Institutionalized Minimization

“We’re sorry, but your request for financial aid in regards to your sexual abuse case has been rejected. Unfortunately, you do not meet the parameters of this program, as while what you endured may have been traumatic, it does not qualify as sexual abuse..”

Upon reading this letter, my insides froze, just Iike they used to when my ex would touch me. There were no words to describe how much the world stood still in that moment.

The only reason I had tried to apply for financial aid, was at the suggestion of a therapist, who made me believe that I would qualify for this program, which could allow for me to get professional help, regarding my sexual abuse.

Except now it wasn’t abuse-abuse. Or maybe it was all just a misunderstanding.

Now, not only do I not have a means to pay for therapy, now, all of my trauma has an asterisk next to it. Cured of lingering baggage, my tears can now be wiped away with a boilerplate rejection letter from the provincial government.

I hadn’t been groomed, perhaps, by my abuser. But I had been slowly forced to whittle my friends circle down to a small handful of people. He was introverted, quiet, and people just didn’t understand him, he’d insist. As a result, who I could spend time with, became fewer and fewer – he was so inept at human interaction, that going out just became a wholly unpleasant experience. So we spent more time alone.

I couldn’t go out to parties as often, as he’d either not feel the desire to go, or would tag along, a mute, awkward shadow following closely behind me. He made everyone uncomfortable, and they/I would constantly be ensuring that his needs were met, and I constantly felt like I couldn’t have any genuine fun with my friends.

So I stopped going out.

He didn’t groom me for sexual servitude, not consciously, I suppose.

Our sexual relationship began as any would, we liked each other, and we’d have sex. In fact, he was my first, although that significance didn’t mean much to me – honestly, I figured now was as good a time as any, to get rid of this Virgin neon sign above my head. I jumped into sex like anyone discovering a great new toy that would allow them to forget their pain, and gave you orgasms. Why the hell didn’t anyone else think of repairing their trauma with sex? I thought, surely this must be completely healthy and sustainable.

Eventually, and quickly, I fell out of love with him.

His reserved nature revealed a weak and petty personality; he felt he was the smartest person in the room, despite having no indication of any superior intellect. He was horrifyingly cruel, laughing hysterically when a colleague broke their leg in a horrific car accident. What a piece of shit, I soon realized.

It didn’t take long for me to outgrow him, and I was 6 years his junior.

Both he and I felt this, and I imagine it made him try to cling on for as long as possible. He knew on a cellular level that I was better than anything he could ever get in this town, and this is not me speaking from a place of arrogance. We were surrounded by single mothers on meth, and people beating each other to death over drug money– the bar was so low, it was underground.

So he clung and clung, and did all he could in convincing me to stay, including using things like guilt and coercion.

“You owe me sex because of all I’ve done for you”

“I should be your date to prom, because you owe me this.”

X, Y, Z, the reasons piled on and on, until I couldn’t figure out what the original debt even was.

At night, he would wake me up, and insist I use my mouth to pleasure him. No reason, except that he wanted this, and I was there, like some sort of goddamn Mount Everest of fellatio. Now, to this day, I can’t go down on someone in the dark; if I can’t see their face, I can’t be completely sure it’s not him. Now, when someone grabs my breasts when they go down on me, I become an involuntary time-traveler, stuck when I was a confused girl, being pressured to use her body for a boy she didn’t even want near her. Writing about this makes me skin crawl.

And then there’s the sex.

Is it abuse, when I develop searing pain, every time he entered me? My mind, body and soul did not want this, but once again, it was my duty, for some reason or another. Over and over, it would end with me in tears, sobbing in the fetal position, both he and I not quite knowing why, yet still repeating it. I learned to go away in my head during sex, a technique developed during my nightly beatings as a child by my parents, and perfected in the bedroom. Sex was not about two people coming together, but rather one body fulfilling the needs of another.

Maybe he tried to find a way to make me love again, in the only way he knew how. Perhaps if he could find a way to make my body respond enough, my heart would come back to him.

All he ended up doing was help create a lifetime of complicated feelings and triggers for flashbacks, as if I needed more.

Each time I approach any semblance of arousal, flashbacks of my being used come back into my head. I end up hating myself for ever enjoying sex with someone I despised, for having climaxed with someone who was so toxic, weak and just plain shitty.

Now I’m with someone I love and adore, and I can’t ever bring myself to enjoy intimacy with them. When they touch me in the dark, ghosts of my pasts come back and I flinch, if only for a second. This recoil of millimeters ends up creating a chasm that feels impossible to traverse.

Well, Government of British Columbia, what do I call this?

What name do I put on the horrific flashbacks, on how my blood runs cold at the mention of his name? Do I refer to our fucked-up relationship and the coercive sex simply as “hate-fucking?” Because the only person I hated afterwards, was myself. Do the hours of sobbing in the shower afterwards indicate I was misused, or am I simply just “too sensitive?”

I wish I knew, because while I understand the resources need to be given to those who’ve been extensively traumatized by caregivers and trusted adults, I am left holding this bullshit that’s now being called flowers.

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