“Was it really rape?” I find myself asking, afraid to admit that it was for fear of being questioned about the explicit details of the attack, for fear of being labeled an attention-seeker. It couldn’t have been rape; after all, he was a nice guy.
Rape is an uncomfortable word—we don’t like to use it. It carries with it the pungent odor of betrayal and we can all but try not to imagine the stereotypical “predator” character that comes to mind when we hear the term. This is a problem.
You see, rapists aren’t always monsters governed by uncontrollable urges and malicious intentions; they’re much more likely to be an individual that you know and probably care about. They understand the consequences.
I liked him and he knew I liked him. So of course, the natural thing to do to show that he liked me also was to approach me and swiftly pull down his sock to reveal a condom. Because clearly if I liked him, I must want to have sex with him, right? I was sixteen.
I ignored this red flag—along with many others. When he kissed me I kissed him back, and it was nice. But I wasn’t ready for anything more than that. When he shut the door and asked me to get into the bed with him, flailing the infamous condom in an attempt to show that he had went to the effort of getting protection, I left the room. It seemed that because he had gotten his hands on this condom, I owed him the sex he had been expecting. At the time, I didn’t realize how wrong this behavior was. It was almost ingrained in me that this was how sexual encounters normally began.
Popular culture has us believe that a female is a thing to be won over and a thing which must be coerced into a sexual relationship with a male—like scoring a goal when all odds are against you. It’s way too common in the media to witness love stories wherein the male has been rejected numerous times by the female but continues with his advances until she finally—and reluctantly—gives in. This is considered an admirable feat by the male, and this disgusts me. After all, females withhold sex from men and they never readily and enthusiastically agree to sex.
I had forgotten about this uncomfortable incident until a few weeks later, when at the end of a class period, during a group discussion about relationships and otherwise, this particular male exclaimed “You wouldn’t have sex with me when we had the chance, you bitch.” He laughed playfully. I was not laughing.
He touched me inappropriately and randomly to express his continuing interest in me. Almost a year had passed when we both happened to be present at a New Year’s Eve party in a pub. I was moderately drunk and wearing a tight dress. Because they’re essential details, right?
Can you imagine my shock and fear when he approached me, grabbed my arm with extreme force of grip, and literally dragged me outside to the back of the pub? And can you comprehend how helpless I felt when several people witnessed this and simply stood there, watching it unfold? I was afraid; I struggled and he attempted to calm me down by claiming we were just kissing and there was no need to panic.
He took me behind a wall to a corner. A few minutes into our embrace he forced my head downward as if I was some object designed for the purpose of sexual gratification. I struggled and I said no. However, most people would have you believe that these actions would have been acceptable if I had not explicitly said no.
You see, lack of consent does not always come in the form of the word “no.” It comes with struggling, crying, wincing in pain. He was hurting me and I started crying. He took out his penis and tried to pull down my underwear. I was pushing him off of me and he was not budging, insisting that we were just “kissing.” Where have I heard that before?
He forced his penis inside of me for all of about three seconds, at which point I finally found the strength to push him forcefully off of me, telling him to fuck off. I remember it all very clearly.
I remember how horrified I was, when he told me to fuck off, walking away in a huff of anger, and I was finally able to see the couples dotted around me. The couples who had been there all along while this unfolded. The people who stood by and let this sexual assault occur, knowing I was trying to escape the tight embrace of the wall and the boy.
I remember the tears rolling down my face, as I stumbled in my heels on the wet grass back to the pub while the boys who had watched this all happen started laughing at me. One pushed me. I came across a male friend in my hysterical state, who didn’t recognize the severity of the situation and subsequently tried to kiss me.
I had nightmares. I cried and I told friends, none of whom labeled this for what it was. But could you blame them, when I wasn’t even capable of calling a spade a spade? I was asked in school the following week if I had sex with the individual in question, and was told “He said he got it in you for a few seconds.” But this wasn’t rape, right? If he only got it in me for a few seconds, it wasn’t rape. Right?
But that wasn’t the hardest part. A few months on, and he still hadn’t left me alone; every night out he plagued me. I just wanted it to stop. This isn’t an easy thing to write, but when he approached me and said his car was nearby, I knew I could do something to make it end. I could give him what he wanted and let it all be over, or I could continue rejecting all advances and continue to be harassed. I didn’t choose the latter.
This was a bad decision, and I know it was. But maybe it would be better in the long run, I thought. I didn’t want to have sex with him, and I told him that. I felt complete and utter neutrality, so I just did it. I did it in the hope he would get his bit and finally move on; finally leave me alone.
It’s not easy to admit that you reluctantly but willingly had sex with someone who had sexually assaulted you. It makes people question the validity of the whole thing, but it doesn’t change anything. He still did what he did.
And he finally left me alone.
And until recently, I remained under the illusion that he was still a nice guy.
And there was a split second in which I actually thought I liked him again.
It’s crazy to hear that, isn’t it? But nobody ever talks about that side to sexual assault. It happens: People like and sometimes love people who have sexually assaulted them. But nobody wants to admit it, because it destabilizes the whole claim.
And I know what you’re thinking.
If I went back to him voluntarily, I mustn’t have been that badly hurt by the assault. And if I subsequently ended up liking him again, it couldn’t have been that bad.
This is victim blaming. And this is why victims of sexual assault are so afraid to come forward and tell the full, uncensored, honest truth.
I wish I had some brilliant explanation as to why I came to like him for a period of time after what he did to me. But the truth is that I don’t. I don’t know why I felt this way, knowing how badly he had harmed me. I’m still extremely upset by the incident, and I still don’t have an answer as to why I felt this way at one point.
I am currently filled with incredible rage and upset about what happened, and I wish I had recognized how serious the incident was. I wish I had reported it. But I had no clue. I had no clue until college how absolutely unacceptable this was.
What happened, and how I felt after the incident doesn’t change what happened. That will always be a definite thing. I did not consent.
However, what happened after the incident is continually used in my case, and in others, to invalidate claims and belittle the horrific experience. Was it really rape? Or was it sexual assault? What’s the difference anyway? If the difference is penetration, then is three seconds of nonconsensual penetration rape?
So…was it rape?