I was technically raped.
It only took me four years to utter those words, and even then, I can’t seem to lose the “technically.” Shame rushes in the moment I use that word. Most of the time I’ll just use the phrase “non-consensual sex.” Sometimes I even feel guilty for referring to it like that.
The perpetrator was my boyfriend at the time. I had gotten so drunk that night that I actually blacked out. I remember only one part of the night—the part where he was moving me into different positions on his bed. He had to move me around because I couldn’t do it myself. My body was really the only thing that was there, but I had lost control of it. The only thing that I was actually capable of doing was watching for a moment, completely paralyzed.
I talked to him the next day. I asked him about everything that happened that night, and I told him that it was technically rape. His response was that he was drunk too. He was sober enough to do all of the work, though, with a girl who was too intoxicated to move and certainly incapable of articulating her thoughts.
I didn’t report him. I actually promised to never report him. It didn’t occur to me at the time that having to promise someone you won’t report them for rape is an incredibly huge red flag in itself. But of course, he was my “first love.” The first person who ever truly paid attention to me and the first person who understood me. He came from a good family (well, sort of). His mom was kind and welcoming. He was seemingly kind, too. He stood by me through the hardest of times. He made me feel loved, so much so that I felt justified in ignoring all of the warning signs. I really should’ve left. I didn’t.
Fast forward to a few years later, I would fall asleep right next to him with tears streaming down my face. Whenever he would try to initiate something, I would start to panic. Most of the time, I’d turn him down. I would wonder what was wrong with me, and he would not so subtly wonder too. We’d go through with it sometimes, because I thought I had to. Over the years, I had taught myself that sex was something that I was obligated to give. It became tied to my self-worth. It’s something that I struggle to get out of my head even after all of this time.
When I think about rape, I think about the stories that are shared on the news. I think about the perpetrators being strangers who use physical violence. I know that most rapes are, in fact, committed by someone the victim knows. I know that the victim doesn’t have to physically fight back in order for it to be rape. I know that the perpetrators don’t become less guilty if the victim was intoxicated. I know that they’re not any less guilty even if they were also intoxicated. If I listen to logic only, and even the law, rape is rape, regardless of these other factors I’ve mentioned.
While logically, I know what it was, emotionally, it’s almost impossible to admit. When I think about it, I go to war with my own mind. The second I try to say it, I’m met by all of these voices: You knew him. He was a good guy.
These days I’m actually not sure, but I thought so at the time. I thought, “It was technically rape, but he would never purposefully hurt me. He’s a good guy at heart. Maybe he just didn’t know. Maybe it was just a mistake. Good guys can make mistakes, right?” One part of me felt like I owed it to him anyway, and another felt that even if it was rape, I somehow owed him my protection.
Even years later, his defense lives in my head. So, to avoid the emotional battle that those three words bring me, I’ll just say this:
I was technically raped.
And maybe saying those words will be enough to give me back some of the power I lost that day.