Qualifying Rape

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.



5 thoughts on “Qualifying Rape

  1. Thank you for being strong enough to share your story. I cannot imagine the inner struggles you have gone through. You are absolutely correct in your analogy of what society and men in particular see as legitimate rape. No means no and the fear of losing a mans affections over his unwillingness to stop at no has been ingrained in most of us through minimization of consequences and saturation by the media. Any politician, clergy, parental figure or talking head that openly or secretly thinks this bullshit is the new acceptable norm should be publicly ridiculed and even physically stoned back to the stone age. Our young men and ladies should be taught from a young age that the sanctity of a person’s wishes and their self respect trumps any and all sexual urges and that there are serious repercussions if those boundaries are crossed. Sadly that boundary crossing has been heralded as a badge of honour for too dam long. Hugs Dear!


  2. Mary, the first step in getting your inner strength back is to accept the fact that it was not your fault, nor is it your responsibility to make excuses for his actions. The imaginary line you spoke of is not imaginary, it is a fundamental difference between men and women and it goes against our nature as women to be violent unless it is in the defense of our children. I faced a similar situation when I was just 18 years old but I had the physical know-how to fight back because I was a trained U.S. Marine, I just couldn’t bring myself to use it so I do understand exactly what you are saying. It took me over twenty years to stop making excuses for him and to stop blaming myself and it changed me as a person in ways I still don’t understand.

    Yes, men used to be the dominant gender, the fighters, hunters and all that crap but that was a very long time ago. Just because they used to be that way doesn’t mean we need to still be sitting in the cave waiting to be dragged off by the hair when they return from the office. If you want to let go of the excuses and see this for what it really is, picture in your mind that same night happening again only this time instead of it happening to you, it happens to your naive and sweet tempered daughter. I guarantee if you mull that scenario over in your mind, a rage will fill you that will wipe out the excuses.

    Just like men, women have their own genetic code. Back in that cave if a man had threatened our children, we would have eviscerated him in vicious ways that would make a man cringe and cross his legs just thinking about it. If you had walked in on your daughter being raped, nothing would have stopped you from pulling him off of her and there would have been no mercy within you. He deserves no excuses or forgiveness; he is a rapist and what he did to you was wrong. Men who feel justified in forcing themselves on a woman are simply uncivilized neanderthals and politicians who back this mentality just want to keep us locked in the cave so they can feel more manly and superior.

    I know I’ve gone on a bit of a rant here and I’m sure there are going to be a bunch of men reading this saying that I’m some psycho-pmsing-feminist who probably looks like a Russian power lifter but they would be wrong. I am a petite, soft spoken and well educated woman that no longer makes excuses for the behavior of the men in my life. Mary, we have enough to deal with when we take responsibility for our own actions in this world, don’t overburden yourself by taking on the responsibility of some guy who thinks with his zipper. You are a brave woman for writing this post and I hope it makes you smile just a little to know that you are not alone.


  3. I, too, think that sharing info and stats between authors is incredibly empowering. There used to be a monopoly, and authors couldn’t publicly share their information for fear of being “blacklisted” by publishers.Indie publishing is like our union :). We can do what we want, and more importantly, share information to empower everyone.I, myself, am at about 4000 e-book sales since publishing a couple of months ago. I would never have known my sales at this point if I were traditionally published, and wouldn’t be able to share this with other authors. Knowledge is power. We gain control once we gain information on how this business works. Thanks for sharing the wealth, Joe :).


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