Why, after such a painful sexual history, did I find myself in another painful, super stressful, confusing relationship? While I have had more than one sexual trauma in my life, for some reason, the most recent brings me the most emotions. I get nauseous, SO angry, ashamed, embarrassed of my self and who knows what else. It’s been a few years with therapy, and I am happy with who I am, who I love and how I live finally, after such a turbulent puberty and 20s.
As background, before the incident I will describe (maybe one day I’ll express the others), I loved my virginity during a date rape with a boyfriend when I was 16. After this, I became anorexic and addicted to exercise. As a result, I spent way too much time in my high school’s gym. There, I developed a huge crush on the 31 yr old strength coach. He started asking me questions like, “why don’t you have a boyfriend?” He would compliment my body and take credit for “designing” it because I had started doing his workouts and getting so lean, my period stopped. The coach and I actually hooked up after I turned 18; then a 3 yr destructive and isolating relationship started. I had to keep it a secret for 2 years; when I told my parents, I think at this point they were afraid of yanking me out of the relationship (to avoid trauma I guess), also I was 20 at this point, so i wonder really what could they have done, especially because I was in so much denial and so depressed and angry and hungry (he constantly said he liked me smaller, so I was always starving myself). Looking back, I’m thirty now, I am so pissed and grossed out. I can’t imagine at my age ever hitting on a 17 yr old and then perpetuating a secret affair and ensuring the young adult has the lowest self esteem ever. Ok, this is not the incident that keeps up at night, however.
At about 26, I started dating a graduate student. I was in grad school too, so it seemed like a good starting point. From day one, this guy was constantly convincing me to go out with him. He was excellent at manipulating by saying, “how will you ever find love if you don’t give a guy a chance?” I would then question my choices and give in. He used to play football, which he showed off way too much. Anyway, I started to hang out with him. He was crazy and so stressful. He was super grabby. ONce on a date, he unzipped my jacket while we were eating, and when I said it was weird, he said he just wanted to see my beauty. If anyone checked me out, he would forcibly kiss me totally full of insecurity. At night, I would wake up with his fingers in me or his hands on my breasts. I didn’t consider molestation because he was asleep. Or so I thought. I have no idea. I was so dumb with such low self esteem and all my friends were getting married.
He did say he was molested by an older boy when he was little when I would ask him about these weird night moves. He also always kept saying his favorite movie was “From Hell” with Johnny Depp. I like Depp, so when I finally agreed to watch it, it was the most disturbing anti-woman imagery. There were naked dead women being cut open on the screen. I was horrified. Another red flag was a sign of obsession. One day we drove by a Starbuck and he actually told me how this shop triggers his obsession with an undergrad.
Finally, after only 3months, I dumped the guy. The problem, however, was that he had bought us tickets to go to Puerto Rico for a vacation. After a few days of me just refusing to go and really not wanting to be around him, he convinced me (of course). He said there would be no pressure and that I could just relax, enjoy Puerto Rico and surf. As a surfer, I fell into the temptation. Anything for a free surf trip, right? No, as it turns out.
The first two days I was consistently and expectedly grossed out by him. He spent too much time in the casino, not enough time on the beach. I was in the bath and he took his clothes off and got in! He could tell I was grossed out, so thankfully he got out. I tried to remain cordial as much as possible and I did get an amazing surf session in. The next night, he untied my bikini top while I was eating potato chips. I told him that was weird and a turn off. He apologized. By the third day, I couldn’t take his insane, pompous, predatory behavior. I called my mom crying, scaring her to death, so I white washed the situation very quickly. She calmed down and suggested we stick to doing fun tourist things like going to the rainforest.
I was so distraught and isolated at this point, I made the BIG mistake of going out and getting hammered with him. I didn’t know what else to do. I have a bad habit of drinking when I feel emotionally overwhelmed so as to sedate myself. We bar hopped and had dinner. I had some vodka red bulls. After a while, I started getting REALLY sloppy. I look back now, I see I was def more than drunk. But at that moment I was all wasted, stopping into tattoo parlors pretending to get a tattoo. By the time we got back to the hotel I was out of it. I passed out on the bed. i came to with this jackass inside of me. Next to me on the night stand was one of my birth control pills, that HE had taken out and placed there for me! What a psycho. On top of that, he wasn’t wearing a condom which is super effed up because I would never let him in me without one ever. I was really out of it, sort of like not able to realize or feel what was happening at the moment. When I did come to, I saw my pants on the floor inside out.
I became livid. I screamed that he had date raped me! He got really mean and denied it. I made him buy me a plane ticket to go home early. I didn’t know anyone in Puerto Rico, so at the time, I also did not fully comprehend the gravity of the violation. When we got to the airport he insisted on flying with me (what a gentleman). It would cost him 400 $ more, so he asked if I would stay with him in the hotel at the airport one night to save money. At this point, I would rather sleep on the beach with a homeless man. He threw down the bucks.
Back home, he continued to try and pursue me. He had bought me a diamond bracelet and I didn’t want it, so he returned it and mailed thousand dollars. To me, this was a confession. He continued to digitally stalk me for a year. He joined my environmental group which is a public foundation, so I was the one that had to quit. He won the favor of all the men on it too, i was seen as paranoid and dramatic.
Looking back, I was in denial about it, trying to dilute what really happened. I think I still do. My friend who is a lawyer said abusers and predators tighten their grip when the victim tries to liberate his/herself. She believes this was the case. She defines what occurred as a rape. This validates my pain, but still I have trouble comprehending how dangerous the situation really was. I was in essentially another country. I knew no one. He was someone “I knew,” could call a “boyfriend.” I had put myself there. I drank too much yes, but truthfully, really digging deep I can admit that I believe I was drugged. I did leave him with my drinks when I would go to the bathroom. The truth is, I could have been beaten, kidnapped, acquired an STD, lost my life. Regardless, I did lose so much. I feel ashamed, stupid, I blame myself for agreeing to go on a trip with someone who was showing lots of red flags. It bums me out so much. It’s SO violating to be raped especially without a condom, especially when the person is well aware of your “condom rule.” It’s my body dam it. It’s the only one I have. As you can see, I still carry so much weight. It’s utterly humiliating.
On a more proactive note, the least I can offer is a little list of red flags I know now are red flags. I didn’t know what they were then. I just thought he was nuts, not a rapist. These are just trends toward “rapey” behavior, not certainties:
played aggressive sport like football
doesn’t listen to you
always arguing with you and disrespecting you (he never respected my boundaries regarding time to go home or if I didn’t feel like doing something, so why would he respect my sexual agency)
I can’t remember more now, but you can look this stuff up online and i remember the signs were so on point with him ( I wish I had known this).
I’m sorry this is so long, but I am so grateful to have a place to document my story. Brave Miss World you are today’s Mother Theresa. Our world is so blessed to have you. This platform to share stories and support each other is a brilliant idea. As you have said, “Rape is so isolating.” You have changed that. With this forum, we are not alone. We are together.
Much love to the sistren out there!