SUFFERING IN SILENCE: SEXUAL AND MORAL HARASSMENT WITHIN A COUPLE

Being in a relationship with the opposite sex for a few days or years does not necessarily imply that one is obliged to make love with their partners or has to be sexually violated

Quite a lot of people have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime by their partners, a member of their families, or an unknown person.  Letting sexual violence happen lies in the gray zone between what is physical or mental. Since a particular woman/teenage girl thinks “no” without saying it, and the opposite sex feels that since she did not say “no”, it means that she does not refuse sex. And here, we are not only talking about rape, we are also highlighting other forms of “let it happen”, that victims of violence often consider as benign or without serious consequences. 

Why do people harass others? and how does it feel when a person gets assaulted? 

Cécile, a French girl in her early twenties is one among countless victims who were subjected to sexual violence.  Cécile encountered a handsome teenage boy a few weeks before she turned 17 in a bar that is near the high school she used to study in. Thanks to their friend in common who invited them along with other classmates and paid for their beers. “I have always been extremely rational, and I could not believe in strong feelings or mystical forces… I saw him for the very first time, we did not talk too much for we were shy but we felt an instant connection, as though we were soulmates. We met a couple of times in other places and he was very nice to me and protective. It had been love at first sight and we ended up as partners two or three weeks later.”

The feelings that Cécile had for that boy were “intense” as she describes them. She also said that she has never felt that way before and that she thinks love is like baby venomous serpents. “I will go in-depth so you can understand my theory, love is like baby venomous serpents; when they bite their prey, the latter do not have total control over the poisonous substance they secrete. However, when they grow up, they subdue their victim.”

Other than that, Cécile mentioned she had finally felt safe and happy because she was mentally tired back then. She admitted that her parents forced her to get a scientific degree and follow a path they drew for her even though she has never liked sciences. Depression made her smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol so as to escape from reality.

Then she got back to her love story and said that the very first weeks were like a romantic movie, love increased her dopamine. Afterward, her boyfriend started talking about sex! Cécile had never had sex at that moment, as opposed to her boyfriend who had many sexual experiences. “I was not ready to be intimate with him, I refused several times but then I felt terrible and thought he wanted us to make love because it was time for our relationship to move to the next level.”

Since that night, Cécile started noticing some sudden changes in her boyfriend’s behavior such as delayed messages, he often used to ghost her for three successive days but she had always forgiven him and found excuses for his reprehensible acts. “I do not know how to explain this, but he had enormous power over me, he could easily control me and my thoughts as a puppet. I was manipulated and defenseless.”

Then he got abusive. Whatever he said or did to her made her feel terrible, and she was questioning herself as to why he treated her that way, is it something about her? For she had never thought he was mistaken or did her wrong. For some reason, she always thought whatever happened between them is because of her. Her mother was against her relationship with her boyfriend for she has never seen her down like that. Still, she stood against her mother and followed her heart. Besides, her parents were not aware of what was going on between her and her boyfriend, she kept everything to herself.

As for sexual intimacy, Cécile confessed that her boyfriend had never asked her if she was ready to make love with him. She did it by force, and during their intercourse, Cécile bled six times. Cécile was only 17 years old and she had already experienced sodomy.

Once again, they were intimate without her consent, she tried to defend herself and he murmured in her ear “Be quiet, my parents will hear us”. She replied: “Stay away from me or else I will call them!” He left her alone and apologized, and she forgave him: “No worries, I know you did not mean to harm me.”

Cécile was not aware that her boyfriend was abusing her.“ Love was there but the pleasure was not… it was complicated, however, I wanted to please him even if it was to my detriment because I cried almost every time for months.” She, later on, noticed that she lost twelve kilograms and getting anxious, but she could not let him go for her feelings towards him were stronger than anything else. 

Fun fact, he broke up with her pretexting that she is childish. According to what Cécile says, her surroundings have always told her that she is wise for her young age. She did her best to get him back and make their relationship work but in vain…

Smoking weed and crying have become her daily routine. Cécile has never sought help from her family, friends, or psychologists. Because she was ashamed, afraid, powerless,  had low self-esteem, and thought it was her fault.

Forcing oneself to do something is like making an immense effort and going against one’s desire. “Overcoming sexual harassment may seem like something that involves little to no physical and mental effort… Actually, surpassing mental demons requires a lot of time and energy.”  

According to a psychotherapist under the name of Beverly Engel , the side effects of harassment may have destructive psychiatric effects that include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • PTSD — Studies have found a link between victims of sexual harassment and PTSD, which causes the victim to re-live the harassment and avoid situations where it could happen again.
  • Suicidal behavior — Studies suggest that sexual harassment can lead to suicidal behavior. Up to 15 of 1,000 females studied reported saying they made suicidal attempts after suffering from some sort of sexual harassment.

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201711/why-dont-victims-sexual-harassment-come-forward-sooner

Cécile needed time to overcome her delicate problems, however, she recovered. I asked her about her secret and she said: “I moved to another city because everything in my town reminded me of him. Besides, I deleted all his pictures and blocked his accounts on social media, and I changed my personal number so he can never reach me.” 

A few years passed by, Cécile has encountered a great person who had made her life complete. They have been together for more than a year and have lived together amid the covid crisis. Cécile revealed that her new boyfriend is the complete opposite of her precedent one. That the former makes her stronger and brought the best out of her. Who could ask for more?

Her advice for the lecturers is: “Never keep such things for yourselves, if you feel bad about something, seek help from a professional or anyone you trust! it is not your fault and it is never too late!”

Loubna El Alaoui

Hi there, let me walk you through my humble personal and professional life! My name's Loubna and I am a Moroccan web editor, investigator and journalism student. I've always been fond of writing, for it helps me get things clear in my head and reduce stress. I began writing some personal articles that I only shared with some very close friends of mine, and now, a humble number of people read my articles about life, environment, society... Before I held my BA in English Literature, so many people and teachers told me that I could be a great journalist. Well guess what....? After so many experiences, I found my passion and what I truely want to do with my life. And now I'm working on my masters degree in Journalism and Media.