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Sexual Assault It happened whilst I was asleep, how do I know I didn't dream it?

Thread starter #1
I feel so awful writing this. I've wrestled with it every four years or so and end up restricting or in hospital. My memory of it is still not clear.

I think someone tried to assault me in my sleep. I woke up and they seemed to be asleep and grunted when I said if they tried it again I would hurt them. I don't even know who it was as we were all asleep at a party and it was pitch black, although I have an idea. I couldn't lie there so I left and sat outside, freezing cold, until the sun came up. My parents had told me not to bother coming home the day before so I had nowhere to go and just sat. I can't remember if I cried.

I often think I must have dreamt it or made it up. I told no-one. Eventually it came back up and told my boyfriend at the time. He was generally abusive (I didn't know it at the time) and said he didn't understand how I couldn't be sure, it either happened or it didn't, I couldn't go around making false allegations and not to tell anyone. I started crying and he told me to sort myself out and left me alone in the house. He would often wake me up by touching me and I absolutely hated it but he would protest if I refused or wore pyjamas to bed which I think made it more difficult. He expected me to available at all times.

I left him but it's come back up again as I struggle to have a physical relationship with my current partner (who is lovely). He knows and respects my boundaries.

A part of me thinks that it wouldn't keep coming up if it was just a dream but I have no way of knowing what was real. I don't remember it clearly enough and I just think I must be an awful person and over dramatic. I was obviously motivated not to stay where I was and not to sleep but that doesn't mean it was real. It tears me up inside. I've started talking in my sleep and asking my partner not to come anywhere near me. He doesn't know if he should sleep on the sofa or not because he wants me to feel safe.

I have had lots of therapy over the years but have never raised it because I don't want to be judged again or find out that I have made it all up and lived with something that isn't true. If it happens in your sleep how do you know? Is this common? I can't find anything about being unsure all I can find is "what it means if you dream of assault" but I don't think it was a dream. I feel like I can feel and hear the zip of my trousers but that could be all in my head too. Even if I could convince myself it was a dream I feel it would go away but I can't.
 
#2
I would focus on getting through it... more than the what ifs.

That rapists have no regard for consent? Is fact. That violating people while asleep in all sorts of ways is easy? Is also fact. That rapists are cowards, who look for every chance to blame the victim? Ditto.

Quite a few of my rapes happened while asleep / semi asleep / drugged / mostly asleep and rather playing along than let them know I'm awake already and yeah. Doesn't make it easier.

But even if you don't know for sure, that's not the most important question... how to heal from the impact of it, is.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
#4
This is awful experience and it's cost is becoming too high for you because the experience is becoming third party to every subsequent relationship.
Now looks like to me you have two distinct issues and the confusion of it is adding the stress of experiencing sexual assault... Like secondary issue.
It is obvious you are assaulted cause thr body memory is saying even if your brain is playing rational.

Secondly, whether or not what happened can be proved legally is another thing and your confusion of that is adding to your guilt and rational side so you are becoming the accused, the victim, the judge, the jury, the fill the blank.... Too much.
I hope you get a decent therapist to help you gain back your confidence and internal safety.

The experience was bad enough but its cost can be even bigger.
 
#5
. I don't remember it clearly enough and I just think I must be an awful person and over dramatic. I was obviously motivated not to stay where I was
Gosh. What you write here sounds like me. The self blame. The feeling of being dramatic. I get that. 100%. For me: I can't remember a very specific issue that for me holds a lot of weight to what did or did not happen to me. My T is trying to get me to see it from different angles. Maybe that is what you need to do to make peace with it? You're left with this feeling that something happened. That isn't being awful. That is awful. The situation is awful. Not you. You are not dramatic.
Maybe building trust, somehow, with your feelings is the key?
 
Thread starter #6
Thank you all for your comments.

I know on intellectual level that it doesn't matter if it happened or not but I guess that feels like an "easy out". It's how I feel about the domestic abuse when I feel so much guilt for being flawed and being mentally unwell. I know that I would never suggest that to anyone else but it's myself and it's difficult to see yourself as worthy of love as others.

I think I might mention it to my therapist in an abstract way. My insurer is refusing to continue funding and I don't think I have enough sessions to really explore safely.

I feel like I've made a lot of progress in other areas, my ex would gaslight me and I've learnt to find my own truth in what happened. I guess a similar approach would apply here.

There's so many questions I have if it happened that I can't answer, that make me doubt what happened. I don't know how old I was, I don't know how we logistically managed to touch me or how he knew it was me next to him. How did I know it was the person on my right?
 
#7
There's so many questions I have if it happened that I can't answer, that make me doubt what happened. I don't know how old I was, I don't know how we logistically managed to touch me or how he knew it was me next to him. How did I know it was the person on my right
I feel your pain. I've tortured myself about these missing facts too. What I asked myself is: why are the facts I do know not enough to trust myself that it happened? I also struggle with the logistics of an event. And because of that I've oscillated between believing it didn't happen and I'm dramatic, or that whilst the sex act happened, it was me that made it happen. But the bits I do remember make those narratives false. And I'm coming to learn and trust myself about what happened.
I'm so sorry you are going through this. For what it's worth: I believe you. It shouldn't have happened to you and that person should not have done it. None of it is your fault. And trying to rationalise behaviour that is inexcusable is another way of us trying to shift the blame back onto us.
I hope you get to find peace here,and I hope your sessions with your T continue for as long as you need them to.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
#8
It is unbelievable how much we can beat ourselves so much until we bleed but the reality is the pain is still in us and the experience is still in our minds. I get you stuck in finding the details and you may get lucky and recall some and you may not recall others...such as life of our finite memories...but one thing I learned in recovering from trauma is that forgiving myself even for what I did to others or allowed others do it to me cause I was dissociated or did not care or did not know better or do not recall..the biggest, hardest and the most challenging was/is can I forgive myself for whatever happened to me? Cause the end of the day, I am still here feeling, remembering and no one to tell me what happened or how. All me there and all alone now with the fallout.
 
#9
I've wrestled with it every four years or so
I know on intellectual level that it doesn't matter if it happened or not but I guess that feels like an "easy out". It's how I feel about the domestic abuse when I feel so much guilt for being flawed and being mentally unwell. I know that I would never suggest that to anyone else but it's myself and it's difficult to see yourself as worthy of love as others.
Ever looked at the idea of both options (did I dream it, or did it happen) being true? IE You having a flashback of a time when you were assaulted, or a nightmare that changed roles around as your brain is attempting to process having witnessed someone else being assaulted?

Because it seems like that scenario, where it’s not either/or, might be able to bridge the gap between head & heart.

A real memory/experience, brought on by:
- the stress (or feeling of safety, depending on what your home life was like) of suddenly being thrown out of your home,
- triggered by some casual/unintentional movement of someone in the room (whether accidentally bumping you as they walk across the room, or a snore, someone talking in their sleep, the scent on the pillow, etc.),
- startle reflex jangling you into fight/flight mode as a fridge ticks over or ice trays dump, phone rings, car alarm outside, cat jumps on you, dog sticks his wet nose on bare skin

Because, sure, in some situations it’s impossible to ever know the whole truth of what happened. So, if the baseline is knowing you’ll probably never know? Why take the position that a decision needs to be made about if it’s true OR untrue? Real OR dream? Both are possible. So perhaps try a lens that isn’t black & white, but allows for both possibilities to be true, at the same time? A flashback or nightmare of something you experienced, or witnessed. Both real AND a dream.

Clearly (I hope!), I’m not saying that is what happened... but since it’s just as likely as the other 2 options? Without a forced choice between the two, but an allowance made for both; might make it easier to hold both options in the palm of your hand without being torn apart by an impossible choice.
 
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Thread starter #10
Thank you all. I'm really struggling today with my memory and concentration so I will catch up over the weekend hopefully.

I drafted what I wanted to say to my therapist and then the next day. I woke up with the thought "did I have to adjust my trousers when I left?", "Would that help me know?" Which just set me up for a day of hurt and crying. I couldn't explain to my current boyfriend but eventually gave him an idea as I just couldn't stop crying.

The first time I recalled this stuff I didn't remember that I had been told I wasn't welcome at home. This was a new recollection this year so perhaps there is room to remember more.

There was another event which I can't place in terms of whether it happened before or after this so maybe that's telling me something. I have tried and tried to order them myself but I can't.
 
#11
Hey I know this thread is from a couple of months ago but just wanted to chime in. It sounds really painful: to doubt yourself due to the nature of sleep and then to have very close people reinforce your doubt and leave you alone, making it even harder I imagine to deal with how this memory you have of waking up was lingering but not totally clear. I don't know if this helps but I'll share because it helped me to read your post. I realized that my best friend touched me in my sleep on multiple occasions five years after it happened. I was really depressed at the time and was dealing with persistent suicidal thoughts. I started to lean on this friend when I was depressed and she would say I could sleep over so I didn't have to walk back to my dorm late. There are a few clear markers: that I remember asking her what she was doing, her rubbing my head saying it's okay go back to sleep or don't worry I'll stop. I froze and tried to sleep but I'd awake sometimes or she would violate me when I assume she thought I had fallen asleep. I was in such a vulnerable point in my life that I didn't recognize the violation - it wasn't that I thought it was okay, I just didn't think about it. Sometimes over the years, it'd quickly pop into my mind and I'd be like: what was that? But I would stop thinking about it almost immediately to the point where I hardly noticed the question in my mind. For me I think I just couldn't deal with another trauma, another kind of pain and betrayal, so my mind and my body stored it mostly subconsciously. Yet what's strange is I never forgot, even though I have no clue how many times it happened. I know I was over there a lot and continued to sleep over, having no acknowledgement in mind at the time of what happened in that bed. When I came close to dying, she stopped being my friend. After that, I found DBT treatment but somehow it didn't come out until this year - the recognition of what she did and my freezing and how violating and how it affected me with the guys I dated afterward. And it's so early in my healing process that when I start to think about this experience, I slowly lose my grip on my belief in my memory - the fact that it was at a time of sleep and depression makes it hard to onto. But I'm starting to see the patterns and how the intense feeling of betrayal and violation and vulnerability and feeling exposed and dirty that arises is what drives me to question myself. I know we've all had different experiences but I think it's possible that telling a trusted therapist and starting the conversation might allow you to access details that your mind might be almost like flinching from right now. Either way, know that you deserve to be heard and feel supported in considering your past. I'm learning that our brains and bodies are complex and remember things in ways that are hard to fathom but nonetheless it seems like we can do a lot of things subconsciously to get through and survive. <3 Much love to you and I wish you support - I'm really happy for you that your partner respects your boundaries. It sucks in the moment and a lot of the time and yet I think going at our own pace will someday give us an insight and strength.
 
Thread starter #12
Thank you so much for your post. It really touched me and I relate to a lot of what you say.

I'm really sorry that you had those experiences. You speak with some patience and self compassion and it's instilled a little of that in me too so thank you.

I think I'm nearing the point where I'm going to be ready to bring it up, there's been a lot I felt I needed to process first but I think I'm getting there.
 
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