In the more than ten years since I was raped, I never imagined I’d be writing about it.
Of course, I never told myself I wouldn’t… because for the majority of those years I could not allow myself to believe I was “legitimately” raped. Even now, I struggle with the urge to title this article “My Illegitimate Rape Story”.
A few days after it happened, I ran away from my home -out of the city, out of the state- as far as I could get, and I never told a soul the real reason why -I’m not even sure I was fully aware at the time. I couldn’t truly believe that I had a friend in the world, because the thought of telling anyone I knew the actual details of what happened was immediately followed by my imagining their response:
“If you hadn’t been alone with him, that wouldn’t have happened”
“Everybody knows what he’s like”
“Did you fight back?”
“You’re just changing your mind afterward”
…or any one of a number of arguments I’ve heard in unrelated conversations, and even uttered myself at times.
It’s hard for me to add the “forcible” qualifier to the word rape. What degree of muscular intervention legitimizes the force used by the rapist, or the struggle of the victim? How hard to you have to fight back for it to count as being “against your will”?
I didn’t want to have sex, and he forced himself in; but certainly it wasn’t forcible enough to be considered legitimate by GOP standards. My heart breaks for those women who are physically battered and violently raped. But I am no less concerned for the ones who have said “NO” and met the stunning realization that the word means nothing to a man who is determined to ignore it until you back it up with power.
Unfortunately, power is something that often escapes a woman squirming beneath someone heavier, stronger and more inclined to get his way -with the social training to assert that very power over anyone who protests his dominance.
In my case, I protested verbally and did everything short of fighting. There was this wall, you see… it was something undefined, something within me that prevented me from drawing blood. I remember thinking, as he groped and grunted, about hurting him somehow -but I’ve never physically attacked anyone in my life. I considered shoving my thumbs into his eye sockets, but the thought was more frightening and unpleasant to me (at the time) than just holding still and waiting it out.
So that’s what I did.
Years later, I still don’t think he realizes that what happened between us was universally different for me than for him. At the time, I was more ashamed of myself than upset with him, for putting myself in a position to be taken advantage of, for believing that he would spend time alone with me and not get laid, or for thinking that a kiss was anything less than an agreement to be penetrated.
I was at a very vulnerable time in my life, and struggled with the belief that his attentions were something I should be grateful for. Even now, I make excuses to avoid blaming him for doing things to my body that I didn’t want -because I didn’t scream, punch, or fight my way out of the room. I honestly hope he never reads this and never does know.
But it was the beginning of the longest downward spiral of my life.
Honestly, it would probably upset him to know what I was going through while he got off. Ultimately, however, his own unwillingness to stop at “No” or “I don’t want to” is what made him an “illegitimate” rapist. I’m so tired of carrying this disgust around in my heart -I’m tired of degrading myself by thinking that I deserved what I got, and of remembering all the time I spent afterward trying to believe that I could take my power back by continuing to put myself in those situations and be a willing participant.
No woman should ever be told that her rape doesn’t count because she didn’t have the strength to prevent it. No man should ever be raised to believe that his sexual gratification is more important than another person’s free will.
Above all, though, no person should ever be elected to public office if they are willing to trivialize the pain and suffering of another human being for the sake of a party line or a dogmatic standpoint on legislation.