Trigger warning: Sexual assault
I never thought it would happen to me. I was always cautious. I followed the rules. But when I fell in love, things changed. I started rethinking my beliefs and values instead of rethinking my relationship. I was sure he loved me. I was sure I loved him. He was my first serious relationship. All I wanted was to be a good girlfriend and for him to be happy. But I had no idea of what was expected in a normal relationship. I had no basis for comparison.
It sounds crazy and lame, but at 15, I wasn’t ready for my first kiss. Most people think kissing isn’t a big deal, but to me, it was. When I realized my boyfriend at the time wanted to, I realized I was scared. I confided in my mom, and she said I should just tell him, so I did. He seemed okay with it, but he didn’t want to wait forever. I quickly decided I was being silly and gave in, but it felt like as soon as he got his first kiss, he wanted to make out. As soon as we made out, he wanted to touch me, and for me to touch him. He kept pressuring me until finally I gave in and touched him a few weeks later, but I still wasn’t comfortable with him touching me. About a month after our first kiss, he got tired of waiting and sexually assaulted me. I tried to get away from him, but he had his arm around me and was holding me to him. He let me go when he was done “fingering” me. I was so mad and upset, and he acted like he didn’t understand why. I was practically raised in the capital of the Bible Belt, a small town in southern Tennessee. I never planned on having sex—or doing anything beyond kissing—before getting married. I wanted to earn my white wedding gown, and he knew it; he even agreed with me in the beginning.
When he assaulted me, I saw a side of him that I didn’t know existed. He had never forced himself on me physically and never really seemed all that aggressive before. He had seemed nice for the most part. I had been wary that he was in it for some kind of joke or bet because he was a year ahead of me, and I think I was partially right, but his seemingly genuine interest in me made me trust him and so I didn’t know what to think after the assault. After that, I tried to give in quicker. In retrospect, I think I subconsciously realized if I told him “no” too many times, he would take what he wanted, regardless of what I wanted. I thought if I gave in at least I wouldn’t have to deal with being physically forced and what that would mean about how I viewed the relationship. But again, I didn’t move quite fast enough. He didn’t understand baby steps.
When I finally performed oral sex maybe a month after the assault, I didn’t want to actually make him finish and when I tried to stop, he made me keep going until he had. That was the first time he really raped me—the first time that I feel I was raped by my own definition. My personal view on rape is either being forced or incapable of saying no to anything that can give you an STI, which is less inclusive than Tennessee’s (my state’s) law. However, I’ve recently done some research and found out that most states actually count oral sex as rape. When he finished, I never felt so violated or so disgusted. However, at the time, I didn’t think of it as rape. I was uneducated in the topic. I thought there was only one form of sex, so only one form of rape.
By the time sex was actually mentioned, I had lost all capability of telling him “no”. We hadn’t been dating even five months before he made it to home base. I’m actually surprised I lasted that long, or at least shocked he didn’t physically force it before then. Throughout all of it, EVERY TIME I told him “no”, he gave me a look like nothing could hurt him more than my telling him “no”. Every time he gave me that look, it was like I was failing him somehow. I never considered breaking up with him. Nobody knew what was happening, and frankly, I didn’t want anyone to know. Everybody thought I could do better, but he was my first love. I felt so strongly that even after everything he did, I still loved him months after we finally broke up. He knew he was playing me. He knew how to make me comply. The sick part is, I would kind of joke about how if he really wanted sex, he would have to rape me. I was thinking along the lines of physically pinning me down and physically forcing me. I had no idea that all of that time, he was. He was emotionally pinning me down and psychologically forcing me. He stole my virginity by intimidation, manipulation, force, and fear. He wanted rape, just in a way that was harder to prosecute, a way that was less believable.
I was in denial during the whole relationship. Who wants to think that they are being sexually and emotionally abused in their first relationship? Who wants to think that their first boyfriend raped them? As I’m typing this, I realize that according to Tennessee’s law concerning rape, I have no idea how many times he raped me, and retribution is not an option anymore. It basically says any form of penetration that is gained by means of force or coercion is rape. I think that to a certain extent, I recognized what happened at the time. I became depressed. I came to hate him. I hated his laugh, his smile, his attitude, and that look more than anything, and yet I still loved him somehow. He never had vaginal sex with me again. I think he just looked at it as a conquest, and after I was conquered, he was fine without it. Or maybe I just really freaked him out. He hadn’t used a condom, and I had just started the Pill. I freaked out about the possibility of pregnancy and kept pushing it for weeks until he took me seriously. Then, he started talking about an abortion. Maybe after all of that, he realized that sex with me wasn’t worth it. Maybe my going psycho in his eyes saved me from it being as bad as it could have been. I can’t even bear to think how many times he would have forced me to have sex with him if I had been able to deal with the stress.
Eventually, I broke up with him. He didn’t even care. He said our relationship had lost the “new relationship spark.” I think he just never cared much about our relationship or me to begin with. It meant nothing to him. I meant nothing to him. I don’t think he ever loved me. I think he liked my body and what he could do with it; everything else was just what he had to do to get it.
After we broke up, and I suspect while we were dating, he had the nerve to tell people at school, my friends even, that I was a sl*t and easy. He practically blacklisted me with any guys I may have wanted to date. Thankfully, at the end of my senior year of high school, I found a guy on the fringes who knew nothing of the rumors. He was and is one of the nicest guys I’ve met. I opened up to him. He’s respectful of my wishes. He’s understanding of all of the residual issues. He’s been with me through thick and thin in the years since.
When I moved off to college, I finally started dealing with the knowledge of having been used and manipulated, and eventually realizing I was raped, I became severely depressed again. My grades suffered. I was crying all of the time and didn’t leave my room except for classes and occasionally food. All of this lasted the entire first semester; it was relentless. It almost ruined my current relationship. My roommate had to move out due to how uncomfortable our room was for her given my constant crying and refusal to go outside. I was even suicidal for a couple of weeks. Everything was just so overwhelming. I was at a Top 20 college and having to adjust to the course load and the stress that any normal college student would have to deal with. On top of it, I was coming to grips with my past and hiding it from my family. I constantly worried that they would find out. It seemed like happiness would never be possible again. The pursuit of happiness was useless. There seemed to be no way out. Oddly enough, my boyfriend’s views and my respect for them are what really saved me. I wanted it to be quick, efficient, and painless. So, I decided I wanted to drink myself into alcohol poisoning. I figured at least I would enjoy my death, but my boyfriend actually held, maybe still holds, really strong opinions against the consumption of alcohol. When I talked about it with him, he would always tell me how much it hurt him, just my thinking of leaving him, that he wasn’t reason enough for me to want to stay. I realized that given how much it would hurt him for me to commit suicide to begin with, it would basically be a f*ck you to do it with alcohol, and I respected him too much for that and I never could decide on a back-up option. After lots of counseling and the support of my now fiancé (see awesomely sweet guy above), I’ve gotten better.
I’ve definitely had a few setbacks recently though. A little while ago, I told my mom what happened, and she encouraged me to tell my dad, which was a terrible idea. I followed my mom’s advice and told my dad. He just kept asking personal questions and basically said, “I warned you, so it’s your fault.” He blamed me, minimized what happened, and minimized what my ex did. I lost all respect for my dad. Our relationship is permanently damaged. At this point, I think that’s the hardest thing to deal with. I lost friends because of what my ex said. (I think they lost respect for me because they thought what he said was true.) I almost lost my future with my fiancé because of how hard it was to deal with my depression. He hated not being able to make me happy and actually got to where he didn’t want to talk to me and became immune to my crying because it was so prevalent. Even now, I worry about losing my future with him, although for entirely different reasons. It’s really hard for him to not exact his own revenge on my ex, but I think I’ve finally made him realize that I need his support and being in a prison cell isn’t very supportive. I almost lost my life. And now, I have lost my relationship with my father. I will never look at my dad the same. Now, he tells me he loves me, and I question it. On the other hand, I feel closer to my mom than I ever have before. She’s supportive of me and, finally, my marriage. I think she looks at me differently, as a stronger person than she knew. I was raped and abused, and I survived and now I’m telling my story.
Four years after the rape and abuse, I’m finally accepting what happened to me. I’ve never confronted him, although I want to, and I don’t talk to him, even in the rare attempts that he’s made. I’m still trying to move on. I’m still getting help. But I’m in a better place, and I refuse to let him affect my life any more than I can help.