I have never been repeatedly physically abused – slapped, punched, kicked or even pushed or grabbed the wrong way. No man has ever laid his hands on me like that. Since I started dating many years ago, I vowed that if a man ever hit me, he’d better 1] knock me out or 2] kill me because if I’m able, I’m coming for him. I’m not condoning violence, however, I’ve been through two incidents where I was overpowered and sexually assaulted by men I knew. It was not consensual – I was attacked. Though I no longer feel like a victim, rape is still a strong word for me that feels foreign and harsh.
I was in college at the time of the first incident. I was sexually active and dating. I had been “seeing” a guy from NYC who went to my school but when the semester ended, he decided to transfer to a school closer to home. It was no real love connection, but we remained friends. One weekend the following semester, I went to a party and ran into him. He’d come up to visit. He was friendly and trying to be smooth. I knew he was trying to get at me but I told him bluntly I had no interest in having sex with him. He wanted to know why. I told him I didn’t want to. That should have been enough. He seemed to respect my decision, didn’t press me and I thought the discussion was closed. The night wore on and a group of us went back to the dorms – a suite I’d hung out in many times before. An informal party was forming but I wasn’t drinking. I sat and watched a group of guys/girls playing spades in one of the rooms, but the whole suite was open – people coming in and out. The game finished and some of the players wandered out into the suite. At first, there were plenty of people there, but it started to dwindle. That’s about the time my friend told me he wanted to talk to me. I said okay but told him I was getting ready to leave. I suggested we go outside and went towards the door of the room. He beat me to it, closed, and locked the door. I thought he was playing around.
I was pushed down to the floor. I fought initially because he wasn’t a big man. I said no several times and I asked him to stop. Though he was short, he was much stronger than I was and I could not get him off me. I could do nothing. It was over quickly. He thought it was a joke – I remember him laughing and saying, “Yeah, I knew I could get you”. As soon as he let me up, I pulled myself together and fled the suite. I didn’t think about reporting it because back then, no one was discussing “date rape.” I remember going home in tears where I stood in the shower for a long time. I never saw him again and I never told anyone. Not even my mother. I thought it was my fault.
Intimate Partner Assault
The second incident was also someone I knew – well, or so I thought. When I think about women who are attacked by strangers, I know it must be terrifying. It leaves you afraid and broken. What was so surreal and awful for me is that I had been involved with him for 8 months. I knew him well before that and at times, he was a good friend. I loved and trusted him.
I won’t go into how it came about, all I will say is that the relationship was rocky and he was angry with me over something. It wasn’t my fault but he wouldn’t discuss it with me so I left it alone. Regardless of what I had done, or what he thought I had done that was so wrong, he had no right to sexually assault me. He violated my trust and body – both of which I would have ordinarily given. I declined his advances from the beginning of the incident and he ignored me. That time, I didn’t fight because he was twice as big as the guy from college was. There was no way I could have overpowered him. I asked him to stop and told him he was hurting me more than once. He didn’t stop until he was done.
When it was over, I remember curling up in a fetal position and trying to get as far away from him in the bed we shared. If I could have melted into the wall, I would have. I think I was in shock. I stayed awake for a long time. Again, because he was someone I knew – intimately, I didn’t think to report him. I slept little and barely spoke to him the next day. I couldn’t even look at him. It was too painful to deal with so I repressed it.
A day later, I started to feel sick. I was exhausted, with painful cramping in my abdomen. It felt as if I was coming down with the flu. He waited on me as I was getting sick. Out of guilt, I suspect. He never apologized. Two days after the incident, I suddenly became chilled and started to shiver involuntarily. I didn’t know then but the shivers are an indication of a developing fever. Hours later, the fever broke and I thought I was getting better, but the following day, it started all over again. This time, the shaking was so violent that it made my teeth chatter. I was so scared. I’ve had colds and the flu but am rarely ill. I had no idea what was happening to me. I went to the emergency room that night with a fever of 103.4.
The hospital put me on a pain/antibiotic drip. When I was admitted, the ER doctor asked me if I had any gynecological problems. Like all the women in my family, I have fibroids but I knew about them. Perhaps I was delirious with fever… but I had already repressed the assault so deeply that it didn’t even occur to mention it – though, out of shame, I’d have called it “vigorous intercourse.” They sent me to the OB-GYN wing. The doctor there did a sonogram and told me that fibroids sometimes can rupture – causing pain and even infection. I had never experienced that kind of pain/infection because of them (and not since). I thought it odd. It never occurred to me that it was a direct result of the assault.
If I had been in my right mind, I would have left immediately after the incident and pressed criminal charges. We broke up a few months later. I only stayed because I thought I had nowhere to go. During that time, I suffered additional emotional and mental abuse. Years later, my mind danced around the events of that night. I wasn’t ready to deal with it. It was a year and a half later, while watching Law & Order: SVU (sex crimes) that it hit me fully. It was an episode where a wife brought rape charges against her husband. It all came back. I was extremely angry and hurt. I didn’t understand how someone who professed love could hurt me that way. I journaled about it to help sort out the swirl of emotions then went online to read about intimate partner abuse.
Though I dealt with some emotions then, I wasn’t done. It all came back again earlier this year, this time with the incident for college in tow. Today, I don’t feel angry and I have forgiven both those men. I honestly feel nothing towards them – no anger hate, no love – just indifference. I have personally vowed that no one will ever hurt me like that again if I can help it. In my online research, I read stories of courageous women who moved through their pain and mistrust. I decided that I was not a rape or sexual assault victim.
I AM A SURVIVOR.
I concluded that if the only way a man can assert power over me is to sexually assault me – he is the victim. He’s a victim of flawed emotional development, a coward and a failure in human kindness. In trying to justify from his perspective, I believe he thought he could tame or break my strong spirit. He didn’t. I never told anyone until a few months ago when I shared it with one of my friends. She is a social worker. She was upset but so caring as she listened and though she asked where he lived now, we did not craft a plot of revenge. I am not a vindictive person and the bible says “vengeance is not mine.” That gives me peace and assurance. I know either incident could have been someone I didn’t know – but it didn’t make it any less terrible. I didn’t ask for it and definitely didn’t deserve it.
Earlier I said that I would do whatever I could to make sure I am never in a situation like that again, but really. You just never know. You can’t go through life not having any faith or trust in other people but you can learn how to protect yourself. Look into self-defense classes or martial arts – especially techniques that can show you how to defend yourself from a person larger than you. What I know is this, unless he has a weapon and is threatening to do me great bodily harm, I will fight as if my life depends on it because it does. Ladies – even if he’s your date/friend/boyfriend/husband, even if he’s mad at you, or you’re drunk or high…or you start something and want to stop or just had sex that day – NO MEANS NO.
No one should ever be violated in this way.