(Fair warning - I'm completely sleep deprived and it's entirely like that I will say a lot without really contributing anything)
I've always hated how others referred to some of my experiences. I hate hearing it referred to as "What happened with D---" or "The situation with Jody" or if I was really lucky sometimes it was "The time Jody took advantage of you". 'Took advantage', my foot. And the stumbled "You know..." with that meaningful, slightly uncomfortable <i>look</i> has been more hurtful to me than anything. I always want to blurt out "Yes, I know and so do you, so why don't we just call a spade a spade?" I know that these people are often simply trying to 'protect me'. But to that little girl inside of me, what it translates into is "this is so shameful that we can't even call it what it is." To me, it translates into silence. Suddenly, I feel uncomfortable about labeling my own experience with them, because there is now the feeling that they are more comfortable if they don't hear the 'r-word'. I remember when I was first dating Chris and he learned I had been sexually abused as a child. He told me about the fact that his mom had been sexually abused as well. While I know that he was just trying to help me to feel comfortable in confiding in him and his heart was completely in the right place, one thing about that conversation has always stuck out in my mind. When he mentioned it, he said that his grandpa had "tried to get into bed with" his mom...or something to that effect. He wouldn't label it, and I felt like dryly saying "Oh, you mean she was sexually abused." - though I guess it's not mine to label. It's just that what I heard in what he said is "I'm uncomfortable talking about this and therefore am probably not the best person to confide in."
In talking with another member recently, she told me about her 'experience' (for lack of a better word, because I don't want to label what is not mine) and asked me if I thought it was rape. I was glad that she had the guts to ask and to voice her fears and her questions, but I was kind of like, "Okay, I want to validate her, but how can I label something that isn't mine to label?"
Labeling is something that is very hard, and I think there is some damage in forcing one to label 'it' before they are ready. Years ago, after the second date rape, I was talking about it with one of my close friends, and she said to me, "You know, you were raped." and I about lost it. I was just not ready to face it, to see it for what it really was. In some ways, she helped me to see later on that it WAS rape, but there was also something greatly disturbing about having someone take my experience and label it for me.
However, I am of the belief that labeling our experiences is one of the most powerful things we can do. It's so very hard, because we are forced to acknowledge that something did happen - we are forced out of the denial that we have lived in. We are forced to take ownership of the rapes/abuse. We are forced to acknowledge that it was a big deal and that it does matter. There is a certain fear there. But yes, doing so helps us to heal. How <i>can</i> we heal from something if we don't know what it is we are healing from? To me, labeling each of the experiences has been validating and empowering. It has given me the chance to say "I was raped. This is what happened to me. I don't want it, but it is mine. It's not 'the situation' or 'that thing that happened'. It is not something that I wish to hide from any longer. It was a big deal. It did hurt me." For me, labeling it (although it made 'it' painfully real) has helped to dispel the shame. It has helped to make it less scary somehow. I do have a hard time talking about the rapes in RL. I have a very hard time saying "I was raped. I was sexually abused." But I think that it is something that we all must do in order to heal.
Good grief, would someone tell me to shut up?! I've rambled far too long, and probably contributed nothing. I should follow Rain's example and post only when fully awake. :)