For the last couple months, I’d been considering telling my mom about what happened. I hadn’t before now partly because I don’t even know how to bring it up. But most of the reason is her reaction. I knew it would hurt for her to hear it. The good news is that I knew she would listen and not be judgmental. In addition, I would have someone else to talk with about this and that it would bring us closer.
I decided to tell her over winter break and waited for the right time.
One night, we were chatting and my three experiences with panic attacks came up in conversation. She only knew about one of them, and asked about the rest. It was a perfect segue, because one of my panic attacks was an effect of being triggered. I was a little nervous but excited in a way to get this off my chest.
So we sat down in her bed at almost midnight and I told her the whole story, starting back when I was 18. (I didn’t tell her about the people who sexually assaulted me when I was a kid). Before starting, I emphasized that I’m doing very well now.
I began by asking if she remembered N. The tone with which she said yes betrayed her less than flattering impression of him. She never met him, but made it clear that she didn’t like him at the time. By the way I talked about him at the time, she knew he was pressuring me. It turns out I’d even told her about the time he grabbed my boob. I have no recollection of that.
I also explained that two beliefs of mine led me to putting up with him for so long: a) There’s a pervasive stereotype that all men want is sex and they will stop at nothing to get it. I went into the relationship expecting to constantly have to say “No, I do not want to have sex with you.” b) I knew that relationships were all about compromise. So I did. I thought it was rude to say no all the time to all the little requests he made, trying to push us forward physically little by little. Once in a while I would say yes because it was the ‘nice thing to do.’ Which I now realize is utter bullshit.
I went on to give her a general overview of what happened with P and Z, and then talked about my triggers, how I’m doing now and why I got involved with sexual assault awareness and prevention at my college.
I did also mention that these experiences all qualify as sexual assault. She didn’t challenge it, but agreed that it’s a very strong word for what happened to me.
The whole time she was very supportive and never made me feel judged. I never even had to emphasize that it wasn’t my fault because she clearly already knew that. I never really expected to be challenged by her anyway, but it just made things that much easier to see that she would accept everything I said. I just can’t stress enough how wonderful it was that she was so supportive. I know that not everyone is so lucky.
Related content: Imperfectly Supporting a Survivor (about my mom)
Thanks for reading this post! You can find my full backstory here.