Nobody ever talks about us.
Thirty-odd years ago, a sexual predator set his sights on my wife, then a defenseless child. Quite understandably, most people (myself included) shudder when they hear terms like "rape," "sexual molestation," or "sexual abuse." They shudder in an even more disturbed way when these terms (too-commonly) pertain to children. And they should shudder at these heinous crimes.
One thing few people ever talk about, I suspect, is the devastating ripple-effect that these criminal actions have on others in society (aside from the victim).
The story of my wife, her history with men, her marriage to me, and how this cruel, senseless act from over 30 years ago has affected (and continues to affect) our relationship is far too long to include in its entirety. Suffice it to say, that the effects of this horrible act have been profound over the years.
For so many years, I felt awful thinking of myself at all when it came to this subject (and I still do). The truth is, I'm plagued with guilt and shame for feeling victimized. After all, the horrific experience my wife (or any sexual abuse victim) went through is surely incomparably worse.
But for this one, single article, I'm going to indulge in it. In advance, I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart for doing so to anyone who's ever been violated. I know that your pain is unimaginably worse than mine, and simply ask that you can forgive me for this one moment of selfishness.
You see, I sometimes imagine what it must be like for others out there whose partners have been molested/raped in the past. I already know what it does to the victim's mind, body, and spirit. Yes, I know those things all too well. But I also know about that woman's partner/husband/boyfriend — I know what it does to your relationship with the victim, and your love/sex life with her. And I know what things it leads you to consider.
At times, when the emotional wreckage seemed insurmountable, maybe you considered, "Should I leave?" But then you felt terrible guilt for even thinking that, knowing that what happened wasn't her fault.
You then felt ashamed to have even considered abandoning such a hurt soul (even if she was ostensibly pushing you away afterward), and you realized that to actively love her is probably the only answer, just as to actively love is probably the only real answer to anything and everything.
And maybe, like me, you knew you could never talk about this aspect of it with her. You wouldn't want to imply, after all, that you're only sticking around as a matter of charity.
At the core you love her, and you know there's a light at the end of this in which you can both stand, together, once again.
So, at times when your partner gave you the cold shoulder for long stretches (because she is/was so emotionally scarred from the event), maybe you thought, "Should I cheat?" And then you felt guilty for thinking that awful thought.
You also felt foolish and/or ashamed about having things like personal sexual needs when there's so much suffering in the world, and you realized that patience and love is the only answer. Still, you felt lonely for long periods and often wondered whether you'd ever regain the physical intimacy you once enjoyed together.
And so, you tried to just love and support her emotionally. But at times when things got intense, maybe you considered, "Can I be strong enough?" and "Can I get my head around this?" Unless you've been similarly violated, you can never fully understand what they're going through, the horror that their waking life has become.
In my own case, it got so bad, I knew I was so far out of my element that I strongly recommended therapy. I phoned a rape center, barely able to speak, and pleaded to talk with a counselor. A therapist was suggested and I bravely convinced my wife to go see her.
And then you have the therapy to go through, another process you don't understand yet are committed to seeing her through. And times get tough, and you relive things you don't want to, and issues emerge that seem totally unrelated to the problem.
Suddenly, for example, her entire sexual identity is brought into question, and it's seriously being considered whether you're any longer a healthy part of that. But out of selfless love, you stifle it — that anger and resentment you feel deep down.
"I showed you the way out," you protest mentally. But instead of offering your hand to pull her back into the the light of happiness, it's more like you're in a cave and pushing her out into the light. And now you don't get to leave. But you do it because her happiness is more important to you than your own.
At least that's my own ulcer, just one of a million ways the sexual abuse ripple effect can continue its ever-forward anguish. So, while my heart naturally goes out to victims of sexual abuse (and believe me when I admit to crying myself to sleep many nights just considering this shockingly common problem in our society), I just wanted to take one short moment in time to acknowledge other friends, family members, and especially partners/lovers of those who have been abused.
I, too, understand the pain you're going through. It's nothing compared with their pain, but it's crippling pain nonetheless.
And it's my sincere wish that we may all find solace at some point, and that a new, compassionate consciousness arises in our world, and pervades it so thoroughly that these sort of crimes become merely dark parentheticals in the history book of humankind.
As for my wife and I, we're in counseling because of all of this. I wish I could tell you I knew for sure that everything would be OK. But I don't. I'm very hopeful, though, and we've adopted an attitude via which we hope to manifest the optimal future for us both.