TW: this article discusses sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, suicide, and multiple other forms of trauma
After 5 years of treatment, I was raped by my therapist. Using the word rape felt really hard for me at first. It conjures up images of someone jumping out of the bushes, or a man you meet on a first date who believes paying for dinner means he’s entitled to your body. It didn’t exactly feel fitting for someone I trusted my entire heart and mind with. But that’s exactly what happened. It was a psychological ambush that I didn’t see coming. It wasn’t an affair that ended in weird feelings, it wasn’t a long unwinding of professional and ethical lines. It was sudden and unexpected. One day I was a patient and the next day he had sexually assaulted me in his home.
I remember the day I found his professional profile online. I was in a very dark and desperate place. I was unable to stuff down the memories of my childhood sexual abuse any longer. For 29 years I was able to push away the thoughts. And while they weren’t completely suppressed from my conscious mind, my psyche did a very good job at dissociating when the memories arose. But the survival mechanism was starting to break down and the horror of what happened to me as a child began to become a little too real to tolerate.
As I started to unravel I began having very severe panic attacks. I’d had them before but these were stronger than the usual and were happening multiple times a day. If you’ve ever had a panic attack you know the mental and physical toll that they take on you is huge. My youngest son was about 3 years old at the time. I remember him bringing me a book to read to him. I was in the middle of the kitchen where I had dropped to the floor to try and ride out another wave of horror. Struggling to breathe the way I was taught in order to calm my nervous system, I opened the book and began to read aloud. But the words coming out felt like they weren’t mine. I felt like I was outside my body. It was terrifying. Being unable to parent in these moments lead to dark thoughts. I started to believe my children would be better off without me.
Having lost my own father to suicide as a kid, I knew the impact the mere thought could have on my family. So, I began to look online for a therapist. I found a man that sort of reminded me of my beloved…