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Why wasn’t I able to say “NO!”?

I know I am seeking a sense of validation but it is hard for me not to. Part of me still does not believe that I was raped and I am wrong for saying that I was. Another part of me says that the more times I tell it to trusted and safe people the more I will believe it to be true and can move on. I finally talked to my therapist about the whole thing yesterday and told her the whole story. She was first person I told the entire story to. She talked me about this concept: tonic immobility. I have some more reading on this concept and it has helped some with my denial and self blame. This is a good article on it: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sexual-assault-may-trigger-involuntary-paralysis/
So here is my story…When I was 17 or 18 (it was the summer eight after HS graduation and before I headed off to college) I was invited to a party by an older cute guy. I had met the guy a year before and we had stayed in some contact due to both being in the same extracurricular activity. He lived an hour away and my parents were out of town. Up to the point I had never had sex of any kind before. I remember feeling excited and grown up and nervous as I drove to his house knowing I would be drinking and staying the night. I had in my mind that we do what I had done with other guys before…we would make-out, some heavy petting and I would probably let him finger me (because in my mind that’s what I always did- this was a repeat of childhood sexual abuse that I did over and over with guys-not understanding why). I remember being excited because up until that point almost all the guys that I had done anything with I didn’t like and wasn’t really attracted to….it was just a constant repeat of what had happened to me as a child (being fingered). So here was a guy I liked and was attracted to and he apparently liked me back…I was so excited!

So I drove to where the party was and I drank some. He had already been drinking when I got there. After a little while of being at the party we decided to leave and go back to his house. He lived just down the road and he drove us in my vehicle back to his house. We went straight to his room. We started to make out on his bed and I was okay with this. Then he started to move down lower on my body. He was kissing lower and lower and I was afraid he was going to go down on me. So I pulled him back up to my face…hoping he would get the nonverbal message. He started to go down again and this time I closed my legs and bent them to one side again hoping he would get the nonverbal message. He didn’t. He forced my legs open…I say forced because at this point this is exactly what it felt like. This is when I froze and checked out. I knew what was going to happen and I felt like I couldn’t stop it. I was angry and scared. Oral sex was something I had wanted to save for my future husband. I was ashamed of all the situations I had gotten myself into with guys up to that point in which I would allow them to finger me and then basically end the interaction (repeating the childhood trauma over and over)…I felt so much shame given my Christian beliefs so I felt like sex (both oral and vaginal) could be saved for my husband.

In my head I was screaming “no! Stop!” While it was happening. But I couldn’t get the words to come out of my mouth. I couldn’t move. All I could do was lay there and wait until it was over. It felt like it went on forever. I felt frozen because I so believed that I wasn’t allowed to be impolite…I had gotten myself into this situation. I was wrong for drinking and wrong for staying the night and if I was staying the night in his bed that meant I had to give him what he wanted. When he was done he asked me to reciprocate. I don’t understand why I found my voice here…why was I able to say “I don’t really want to do that” but not 5 or 10 minutes earlier?! WHY If only I had said no verbally a few minutes earlier and not just with my body then I feel like this would qualify and as an assault or rape.

Because I had said no to performing oral sex on him I felt like I had to stay still and endure it when he started to hump my butt. It hurt. He was a muscular guy and I was pretty tiny…probably 110lbs. And he just kept slamming into me. I just kept praying for it to be over soon. Eventually it was and he went to sleep and I laid there awake until dawn. I felt like I couldn’t leave…I don’t know why. I guess as crazy as it sounds it felt like it wasn’t polite to leave. As soon as he woke up the next morning I left. It’s like I felt like I had to smile and say thanks and see you later and be polite to him…why?! Now that I type it out it seems so crazy but that’s exactly how I felt…honestly it’s how I was raised. It felt like I had to act like I enjoyed everything about the night and it was what I wanted and to leave in the middle of the night or to leave the next morning without pretending nothing had happened by smiling politely would have been rude.

I have struggled so much over the years with this experience. My spring semester of my senior year (spring 2009) I started a master’s level crisis counseling class. The text I read for the class talked about date rape and how often victims don’t even realize that anything has happened to them. They don’t think it was rape. That stuck with me so strongly and that is when I started to have an inkling that maybe what had happened to me was a sexual assault. When a professor and mentor asked me directly “were you raped?” I will never forget this moment. Because that moment…how I felt in that moment when I told her “I don’t know” was so descriptive of how i have felt every day since that night it all happened.

Yesterday when I told my therapist what my professor/mentor asked me and what I said in response she said “and when was it that you started to realize it was rape?” When she said that yesterday it hit me… it’s hard to explain everything I felt … relief and shock all in one instant. Thoughts of “it was rape…I’m not crazy!” and “Rape?! How could it be rape?! How could I have been raped?!” I struggled to respond but I finally did and said “I don’t know that I have.” So if it’s true. If this really was rape then yesterday begins the first day of believing everything my body has been trying to tell me for years.

As I have been processing this. More details come up that I am remembering. Details that are too shameful or embarrassing.

While he was going down on me and I was laying there frozen in fear and anger….screaming in my head. At some point I was able to move and instead of moving out of the situation (pushing him off me and getting out of the bed) I once again chose a passive aggressive route (because my entire life I had been taught to not ask for things directly but to imply that you need something or that the other person wants what you actually want-something to this day that drives my husband crazy).

So this passive aggressive route…I remember thinking if I can make him think I orgasmed then he will stop. So I think I made some moaning noises and I think (not 100% sure) told him that felt good and tried to pull his head up and he came up temporarily but then he went back down and continued.

Maybe after this was when the freezing and shutting down and paralysis actually started and kicked in. Maybe that was my last attempt to get him to stop. That would make more sense.

Apparently the paralysis happens after someone has tried fighting and fleeing and it hasn’t worked…me pulling him up before he had started and me closing my legs and moving them to the side and finally after he started …me pretending to orgasm and enjoy it and pull him up towards me were all my attempts to fight.

As puny and ridiculous and laughable as those attempts were…

It’s hard to not feel like this last ditch attempt at fighting on my part negates everything he did….absolves him of everything. It wasn’t rape because of what I did and said…because I pretended to enjoy it and pretended to orgasm so he would stop. Why, why did I do this?! What is wrong with me?!

— Samantha, age 30

3 comments

  • sharon
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