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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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I’ve been thinking about what men I identify as perpetrators of violence against me and what the process of identifying them as such entails. For a long time I identified one man, the most obvious, as my perpetrator, identifying him as such made sense because of the extent of his violence, and it took me just a couple months after breaking up with him to admit to myself in full what he had done and what I had understood was going on for around a year—rape, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse. The year after leaving him- the only “romantic” partner I’d ever been with- consisted of vulnerable, damaged, lost me trying to find my way, to gain control over my body, to find happiness and myself somewhere. And looking back, to my horror, I am faced with a handful of other men who I met after I left my “main perpetrator” who fit the same category—maybe “perpetrator,” maybe not, but regardless men who have seen my body as a field for conquest ripe for the taking, who have looked at me and seen not a human being with feelings and a history and passion and a hell of a lot of drive, but a little girl who they want to fuck who dare not challenge their right to her body.

I went to a club with a couple girlfriends and a man came up to me and started hitting on me. He was slurring and whispering in my ear. I couldn’t understand him because he was so drunk. He looked like he might have been in his mid 20s. I was 18. He asked me for my number and when I told him I didn’t give it out he got angry and kept insisting, so I gave it to him. He texted me constantly for the next week. He told me I was beautiful, the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and that he loved me. I was mortified and got sick to my stomach. I didn’t know how to make him stop. He sent me pictures of himself masturbating and told me that he wanted to tie me up and masturbate to the sounds of me struggling to get free. He told me to come have a sleepover with him. I told him he sounded like a rapist and that I didn’t want to talk to him. He threatened to drive to me and find me. I was horrified, but I knew he didn’t know where I lived. Finally, when I stopped protesting, when I stopped responding, he stopped contacting me. 

I’ve never told this to anyone. How could I? It was my fault. I gave him my number. I shouldn’t have ever texted him back. I should have told him I was calling the police. But I didn’t. It was all my fault. The amount of shame and guilt I feel by even writing this story down is enough to keep me glued in my bed, to make me cry, to make me wonder how, even after being raped more times than I can remember by a man I trusted, I gave another man access to me who wanted to do the same thing.

Another night, another club, this time in [______]. I’m with another abusive man and his girlfriend. A stranger gives me [a drug] and I take it because he’s with his girlfriend and therefore has no incentive to drug and rape me. I start hanging out with a girl who I think is cute. She’s nice and we talk and stand around and smoke together. Then a man comes up to me and starts hitting on me. He says I’m the most beautiful girl there that night, he says he wants to dance with me. He offers me some white powder he says is molly but I’m skeptical because he’s with his brother and neither of them will leave me alone, keep following me everywhere I walk. I say no thanks and he gets mad, says “How dare you think I’m gonna drug you,” he gets offended but won’t leave me alone. He follows me around all night. The other girl says he’s cute, you should hang out with him. But I don’t want to, and I think she’s cute, not him, but he keeps following me and won’t leave me alone. I am so mad because I want to dance and have fun without this guy bothering me and making me uncomfortable and scared. He asks me for my number, he says that I should go back with him. I say no. He says if I give him my number he will leave me alone to hang out with my friends. I give him my number and he walks away and immediately texts me, he says I’m beautiful and sexy and he wants to take me back to his hotel. He walks by with an opened bottle of something and offers it to me. I don’t drink it because I think he’s probably put the white powder he showed me earlier in it. He gets offended again.

I’m at a party in an apartment on campus. Everyone is really drunk. I’m about at black out level and I’m crying about something or another. A guy I recognize comes up to me and takes my hand. I’m getting ready to leave the party and walk home. He takes my hand and tries to lead me to a bedroom a few feet away. My friend says “She’s too drunk!” and takes me out the door.

Walking down Franklin Street, arms full of grocery bags. Man on the street: “Need any help with that, sugar?” “No, I’m good.” “I bet you are.” Laughter.

None of this is as bad as being raped every couple days. None of this is that bad at all. It should be expected when you’re a girl, and I should know better than to put myself in such dangerous situations. That’s why these men aren’t perpetrators.

Enter the first man I had “consensual” sex with. Looking back, I know that right after coming out of a year of sexual and emotional abuse I was in no way ready or prepared to give full/true consent to sex, but because I did consent, it wasn’t rape (and truly, even though the man turned out to be violent emotionally and verbally, it was nothing like rape). I couldn’t believe this guy liked me. My abusive boyfriend told me I was ugly, that I shouldn’t wear too much makeup because it made me look slutty, that my clothes were outrageous, so I just wore jeans and t-shirts most of the time. But I wasn’t dating him anymore—I had left him because of the abuse—and this new guy, this guy who is actually attractive and has somewhat functional social skills actually likes me?! It was crazy. I couldn’t believe it. So when he made it clear he wanted to have sex, I was game. And that went on for a while, even though he called me a slut, even though he made fun of me and used me and treated me like shit and made rape jokes and treated my history as a rape survivor as nothing serious. But then I found out he had a girlfriend, and when I was honest with her about what he’d been doing (he was sleeping with a bunch of other women too), he lost it. He threatened me. He sent me hundreds of angry text messages, saying the worst things imaginable—things so similar to what my rapist had said to me. Saying I was worthless and a slut and that I was a terrible person, all because I refused to lie about what he had done. Because I dared challenge his power. I dared to defy him. He told me he hoped my rapist found a way to hurt me. 

How could I let it happen to me again? What is it about me? Is there something about me that makes me a target for these men? Am I ugly and therefore an easy target? Am I beautiful and therefore have to deal with men trying to get a piece of me? Or is this normal? Does this happen to every woman and we’re all just afraid to talk about it? Was I a slut, like they said I was? Was I wrong to be honest about the types of men they were—to call them out on what they did? 

I wish I knew the answer.

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