I finally gave my silence back to my boyfriend
When I was 21, I was raped. It wasn't by some stranger. It was by my partner. After the experience, when he saw me crying, he told me angrily that I "shouldnt have made him do that if I didnt want to do it".
You see, I'd mentioned wanting to have a sexual encounter with him at some point. He responded by forcefully initiating it right that moment, and it took three times of me saying no, of my body seizing up, before he finally stopped. But - I'd asked for it...right?
This was the lie I told myself for the rest of the time we spent together, and the next seven years after. He repeatedly did things like that - take advantage of me sexually and occasionally physically, and then ask why I was making him do these things, making him feel guilty, etc. And well, he was my boyfriend, and he was nice to me the other times, so...clearly this must be true.
They dont teach you that in rape prevention. I was always waiting for the stranger in the alley, the drunken fratboy, that when it came in the form of an abusive partner, I couldnt process it, see it for what it was. I lost friends, the right to only have things done to my body that _I_ wanted done, and me.
The reality is, when you ask survivors of domestic abuse what the hardest part of the cycle is, they will say the emotional abuse. I didnt know who I was or what I stood for, was convinced no one else would touch me except for him, and that somehow, I invited all this upon myself. I was a strong-minded, extroverted college woman who shriveled up into nothing.
That kind of woman can't fight back. She has forgotten she can, or is too afraid that doing so will destroy what little of herself she has left.
Two years ago, he re-entered my life, and became friends with everyone in my social group. I couldnt speak up. I started having panic attacks and flashbacks and had to see a therapist for the next few years. Eventually, I stopped blaming myself. Started realizing there was no excuse, no reason he shouldn’t have been able to listen to the words ‘no’ and take responsibility for his own actions and feelings. Why do we think this is such an unreasonable thing to ask of an adult?! But when dealing with friends, I still couldn’t face all the victim-blaming, the 'this wasnt really rape' remarks, because I was too busy dealing with the PTSD. “I don’t understand why you’re making such a big deal over a bad breakup’ was the response I got when I started asking to know if he’d be at a party, so I could avoid it and self-protect.
I knew no one would believe me. Up until two weeks ago, I only shared with a few close friends. Doing anything else was too terrifying.
Two weeks ago, he saw me at a friend’s memorial, and kept trying to sit next to me, despite my only communication (an email when he came back) clearly stating I wished only that he never come near me or engage me in anyway. Seems so small, just sitting next to someone or making eye contact. My PTSD flared up again bad though, and I’m still dealing with it.
Then last week, he decided to post on facebook about it – telling people he’d been falsely accused of being a rapist and wondering why I was making these claims, saying such hurtful things. He even posted a link about preventing rapists from being in your social circle. It was too much. Almost 10 years, but this anger over my silence bubbled over – over him getting to walk about freely, over him getting to enjoy life without taking any responsibility for what he did, over him getting to live without the weekly, sometimes daily, panic attacks or other symptoms of PTSD that I do.
Enough is enough!
A few days ago, I posted on facebook the most respectful, short story of what occurred that I could. I named him. Jason. I wanted people to know what had happened, but do it in a way that they were free to make their own choice. I just needed to be heard, finally. Especially if they were hearing about it already.
Victim-blaming did occur. I’ve been told ‘regret is not rape’, that he should be able to post his side of the story on my thread (!), debating the validity of how much a rape victim I am, and even that I was doing a disserve to ‘real’ rape victims by claiming to be one. It’s hard to hear, I won’t deny it. Mainly because I told myself the same thing for so long before finally giving that mantle back to him and beginning to heal.
But you know what? I’ve also been told how brave I am. How inspiring I am being to other survivors for posting that, and even getting thanked by some friends I had no idea were survivors themselves. That they believe me. That they wish they had the strength I do. They’ve fought the victim-blamers with statistics, education, and calling them out for what they were doing. And those wonderful people? Significantly out-weigh the naysayers.
Something I’d been wanting to hear for years, I am finally getting a chance to hear: “I believe you.”
I want to encourage everyone to share their story. So many of us have similar experiences, but we’re too afraid that no one will understand, will believe us. We need to see each other! To throw the blame were it belongs, on the perpetrator.
The more we hear our voices echoed in others, the more we will heal and create an atmosphere in which rapists cannot hide.
Find that courage, whether it takes you a week, a year, or a decade. WE BELIEVE YOU.
The BBC, rape myths and damaging 'advice' http://everydayvictimblaming.com/discussions/the-bbc-rape-myths-and-damaging-advice/ via @EVB_Now