Boyfriend believes I carry some blame, what to do?
My boyfriend is wonderful. I have been with him for nearly 2 years, and I'm beyond grateful to have him in my life. He's everything I could want: kind, extremely hard-working, brave, sticks to his word no matter what, supportive and open-minded, admits when he is wrong, keeps every commitment he ever makes (a point of pride for him), family-oriented, disenchanted with consumerism, and determined to contribute positively to this world. I truly have a catch.
One problem has arisen though, and it has driven me here. He doesn't understand feminism, nor rape culture.
I was raped in college.. I myself will say it was in the gray zone, and personally I hold no baggage from it. I have no interest in reporting it, the guy was mortified when he realized what line he had crossed, profusely apologized etc, and I knew that in a way it was an accident for him. I have absolutely no shame surrounding the incident, and I just hope he has enough to keep him from being so careless again.
For this guy, we will call him A, we had dated briefly, but I just didn't like him. He was the hot guy on campus who tons of girls wanted to get with, and he had the obnoxious swagger of a boy in that position. Further, he hadn't ever had to truly work for anything in life; he was incredibly rich, and not accustomed to the word "no". After two dates, I knew immediately that I wasn't into it. Cut it off as nicely and kindly as I could.
A couple months later, I was at a friends' party in their apartment. Jammed with people (I knew almost everyone in the room), everyone was dancing and drinking, and generally have a great time. I was with my 7 best friends (male and female), and everyone was taking shots together etc. I was having a complete riot.
Went into the hall of the apartment building to get some air away from the madness, and he was out there, and we are alone. He asks how I'm doing etc, and I respond. He's obviously very drunk as well. Next thing I know, he starts kissing me; I start kissing back (because it feels good, duh), but then I come to my senses, knowing that's not a good idea, and pull away. I tell him I don't want to do that.
He asks me to come down to his apartment, which is in the same building, and I say no and go for the door. Next thing I know, he says "I'm not giving you the option", grabs my arms and drags me down the hall and into his room.
Now - I'm pulling and I said "stop", but he's got a solid grip on me and I can't break free. Next thing I know (again, it's all choppy because I was pretty damn drunk), I'm in the dark of his living room, and then the dark of his room, and I'm confused as hell. Then, my skirt is off, and all of the sudden his (tiny) dick is inside me.
I completely freak out. I don't know where I found the strength, but I somehow shove him off of me, pull up my skirt, and run out the door. Barely completed "rape" or what have you; one moment in, and immediately out. Perhaps this is why is was less disturbing to me. Anyway, I run to the stairs, and go home.
He sent me a message the next day essentially saying he was completely mortified by what had happened, apologized profusely etc, said he was wasted, told me he respected me, blah blah blah. I believe him though, because he could have held me down or chased me if he really wanted to, but when I freaked out it was clear that the gravity of the situation dawned on him, and he let me go. So, I in turn let it go, let him know I had no interest in ever talking to him again, and decided my punishment was to tell my friends about it, and about what a small dick he had. A fine solution for me.
Now, my current (wonderful) boyfriend and I were at a bar a couple days ago, and somehow the concept of rape gets brought up. He is the kind of person who believes he is solely responsible for the outcome of his life. Therefore, anything bad that happens to him is at least partially his fault. There was a drunk girl at the bar alone (very drunk), and he said "that girl has a complete target on her back".
Obviously, the sentiment behind this statement took me by surprise, and I asked if he thought if she was raped that it would be her fault. He said that yes, she would at least be partially responsible. I tried to counter that if he drunkenly walked home and was mugged, would that be the fault of the person mugging him, or just him? He responded that he would hold at least part of the blame.
After a while, I told him my story in turn, and he tried to gently ask me if I thought I held any responsibility. I responded that everyone I knew was drinking, I was in a safe environment surrounded by many people I know and love, and that it was such a brief moment and I had just stepped into the hallway. I asked if I was expected to never get drunk out of that fear, even when surrounded by a community of my best friends, and everyone else is doing the same thing? How can my behavior be any different from everyone else's? How the heck could I perceive I would be in a risky situation only minutes later, separated only by a thin door from everyone else?
He believed that I still held responsibility because I was too drunk, which seriously caught me off guard.
How do I frame this dialogue to him? How do I even begin to explain this, and does it say something about my relationship? It's serious to me, but I don't even know how to start addressing it. Further, I do love this guy and have considered marrying him. It's only his attitude in this regard that has made me question that.
Thank you for reading,
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I find your boyfriend’s attitude extremely worrying and perhaps an indication that you dont know this guy as well as you think you do.
I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ve had similar conversations with my boyfriend, and it’s really hard. You’re right, you are not to blame for this. I don’t know what’s best, but I have a couple of suggestions that might help. One way that I think about things like this is, say you’d stayed in the places we call safe: it would still have happened to another girl. Asking us to change our behaviour is just saying “make sure it happens to someone else”. And there is no perfect space, no perfect behaviour.
I think a lot of men who are thoughtful and kind and would never do this, can’t understand how someone else would. They maybe are looking for a way to explain it, because it doesn’t fit with how they see the world. This is the other thing I would suggest: ask him to read about this issue from sources he doesn’t normally. There are some great sites out there (including this one), with articles written by people who have had the time and energy to explain it for those of us that can’t. From what you’ve said, he sounds like this would be something he’d consider. I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s not your job to make him understand. If you had the right words straight away, then great, but it is not your job to explain the world. If he cares, and wants to understand, he should be willing and able to read up on this.
I hope this is helpful, I really don’t want to say this is the only way, or even a right way, but I’ve been thinking about this all day and wanted to offer something. I hope you find a way forward that works for you.
It is very easy for a male to claim ‘I believe I was partially responsible if I were to be mugged’ but would this male make the same statement if he were to actually suffer male violence? I doubt it very much. Clearly this male believes that women can magically control everything in their lives including preventing male sexual predators from attacking them.
The fact is that male student did rape the young woman and his response was typically to deny his accountability and claim ‘wah I didn’t realise what I was doing; I really respect you etc etc.’ His actions prove otherwise because he knew exactly what he was doing and he knew the young woman did not want to engage in sexual activity but because he is a male he believed he has limitless male sex right to female bodies!
This young man who believes women are partially responsible for not preventing male sexual predation upon them will doubtless continue to hold the young woman responsible and constantly use this as a lever to keep the young woman doubting what really happened to her.
Because the issue is very serious to the young woman she should carefully consider whether she wants to continue her relationship with a male who obviously refuses to even begin to understand how and why innumerable ‘respectable males’ continue to sexually prey on women and girls with impunity.’ Does she want to remain in a relationship wherein the man does not respect her or women in general?
There is no grey area here. If you had frozen rather than fighting and fleeing the rape would probably have continued, he probably didn’t chase you through fear of being caught, because he always knew how badly he was behaving. This rape was entirely not your fault. Why is it that drunkenness is used to blame the victim but exonerate the perpetrator? Ask your boyfriend this? But also I would be very concerned that his attitude may cause problems in the (uncontrollable) future. You sound like an amazing woman, you deserve a totally amazing partner x