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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I wasn't raped -- or at least I don't like to think I was. I have told myself for years that I wasn't. What happened to me was something that I didn't consent to, but I hesitate to call it rape because I feel like what happened to me wasn't worthy of being called rape. Perhaps sexual assault is a better word for what happened (not to say that sexual assault is in any way lesser than rape, but what I mean is that I feel my experience better fits the definition of sexual assault). Continuous, on going, non-consented sexual assault.

He first started paying attention to me during my 8th grade year. I was 13. He was known as one of the most popular boys in school -- he was on the football team, flipped his hair around a lot, and had the most piercing blue eyes I've ever seen. I grew to hate those eyes.

In the spring of my 8th grade year, he asked me to be his girlfriend. He told me that there were lots of girls he could date, but that he "chose me" -- almost as if I had no say in it. I was young, inexperienced -- I had never dated anyone before. I had never kissed anyone before. I had never been touched before. I had never been forced to touch before.

I was told that he was too good for me. He was handsome, popular, everyone wanted him -- I was just the girl who was smart, kind of nerdy, and wasn't "pretty enough" to be with someone like him. And to be honest, I believed most of the things I was told, both by him and by my classmates. I never felt very pretty, or even very smart. I couldn't understand why anyone would ever be interested in me, but I didn't want to say any of this because I was "lucky" to be with a guy like him. I was told to count my blessings while I still had them.

We stayed together for a few years. For the first year or so, he was my backbone. I was a blossoming teenager overwhelmed by hormones and my own conflicting emotions and beliefs. I hated myself, but he never seemed to hate me. At least, he never told me he hated me. I guess I'll never quite know if he did or not.

About a year and a half into our relationship, things started to change. I was 15 and still felt pretty damn lucky to be with a guy like him -- up to this point, he had been the model boyfriend. My friends liked him, my family loved him, and he genuinely seemed to care about me -- or so I thought. I never really questioned his motives for anything he did, because I always felt inferior to him. The cool kid/nerd stereotype dominated our relationship, so I never felt that it was my place to stand up to him. Over anything.

At 15 (he was 16 at the time), he started telling me how attractive I was, but in a way much different than before. Words like "beautiful" and "pretty" turned into "sexy" and "bangable". I noticed this change, but again, I never felt that it was my place to question it. I didn't want to upset him.

Soon after, I noticed he wanted to spend more and more time in his room. "I just want to cuddle", he'd say. He'd always make sure his door was shut and locked because he "didn't want anyone to take a second of time he had with me away from him." Again, I didn't question it. This continued for awhile before he proposed, "maybe we should cuddle naked." I wasn't comfortable with my body, nor was I comfortable with him seeing it. I was 15, and I knew I had no business being naked in front of a boy I didn't want to be naked in front of. For awhile, he listed to my "no's" and "not now's", but this didn't last long. Suddenly, my "no's" weren't nearly enough.

He never saw anything wrong in what he did. To him, it wasn't wrong that he'd pull at my shirt, sometimes popping threads and leaving me fearful that my mother would notice the small tears in the seams of my clothing. He didn't think it was wrong that he'd grab my hands, forcefully holding one over his ever-present erection and holding the other away so I couldn't resist. Sometimes he'd let me have a hand free, but it never did me much good. I told him I didn't want to, but he'd always unzip his pants anyways. "This is what people do when they're in love," he'd say. "You love me, don't you?"

As ashamed as I am to say it, I did love him. He had been so good to me, or so I had convinced myself. I wanted to let it go and forgive him the first time he told me that I should give him a blowjob because "all of his friend's girlfriends gave them to their boyfriends." I tried to forget it when the second time, he held my head down and told me I was "doing so good," as I struggled to catch a breath. I tried to resist time and time again and he broke me down and turned my no's into yes's, convincing me that it was what people did when they were in love.

And I felt that I had to. Because we were in love, right?

This lasted until shortly after my 17th birthday. Even then, it took me quite a while after our breakup to realize that what he was doing wasn't right. Even when it was happening, I knew it wasn't okay, but I felt defenseless. Any "no" I had was protested until I simply couldn't fight any longer. I never consented, but at a certain point, I couldn't fight. I was tired of hearing the seams of my shirts pop, the buttons on my shirts coming loose from all the tugging, the constant "but if you loved me..."'s. At a certain point, one becomes weak. I became weak. And I just couldn't fight anymore.

So really, I don't think what happened to me was rape. At least I don't like to think it was. But I do know that I never consented to what happened. I never asked to have my shirts ripped, to struggle to breath, to have to taste his foul cum as he told me how much he loved me. I can't tell you how many times I've cried over everything that happened. I can't tell you how hard it's been to let myself love again, or to trust that someone actually might love me, and not just want to take advantage of me. I can't tell you how often I've struggled with the concept that sometimes, even saying "no" wasn't enough to stop what happened.

I really don't know how to understand what happened to me. At 19, I still don't feel like I can fully comprehend the depths of why it happened and why my "no"'s never seemed to be enough. 

But what I do know is that I pray it never happens to anyone else.

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