It’s taken me about 15 years to call my 1st time having sex what it really was-rape. As a mental health therapist who’s trained to know what abuse, sexual assault, rape is I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me this long. Maybe it’s because of my culture’s confusion about the definition of rape, it’s tendency to blame the survivors. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to be a victim.
I was 15 years old, in my 1st serious relationship. My boyfriend had been pressuring me for a month or so to have sex with him, unrelenting despite telling him I didn’t feel ready yet. I snuck out one night with him to go to a party. I didn’t have much experience drinking and I became drunk pretty quick. We went back to his house. I don’t think his family was home. I remember being in one if the bedrooms, I don’t think his at the time, probably kissing him. Next thing I remember he’s on top of me, having sex with me. I don’t remember if i said “no” or if I resisted him; I do know I didn’t say “yes” or initiate sex. I remember not feeling much, physically or emotionally. He walked me part way home. I believe that’s the night my dad was up when I got back, so instead of getting caught I ended up spending the night behind the church across the street from my house, cold and alone, waiting until I had a chance to get back into my bedroom without my parents seeing me. For the next week I tried to talk myself into believing it hadn’t happened, that my first time having sex was not like that. When I talked to my boyfriend about it, questioning if it happened I remember him getting angry, like he was hurt that i wasn’t sure we had sex. I remember him telling me I was on top of him, wanting to have sex with him. I know he was lying, probably feeling guilty for taking something from me I wasn’t ready to give. I stayed with him for 3 1/2 years, enduring sexual, physical, and emotionally abuse from him, thinking I could help him, seeing that he held onto a lot of pain, conflicted because I cared about him but knew deep down inside it wasn’t a healthy relationship. The last few months I was with him I remember forcing myself to have sex with him; knowing I needed to leave but that if I did I would have to deal with him begging me to come back. He finally broke up with me, I think realizing that I wasn’t’ attracted to him anymore and that I wasn’t emotionally available to him. It took me a long time to recover from the pain he caused me, and I now realize I am stronger because of it. I know what I want and deserve in a relationship. I am blessed to be with someone, for 9 years, that respects me and loves me for who I am.
My second rape happened when I was 21, celebrating my birthday in Vegas with friends and my sister. I had met a guy while we were out one night and he came back to the hotel room with us. I kissed him and then we fell asleep in my bed, my two friends next to us on the other bed. I woke up in the morning to him giving me oral sex. He had taken my underwear off while I was asleep and started licking me. I woke up really confused, and when I realized what was happening, pushed his head away and told him to leave. He did. When my friends woke up I told them what happened and that I was upset about it. I remember them telling me what did I expect letting him sleep in my bed with me. I felt angry and confused, questioning whether I had “asked for it”. It took me about 9 years to realize this was rape as well.
I’ve struggled as a young woman in the US feeling as if my sexuality is not mine; that it is there for men to enjoy, whether I want them to or not. I imagine most if not all girls/women in my country, and many around the world, feel the same. I’ve worked with many other survivors, and hearing their stories hurts me deeply, maybe touching my own pain at being abused, but also gives me courage and hope, seeing their strength at surviving their experiences. I recently found out someone close to me was raped, at about the same age I was the first time, and this opened some old, deep wounds. I had just shared my stories for the first time, with my partner, a few weeks before finding out. I was able to let her know she is not alone and that I was so proud of her for standing up to her rapist, despite being harassed at school for it. I’ve only told a few more people about my rapes, a few close friends. I’m not sure what is holding me back from being more open about my experiences, especially since I know that by sharing our stories we bring hope and awareness to others. Maybe it’s because sometimes I still question if both of the rapes were my fault and I imagine others I might tell will tell me they weren’t rapes. Maybe I feel ashamed that I was unable to protect myself in both situations. I logically know both of these are untrue- I was raped, it’s not my fault. I also think that the two people who raped me probably don’t think what they did to me-using my body and taking my sexuality without my permission- was rape. And I don’t totally blame them for this either. I think they are both a product of a society that over-sexualities women and encourages men to view their sexuality as something they can use for their enjoyment when they please, without permission.
I want to speak out. I want to share my story with people close to me, my family and friends. I want to let my fellow human sisters know they are not alone and their bodies are theirs to choose what they want to do with. That if they are survivors they will be able to get through the pain, that their rape does not define who they are. I want to share it with boys and men so they may understand a little more clearly that women’s bodies are not theirs to use at their discretion. Sexuality is something to be celebrated and shared mutually, consensually. Watching Brave Miss World tonight, I was very inspired by your courage, strength, determination to share your story and hear others stories. It’s through sharing our stories that healing takes place.