The Persistence of Black Holes Enrages Me

This post is not about my son and his girlfriend living with us. I will update you briefly and just say that we succeeded in buying the condo for them, and they should be able to move out of our house and into their own home in just 8 more days. Also, Patty is not feeling entirely fine but is also no longer bedridden with morning sickness. So there is a measure of hope in the household this week.

What I want to write about today is something else, however. It’s about the way traumatic sexual violation is like a black hole. Even after all this time and all the work to live and heal myself, it has the power to suck me in and extinguish the light. And not just me—so many victims the world over suffer in the same ways.

This afternoon I went to visit my friend Eva (pseudonym). Eva and I have known each other for about 20 years; in fact I used to be her boss. Even back then, we felt drawn to be friends, which sometimes made work awkward. It’s been great these past 7-8 years, when instead we enjoy friendship without employment and supervision issues complicating things.

Anyway, Eva is in the midst of a divorce from Matt (another pseudonym), the father of her two boys. Matt is very high-energy and extroverted. He can be charming but also moody and volatile. The isolation of the pandemic was hard on him, and some already problematic behavior got worse, fueled no doubt by all the alcohol and cannabis he was using to self-medicate.

She asked him to move out because she and the boys no longer felt safe, and he did, fortunately, but his behavior became ever more erratic. I’ll skip a bunch of details and jump to the point I’m focused on today: she found, on a thumb drive he left at the house, videos he had secretly filmed of them having sex.

Think about that. He had to decide to do this and not ask for Eva’s consent. He had to plan ahead, where would he set up the camera. He probably had to test out the angle, maybe the lighting. He had to figure out how to hide the camera (or his phone or whatever) from her and how he would turn it on at the right moment. He had to get her into the room and maneuver her into position. She’s appalled at the amount of effort and planning he put into setting her up to be his involuntary porn star.

And she wonders: how many more of these videos exist? She asked him, and he said there weren’t any, but she later found an old phone of his with more sexual photos of her that she hadn’t known about. So she knows he lies.

Eva is a middle school teacher (for my friends outside the US, that means she teaches 12 and 13 year olds). Yesterday during study hall, she walked in on four boys huddled around a laptop. They became flustered when she walked in and rapidly closed down the screen. Later she felt sure they were looking at porn.

She couldn’t sleep last night. She was spinning out. What if Matt put photos or videos of her on PornHub? How can she know? What if the boys at the school were ever to find images of her? She’d have to resign her job immediately, she thought. Maybe she’d have to move to another city. Should she get a nose job or some kind of plastic surgery so no one could recognize her?

She is sickened and haunted by this. She feels violated and humiliated. Nothing Matt can say now will ever make her feel safe. It’s not that he is a revenge-porn kind of guy. It’s just a question of what he might have thought would be fun or exciting in the past. He’s been selfish and manipulative and dishonest, so he’s destroyed all trust, and she can never feel sure.

In the process of our conversation, somehow I mentioned that I’d experienced a violent sexual assault just before I met my husband. (This was Stephen, if any long-term readers remember me writing about him before.) I didn’t share any details, simply that I had gone to his apartment even though he felt unsafe, and it turned into a nightmare. I almost never tell anyone anything about this, but it felt natural in the course of our conversation. Perhaps I was trying to tell Eva that I understood, or to match her level of vulnerability; I don’t know. I can’t even recall quite how the conversation led there.

Since our conversation, I haven’t regretted sharing with Eva. I felt only kindness and no judgment from her. But I kind of regret allowing horrible Stephen to bubble up in my consciousness at all. I feel his cruel and painful presence this evening. I feel my pain and humiliation and the old anger at myself for ignoring the red flags and failing to get away while I could.

That’s what I mean about the black hole. So much darkness and such a strong gravitational pull, even after all this time. I mean seriously, Stephen assaulted me in 1998. That was years ago! Decades ago! Hundreds of therapy sessions ago!

I’ll be fine, I know. I won’t get fully sucked into that black hole, not like I used to. I’ll feel it for a while and then use all my best hard-earned strategies to build up my strength, rebuild my power and then fly away from it at warp speed.

It makes me mad, though, that it still exists and can still hurt me sometimes. It makes me furious that Eva is going to feel the hurt and distrust Matt caused, to varying degrees, for her whole life. It makes me want to scream, all the lasting pain and trauma caused by the selfishness or impulsivity or narcissism or entitlement of our assailants. It makes me crazy that our abusers ignore our humanity in the name of their momentary pleasure.

(And why should it be a “pleasure” to use or abuse us?!? A rant for another day.)



  1. This is helpful or me to read on so many levels. Firstly I can relate so much to your experience and that of your friend Eva (I’m itching to know what his erratic behaviour was, only to compare notes on that too!), but more than that, I tiny voice inside my head has warned me of a glimpse I sometimes see in the future of me alone and pondering what’s just happened, and going to that same pale you describe. So when I get there – for I know I will – I will remember reading this and not feel quite so alone in the experience. You are so many steps ahead of me like that, I know I’m travelling down the same path but that you’ve been there way ahead of me and, I dunno, it’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit of comfort. I’m sorry you have to experience it though, and you write so eloquently and poignantly about how, after all this time, you can still experience the black hole again. I wonder… does the black hole visitation come when we’ve been in a battle and the end is in sight so we begin to relax a bit? I might be far off the mark but I wonder if, now you have a way out of the difficult situation you find yourself in, you’re still depleted but have this mix of relief at the same time. In many ways I feel the awfulness of what’s happening to me right now won’t hit until it’s over and I can relax more, and then I am expecting the black hole will try to visit.

    But whether it does then , or much later, I know it will because it’s the nature of the beast and it’s been helpful to read your experience of this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi LS, you know, when I talk to Eva about her divorce, I often think of you. In fact, I told her about you, in broad terms (did not send her to your blog because I feared she might identify me through some comments, and I don’t share my blog with people I know in real life). Matt’s predatory sexual behavior, the inability to believe he did anything wrong, the pot smoking (it’s legal here, true, but heavy use is still problematic), all that sounds a lot like your story. Two young, vulnerable boys–they are another commonality. Her sons are a bit younger, but it’s not so different. Like you, she is smart, compassionate, thoughtful, and very dedicated to her children.

      Matt’s erratic behavior included some things that suggested mania, like sleeping only about 3 hours a night, going out in the evenings to party with younger people he didn’t know well, and of course the increased alcohol and drug use. Eva said “he seemed to ooze alcohol out of his pores.” Also he started having huge rages, screaming at her, smashing things against the wall, standing over her in a threatening way (she’s pretty small, and he’s a lot taller and heavier). He called her a lot of terrible names, and when she responded that he was behaving like his alcohol father, he raged for six hours, breaking things, screaming obscenities at and about her. Then later he would just attribute it to stress and say she shouldn’t hold it against him. This is different than your STBX but the elements of threat and uncertainty and the way he felt sorry for himself but never really sorry about what he did to her feels similar to your experience, well, to me at least. I don’t know if it feels relatable to you.

      I think you are right, you may have some black hole days ahead of you. Perhaps a divorce and T can help you keep those to a minimum, I don’t know. I think my post was maybe too discouraging. That is, it was a true reflection of how I felt last night, but already 24 hours later, the world feels less dark. Perhaps the gravitational pull of the black hole isn’t as powerful as I feared. It’s there, and I can get sucked in for a bit, and that feels like shit. But it doesn’t own me. It doesn’t! While it’s true that I’m not all the way out tonight–I’m not all the way in it either. And if I’m already partway out in just one day,

      I say this partly to help you know that it can get really dark sometimes, but we can also learn not to be swallowed up by the darkness. Every time it creeps up on me, I think, oh no, here it is again, I’ll never be free! And there is some truth to that, perhaps. But maybe there is also the truth that its grasp on me is weaker than in once was. I really want my friend Eva to know that, and I want you to know that, and I want everyone who reads this and struggles with their own black hole to know that. xxoo

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s totally cool with me for you to tel my story to anyone, I’ve password protected so much of my blog that it’s properly locked down now! And in the same way it’s been helpful for me to read about Eva it might be helpful for Eva to read about LS! But I understand you wouldn’t want to link to your blog and so that would make it tricky.

        Thank you for telling me a little bit about Matt‘s erratic behaviour. He sounds like he was much worse than my ex has been. I think it was Tina that said to me one thing about going on the freedom program (freedom from an abusive relationship) is that I might compare notes and think that I’m not as bad as everyone else and then tell myself off and blame myself for it!

        Funnily enough I’m not scared of the black hole days. I’ve had them before in the past and it’s good to be reminded that I will probably get them over this too. I see a stubbing your toe. It’s very painful when it happens but you do know that it won’t always hurt like this.


    • Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. I’m okay. I’m grateful for all that therapy I have had and the resources and strategies it’s given to help me cope with this darkness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sending you and your friend so much love. For me, even amnesia for several years couldn’t mask all the effects from my 1 memory with regards to my perpetrator (twin) brother. He sleeps soundly at night and here I am, still struggling with the black hole 22 years later. Still dealing with horrible people dismissing it as a “misunderstanding” or consensual exploring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry you are haunted by that memory! It’s so unfair, the way traumatic memories resonate for so, so long.

      I think a ton of people dismiss the idea that childhood sexual experiences between children of similar ages can be traumatic. While it’s true that sometimes it is about exploring, it’s also true that it can be non-consensual, frightening, painful and deeply scarring. So much depends on the context before, during and after. I wish people would learn to take a nuanced view instead of simply minimizing everything because some things are not a problem. I know you have encountered a lot of denial and minimizing, and that’s done additional harm. You deserved (and deserve) so much better.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hugs. While I’d never say my trauma gave me gifts, I do take some solace on how me and others in a Sibling Sexual Abuse group help each other ❤❤❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand that. I feel like I would have preferred not to have had my various traumatic experiences and then to have spent so much time and money in therapy. But I am grateful for the personal growth I have experienced as a result of so much therapy. Silver linings to the black hole, perhaps?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep! Silver linings not because there are inherently some, but because I pretty much feel us are the lucky unlucky ones. ❤


  3. The bastard! She’ll live in fear and humiliation for the rest of her life while he gets on with his. She should lay charges against him if she has the energy. It will clear her name in case of future encounters with this trauma.

    Liked by 2 people

    • She is still considering pressing charges. She has talked to an attorney about it, and she has the thumb drive and old phone locked in a safe in the attorney’s office, so Matt can’t get rid of the evidence. She says that for herself, she think she would feel better pressing charges, but she is not sure about the long-term effect on her boys, ages 5 and 7. This is something she is really struggling with right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am so, so sorry that that is nearly daily for you! I am trying to come up with words that are somehow comforting, but they all seem so insufficient compared to the enormity of wounds that still cause pain decades after they were inflicted. It’s not fair or right. I hope that you can, little by little, find more days with peace and fewer days with suffering.

      Liked by 1 person

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