In talking with many survivors I have realized one thing: many of us had a tragic online infatuation/obsession at some time. I am purposefully not choosing the word online love because we did not really know the person and were infatuated with our projections and fantasies of the person. Many of us met the object of our affection/obsession(?) in rooms that serves to support and educate around issues of relevance to women and survivors or rooms dealing with spirituality etc. The thing is, I believe these types of people frequent these types of rooms because they find a lot of vulnerable women, often with unhealed sexual abuse histories to latch onto and do their parasitic damage. Sexual abuse survivors need to be careful with people they meet online, especially in support forums. And they need to double down on their screening procedures for people that come on to them online. The anonymity of the internet allows perpetrators to stay hidden too easily and we are gullible to their presented false personas all too often.
My particular online perpetrator was a narcissistic, addict scam artist that fancied himself a Zen Buddhist teacher. Granted, all his titles were self appointed (big tip off) and he flew solo in the highly structured world of Zen training. I was very into Zen at the time and frequented AOL’s Belief Net and yahoo chat rooms in that subject matter. Quickly he spotted me and began instant messaging me and very quickly it became cyber sexual. Big tip off too. I painted this painting early in our affair and it captures the dreamy infatuation I had with him. I think it was only the second painting I ever did and boy, it shows, but look past my novice technique. In hindsight I can see that I floated his loving words above me and it ended up paralleling the realization that all his loving gestures were really just empty words, never manifesting into actions. I did not internalize that crucial piece of information until after he left my home and life in shambles. I am proud to say my bottom was absolute and I severed all contact with him; he is no longer in my life in any way, despite repeated efforts by him to re-establish contact.
Before, with all my unexamined daddy issues, I projected the ideal daddy/partner onto this guy and fell in love with him quick and hard. Actually, it was more an obsession as I did not know him and I was consumed with day dreaming about him to the point that it interfered with my daily functioning and I made unrealistic plans and dreams to be with him in the near future (when we met, he was in the UK and I , the US) I literally did not notice all the major red flags of lies, disappearances and overly sexualized contact for what they were. I was always waiting for him to come to me as he promised and ignoring the obvious signs of misdeeds all the while.
I lost a good 2-4 years involved with this on again and off again cyber boyfriend until it culminated with him coming to my place (because he had been kicked out by another women and he was mooching across the USA) and bringing me to a physical, emotional and spiritual bottom within six month. I accepted profound disrespect and abuse and it took police to get him to leave. I was not only severely traumatized by his abuse (which is too long to go into here) but I was disillusioned with my spiritual practice as he had set himself up as a zen teacher and had betrayed me and others so profoundly.
The point of me recounting this story to you is that I see other survivors developing obsessional facade relationships all the time and getting burned in the process. I think our issues make us vulnerable to predators and con artists who will use our unhealed abuser loyalties and fantasy bonds with our early childhood perpetrators to get into our heads and hearts. And they are lurking around online places where we gravitate.
Today, I look for spaces where we can support each other to uncover unhealthy attachments and learn how to spot perps without the focus on blame but rather on our own healthy choices. Because, while blame deserves to be placed where it belongs, it only goes so far in changing our inclination towards those types of people. We have to own why we like them and pursue the relationship despite all sorts of warnings. I often find survivors lambasting others for wrongdoing but not taking responsibility for their part. And frankly, I am embarrassed at my part in keeping my perpetrator’s attachment to me alive and well. I want to evolve so that I am immune to their charms and machinations.
I find such a space in meetings such as Codependents Anonymous and with my therapist. My experience with several survivor boards is that they usually just blast the wrong doer and solicit a lot of support (which is needed) but hard questions of one’s own accountability rarely get posed or tolerated. That is just my opinion. If you are embarrassed and/or traumatized by how you are being treated by anyone you met , especially online, get thee over to a therapist and talk it out. Scoundrels thrive on your secrecy so by airing out the dirty laundry you’ll start to gain some power back. Good luck navigating the online waters out there, be careful!