11 procent of the Dutch population (16 years or older) has indicated that they have been a victim of sexual assault (source: CBR). That’s 1.6 million people. An alarmingly high number, the majority of which are women. Despite it happening not as much as to women, men also experience sexual assault. In addition to the general taboo surrounding sexual assault, men who have experienced sexual assault also feel shame about their ‘masculinity’. This is also the case with Bas*. For a long time he was silent about what had happened to him; for 15 years. He didn’t tell anyone until he decided to seek help in the fall of 2020. Now he’s opening up about his story.
Trigger warning: this article contains stories about sexual assault
I’m more of a skinny type and have never really been a macho man. I work out, but have never focussed on working out to become more muscular. My girlfriend was really fit. She was a personal trainer and practiced martial arts, so she was a lot stronger than I was.
I have never been bothered by her being physically stronger than me. We even joked about it: “If something happens, you’ll be the one to defend me!”. We had a good relationship. One time, after a few glasses of wine, she pushed me against the cupboard during an argument. But, we talked about it and everything was fine after that . However, in the Spring of 2005 things were different. After we got into a fight at a party, I decided to go home by myself. When the bell rang some time later, my girlfriend was at the door. Things got out of hand and she eventually raped me. Shortly after, she left my house and ended the relationship via text message.
I didn’t even know this could happen to me
Rape… I didn’t even know a woman could rape a man. That was something I struggled with for a long time. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, afraid they would laugh at me. So, I kept my mouth shut. It’s true that sexual assault happens to women a lot more often than it does to men, but it probably happens more often than you think, because a lot of men don’t talk about it. My ex used to send me text messages, laughing at or insulting me. I was scared that she would come back, but I didn’t have the guts to go to the police. They probably wouldn’t believe me anyway, I’d be laughed at. I had extremely low self-esteem, I thought I was the problem and I decided that I had to put myself and my feelings aside. I threw myself into work and did so for years on end.
The confidence to talk
At work I developed a good friendship with a coworker. It was easy to talk to her and she shared a lot of her personal problems with me. She was a mentally strong person, which inspired me but also made me feel safe. We had a strong bond, so strong that after all those years I felt confident enough to share my story with her. Finally, I lifted some of the weight of my shoulders that I had been carrying by myself for all those years.
My story shocked her, but also the fact that I had been dealing with it by myself for such a long time. She advised me to look for professional help. I decided that I had been fighting this battle by myself for long enough. I have tried to fix it, but this was the time to search for help and so I did.
Eventually, Bas ended up at NiceDay, where he received treatment from NiceDay psychologist Maaike.
Help from NiceDay
Maaike ended up being my assigned psychologist for an online treatment. Being treated online was not something that surprised me; we were in a pandemic and the whole world had moved on digitally. At first I had trouble talking about all the details, but Maaike quickly put me at ease; she asked the right questions and created an environment where I could be myself.
Using the app
During my treatment I regularly used the NiceDay app. Of course for my video calling sessions with Maaike, but also for using the diary or registering my feelings each day. Although it was sometimes difficult to write down my feelings, I was happy to be able to see progress. When I noticed the registrations became more positive over a longer period of time, I could see that I was making progress.
Don’t wait to get help
I’m glad I sought help and received treatment from NiceDay. I’m not there yet, but for anyone who struggles with mental health problems or has dealt with sexual assault, my advice is: don’t wait 15 years to seek help, don’t bottle up your feelings. If you think you are on your own, know that you are not and seek professional help. Bottling up or hiding your feelings won’t work. The feeling will remain dormant, it will not stop. It is not your fault and you should not be ashamed to seek help.
Help via NiceDay
Are you looking for professional help for your psychological complaints and would you like to talk to someone? You can follow an online treatment via NiceDay at various organizations, click here for more information.
*Bas’ real name hasn’t been used in this article, but is known to the editors.