I need help. I was emotionally and psychologically abused growing up and sometimes physical. It has taken me all of my 20’s to finally come to terms with this, especially after having my own children. My older sisters (one is 7 years older and the other is 4 years older) had involvement with a rape when I was 17. My rapists wanted to degrade and humiliate me and I lost my virginity while being told I was ugly and worthless. I was at my sister’s apartment at the time and asked for help but she helped my perpetrators instead. Then my other sister assisted with helping my perpetrators bully me after the rape to further degrade and humiliate me. I now feel ugly and worthless. I met my husband when I was 21 and still not able to come to terms with things that happened to me in the past I continued to talk to my family. I did distance myself a lot but still saw them on holidays. I can’t shake the feeling that my husband might have had sex with my sister who is 7 years older. She is a lot prettier than me and has a boob job. After just giving birth to my second child 5 years ago, she had some inappropriate behavior toward my husband and he looked so uncomfortable (to the point of looking guilty for some kind of attraction) that he left the room. My father told me at age six that I was ugly and should not expect a man to ever be faithful to me and that all men would have to think of other women in order to have sex with me. I have often felt that my husband has not been supportive emotionally in the past when I tried to talk to him about hurtful comments that my sister would make to me at family functions. He would act as though he didn’t believe me and that I was probably making things up because I am jealous of her. Since after the two kids when she had some very obvious inappropriate behavior towards my husband I am starting to look at my husband and our relationship differently and am questioning everything. I have this sinking feeling at times that he had sex with her but I don’t have any proof. I never felt this way before, only since after the birth of my second child. I need advice about what to do with my feelings? It hurts to think that after 13 years and two children a moment of sexual pleasure with someone better than me in the looks department is more important than our history. Do men really only care about looks and are willing to risk everything for a prettier woman? I feel unloved and depressed and I just want the truth but don’t think I will ever get it.
A: I’m so sorry that you have been through all of this, but I am proud of you for admitting and acknowledging that you were abused. That is the first step to getting better. However, due to the severity and complexity of the abuse, I would really suggest that you see a mental health professional for ongoing counseling. Find someone who specializes in sexual abuse and trauma. The issues you are listing here are too serious to just be addressed in an advice column, and you have been hurting too long.
It’s hard to say whether or not the vibe you are getting about your husband is because he and your sister have done something inappropriate or just that her behavior coupled with his knowledge of how she has treated you makes him uncomfortable. This could help explain why he left the room and why he might act strangely when she is around. It’s hard to be around people who have harmed someone you love, but it is also difficult to know how to handle it when the person isn’t going away (family). Because of this and your trust issues with your husband, in addition to individual or group counseling to help you heal from your abuse, I would suggest that you and your husband get involved in couple’s therapy as well. It provides a safe format to address your concerns with him, but it could also help him learn how to better support you and what you’ve been through.
It sounds like you still spend time, at least occasionally, with members of your family who have harmed you. That’s fine and lots of people do that, but it can sometimes be helpful to take a break from contact while you are working through things and healing. Furthermore, I have worked with some clients who have made the very difficult decision to never associate with family members who have abused them. In the end, you need to do what is right for you. But please don’t believe any of the negative things your father, sisters and rapist have said to you for one minute longer. It is time to reclaim your power and reclaim your life.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts