The other “how do I know”

Everyone has to deal with the normal “how do I know” questions when embarking on a new relationship.  “How do I know if this is just lust or something more?”  “How do I know how he feels about me?”  “How do I know he is the one?”  And so on…

As a survivor of rape (I can practically hear your collective “gasp”, but if I can’t be honest on here, where can I be?), there is another “how do I know” question that is constantly on my mind, whether I am on the first date or the 30th.  “How do I know when it is the right time to tell him?”  I always feel as though it is too soon to tell “him” and then suddenly, it feels too late.  I used to tell men as a way of judging their character, as though the way they reacted was a good indicator of whether or not I wanted to be with them.  It isn’t.  It just isn’t a fair moment to judge someone.  More recently, I got tired of telling people.  It is exhausting and people often react badly, leaving me feeling as though I need to support them.  Except for the most recent major player (Rat-Bastard), I haven’t told anyone in the last few years.  The thing is, no one is ever going to get to really know me unless they know.  It is a major part of who I am and who I have become.  I certainly dealt with it and no longer think about the events every day, but the fact of those events is present in my life every minute of every day.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to the fact that I will now be dating people who don’t already know me well.  (Having lived in a small town for quite a while, many of the people I previously dated had known me for years.)  Well, to be honest, I am mostly thinking about it in terms of Aaron.  (See previous posts.)  We have been on four dates and text all the time.  While it feels like it might be a little too soon, I am worried that it will soon seem too late and that I will just let the opportunity to tell him slip away.  In order to “take a risk,” like one of my readers so wisely suggested, I feel like I need to be very open and honest and let him actually get to know me.  And, give him a chance to run away if it seems like too much for him, not that I think he would.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to have a tattoo on my forehead that announced it to the world.  “I am a three-time survivor of rape.”  It would make everything much more straightforward.  Then people would know from the beginning and could feel more free to ask questions about it.  It is even hard to tell friends.  Since it was a relatively long time ago, it seems weird to bring it up to new friends in the beginning, and then like it is way too late.  Just like with men.  And female friends, while sometimes sympathetic, tend to have wildly different reactions.  You never can tell before you “tell”.

In all my thinking about it over the last few weeks, I think I have come to a conclusion.  When I want to tell him, I will.  I have a feeling that might be soon.  Of course I will wait to tell him in person; it isn’t something that should be shared via text.  But I do feel the need for him to know.  If it makes him nervous to be with me or makes him not want to get to know me, then he is someone I could never be with anyway.

As for my friends, those who read this and didn’t already know will know now.  Please feel free to talk to me about it.  And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you in person, please don’t take it as a sign of disregard or distrust.