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Something relationship/sex -related happened to me half a year ago, and since I still haven't recovered, I have decided to seek professional help. I have very different background than people in this country, and I have never been in therapy, so I don't really know how to talk about it.

When I tried to talk about it online, people just dismissed it, saying that it is normal and I'm not allowed to be traumatized by it. Because of my religious background, this just happens to be the most traumatizing thing I can imagine. I can't just ignore it even though I know most people wouldn't feel the same way.

I don't want to go too much in detail what happened, but after, I have had this kind of thoughts, like obsessive thoughts:

  • I was a prostitute.
  • I was raped for many months.
  • He meant to give me to his friends to use.
  • I barely escaped gang rape.
  • If I stayed, he would have sold me to sex slavery.
  • If I talk to any man, they might rape me.
  • All men have raped women.

Obviously I'm not going to say these things to the therapist, because if I did, she would lock me up in mental hospital and throw the key to the bottom of the sea. I know that what happened doesn't fit to the western dictionary definition of rape or prostitution. It's just it feels hundred times worse than rape.

It's completely unimaginable that this kind of crime would happen in my previous community, few decades ago it would probably have resulted to a death sentence. So, naturally how I feel and think are a result of that community and is very different than how people in liberal country feel.

My goal is to make the therapist understand how big issue it is, without thinking I'm delusional.

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    Therapists are trained to work with people with unusual-to-them cultural contexts. They, unlike random people on the internet and in your social circle, are very unlikely to dismiss you out of hand; rather they will work with you to dig into it. So this actually is something you should discuss with a professional. – Monica Cellio Mar 7 '18 at 20:38
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    I seriously doubt they would lock you up for these thoughts, they sound like almost common thoughts for a sexual assault survivor. – Mark Rogers Mar 7 '18 at 20:51
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    A location tag would be very helpful here on IPS. Where I'm from, discussing this kind of thing with a therapist would not condemn you in such a way, and is definitely something you should gain comfort in sharing with a professional. – Jess K. Mar 7 '18 at 20:58
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    To be honest, I don't think we can justifiably answer this without first knowing what happened, what your previous country/culture/community was and why it views the occurrence as such a crime and lastly, what your current country/culture/community is and why it views the occurrence as something you should be sent to a mental hospital for thinking of as a crime. – Jesse Mar 8 '18 at 6:22
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    @Jesse ... and what the current state of therapy is in that country/culture – mcalex Mar 8 '18 at 7:10
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Preamble:

First off, I'm so sorry. It appears that you have gone through something very traumatic. From your question, it sounds like someone you trusted and loved, someone you were sexually intimate with, betrayed you, and mistreated you. Regardless of what the rest of society thinks, that person's betrayal has caused you some very real and very serious harm. I'm so very sorry that you've had to go through that.

Answer:

I don't see a culture tag so I'm going to assume you are currently living in a western culture such as France, Britain, or the USA. I assume that it is in a western culture that you will be getting counseling.

It is unlikely that your counselor will judge you harshly. Her goal is to help you. Let me repeat that. Her Goal Is To Help You. Any half decent therapist will do this by listening to you, getting to know you and understand you and then offering advice about things you can do, say, or think that will help you heal from the past trauma you have experienced.

So when you talk to her just be open and direct about your thoughts and feelings. You ask specifically:

How do I tell therapist that something is a big issue to me, even though culturally it's not?

Just say something simple like so:

I know that society does not see this as a big deal, But it is a big deal to me. It makes me feel. . .

And then describe your thought and feelings to her as you have done here.

You also state this concern:

Obviously I'm not going to say these things to the therapist, because if I did, she would lock me up in mental hospital and throw the key to the bottom of the sea.

No, she won't. She will probably feel bad for your misfortune. She may challenge some of the thoughts that you are having. But that's just part of trying to see things from all perspectives and discover the truth. If she is in any way dismissive of what you have gone through or of the pain you are feeling, you should find a new therapist.

Telling your therapist these things you've told us here is exactly the first step you will need to take in order to begin healing yourself from the harm you have received.

You don't have to live with this fear and pain. You can heal from this trauma. You will need help, you will need professional help. I'm convinced nearly all us humans need some professional counseling in life. You may need to challenge some of societies common beliefs. You may need to challenge some of your own beliefs. It will be hard work and practice doing the things that will help you recover. Just remember you can recover.

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    Just to be clear, most therapists and other mental health experts (e.g. psychologist) will not tell you what to do. Rather they try to steer you in a direction for you to arrive at conclusions about your feelings and problems, which will be helpful to you. Anything a therapist says is never as powerful as having the patient discovering that “truth” on their own. – user1997744 Mar 8 '18 at 16:14
  • @user1997744 very true. – Dan Anderson Mar 8 '18 at 16:23
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Long time ago I visited a psychologist with group therapy. The group of about five to ten people met once a week. This went on over many months with mostly the same people.

I learned a couple of things and I'd like to share them with you because I think this will help you: many people have lots of different problems and each one thinks for himself/herself that his problem is a big problem. I met a woman whose brother tried to kill her when she was a baby because they didn't have any food. She survived but she remembers this and many other problems decades later and obviously that is a BIG problem for her. When I met her in group therapy I thought something like "Why am I here? My problem is nothing compared to her problem." But then over time I learned about the different problems from each of the people in the group. For me some problems sounded huge and other problems sounded small. But for each individual his or her problem was his/her big individual problem. And that's the point.

It does not matter if other people see your problem as small or big; it is a BIG problem for you. And that is what counts. Psychologists know this and they take the problems from each person seriously. We have to learn that there is no fixed scale about what a small problem is and what is a big problem. When our problem is a big problem for us that is all that counts, it does not matter what others think.

I suggest you talk freely to your therapist. She will understand that this is a big problem for you - even if maybe it wouldn't be a big problem for herself personally.

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    (+1) I'd like to provide an anology. Are you not allowed to be happy because someone somewhere is happier at this time? Of course not! The same counts for your issue. Your issue is valid and important because of its meaning to you, not because of how it compares to other people or even the social norm. – Belle Mar 8 '18 at 13:45
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The job of a therapist includes validation of whatever you are feeling. If she dismisses your thoughts, immediately walk out and find another therapist.

Your thoughts are the exact reason that people go to therapy. Our minds are imperfect products of evolution, forged with the purpose of survival, not happiness. They sometimes go wrong, and they have a strong tendency to err on the side of false positives. In simple terms: If something moves in the bushes, it is better to falsely think it is a lion (cost if you are wrong: You ran a bit for nothing) thank to falsely think it is not (cost if you are wrong: You are lunch).

I have a hunch of what happened to you and the feelings you describe are exactly this kind of false positive mental reaction. The cost if you are wrong is fear and unhappiness, but the cost if you thought the other way around and were not careful in the next similar situation would be that it happens again. So your mind, trying to protect you, accepts the cost of fear and unhappiness because that reduces your chances of survival less than the other option.

Any halfway good therapist will understand this and also understand that in order to help you, they need to validate your feelings, i.e. completely accept them without questioning, denial or refusal. Otherwise you will not open up to talk about the underlying problems (e.g. your cultural background making you think such thoughts, victimising you more than the event itself did).

So your fear about the therapist is most likely unfounded, and if you do not like the therapist, changing one is perfectly acceptable. The relation between therapist and patient is vital to therapy success, and sometimes two people just don't fit to each other. So the worst that can happen to you is that you waste one or two sessions while finding the right therapist.


PS: A therapist cannot throw you in mental hospital and throw away the key, even if they wanted to. Only a judge could do that, and as long as you are not a danger to others, nothing even remotely like that is going to happen.


PS2: I think you did a fantastic job here explaining how big the issue is for you. If you use similar words to explain it to a therapist, I am sure you will be successful in conveying that information.

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    "A therapist cannot throw you in mental hospital and throw away the key" - Are we sure this is true in all places in the world, not knowing the OPs location and age? Otherwise, great answer. – AHamilton Mar 8 '18 at 9:30
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    From the OP's text, she is somewhere in a western country and I'm reasonably sure you need more than a bad therapist anywhere there. – Tom Mar 8 '18 at 10:25

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