This post is part of our True Life series where OKC moms are sharing real trials & tribulations they have gone through as mothers, as wives, and as women.
The summer right after I turned 15, I attended church camp where I met a boy that I liked. He was several years older than me and had just turned 18. He asked me to the camp dance and gave me his hat which I wore and sniffed to smell his cologne. We had a wonderful time at the dance stayed together through the rest of camp, and decided that we would continue to be in a “relationship” after we went home, even though we lived several hours apart. I let him give me a tiny peck on the lips before we parted because I was afraid to have a passionate kiss with him like he wanted. The next few months we talked on the phone almost daily and I was smitten. He told me he loved me. I thought I felt the same. I thought we shared similar values of chastity and waiting until marriage to have sex. Now looking back, I can’t believe how incredibly naive I was.
At the end of the summer, I planned to see him while I was with my family on vacation since lived very close to where we were traveling. He came over to the hotel and met my parents, and they let me go out with him for a while. Things stayed fairly innocent although we did get slightly more physical over the next two evenings. I thought I was in love.
The third night was going to be the last night before my family and I returned home. He came over again to take me out. We drove a long way to a secluded area and looked at the stars. He told me he loved me. We got in the back seat of his car and started making out. Things progressed and we were having fun. Then he told me that he wanted to make love to me. I was a virgin. I had planned to wait until marriage before having sex. My first instinct was to say no. I knew this was not a good idea. Everything that I had been taught from both a moral standpoint and a health/safe sex standpoint went against his proposal. I was not on birth control. No condom–I could get pregnant. Or get an STD. I did not feel ready. I felt like I would disappoint God as I had recently made promises to him at camp that I would save myself for marriage. So I said, “No, I don’t think so.”
But then he said, “I just want to show you how much I love you. Don’t you want to show me how much you love me?” And I felt conflicted. Yes, I did want to feel that closeness…and despite the huge stack of evidence telling me not to pursue this, I found myself reluctantly saying, “Well, I guess we can try it.”
He took off my underwear and threw them aside. He climbed on top of me and I felt trapped. I couldn’t move. I was uncomfortable. He attempted to penetrate me but because I was a virgin and there was no other preparation, it was extremely painful. I cried out. I said, “It hurts! It hurts! Stop!!!” He was pushing very hard. He eased up a little and coldly said, “It will get better.” He pushed again. I screamed as I yelled, “Ow! Stop! Stop!!!” But he did not stop. He kept going. I attempted to push him away by pressing my hands on his chest, but it did no good. I was in agony, trapped underneath him as each movement felt like knives going inside of me. Tears were streaming down my face. I was in so much pain, and so upset, that all I could do was cry and say “No more…please stop…no…no…no” He said, “It will be over soon.” But it wasn’t over soon. It felt like it would never end. I just wanted to get out of there. I was crying and crying while he want in complete control over everything that was happening. I silently prayed, “Please God, let this be over.” I tried to block out what was happening simply so I could get through the pain.
Finally, he was done. He pulled up his pants, got back in the driver’s seat, and threw my clothes at me. Except my underwear. He said he was keeping those. I put my dress back on and got in the passenger seat. I felt like I was in a daze. I was so confused about what just happened.
He dropped me off at my hotel and drove off without saying a word. I didn’t say anything either. I immediately burst out crying. I started up the stairs to the hotel entrance and it hurt to walk. My vagina was so sore and I felt a sensation like I was having my period. I wandered through the hotel not knowing what to do. All I knew was that I could NOT go back to my family’s hotel room and face them. In my mind, there was no good explanation for what happened. It was all my fault. They would be furious with me. There’s nothing they could do to help, anyway. It was over.
I was shaking and hyperventilating as I sobbed. I found a bathroom. I went in a stall and wiped myself with some toilet paper. Blood. That’s when I really lost it and crumpled on the floor. I was worried that I was very badly hurt. I was scared. Then anger and frustration swept over me. On top of the terrible experience that just took place, I had no way to take care of the bleeding that was happening, especially since I didn’t have any underwear. It felt like a cruel joke. Not having my underwear made me feel so incredibly violated. I still wasn’t in charge of my own body even though he was gone. Why had this happened?
I cried for a while. I let the tears flow until there were no more. I put some cold water on my face and applied cold paper towels to my eyes to try to reduce the puffiness. There was no way my parents could see me like this. I had to pretend everything was normal or I would be in deep trouble.
I never spoke to him again. He never called me, and I never called him. There was no official “breakup.” Our “relationship” simply ceased to exist.
I went home and told my friends I had lost my virginity and they were shocked. I acted happy about it, though. Because I didn’t know what else to do. But on the inside, I was spiraling out of control. I felt like I had lost everything. And because I had lost everything, what did it matter what I did from that time forward? It was at least a year before I had sex again, with a boyfriend who was also much older than me. But after that relationship was over, I didn’t stop having casual sex. It just seemed like that was the thing to do since I was broken. Might as well. I tried to forget that night itself, but the residual feelings were still there.
5 Years Later.
I was taking my Kinesiology credit in college when we began studying reproductive health and sexual assault. I remember very clearly reading a paragraph about rape and listening to the instructor explain it. She said that you can say no or stop at any time, and sexual activity should cease. If your request to stop was not heeded, it was rape. You could revoke your consent.
I had never heard this before. I figured once you said yes, it was all over. My stomach flipped as I read these words in black and white as the instructor kept speaking. “Oh my gosh,” I thought, “I was raped. I said no…I said NO.” It felt like time stopped as my mind went right back to that night. It was a lot to take in.
The more I read, the more everything made sense. I just could not believe it. After 5 years, I found a piece to the puzzle that had been missing. I knew I didn’t want that to happen. Yes, I stupidly gave initial consent to have sex. But almost immediately, before much had even happened, I said NO. I said STOP. I said DON’T. But he physically trapped me underneath him and forced himself inside of me. It was not my fault. I was raped.
It gave me some important closure. But that doesn’t mean I still did not wade through more difficulty. I explained to my boyfriend the revelation that I had about the rape. He listened, but I could tell that what I was saying did not register. He offered some platitudes but I could tell he was not sincere. I got the sense that he was thinking that I was not “really” raped because of the initial consent and circumstances. I didn’t get attacked or have a gun to my head.
I encountered similar perspectives almost any time I was brave enough to disclose this experience to anyone. Yeah, it was bad, but not that bad. And it was basically still my fault. I felt like I had to prove that what happened to me was “enough” to be called rape. And I wasn’t even trying to pursue legal action or anything like that. I just wanted those close to me to validate my feelings. That’s all I wanted. But it seemed that it wasn’t terrible enough to warrant any sympathy.
Let me be clear. Before I had gone on vacation with my family, I had never done anything except innocently kiss a boy. And I left vacation without my innocence. He was an 18 year old man. He stole my dignity. He physically hurt me. He sent me a powerful message that my body was not my own and that no matter what I said or did, a man could overrule me.
Most people do not know that this happened to me. It is extremely difficult to talk about, or even write about as I am doing now. Because the prospect of receiving negative feedback feels so overwhelming that it cripples me. I cannot suffer through one more person telling me that it was my fault. I cannot listen to one more person say that a woman “shouldn’t have been there/done that.” I cannot accept any defense of a man who disregards what a woman says during a sexual encounter. These things hurt me almost as badly as the night it first happened. It has been 16 years and I still relive that pain when anyone pushes back on accounts of sexual assault. It doesn’t ever leave you, not completely. It’s not okay. It’s absolutely not okay.
I write this today so that those who have experienced rape or sexual assault know that they are not alone. 1 out of every 6 American women are the victims of rape or attempted rape. 9 out of every 10 rape victims are women. I am thankful that what happened to me was not worse. But any time a person endures this de-humanizing abuse, it is one time too many. No one deserves it.
It’s baffling that in this day and age that such violence is still so prevalent. There is something so very wrong with our society that this many perpetrators exist. Please visit Rainn.org to learn more about sexual assault, how to look for warning signs and empower our children, and how to support survivors.
We must speak out against this and continue to raise awareness. We must raise our children to understand what consent is and that they can talk to us about anything, and we will not get upset with them. We must teach our girls that their bodies are their own. We must teach our boys to hold the respect of women in the highest regard. We must hold perpetrators accountable. We must, simply, do better.