This morning you get out of bed and switch on the radio. You hear on the local news that there was a rape last night. The police picked up a distressed woman by the side of the road. They are on the lookout for a man fitting a certain description. senior police officer has stated that this is a most heinous crime. The victim is receiving counselling, medical treatment etc. And as you listen, you know there was a rape last night.
Another one. This one was in your home. In your bed, on your living-room floor or perhaps in the kitchen. You were the victim. Though you were certainly distressed, there were no police. In the rationales born of morning, it is not deemed by you to be terribly heinous. You will get no counselling nor would ask for it, and any physical wounds will be tended by you alone. Some people will quite rightly express sympathy for the poor woman in the news report you've just heard. But though you were subjected to an ordeal which would fit the same legal standards as hers, you are aware that your rape, if seen as rape at all, is likely to be viewed with far less gravity. Even by you.
Because your rapist was the man you are in a relationship with. For some reason, your boyfriend/husband got angry last night and forced you to do sexual things. You then slept the night with him.
Perhaps a mixture of loyalty, shame and fear will ensure that the only consequences your rapist will face are his breakfast and a smile. And perhaps you love him, love him so much that you can't believe he would really hurt you.
Heading for the shower, you begin the business of the day. The hot water runs over you, and every part feels ravaged, especially your heart. Is that a feeling of dirtiness that you hope will wash down the plughole with the water? Before you whip the towel around you, you catch sight of breasts and vagina and you pull a face as you quickly disown them. What were his targets of contempt have become yours.
And he is there as you pull on your jeans. You have a sudden aversion to him watching you dress. He is scanning you. There may be silence-but that silence is loaded with his understanding that he has vanquished something in you. You feel it, you believe it. But you pick up your smile and put your arms around him. You are aware that this is expected, and you know that resistance is dangerous. You've learned who's boss. And you love him and he loves you. You need last night to go away; responding to his overtures (or making them yourself) will make the imagery metamorphose into something much less unpleasant.
Within the day, you will have sufficiently convinced yourself that under certain circumstances, rape is not really rape. Real rape is what happened to that poor woman last night, right? She was jumped by a strange man.
What happened to you was Not Really Rape. Not Really Rape, and though you will never completely believe that, those three words will become a soothing mantra that gets you through.
There was a rape last night. Light years away, you will have forgotten the unfortunate woman in the news, and you may acknowledge in pain that it was yours. You were raped. But for now, you must redefine, rename. You must minimize the betrayal. You have discovered how to simultaneously Know and Not Know a thing.
You need to survive
REAL RAPE: COMING TO TERMS
I thought tonight of how, yes, I have realized for several years that what he did to me was called rape. Regardless of the relationship which existed, it was rape.
Yet, still not really real rape. Self-accusation still existed in the back of my mind, and whenever I heard of women being raped by strangers, they were still "more raped" than me. I still didn't expect the same levels of empathy as them. I have written eloquent essays and articles on rape, and they were all motivated by what my ex-parner did. But if I be honest, what I experienced was still perceived by me not to be as much rape as if it was a stranger or acquaintance. Sexual healing has been the factor that has finally overturned any doubt that I had. It appears that my journey has been one of progression that went something like this:
1. "It could not have been rape because he was my boyfriend"
2. "maybe it was but I can't stand the thought space it would take to work it out- and wouldn't people think I was crazy for giving it that name?"
3. "okay yes it was rape after you broke up", (but hang on, Louise, he did some pretty gross things to you against your will whilst you were with him"
4. . "well okay technically maybe they were rape, but still not really all that bad (despite the pain you feel) you know, you continued to sleep with the loser"
5. "those things WERE rape, real rape, really and they damaged me in some terrible ways. Even though I stayed. Even though I came to the realization later. The words" partner" and "raped me" are compatible in the one sentence. And I don't give a damn about what anyoner else has to say about it. I was raped, it was my partner.
My "lover" used sexual violence as punishment, for power, for degradation; my self-hood, my sexuality, my womanhood, my ability to get close to someone....all trashed utterly for the next decade and a half.
He did this to me. He said he loved me. He said he would die without me. And he beat me, And he raped me; he did it knowing it would hurt me, knowing it would damage me and reveling in the fact. He knew before I did, that what he did was really rape.How it must have amused him to see me falling for the self-serving shit he presented it as, how stupid he must have thought me, falling for it after even the most blatant statements of awareness of what he was doing.. And how I hate him.
It was real rape.