I’m not sure I need advice, I think I just need to get this out. I think I know the right things to do and the right way to be a friend.
Yesterday, my long-time coworker was clearly stressed out. We are pretty close (albeit kind of an odd couple - she is extremely conservative and we are just totally different) and everyone had gone to lunch and we were alone in there and she just had come back from a gynecologist appointment, which explained her stress.
I already know that she doesn’t want to have children, is looking into getting her tubes tied, and her in-laws are giving her shit and she feels guilty for her husband (who says he’s cool with it), and puts it off every year. So anyway, this is not my first time experiencing her post-gyno stress.
Then she goes, “Ok only like two people know this but I just need to get this out. I was raped in college and going to the gynecologist always brings that shit back up.” She talked about how she did drugs and dated abusive guys and just spiraled out of control after that. Then, she said she doesn’t want kids because she still doesn’t feel like her body belongs to her. She has pretty typical reactions - it’s been 15 years, why is she not over it, she shouldn’t punish her husband for it, etc.
What really tugged on me, is the details she gave me about the rape: she was roofied at a frat party, and raped by one guy she knew and two she didn’t. They videotaped it, and several months later when her then-boyfriend of four years returned from service in Afghanistan, he dumped her and called her a whore. He didn’t believe it wasn’t consensual. She said she has always had trouble making friends and he was basically her entire support structure. She is so afraid this video will end up online (it was filmed the Olden Ways on a digital camera), she refuses to participate in social media of any kind.
I can’t even imagine. I feel really sad for her.
She said her husband knows about it but she thinks if he knew she was still sad, he’d tell her to get over it.
I tried to just be validating and say I was sorry - I told her that there’s no clock ticking and she can feel however she feels and there is no reason to fight it. There is no right way to be. I told her that her husband doesn’t own her body and she should take his good attitude about that at face value. I told her I understand how having a stranger between her legs when she goes to the gyno might bring up some feelings about this. She clearly felt guilty about “dumping” this on me and I told her she can always call me if she wants to talk.
I got the feeling she’d never been told not to beat herself up for feeling bad, or any validation that it’s understandable to get triggered by these various things. I know she saw a therapist at least for a while but I don’t know if this was discussed.
She is one of those people who probably considers feminism a bad word. I don’t think she’s ever had the support of women in her life. I would never even try with feminism or politics or gender stuff at all - but I want her to feel what it’s like to have other women who’ve got your back. It’s different than male friends.
Obviously, I’m never ever ever going to bring this up, and I’m not going to do what my own mother does which is, “ARE YOU OK TODAY?!!??” out of the blue where I get to be reminded about not feeling ok.
Thanks for listening, GT.