Rape: Any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
I was 19 when I entered my first relationship. I was 21 when I lost my virginity; though it wasn’t with my consent. I’m 31 now.
We had been dating for a few years. It’s much like they tell you actually. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past while, it’s that abusers tend to share a few similarities. Here’s the thing: when I first drafted this article, I toned down the degree to which he physically abused me before the sexual abuse happened. I was afraid of being victim blamed, told that I should have left him before he raped me. We’ll get to that, but after all this time, he still makes me feel afraid. The physical began extremely early; he beat me and strangled me, made me feel worthless, and I forgave him for all of it. I lied to my mother, telling her everything was fine, but it wasn’t. Above it all, though, he was patient when it came to sex. That’s the one thing I still struggle remembering — how patient he was with me; how he never rushed me in terms of any kind of sexual activity. Emotional and physical abuse aside, I felt safe with him. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, that safety was everything to me.
But as time passed, his need for sex became greater than his patience. And my confidence and trust in him slowly vanished.
Walking out on someone who has been violent towards you isn’t as easy as you might believe. In fact, before our relationship, I was pretty confident that if I ever dated a violent or abusive man, I’d leave him in a heartbeat. I didn’t. And now I understand why it’s not as easy as people believe it to be.
Coming from an already abusive family, I could never forgive my mother for remaining in a violent and toxic relationship. Not only did she endanger her own life, she cared too little for mine. In my opinion, she chose to follow her own happiness over mine.
But none of that was true. She wasn’t a bad mother, and she didn’t ever stay in such a difficult relationship out of love. She was trapped.
"The hardest thing about being in an abusive relationship is leaving it."
The hardest thing about being in an abusive relationship is leaving it. We’re often used to being told by our partner how to think and how to act, so when it comes to thinking for ourselves, it can be very daunting. The abuser has forced us to become dependent on them. In my mother’s case, she was stuck because my father controlled all of her finances. He also held his own life over her, telling her time and time again that he would take his own life if we left him.
In my case, my first boyfriend controlled the friends I could see, the places I could go and the food I could eat. I recall a time when I wanted to attend an evening theater class and he told me no. I didn’t understand, couldn’t quite grasp why I’d need his approval; after all, I hadn’t asked for it. I simply wanted to share with him my excitement at embarking on this new adventure. At that time, I was a little braver and more confident at speaking up for myself, so I laughed. My response was laughter — and not because I didn’t value his opinion, but because I genuinely believed that this had to be a joke.
With his hands around my throat, he made it clear that this was no joke.
And then, a few weeks later, he raped me.
Before that, I always forgave him. Don’t ask me why. In truth, I’m not a particularly forgiving person. I still hold a grudge towards my father for his years of torment. But when it came to this guy, when it came to him... I gave my forgiveness in a multitude of ways.
After all of the ways he hurt and controlled me, this was the one thing that I just could not forgive. Now I’m not saying that physical violence should be tolerated, but in my case, when that violence turned sexual, I knew I had to leave.
And as difficult as life has been after that relationship, I know that that one final act of violence was what allowed me to leave.
What followed the attack, however, was something I had not prepared myself for. His family members condoned his actions, and police officers were baffled by my claims of having been a virgin before the incident. Questions came from doctors and friends alike. All of them asked me the same thing: "Why didn’t you stop him?" "Why didn’t you want to have sex with him before if you were together for two years?" But the worst: "He was your boyfriend — that doesn’t count as rape.”
I admit that this is something I’ve even asked myself over the years — was it really rape if we were together? I’ve dealt with an enormous amount of shame and guilt regarding the incident, but when it comes down to it, I’ve learned that I need to be kinder to myself. I need to remember that I didn’t give him my consent. I made it perfectly clear that I wasn’t ready. I begged him to stop. My tears were visible, and my screams and pleas against him audible. I did everything in my power to stop him.
But this was never an issue of consent — not to him, and not to the people questioning me. The "blurred lines" in my rape case existed because those people believed, he believed that my body was his. Just as in the same way that he had spent two years controlling every other aspect of my being, now he understood that he was in possession of my body, too.
Top photo: Canadian Federation Of Students, "No Means No" campaign
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