Eight years is so long ago. I hardly even think about it anymore. I barely even remember all the details. I can think and talk about it logically rather than just feel raw emotion. My relationship now is wonderful: We respect and appreciate each other. We communicate. We have a healthy sex life, and we worked together to discover that I could enjoy certain acts of intimacy rather than shy away from them. On the rare occasions that I overreact to what I wrongly perceive as attempts to control me, we talk and joke and laugh about it.
So in looking back, I was wondering what it was that still got to me. And I realized, it wasn’t memories of the actual abuse but memories of how people reacted that still bothers me. How our friends heard the way he talked to me and saw how he treated me, and never said anything to either of us. How one friend told me later that it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal, especially considering he didn’t hit me. How someone had the nerve to call what happened with the other guy a ‘one night stand.’
I have moved away from self-blame. These instances don’t make me tumble back into self-doubt, thankfully. But they do make me angry. I find myself wanting to tell the entire, long, complicated story, because I want them to KNOW that what happened was not right. I want them to understand that there’s not just one way to be abused or assaulted – every instance looks different, and it usually doesn’t look like what you’ve seen on TV. I want to name things for what they are, but I’m not sure I have a name for what I went through.
This many years later, I don’t carry a lot of anger for how these men hurt me when they were boys. I carry anger for people who minimize and trivialize other people’s experiences, for people who blame their own friend for being a victim of violence, for people who think that recognizing one person’s trauma somehow invalidates someone else’s trauma. The more we engage in fighting each other over whose experience was rape and whose wasn’t, the less time and energy we have to fight violence and those who perpetrate it. No matter what you name it, no one asks to be treated badly or abused or assaulted or raped. And no one deserves it.