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SamG's avatar

Is it natural for a partner to feel disconnected after leaning your partner has been raped in the past?

Asked by SamG (58points) June 7th, 2010

I just learned my fiance was raped just before she met me three years ago. I feel horrible for her and sad, but simultaneously I am experiencing a sense of physical aversion right now. Additionally, I learned she did not report the person, which confuses me. I find myself being angry about that.

Is it natural to have so many emotions following this information?

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29 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Did you love her for three years? You may need counseling.

janbb's avatar

It is very natural to have many strong emotions after learning a partner has been raped. It is very important that you examine your emotions and deal with them possibly with the aid of a counselor so that you do not further dmage your partner or your relationship with her. I would be very careful about how you express your feelings to her and not make her trauma about you. Get the help you need to deal with it if you want to preserve the relationship and support your fiancee.

Luiveton's avatar

Well, it is an exceedingly normal thing for you to sense that aversion, but at the same time you must control it, not vice versa. Because you might feel that you do have strong affection towards her, so do not let this take you down, it is only a matter of life, and it is definitely not her fault.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I have not been raped, nor have I knowingly been in a sexual or romantic relationship with someone who has been raped but I would imagine your response is not unusual. You have just found out that the person who is most important in your life was horribly hurt and that the person who hurt her is still out and about. That’s rough to deal with. On top of that, you may subconsciously feel as if you would hurt her if you engage in sexual activity with her.

As @Adirondackwannabe and @janbb suggested, I would go see a counselor who is trained to deal with victims of rape.

zenele's avatar

May I ask how old you and your partner are? Have you had sexual relations up until now? What was the occasion for telling you now, after three years?

ItsAHabit's avatar

I think your reaction is normal. But put yourself in her place. She was raped but still is willing to have sex with you. In other words, her horrible experience did not disconnect her from you. You may want to discuss your feelings with her and if that doesn’t help, you might consider seeing a counselor if, after a reasonable period of time, you still feel disconnected.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am not sure if aversion is a correct term, here unless you’re feeling repulsed that her body has been violated and she’s not as ‘clean’ as you thought she was – now, that’s something you shouldn’t think and please get if out of your system before you accidentally tell her. Experiencing anger on her behalf is normal, that’s fore sure but do not be confused about her actions – you have never been in her place, you can never know what her context was like and what it’s like to deal with rape as a woman in a society that is sexist. (unless you are a woman and have been raped..then disregard my last comment).

gemiwing's avatar

I agree therapy for you- and her if she has not had it already- is number one right now.

Beyond that- why are you physically avoiding her? It’s important to figure it out. Do you think she’ll lump you in with the rapist because of physical contact? Do you think you will frighten her or hurt her? Talk to her- tell her how you feel and let her know you love her and want to get help together.

CMaz's avatar

I was in that situation. Never did I even give it a thought to disconnect.

It was hard going through, it was tragic. But I loved her. She experience an injury like any other injury. There was no other way to be, but to be there for her.

Would you become disconnected from your loved one if they broke a leg?

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t agree that this is a normal response. When I found out my wife was a survivor it broke my heart and made me want to shield her from any more pain. I certainly did not disconnect. This woman trusted you with what I can only imagine is her some of her darkest pain and you are rejecting her? What’s wrong with you? Are you sure you know what it means to really love someone?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@tinyfaery: Maybe the difference is that you are a woman and the OP is a man. (At least, I assume the OP is a man.) It is unlikely that your wife was raped by a woman.

tinyfaery's avatar

@KatawaGrey I can’t see how that makes a difference. Love is love.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@SamG I hope you think these answers over carefully. She was a victim once. It is not appropriate that you make her a victim again by feeling “aversion” towards her.

CMaz's avatar

@SamG – It is a hard thing to go through for everyone. It touches on a lot of issues within ourselves.

You are going to marry her? Understand you are the man in her life. She loves you.

Love her, be there for her. As she will be there for you.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@tinyfaery: Was your wife raped by a man? If that is the case, then when you have sex with her, you are not doing the same things that the rapist did. You do not resemble the rapist physically. I could be wrong, but from the question, I figured that what the OP felt aversion to is having sex with her and I would figure that would be because he would worry about hurting her the way she’d been hurt already.

MissA's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe is right.

Don’t make her a victim twice. Do you have any idea how difficult this must have been…for her to tell you? In some parts of the world, your friend would have been thrown out of her home and community. You almost sound as if you’re the victim. I hope not.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

You indicated in your last question that your culture places a high standard of “purity” on someone’s sexuality. I don’t know where you’re from, but I can tell you this: Your fiance did not become less pure when she was raped. She was violated, by no fault of her own. She was abused and do not make her feel badly for what happened to her. If you truly love her, support her. Understand that what the man did to her was his fault – he is the horrible person, not your fiance.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

As @KatawaGrey suggested, what you are interpreting as aversion may be a desire not to inflict further harm on your fiance. I have direct experience with this.

I met my lady shortly after she had been hospitalized for severe injuries resulting from six months of being held against her will; physically, emotionally and sexually abused by several individuals. Among my other reactions to her situation, I had an aversion to sexual contact, out of fear for causing her further trauma. Early in our relationship, she was not physically or psychologically capable of sexual relations. This went on for almost three years, until she initiated our physical relationship. My motivation at all times was her protection and well-being (although I would have liked to spend some time in a dark alley with the animals who did that to her).

You need to get counseling to sort this out in your mind; whether your avoidance is based on concern for her well-being or some kind of “purity” issue as @Simone_De_Beauvoir suggests. If she hasn’t gotten good psychological help in her recovery, she would likely benefit from this also.

If or when you begin (resume?) sexual relations, be extremely gentle and attentive to her pleasure. She needs to feel safe; if there is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder involved, certain actions might “trigger” her into a panic state. She may not know what those triggers are until she experiences them. Be gentle and reassure her that she is safe.

You need to get your motivations and signals straight, otherwise you may be making her a victim again, as @MissA says. I also went too far in avoiding sexual contact for fear of harming her; that had more to do with my inability to read the signals she was sending me, eventually she got frustrated enough to confront me directly about this and we resolved the misunderstanding.

SamG's avatar

Again, I appreciate the thoughts from everybody. You can imagine the confusion is frustrating since I love the woman and want nothing more than to support her and be a good, understanding partner.

I am seeking counselling for it. She already is in counselling, which is what spurred the memory for her to begin with.

As of now, I simply tell her I love her and hold softly her as often as possible. I leave the rest out given I think it is mine, not hers, to own and process.

Again, it is helpful to give it a voice, and to have such thoughtful responses which help me sort through the dark voices and find the truthful ones.

I particulary appreciate stranger in a strangelands synapsis of the other thoughts coupled with his own insights and experience (particularly the dark alley one : ).

On another note, one person spoke to my culture and my observation about the “purity” concept. I speak to the Puritanical American Culture and the “go to bed a virgin, wake up a whore” message that seems to permiate so many of our unspoken messages. This is recently evidenced in the calendar for the Miss America contest where the women were all in lingerie versus demonstrated their true power as whole beings.

I did not state it in context of this question given that there is not relation, in my mind, between purity and the violent act of rape. In context of my other question, I merely raise the thought for discussion about the mixed message our culture sends about the normalcy vs. filth of sex, particularly regarding women. I would love thoughts on this, given I obviously am working through my perception of sexual relations. I will concede that I was raised Mormon, which I suspect plays a great deal into my confusion of sex as a normal part of growth versus the damaging concept of purity and chastity.

janbb's avatar

It sounds like you are processing this thoughtfully. Keep up the good work.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SamG Society does send women mixed messages as it does to men. Your job is to not perpetuate the cycle.

casheroo's avatar

I was raped, and I don’t think any man I’ve ever told really had a strong reaction either way. I think needing time to digest the information is normal…but do not push someone away for something like this. That won’t help at all, and you’ll regret it.

perspicacious's avatar

I’m no pro, but my guess is that your feeling may come from disappointment that she is just sharing this with you. It was a big thing in her life that she kept from you. I just don’t see the disconnect coming from knowing she was raped. That’s just me.

john65pennington's avatar

Why has she held this from you for such a length of time and why were the police not called?

You need to ask a lot more questions of this person. was this a family member?

tinyfaery's avatar

The last thing she needs is an interrogation.

casheroo's avatar

Direct questions? No way. Telling her if she wants to open up about it more, and offer a shoulder to cry on? Definitely.

Aethelwine's avatar

Additionally, I learned she did not report the person, which confuses me

I told two of my closest friends that I was raped by “friends” of ours. My friends didn’t believe me. If my friends didn’t believe me, why would I think authorities would?

I know I’m not answering your original question, but I hope I can help answer this part that confuses you. Quite often, women are treated like objects. it sucks

KatawaGrey's avatar

@jonsblond: Brings up an excellent point. People rarely believe when a woman is raped anyway, let alone if the rapist is an upstanding member of the community or someone who “just wouldn’t do something like that.” Also, there is often almost no evidence to support a rape claim. A doctor can sometimes tell if a woman was raped by examining her but if the person raped her had a gun to her head and told her not to struggle, there might not be much evidence there. In addition, a person’s first response I have heard is usually to shower and just to feel clean. This would wash any physical evidence left behind by the rapist. Also, in a society where so much weight is placed on a woman’s sexual purity, rape can be viewed both by the victim and society as making the victim worthless.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@KatawaGrey So very true. The victim needs to be reassured that it was not her fault and that loved ones accept her non-judgmentally. She needs support, not distancing or criticism.

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