, or save her. It really, REALLY isn't. She's on her own path towards recovery and you don't have to carry her down that path; just hold her hand like she's your equal, not your project. She's not the bathroom tub. She's a living, human being who might be a little chipped and cracked here and there but she is not broken. (I am of the opinion that it is physically impossible to break the human spirit.)
#2 is harder. When you love someone, madly, deeply, Shakespeareaningly (totally coining that word), you want to be close. You want to be intimate and you want to feel like the two of you are the only two people in the entire world, regardless of how thin the walls of your apartment may or may not be. I get it. I've been there.
It's important to remember that when you're dating someone who has had sex turned on them as a weapon, to be used for the purposes of control, power, anger, or force, instead of love - that you have to start over from the beginning. You have to give these women intimacy in the form of love, kindness, gentleness, patience. You get to show how unalike some men really are from others. For this reason I advocate cuddling like there is no tomorrow. And guys, I mean cuddling with no expectation of sex ever happening. Cuddling while watching television, cuddling while reading books with each other, cuddling while eating ice cream. Cuddling while paying the bills. Whatever.
For a girl to simply be held, with no expectation of sex, is to feel safe and loved. It is a huge, huge step for girls who have been violated in the worst way to feel safe in your arms. And it's an incredible turn on. Try it sometime - and this is for everyone, including women - try just holding your partner in your arms and brushing your fingers through their hair and nuzzling their neck and telling your partner that it's not about this ultimately resulting in sex, it's about being in love and showing how much love there really is.
It's a game-changer in a relationship, it really is. And it breaks the spell. Because here's where the pain of what happened really lives: that a woman at some point or another cannot always distinguish between the people who have hurt her and the people who mean her no harm. It's not always clear in our heads; sometimes everything is gray and everyone is suspect. And we feel horrible that we can't see the difference between our predators and our partners. But that's not your fault, guys. And if you stay patient, if you listen, if you love us the way we need to be loved, everything can change.
I'm living proof. As are a lot of my friends.
4 weeks ago