Tips for a gynaecological exam

As a rape victim a gynaecologist exam was one of my biggest fears/nightmares. I couldn’t find enough information about how to prepare myself, how to make sure nothing would go wrong. Of course you can find the basic information on how it works, but that just wasn’t enough for me. I’ve a few tips gathered from my own experiences. I’ve also given the tips to gynaecologists and I’d like to share them with you in the hope that everything will go well. I’ve had very bad experiences (exam against my will) and not so bad experiences (exam went well, but it will never feel ‘good’ for me).

I’m talking about a “normal” gynaecologist exam, so not one straight after the rape to collect evidence. Of course these were the things that helped me, if you prefer to do it in a different way then that’s totally fine. I also haven’t been able to include everything I’ve ever found helpful, but I’m thinking about writing more blogposts about my experiences with doctors and tips I’ve come across.

First of all, make sure that you think your current gynaecologist is up for it. It was shocking for me to discover how little experience and knowlegde most gynaecologists have about treating/examining rape victims. They just don’t know how this might affect you and how to take it into account. How do you know if this gynaecologist if right for you? It’s important to know that you can always refuse the exam and can ask for a different gynaecologist (for example: I only want females).
1. He/she is calm, understanding and friendly.
2. He/she doesn’t pressure you to do the exam. And doesn’t get angry if you’re coming for the tenth time to try it and you can’t do it yet.
3. He/she doesn’t rush it and plans extra time for you.
4. He/she wants to prepare together before the exam.
5. He/she stops when you want, even if it isn’t finished yet.

With preparation I mean that he/she is willing to answer all your questions before the exam, tells you everything that is going to happen (unless you don’t want to know), makes agreements with you and you can tell him/her about the things he/she should or shouldn’t do. For example you can ask if he/she can stop every minute and ask how it’s going. Or you want the door to be locked (sometimes other people walk in) or you want it unlocked (because that gives you an escape route). Maybe he/she should not say certain words because the rapist said that to you, or maybe you don’t want him/her to touch your knees (the gynaecologist might think doing that will comfort you) etc. Very important to make this all clear, before you might do the exam.

I always want to get to know the gyneacologist first, so I don’t do it the first (few) time(s) when I meet her. I always take my partner with me, he holds my hand and can ask the gynaecologist to stop when he notices I’m frozen. Think about if you want someone else there too and where he/she should stand and what he/she should do. Do you want to be distracted or do you want to focus on what’s happening in the present? It both might help against flashbacks. Also make sure that the gynaecologist listens to that other person as well (some doctors only want to listen to the patient and tell me I’m “grown up enough” to tell them myself that they need to stop). Oh and very important: they aren’t allowed to force extra people on you: assistants, students etc. It’s very difficult for me to say no and I’ve also had bad experiences with some doctors who wouldn’t even ask. I personally think the doctor should not even ask a rape victim, but say no beforehand to the student.

It’s possible that you insert the speculum yourself or that you do the exam without lying in the chair/with your legs in the stirrups. If they want to make an echo, they might see enough with an external one (your bladder needs to be full for that). They can always try doing that first.

A gynaecologist exam isn’t a normal situation. If you don’t feel safe, don’t do it. There are other ways to examine if there’s something wrong (for example an MRI or some kind of self-test; I’ve done those two as well). And maybe it isn’t really that necessary to do the gynaecological exam. I’ve had doctors who wanted to do it, just because they always do it. No medical reason.

Last but not least, try to ignore all those people who will say/yell/scream to you that “you shouldn’t be afraid because the doctor’s used to it”. It’s about you, not the doctor. I wish you a lot of luck, strength and wisdom and hope everything will go well, if you ever decide to take an exam or have to talk with a gynaecologist.

#BeenRapedNeverReported: Why I blog anonymously

In 2014 this hashtag became viral on Twitter. I recently found out, because I don’t have twitter. Let me first say that I think it’s a good thing this went viral. I feel this issue doesn’t have enough attention within our governments/police etc. But it is so important that the law/procedures will change, so more rapists/abusers can get caught. I already wrote about this before.¬†Sometimes it feels to me as if the current procedure is like an invitation¬†for the perps. You don’t get caught, so why not do it if you’re a pervert?¬†This hashtag can apply to both men and women.

Despite this being a good thing, it might not be suited for your situation to join in. At first glance I didn’t realize this, but if I had twitter I shouldn’t have done this. The stigma is too big. There are people who know (partially) about my history of being sexually abused. Mainly professionals. Sometimes I regret I told it, because of the way they put it in your (medical/psychological) file. Such a big secret and it is right there on the first page of my first gynaecologist consultation. But overall it helps that some people know about it. Especially that my partner knows it, because he helps me tremendously with it and overall the burden became less. It also helps when doctors know I have PTSD (they usually don’t know why), because they might understand my behaviour better and why I only want women and don’t like being touched. This does depend on the person though, not everyone can deal with it/me.

However, putting it on twitter means basically everyone can read it, google it forever, and it’s under your name. This might have negative consequences, although it shouldn’t be this way. For example: e told the best friend of my partner I was raped, since he was having contact with one of my rapists and we wanted him to know why we couldn’t attend parties. But he didn’t believe me and spread the rumour among other people, such as people at school. I’m still having negative consequences because of that, which made me cautious. This information is now on a more strict need-to-know basis.

It helps me to read the stories and advice of other people. I also have this urge to help other people. To share my story, so maybe it won’t happen to other people or maybe if it already happened it makes the burden slightly less. To make myself a bit less vulnerable I blog anonymously. It doesn’t feel anonymous to me though. I talk about everything and I don’t change facts. I’m very open. All you don’t know is my adress and my full name. If someone who knows me, finds my blog, he/she will immediately know it’s me. I hope this is a good solution, despite all the articles on blogging who state you should never do it anonymously. Just because it is anonymous, doesn’t mean it isn’t true or not personal.

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[Picture with the text: We believe you #beenrapedneverreported.]

I sincerely hope this hashtag doesn’t apply to you. If it does I hope you can find some solace in for example online communities such as¬†blogs. Do what is best for you and your situation, general guidelines don’t have to apply to you (in my experience they usually don’t).

Dark thoughts: Is rape a lesser crime than murder?

What do you think? I’m just not sure, whether torture or rape (which is, in my opinion, a form of torture) is less than murder. Rape and murder “changes” lives and usually not only the one from the victim. It can both end lives and it is both unwillingly. Sometimes, when I feel very bad, I think that rape + murder would be better for the victim (such as me). Almost as if that is more merciful for the victim. Because now I’m and will be punished for life. You can never truly forget it and that can really bother me sometimes. Rape is just so horrendous, you can’t imagine it unless you’ve been through it. Even then it can still be different and I do not mean ‘less awful’. It could have happened multiple times, maybe multiple people, maybe outside or inside, maybe with a gun to your head etc.

I think you can never truly imagine how it specifically went and felt for the victim, except for the victim. This makes it harder for the victim to “process” and to get the proper care and responses and everything else you need. On the other hand, that might be better for our loved ones. My partner is very emphatitic, I’ve never experienced someone who can imagine it so well as he can. And this can really eat him up, damage him too. It’s awful to see that, but we agreed that I still can talk about it (even in detail) when I feel the need, or when it’s necessary (when I’m cropping everything up and avoiding everything etc.).

I think I can never fully decide on which is worse. It partially depends on my mood of course. I’m not always thinking this dark. Overall, I’ve improved a lot and am hardly depressed anymore, which I wrote about before. Somehow this week is different, but I’m still not feeling depressed every day, which I’m very happy about. I’m just in one of my regular fallbacks¬†and I also know how this one got triggered.

Back to the subject, I’m sorry for going off topic. The question whether rape is truly a lesser crime than murder, popped into my head because I read something. Apparently there was once a game made, which was called Rapelay. I really don’t want to get into details a lot and I wish I never came across the page about controversial video games. I think you can imagine what it is about, but it probably is worse… Let’s just say that it’s a game where it is your objective to rape. Thank god it got banned, after 3 years or so. But the makers of the game defended against the ban by saying that rape is a (far/much) lesser crime than murder and there are many games in which you kill. I think it is different for a video game if you shoot a few pixels from a distance or torture/rape them in excruciating detail while having plenty of options to do so and having to make every movement. But I actually didn’t want to write about game violence and which one is worse blahblahblah (which doesn’t mean that I think it’s unimportant, it’s just not what I’m focusing on right now).

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[Picture of a campfire and the text: What’s worse rape or murder].

What do you think? Is rape a lesser crime than murder? Might it sometimes be better for the victim if he/she would be killed afterwards? We probably all know the tv episodes/movie scenes in which people “jokingly” say that if the other person is going to rape and murder them, if they would please do the murdering part first. Which makes it sound as if dead is better than being raped. And I don’t mean that all rape victims should kill themselves, or if anyone should for that matter. I’m just theoretically wondering, it’s not something I want to actually put in practice. But sometimes I think I (and not only me) would have been better off killed (in this case I mean by someone other than myself).

Suicidal thoughts – reflection on the past

I was inspired by this post¬†written in Dutch, to think about how my suicidal thoughts/tendencies felt. In this post she challenges you to write about it. It’s not something you easily speak about and I can imagine it might be helpful to know more about how someone really feels or thinks at that time. I’ve had severe depression in the past and have been suicidal for a very long time. I’m very glad I can say ‘in the past’, although I have to admit that sometimes I still can become a bit suicidal or depressed. But that’s nothing in comparison as how it used to be. In the past I could never feel any positive things. The most positive feeling I could get was emptiness with a slightly less negative undertone. I would do things that would be fun, but couldn’t feel it. Now I can and I’m very grateful for that. However I’ll have to keep practising to not slip back.

Usually I become down when ‘bad things’ happened and I’m put on a lot of stress. Things I partially don’t have any influence on, such as school and things doctors or my supervisors/nurses decide (we live ‘protected’) but are bad for me. Another big factor is when my body is/I am exhausted. It’s difficult when you’re unable to do anything (not evening listening to music) to keep up the positive thoughts. Especially when I became exhausted because of something ‘small’, such as 1 hour at school. I also hate it if I make my partner feel bad, which usually happens because I overreact on something someone did and I become (a bit) paranoid. That I can become paranoid quicker than others is part of my PTSD. I find it difficult to keep my emotions under control, but so far haven’t found a therapist/supervisor who can really work with me on that.

When I’m down, suddenly all the positive¬†feelings I might have had are gone. The prevailing feeling is a negative emptiness. Although I’ll have ‘breaks’ of anger or sadness or anxiety too, but the negative emptiness will remain. I see no future, or at least not a good one. My head is being flushed by thoughts/images of all the bad things that have happened to me and might happen in the future. I intensely feel how bad my body is and how I’ll never be able to do all the things other people can (seemingly easy) do. Which is not how I look at my disabilities usually. I want the suffering to end and I don’t want to live anymore. I can’t take care of myself anymore, don’t want to either, because there’s no point… I can’t feel anymore how I used to think before this state (which is positive). I don’t believe that I thought like that, I don’t believe or feel that there can be good things in life too. It feels like I was confused when I was positive. It’s just all gone.

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[Photo of a black/dark flower with raindrops on it. The photo has a black/even darker background.]

What has been different since I’m together with my partner, is that I’ll tell him I’m feeling like that. Which usually starts like: Can I cut myself? Or something like that. That’s a good thing, although I’m not there yet. I still wait too long (for example an hour), because I should say it immediately when I’m starting to feel worse, before I reach this state.

My partner helps me to get through these moments and he can cheer me up again. When it’s starting to fade, I can feel I don’t want to actually die, but just want the suffering to end. Soon, I realize I don’t want to leave my partner. He’s the best thing that ever happened in my life and I love him so much, I can’t hurt him like that. That’s when the tears come and I’ll feel intense guilt, because of my extreme selfishness. With him I might have a good future. Like my partner said last time when I asked if it would be worth it for us two to keep living: we’ll make our time on this earth together worthwile.


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Forgiveness? Part 2

A while ago¬†I was wondering about the topic forgiveness. Is it necessary for healing to forgive an abuser? I was confused. Many people were ‘blaming’ me, because I actually didn’t agree with this saying. Those ‘conversations’ would hurt me.

I talked a lot about it with my partner. Thankfully, he and I have the same opinion on this matter. He would reassure me. I’ve also come across several blogposts from people sharing my opinion. Both my partner and the posts helped me a lot. It made me realize that I’m not the bad guy for not forgiving everything.

There might be things that you can’t forgive. We say everything will be forgiven and a person can’t be as bad as his worst deed. This might be partially true, but it’s also our hope. Our hope when we do something that we regret, we won’t have to suffer forever. However, whether something can be forgiven or not depends on the abuser and the survivor. And not everything has to be forgiven. I know, we actually don’t want to hear and know that. But there are horrible deeds that can’t be forgiven, especially if the person keeps going like it afterwards. Has no regret at all and would do it again immediately when given the chance.

Sometimes I can forgive people after a short period of time (for example 1 day). Sometimes it takes several years. And I think there might be some thing(s) I’ll never forgive. This doesn’t bother me. I was confused and were hurting myself, because I wasn’t forgiving everything. I thought it bothered me that I hadn’t forgiven everything, everyone for the massive amount of (sexual) abuse they gave me. But that wasn’t true. I realized that I was bothered by the people blaming ME. Making me the bad guy, saying I would be worse than the abuser, because I wouldn’t simply forgive everything, everyone, all the time.

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[Drawing of a person sitting on a bar stool with all sort of knives, needles and scissors in his back. Next to the person is the text: Don’t blame me for my trust issue!]

Some people might need to forgive everything to heal. But I’ve discovered that I’m not one of those people. I can’t say if it’s the same for everyone, but I think that eventually everyone can do this. I think people confuse ‘not forgiving’ with ‘ being angry about it every second of my entire life’. Which is clearly not the same.

I really don’t understand the people who say so many hurtful things to survivors. Just because they don’t understand what they mean, what they feel and what works best for them (which only the person itself can know). All I can think of is that those people don’t want to truly think about it. Truly imagine it and most of them probably can’t imagine it completely, even if you would tell them in detail. I’ve talked about that before on my blog. Realizing that helps me. It helps me with letting go. Because it’s not always me or my fault. Some people are just, well I don’t know a good word to describe it.. But I’m pretty sure you understand what I mean. They are dumb in a certain way and mean. They are very narrow-minded. And you can’t change someone. You can guide someone into changing, but only if they are willing.

My partner can imagine and understand everything from my abuse. It’s a blessing and a curse. It really helps, because he doesn’t even need words from me to know what’s going on and help me. And at the same time, seeing him hurt so much, because he can imagine it so vividly… I understand why people wouldn’t want that. They might hurt almost as much as the survivor when it happened.
But still, a bit more compassion and imagination from some people, wouldn’t hurt me ūüėČ

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[Image of a smiling Spongebob with his hands in the air and a rainbow coming out of his hands. Below him is the word: Imagination.]

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Bad boy: listening to your ‘gut’

I was inspired to write this blogpost by¬†This post¬†written by¬†A momma’s view¬†as a guestblogger for¬†Mental break in progress. For a while I was thinking about writing a blogpost about this subject, from my own experiences. But I didn’t start writing it actually down – I have this problem a lot. Reading this guestpost gave me a boost to write this post of my own.

As a PTSD ‘patient’ with tons of negative experiences with people, I’ve been taught that my gut feeling is a bad boy. “It’s too negative and wrong, always, don’t even think about listening to it for a single second.” I had to trust people more, ‘professionals’ said to me. They didn’t understand all the terrible situations I’ve been in, many didn’t even believe them.

I don’t think I’m the only one, who was told to ignore your gut. I feel like this has been going on in our society for a while now. We want to be rational, because rational is ‘good’. Rational is ‘true’. Feelings are too vague, you can’t rely on them. That’s what ‘they’ tell us. But this isn’t true.

Yes, I have PTSD and I have way too much anxiety about way too many ‘silly’ things, compared to a ‘normal’ person. Humans like to believe we live in complete safety. Now, I don’t want to scare anyone, but this isn’t true. We don’t need survival skills as much as we used to back in the day, but we still need them more or less depending on the situation you’re in.

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[Image of a drawn girl with a face on her dress saying: hey, I have a strong opinion about this. Next to the girl is the text: Listen to your gut].

I think we should shed some positive light on our gut feelings. Gut feelings safed countless people, prevented lots of bad situations. I’ve ignored my gut feeling too many times and it put me in very bad situations. Recently, I’ve been learning to listen to my feelings again, especially my gut.

I feel like I can already determine wether it’s my gut or pure anxiety speaking. Especially as people known with anxiety, it’s important to not just throw our gut away. We learn to ¬†not listen to our feelings, because of our anxiety and because of that we can’t do certain things. This doesn’t mean that your emotions or feelings are always wrong. Sometimes, we need to be cautious and our body and mind can help us with determining those times.

I want to apologize to myself for discarding my gut for such a long time. For undergoing situations that I could have avoided, if I had listened. Still, I shouldn’t give myself a hard time now. I learned from it. Even though I have ‘mental’ issues, I should still trust my mind, I can still give it some credit. You can too.

Please, listen to your body and your mind. We need to have a fine balance between our rational and emotional side.

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