Warning: This post contains graphic descriptions of sex and rape that might be triggers for some people.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about my experience with Domestic Violence.  In that post, I mentioned that my first husband had raped me.

On Aug. 20 of this year, I posted on Facebook that I am a rape survivor – this was in response to an idiotic Senate candidate who claimed that “legitimate rape” hardly ever results in pregnancy.  One of my friends responded to my post with a comment that she, too, was a rape survivor, and that the pain and shame never really goes away.  I’ve been wanting to write THIS blog post in response to her, but it’s taken me a while to write it, because I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I want to say and how to say it.

My first husband (I’ll call him H1) raped me.  In retrospect, I can say it happened more than once, although until recently I’ve really only thought of one specific occurrence as rape (I’m tempted to say “legitimate rape,” or even “forcible rape,” but I’m afraid my tongue-in-cheek tone won’t come across in print).  The incident in question happened on a Hallowe’en night.  A bunch of us had been down to 6th Street, and we’d been drinking an awful lot of cheap beer.  H1 and I were living with his parents at the time, due to his inability to get or keep a job for any real length of time.  I’m not positive, but I think his younger sister was also living in the house at the time.

H1 liked to think of himself as a “typical, red-blooded American male,” with a libido that demanded sex at least once a day and preferably twice on Sundays, and there was something “wrong” with me if I wasn’t in the mood at the same time he was.  There was also, according to him, something “wrong” with me for not enjoying things I was “supposed” to enjoy, such as nipple stimulation.  Interestingly enough, there was never anything wrong with him for taking so long to achieve an erection while I stroked and/or sucked his flaccid penis so he could engage in the sex that he claimed to want.  And once aroused enough to actually have intercourse, he would often take FOREVER to finish – pumping away interminably, sweating profusely.  I took to covering my face and upper body with a pillow or blanket so his sweat wouldn’t drip all over me (gross!!!).  To this day, I don’t enjoy lengthy sessions of intercourse…

On this particular occasion (Hallowe’en), we had made it home somehow, and went upstairs to get ready to go to bed.  He was, predictably, in the mood.  I was not.  But, as usual, it was easier to go along with it and let him do what he wanted to do than it was to fight about it.  This time, however, he decided to explore his desire for anal sex.  With no preparation, no foreplay to speak of, and no lubrication, thank you very much.

There I was, on my stomach on the floor, with a pillow under my head, and his parents downstairs.  By the time I figured out what he was doing, my choices were very limited.  I was in a very vulnerable position, very drunk (I do remember throwing up that night, but I don’t remember if it was before or after, and having a massive hangover the next day), not really able to physically fight him off.  Had I tried to fight, I likely would have gotten hurt and / or alerted his parents.  Had I screamed (or fought) loud enough to alert his parents, they might have come upstairs to find out what was going on, which could have resulted in 1) shame to be caught in such a situation and / or 2) anger from him for involving them.  So I screamed into my pillow instead, so as not to alarm them.  As I screamed, H1 said “go ahead and scream, I don’t care.”  I will never forget those words as long as I live.

I was so hurt, and so angry, and so deeply betrayed by his callous actions and remarks, and he was so shocked and repentant when I tearfully told him I’d felt like I’d been raped…  And yes, I was ashamed.

Ashamed to admit to anyone, including myself, that I’d made such a bad relationship choice.  Ashamed that I hadn’t fought or screamed.  Ashamed to admit that I had “let” this happen to me.  And, in part, I had.  Little by little, from the earliest days of our relationship, I had let him gain more and more and more power and control over me.

We had been dating a few months by the first time we had sex – we were both virgins – and I really wasn’t ready, but somehow, when push came to shove, I couldn’t find the strength to say “no”.  I wanted to, but I couldn’t.  And then it was too late.  I was a month shy of 17.  He was nearly (or perhaps barely) 20.  Either way, legally, that was statutory rape.  And, looking back, knowing I didn’t really want to take that big step, knowing that I wasn’t really in the mental or emotional space to consent to what was happening, I now know that it was rape, even if it wasn’t as violent and painful as the Hallowe’en incident above.  It was the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last time I had sex with him when I didn’t want to.  He pressured me or bullied me into sex many times in the next 4+ years.

After the initial anal rape, he tried it again on an almost monthly basis – never with any lubrication or preparation or other stimulation or ANY attempt to make it pleasurable or even tolerable for me – until one night, I tearfully screamed “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!” in the middle of everything and got literally kicked out of bed.  That was the last of that, until the night before I left him, nearly a year and a half later.  I had a yeast infection or something, and everything was quite tender.  When he tried to initiate sex, I put him off.  He asked me, “jokingly,” which penetration would hurt less, vaginally or anally?  That scared me enough to trigger a serious Fight or Flight response, and after I took him to work the next morning (my car wasn’t running at the time), I called my sister, told her I was leaving him (her birthday present that year!), and asked for her help getting all my stuff out.  With the help of her boyfriend and his truck, we packed and moved everything out in a single day!

I know this has been a long and rambling post, but the main point I wanted to share with my friend Deanna, and anybody else who has made it to this point is this:  My rape was not MY fault.  I did not WANT to have sex against my will, although it could be argued that more than once I chose it in order to avoid fights and arguments (I am non-confrontational to a fault).  But my message remains: the shame for it is not mine.  I am responsible for my choices, and H1 is responsible for his.  H1 raped me, and the shame for that belongs to HIM, and HIM alone.

For my sisters (friends, family and strangers) who have been raped: it was not your fault.  You did not choose it, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.  The patriarchal world in which we live likes to engage in victim-blaming, but we are changing that.  One voice at a time, one story at a time.

I have forgiven my rapist for what he did to me, because it is the intelligent, sane, responsible thing to do – FOR MYSELF!  I have not told him, nor will I make the effort to tell him, for it is not necessary for him to know.  Even more importantly, though, I have forgiven myself – for all the tiny, incremental steps I took when I was 16 and 17, for slowly but surely giving away my power and my control and my choice.  I have forgiven myself for putting myself into the situation where I could be vulnerable to rape in the first place.  I’m still working on gratitude for the lessons I learned and the strength I gained from that time in my life, but I’m getting there…