Consent

Recently, a friend confided in me that her “boyfriend” had been pressuring her to do sexual acts she wasn’t comfortable with. Now it might sound ridiculous to some, but she felt guilty about what had happened, and didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him no. This is a mentality shared by many people who find themselves victims of abusive relationships.

But how do abusers do what they do and get away with it? Wouldn’t anyone with common sense know not to trust these people? It’s not as easy as you might think.

  1. Abusers often emphasize the bond they have with their victims and may use this bond to justify inappropriate behavior.
    1. ex: “Why don’t you want to have sex? I’m your boyfriend.”
  2. Abusers often try to make their victims feel like they are not obeying social norms with their behavior.
    1. ex: “Why do you have to make such a big deal out of this? Everyone’s doing it.”
  3. Abusers often try to isolate their victims from their friends and family to have larger control over their lives.
    1. ex: “I don’t like that person, you shouldn’t talk to them anymore. I’m your boyfriend, don’t you want me to be happy?”
    2. By isolating them, they prevent them from being exposed to others who may help the victims escape the abusive relationship.

Being aware of these “red flags” is key. Giving yourself permission to place importance on your feelings and comfort is crucial. If you have experienced these types of relationships before, or are currently in an abusive relationship, therapy may help you identify these behaviors. If you know someone who is currently in an abusive relationship, listen to them, support them, and encourage them to seek help. Let them know that you have their best interests at heart, and don’t lose their trust by getting angry or blaming them. Abusers often target people who have self-esteem issues, and eventually distort their view of reality. It is a real and difficult problem to untangle, and your loved ones need your support.

In case you haven’t seen the video below, I think it’s a pretty great way of explaining consent.

Please share your thoughts and experiences below! I hope we can have some discussion on this topic.

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Holding Hands

We were walking in the crowded market when you offered to hold my hand. You were forced to walk in front of me, and you placed your hand on your back and flashed your palm at me. I could have grabbed it. But I just stared. And in a few seconds, the moment was gone.

Why didn’t I do it?

It was our third date. I think you’re cute, funny, and nice. You have lots of good qualities and I couldn’t stop staring at you all day.

I should have done it!

There’s a part of me that doesn’t like depending on people. Even if it’s something as silly as grabbing someone’s hand in a slightly crowded marketplace. I was right behind you, I wouldn’t have lost you if I didn’t hold your hand. I didn’t see it as necessary. A part of me doesn’t want to be a “burden”.

The other part of me was scared that I was misinterpreting a sign. Maybe your hand was itchy? What if I reached out and brushed your butt on accident? You were also a little bit ahead of me, what if I couldn’t reach all the way?

When it boils down to it, I just think too much.

Sorry I didn’t hold your hand. I’m lame. But if you ask me out again, I promise I’ll have more balls.

 

Sincerely,

Anxious and Insecure

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Still Single

I slowly walk back toward your seat and wrap my arms around your neck, letting my hands glide across your chest and arms. I hug you and let my head fall into the fluff that is your hair. I sniff your hair with affection and you ask me, “So what do you think?”, which was a stupid question. You already know that I’m head over heels for you.

We finally had the talk today. Laying in the sand in my bikini, I glanced over at you and asked, “Do you ever think we will be more than friends?” And you told me that you were trying to figure that out in your head as you were looking at me.

It seems like it will take you some time to figure it out.

When we were talking, you agreed with me on everything. If we started dating, it would change nothing about our friendship. I would simply be called your “girlfriend” rather than your “friend”. You said that you enjoy talking to me and have no problem seeing me in a romantic way. When I asked you what the pros and cons would be of dating me, you even said that there were no cons.

After leaving the beach, I take a shower at your house. I plunk myself down on the couch next to your mom and we watch Real Housewives. It’s like I’m married into your family already.

The situation is so frustrating. But I’m glad we at least had the talk.

All I can do now is focus on myself, go on dates, and hope that I’m still single when you’re finally ready for me.

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Attention

Why do I need his attention?

I want to talk to him. I want him to notice me. I want him to miss me when I’m not around.

These aren’t bad things. But so much of my mood depends on it.

How do I remove myself from it, but also not go too far?

It’s so hard finding a middle ground. I’m either head over heels or running away in fear.

I want him to notice me. I want him to want me. I want him to crave my company.

Moments like these I need to pause and breathe.

Breathe in, breathe out. Tell yourself, “He is just a boy.”

Sure, you feel like you love him and you see a future with him. But repeat to yourself, “He is just a boy.”

It’s so unbelievably difficult, my heart just wants to rule my body. But my brain repeats, “He is just a boy.”

I can’t let what one person thinks of me dictate my worth. I shouldn’t let one person have so much control over my emotions.

I am level headed and strong and beautiful and smart.

And I don’t need a boy’s attention to validate me.

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Gym Newbie

I nervously follow my guide past the cardio jungle into bro territory. The land where men outnumber women 2:1, and their mating calls consist of grunts and heavy breathing. Watch your step or you may interfere with someone’s ritual.

Welcome to the weight room.

It is intimidating to say the least. My guide knows everyone here, and they speak a foreign language, rattling off the amounts they can lift, talking about mutual acquaintances, or the rager on Saturday. I stand awkwardly in the corner, it seems like no one speaks “twig-person” dialect here.

After several visits with my guide, I am starting to learn the ways of the jungle. The animals here are nice, as long as you give everyone their personal space. Sharing is caring when it comes to the squat rack. “Can I work in with you?” is a phrase commonly heard. I am picking up the lingo slowly.

The most important lesson I have learned is this: Most people aren’t judging you. The animals smell fear. Walk with confidence and don’t bite off more than you can chew. When in doubt, ask someone how to use the equipment. The reigning staff would rather help you than have to save you from a quagmire of quicksand later.

I am still low on the totem pole when it comes to stats. But yesterday I was able to squat with the bar and that is improvement in itself. On a previous visit I struggled to lift the 40 lb bar onto my shoulders.

With knowledge and confidence, you can learn to conquer the jungle.

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Empty

Sometimes I feel like there is a void inside of me. I try and fill this void with “likes”, pretty selfies, or constant communication with friends. When I am home with nothing to do, the void gapes at me with fearsome jaws. “Feed me!” the void demands. And I willingly comply.

A lot of change has been occurring in my life. My relationship with my father is almost non-existent. I no longer have a house to call my own, or a quiet room to reside in. When friends ask me to get lunch, I tell them that money is tight. I offer cheaper or free alternatives to hang out. I confessed my feelings to someone who expressed interest but doesn’t want a relationship.

So it makes sense that I’m searching for acceptance.

Nothing is stable and it’s killing me.

But I’m aware of the void. I must make peace with the monster before it devours me whole. Because in the end, no one else can make me happy. Acceptance from others means nothing, if I cannot accept myself.

It is a constant uphill battle. I have to train my mind to think positively, notice unhealthy behaviors, and not get myself down. There are plenty of times I feel like giving up.

But then I pause and breathe. I tell myself that I am a warrior. I will get through this, I must.

And like a phoenix rises out of the ashes, so will I, with grace and beauty.

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Loving Communication

Communication is a very important and often overlooked skill. Not many people have it.

I’ve been dealing with a lot lately: my dad’s bipolar, losing my home, family stress. Sometimes I just want someone to lean on.

Unfortunately, the person I chose to lean on today had no clue about what to say to me.

Really. No. Fucking. Clue.

I was pretty angry at him at first. But why should I be angry at someone who is just clueless? Why not take it as a teaching moment to improve our relationship?

And so I told him what I needed from him. When I’m feeling down, I need someone to validate my feelings. I need someone to tell me what a great human being I am. That I am succeeding despite all of the hardships.

That’s really all I need. I just need someone to love me and care for me. I don’t need someone to fix all of my life’s problems. Because these problems aren’t that simple.

I could have lashed out at him and blamed him for not understanding me. But what kind of results do I get from that? It just leaves everyone feeling more negative.

Empathy and understanding is key. No one is perfect.

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