“You get that you were raped, right?”
“Yeah…I mean, yeah, I know.”
“Let me rephrase that. You were raped. There is no question.”
“Right, I know. But. We were both virgins. And I don’t know if I gave him some signals…”
“Stop. This was your first date. You were 15 and you didn’t know the boy well. You were supposed to have a group of people with you, right?”
“Yes. He said that I should be dropped off at his house because his friends were coming over and we were all going to the movies.”
“But when you got there, it was just the two of you?”
“Right. I asked where his friends were, and he said they were coming over later. And that we could just hang out at his house until they got there. That’s when I started to feel uncomfortable. What I recognize, now, as my intuition. If I had made a friend stay with me…or make sure there…”
“No. You didn’t get raped because *you* didn’t have a friend stay with you. Do you understand that?”
“Yeah…I mean, I guess…”
“So, you were by yourself with him.”
“In his room. With the lights off. Why didn’t I tell him we needed to stay in the living room with the lights on?”
“Because you were unsure of yourself and didn’t want to seem dumb for feeling like everything wasn’t right?”
“I suppose so. He told me he wanted to take my shirt off, but I told him I didn’t want that.”
“That sounds pretty straight forward to me.”
“Right…but maybe I wasn’t forceful enough when I said it? And then I didn’t say no the second he started unbuttoning my shirt.”
“You said no. You told him no from the moment he mentioned something you didn’t want to do.”
“I did. And when he started pulling down my pants, I told him no then too. But the way I said it…maybe I didn’t say it forcefully enough?”
“Elizabeth, you said no. He should have stopped. He should have been taught to stop.”
“He didn’t even know how to put the condom on. Neither did I. I told him I didn’t want to touch him. I can still remember being completely shocked that he had pubic hair. That makes me want to cry now…that I was so naive, so inexperienced that I didn’t even know that men had pubic hair.”
“And he had to push so hard and he was so inept…I wasn’t in any way ready for the pain. I had never talked with anyone about what sex was like. I had no idea how much it would hurt. I cried. And I tried to push away. With every thrust of his hips, I tried to push down on the floor to get away from him. It was like the most awkward dance ever. Then the doorbell rang and his friends walked in the house.”
“So his friends came in the house? Did they come in the room?”
“Chris was getting off of me, telling me to get dressed, when his friend came in the room. I was so embarrassed. But I was relieved it was over. While I was getting dressed, I could hear his friends laughing in the kitchen with him.”
“What were they laughing about?”
“Me. Well, that they had walked in on Chris and I having sex. There was definitely some high-fiving with the boys.”
“Then I called my friend to come and get me. I told Chris and his friends that I had to get home, I didn’t feel well. I don’t remember what we did while we waited…I can’t remember that…but I had to wait about 20 minutes for my friends to get there. When I got in the car, I leaned over and told my friend, Sara, that I thought I had just had sex. I didn’t even know.”
“Was she surprised?”
“Yes. She wanted details, but I didn’t tell her how it really happened. Just that we had had sex and been interrupted.”
“Did she seem suspicious?”
“No. She believed me, but she wanted to know what it was like. All the usual stuff that girlfriends want to know. I told her I didn’t want to talk about it then, that we would talk later. They dropped me off at home and I ran to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet just in time for what seemed like buckets of blood to come gushing out. I was so freaked out. And then I heard my phone start to ring. And I was really scared that it would wake my Grandmother, so I ran to answer. It was Sara, who couldn’t wait to hear more. I told her I would talk with her at school the next day, and I finished cleaning up.”
“Did you tell your Grandmother what happened?”
“Definitely not. I was supposed to have been studying, which is why I had been allowed out on a school night at all. I thought that if she found out I’d lied, I’d be in big trouble. Now I know that she would have killed Chris…and then I would have gotten in some trouble for lying.”
“How was the next day?”
“I was in a lot of pain, and bleeding heavily. I told all my friends that Chris had said he couldn’t wait to have a real date, and how nice he thought I was. My older friends kept asking me if anything was wrong and I said no. After school, Chris called. We didn’t go to the same school, so I didn’t seem him that day.”
“Was that good?”
“Yes! I was so glad I didn’t have to see him. When he called, the first thing he said was, ‘I have to break up with you. My friends think you’re fat.’”
“Yeah. He said his friends thought I was fat…so it would be easier to break up with me now before things got too far.”
“Yeah. Because, at 5’8″ and 160 pounds of athletic body, I already thought I was too fat…that really helped.”
“He was an asshole, you know that, right?”
“I didn’t think therapists were supposed to talk like that?”
“We aren’t. But sometimes, like now, a therapist is a human and gets pissed.”
“I was so glad he didn’t go to my school, but I found out later that mutual friends of ours knew we had had sex.”
“So, he was telling people?”
“Yeah. Thankfully, it wasn’t that big a deal, and I had a long-term boyfriend after that, so nobody thought I was a slut or anything.”
“But, you see now that Chris raped you. You said no. You meant no, and you said no. He should have stopped.”
“I know. I do. I know. Also? I found Chris on Facebook last year. He’s huge. I mean, really fat.”
Elizabeth is a writer, mother, wife and friend. She’s learning to be as kind to herself as she is to others. It is, apparently, a long process.
My life changed forever 5 years ago. I was 16, he was 19. All I cared about were good grades, friends, and partying. I went to his apartment with two girlfriends. We met him a week ago. I thought he was cute and I loved that he was tall. We started drinking right when we got there. He and I talked and I thought he was amazing—he even kissed me.
I don’t know how much I had to drink, but at 105 lbs., I was wasted and passed out on the couch. I woke up to him picking me up. Startled and dizzy, I said I wanted to leave, he said I wasn’t going anywhere. He accidentally dropped me and I tried to get to the door, but I fell. He grabbed my hair, dragging me across the floor toward him. I fought, but he managed to carry me to his bed. I was terrified. My “friends” had already left.
He was on top of me. I took a swing at his face, but he grabbed my arm and I screamed as he twisted it behind my back. He said if I ever tried that again, he would break my arm. I believed him.
I believed every threatening, disgusting, soul crushing thing he said to me. He said I was worthless and just something to be used. He told me no man would ever want a fat, ugly slut like me. He said he would ruin me and I would forever be “damaged goods.”
When I wouldn’t quit fighting, he stopped and turned me so that my head was on the nightstand, then repeatedly slammed the back of my head into it. I was still awake after four hits—his look of disappointment told me that wasn’t his plan. He started raping me again.
Feeling powerless, I laid there and sobbed. He told me to shut up, but I wouldn’t. Then, his hand was around my throat, I couldn’t breathe. I struggled for air, unsuccessfully trying to peel his fingers off my neck. I felt myself slipping away and I thought I was dying.
I woke up gasping for air. I wondered what he did while I was passed out. Then, I tasted blood in my mouth and decided that I never wanted to know. He reached for something on the nightstand—a knife. He said if I moved or cried “one more fucking time,” he’d kill me. I whimpered. He pressed the knife against my ribs, digging it into my skin; I felt blood trickle down my side. He said, “That’s your last warning.” I had a choice: fight, scream, and die OR do nothing, be quiet, and live. I had to lay there in motionless silence while he beat me and violated me. I thought about how freeing death would be, how it would make him and the pain disappear. But no, I had to live, whatever it took. I can’t describe how consuming and excruciating the pain was; I closed my eyes and told myself the pain meant nothing—if it did, I’d already be dead. Now, in my weakest moments I remind myself of the strength it took to survive, of the strength it took to choose experiencing a temporary hell in order to live. I can honestly say that choosing to live was literally the most painful decision I have ever made; it was also the best decision.
When he was done, he told me we would never forget each other and that he would haunt me for the rest of my life. Then, he fell asleep right next to me, like nothing happened.
I waited a while, then finally got up. My whole body ached; I felt so weak and sick. I went to grab my clothes and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror; I was ghost white and covered in blood—it was in my hair, running down my chin from a busted lip, and all over my legs; there were smears of blood on the rest of my body and I wanted to throw up when I realized they were his hand prints.
I got dressed, opened the front door, and bolted. The door slammed behind me. As I made it down the first of three flights of stairs, I thought I heard his door slam again. I kept running, certain he was right behind me. I made it down the stairs and fell. My heart sank. I wasn’t getting away, he could get me now. But, I got up, ran to my car, and locked the doors. I looked around, but he wasn’t there. I swear he was right behind me—sometimes, I still feel like he is.
I was able to hide or explain away my injuries and they had almost healed when I decided to go to the police. I had to live it all over again during every interview. The detective’s questioning was unnecessarily harsh and I felt like no one believed me. (I’m still afraid that people, who hear my story, don’t believe me). My rapist got 6 months of probation for providing alcohol to me, a minor.
Sleeping is difficult. I’m afraid he’s waiting for me in the dark. I’m afraid he’s just around the corner or hiding behind the next car in the parking lot. I HATE it when people try to scare me; their harmless prank makes me think I’m about to be killed. I can’t stand yelling or door slamming. Sometimes I just can’t help saying negative things to myself about my appearance and I don’t always think I’m pretty. The flashbacks are horrifying—I can see, smell, and feel everything; they’re physically painful and exhausting.
Fear is still there, but it doesn’t control me anymore. I face my fears every day, even just by walking out the door (I’m terrified he’s on the other side). I resist the urge to constantly look over my shoulder when I’m on the stairs. I tell myself that the things he said aren’t true, that I will find someone who can love and accept me for who I am and that I’m not worthless.
I have dreams, I know what I want for my life, and I won’t accept anything less. I realized that I could choose to be happy and that I deserve to be happy. In spite of everything, I can say, without a doubt, that I have an amazing life and I am proud to be alive.
I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood. As a matter of fact, I have a hard time even now remembering dates, and the only way I can remember what year it was or how old I was in connection with one of the few memories I do have is by certain events or goings on that were significant.
One of the very few memories I do have from my childhood is of him shaving in the bathroom in his white fruit of the looms and a white undershirt. I can smell his Old Spice, and to this day that smell makes me nauseous. Something about a young child being in the room during such intimate grooming, like that, has always felt dirty to me. I have always tried to convince myself that it’s what came after that colors that. But I still don’t know if it was entirely normal.
From there, none of my memories fall into any kind of order that makes sense. I remember asking him when Madonna released Like A Virgin, what a virgin was. He shushed me while in the presence of others, but went into detail later when no one was around. I don’t know how old I was, though I suppose I could figure it out. All I do know is I was very young and had no business knowing.
I remember watching TV in the living room. He would sit on one end of the couch and have me kind of lean on his side. When my grandmother was engrossed in her ‘programs’ he would put his arm around me, slip his hand into my pants and panties, and touch me. She was not more than five feet away, and I never thought of it this way before; honestly I don’t think of it much at all, but now I don’t know if she didn’t know, or if she turned a blind eye. I would like to think she would never, but some things make better sense if she did. That hurts more than anything, I think. But being an adult, and knowing how hard it is to miss things that are right in your face, I have to think she probably did know. And it makes me sick.
I remember when I was about 10 and began to develop breasts, he touched them. Tried to get a response from my nipples. By this time I had shut down and never did react.
When I began to grow pubic hair I remember how he whispered in my ear, commenting on it as he tugged on them.
I don’t remember ever touching him, but I get a sick feeling thinking of the possibility that I don’t get in response to other things that I know did not happen, so I think it’s a good possibility he did take it there. There was never penetration, and for this I am very grateful. I’m sickened by all that he did take from me, but at least that one thing wasn’t one of them.
It ended around the time I approached puberty. I don’t know if it ended because I was getting older, or if it ended because he got sick. I distanced myself from that house around that time, and all I remember of him after that was his struggles with his health. I didn’t hate him, and I didn’t wish anything bad on him; that came later. But I was disconnected, watching my grandfather die.
I didn’t talk to anyone about it for a long time. You see, he was revered in my family. He could do no wrong. And in truth, there were a lot of things he excelled at. He was an excellent driver, and teacher. He was great at working with his hands. His garage forever smelled of fresh sawdust and cars. When we moved into our new (to us) house, he hung drywall, replaced the roof, strung a fence, and did whatever other maintenance it needed to be livable. And because he was a hard worker, and a family man, I was left feeling like what happened was my fault. Or that I misunderstood.
So I shut down. I have lived my life since that first day watching him shave in his underwear with my every sense dulled. Muted. I have 20/20 vision, but don’t see most of what’s there. My hearing is fine, yet I’m constantly asking people to repeat themselves because I just. don’t. hear. it. Nothing has ever really tasted good. Nor smelled good. And my skin feels like it’s coated with a thin layer of wax. My emotions are just as dulled. I neither love nor hate most anybody. I just don’t care. The people I DO love? My kids. They are the only people I have been able to let in fully. Other than them, the only people who have been close enough to hurt me are always unavailable. Usually emotionally. But sometimes by physical distance. There is ALWAYS some element of disconnect. And I hate it. It’s like living in a bubble. A clear one, sure. But like the glass bathroom windows or shower doors are made of. I can see and hear those around me, and they can see me. By some trick of the light, most don’t even see the glass between us. But we can never, ever touch. The closest we can ever get is each holding up our hands to the glass, and maybe feeling a ghost of the warmth from each other. Maybe hearing a ghost of a whisper when we try to speak. What I give, and receive, is warped by the glass, and what I see is never what IS. And I don’t know if I will ever either escape my bubble, or be able to let another into it.
I did eventually tell my mother, after he was gone. She encouraged me to get counseling, but I never did. I felt like I was fine. I lived. I did well in school, had some friends, and didn’t think about it. I’m only now, at 36, really seeing what it did to me. I’m just now seeing more clearly that my perceptions are NOT normal. That life can be so much brighter and more vibrant. That maybe, just MAYBE, I can regain some of what was lost so long ago. I haven’t started looking for a counselor yet, but I am thinking about it.
I’m afraid. Afraid of talking about it. Afraid that speaking the words will unleash the pain that I suspect lurks under the glass. Locked away until now. But I’m ready. Living this way isn’t really living at all. My kids, my boys, my heart and my soul, deserve better. They deserve a mother who is in the moment. Who laughs and runs and plays, and really means it. I deserve the same.
We all do.
When I was 15, I started dating a guy who had some pretty weird behaviors. He would attribute them to trying to impress me, or they were always somehow my fault. When he started dealing drugs, he had this long, drawn-out reason for why it was my fault. Just every little thing became my fault, but that I should feel lucky because he put up with me and was trying to make me happy. I spent more and more time with him because it was an escape from my parents. I moved out of my parents’ house that year and spent most of my nights at his place, and occasionally slept at friends’ houses or my car. I was working 40-60 hours per week and going to school full-time, so there wasn’t much time in between, so it didn’t seem so bad.
Around that time, we were driving around – me in the passenger seat and him driving. I was just staring out the window, when suddenly I felt a sharp *thwack* and my nose was bleeding. It took me awhile to put together what happened… he had backhanded me while driving, and then gone right back to it like nothing had happened. Things like this started to happen more and more. When, I questioned it – he told me I was crazy, and that couldn’t possibly be what happened. This spiraled out of control to where he would do it just about anywhere. And, I stopped mentioning it. I just took it and assumed that I must be hallucinating or crazy or something because why would he possibly be doing something like that to me. I really thought I was so crazy and there was something wrong with me.
Somehow this made me apply this to my relationship with my parents too. It must have all been me. I must be such a bad person. And, I should have felt lucky to have these people in my life who were willing to put up with me and my craziness.
The relationship escalated and so did the incidents. When I was 18, he punched me hard enough to crack my jaw in front of his sister. When I was 19, he slammed my head in to a concrete wall with enough force to cause a concussion and make me black out. He also kept me steadily on illegal drugs as his “career” as a drug dealer and later drug trafficker took off. I scared to pieces to leave him, and few people really saw what was going on. He was a little guy, but strong. He would talk about wanting to molest our children if we ever had any and all sorts of horrible things as though they were completely normal. His sister kept telling me, “If he ever loved anyone, he loved you,” which now looking back makes me think she knew he had problems.
When I left him on my 20th birthday, a few months passed before he broke into my apartment. He raped and nearly killed me. I fell into a pretty deep depression and went back to my parents, where I detoxed from all the drugs in my system, swore off alcohol and healed physically and emotionally.
About six months after this, I had gone of a couple dates with a man, when he slipped GHB into my drink. He drove around, waiting for me to pass out. Then he would pull over and try to ripped at my clothes and grope me. When I would come to and demand he take me home, he would drive around more until I would pass out again. This went on for what felt like hours. I couldn’t focus on anything.
Eventually, he pulled into a parking lot, where I jumped out and ran. He followed me and caught up with me. It was a very violent encounter, but I managed to pull my mace out my purse and spray him, which is the only reason he didn’t succeed. I got the pepper spray all over me too due to the wind, but managed to run until I got to my parents’ front door. I have no idea how I managed to get there, but as soon as I did, I collapse.
It turned out that all the information the man had given me about himself was fake. I felt completely taken in because this is what he had in mind to begin with. I am just so happy I got away.
A few years later, I met my ex-husband. He seemed great at first. With him, I started drinking heavily again, which made him seem even better. It didn’t seem to matter that we had nothing in common. It was only after we were married, about a month in – when he had his first “black out.” That night he trapped me in the bedroom, held me down and raped me, all the while calling me names and saying that he was going to pass me around to his friends who were next in line. He was obviously hallucinating and thought there were other people in the room. Afterwards, he came to me crying when I was trying to leave the apartment and him for good, saying he didn’t remember any of it.
I decided that I wasn’t sure what he was capable of (which is such an understatement in hindsight) and was going to leave on Monday when he was at work. This was on a Saturday. On Sunday, we went to the store and on a whim, I got a pregnancy test. I took it and it was positive. At that point, I thought being a “dad” would change him for good. He said he would stop smoking pot and drinking. He never did.
I really couldn’t tell you how things from there went down hill so fast. Suddenly, he was watching my every move. I was accused of cheating. He would get drunk and tell me about his girlfriend. He was very violent toward our dogs, routinely kicking, punching and throwing them. When he did that, he let me know that it was really what he wanted to be doing to me. He was always trying to make me miscarry. He would get violent and aggressive, but I kept telling myself – at least it’s not as bad as my first boyfriend who hit me, but it became a lot worse. He would laugh when he would do it – like it was some big joke. But, he never seemed to remember any of it when he woke up.
Slowly, he started not being home as much, disappearing for days at a time. He would go to the store and be gone for 10-12 hours. He told me later he was just sitting in the car drinking, but I don’t know about that. He installed cameras at the front door with an internet feed, so he could watch to make sure I didn’t go anywhere when he was at work. He took my phone, my keys, everything. The only food he would allow in the house was a grocery sack full of candy bars once a week. He slept fully clothed with his wallet, keys, cell phone and two switch blades in his pocket. There are a lot of times that I don’t remember. I have a tendency to pass out and block out intense pain, but I would wake up with injuries.
When I finally left him to file for divorce, I came to in the emergency room. I was pregnant with a second child, which I subsequently lost at 5 months pregnant. Unfortunately, I was conned into the idea that we could work things out for our son. I really wanted for him to be a good dad, but he consistently told me that there could only be a relationship between me and him, if I gave my son up for adoption. When I left, things got 1000 times worse.
I ended up in a shelter. I had a restraining order, but he still had visitation rights. I was somehow convinced to continue “dating” my ex-husband for another several months in exchange for child support. I was basically “whoring” myself out, but that was after the divorce was final. The divorce itself took 9 months, which were the worst. He created a MySpace page devoted to the ways he would kill me. He left photographs for me which lead me to think he killed one of our dogs.
I finally had enough when one day – I called him on his BS. His mom told me that he was planning to move in with me and my son. I told her that wasn’t going to happen. He was so upset with me, that he and his mother took my son (who has a severe allergy to nicotine dust) into an enclosed space and chain smoked. I grabbed my son out of there and told him that it was the last time he would see me or my son, and it has been.