I was on a date in my 20’s with my now-husband, watching a movie in northern NJ. The movie was the first film that had been rated “NC-17″, “Henry and June”, I believe. It supposedly had sexually explicit material in it. I was pretty reticent about seeing it, but went anyway. I never saw the explicit material anyway.
I became aware of a large man in an overcoat who had suddenly moved over to the seat next to me. He asked me what time it was. I looked over at him, he opened his overcoat and I saw what he was doing, seemingly for my benefit. I froze. I’d caught his eyes, and I saw an extreme sadness in them. “Maybe I’m supposed to help him”, I thought.
I’d attracted similar men and situations for most of my life, starting at about age 9. Not just exhibitionists, but molesters, guys following me in cars, and a rapist. My reaction was always a frozen state - an inability to process and react the way I would like to.
I stood up, walked past my future husband, but did not say anything. Surely he would look over and realize what was happening. I quickly walked up to the ladies room. Another young woman was in there, and I told her what had happened - that the man sitting next to me was openly masturbating and it had triggered a lot of old stuff in me. She said “oh my god, was it your date??”
Gotta love us Jersey girls.
I told the theater management who said ‘yeah, that happens’.
It was my first clue that expecting mind-reading in a marriage would not work :-).
It took me years to learn to deal with such situations more directly. Once I learned it, they stopped happening. I had to learn as an adult that I did not have to be someone’s victim. It’s a change in energy, I think. When you change it, you don’t attract people looking for a victim. This is not to say that it is one’s “fault” for allowing themselves to be a victim, only that I think not easily being a victim is something that can be taught.
I have attempted to teach it to my own children.
Scarred for life? The net result of my combined experiences has certainly been “scarred for part of my life”. In a loving relationship, I think these scars can be healed. My date/husband and I have learned a lot since then.
I don’t go to NC-17 or X movies, however. And I am easily triggered by TV or media. I think if we maintain open relationships with our children, they will tell us. I didn’t have that connection with my parents so I never told. I think the secret/shame/not telling is the most damaging thing of all.