Friday, May 6, 2016

Forgiving the Man Who Raped Me, Part I

NOTE: Here I talk about my rape story. I do not mean to imply anywhere herein that men/boys cannot be victims of rape, nor do I mean to imply that the rapes of boys and men are not as important as the rapes of women and girls. That said, the data I will discuss has to do with female victims, but please don't take that as an implication that I believe males are exempt from rape and its horrible effects.
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I didn't know it was rape. I thought that in order for it to be rape, it had to be uninvited, and I reasoned that since I'd somewhat-voluntarily had sex with him before, I had invited it that time, even though I was begging him to stop, "no, Thomas, please, no!" through desperate sobs, even though I couldn't move from under him, even though he promised no sex.

There are a few reasons I'm talking about this now. I have been meaning to for over a year because rape is something we don't talk about. I believe we need to talk about it. There are several reasons those of us who have been victims don't talk about it, including:
We're not believed
The stigma is heavy
We are emotionally dismissed
No one knows what to say, so they often say nothing, which is often worse than saying the wrong thing.
 Do you know anyone who's been raped? I can almost guarantee that you know several women who've been raped, as it has happened to 1 in 6 women. Mind you, that's 1 in 6 women have reported their rapes (I should guess), but I personally know several women who never reported their rapes, myself included, so the actual number is likely higher. But 1 in 6 women do not talk about it, because, in my opinion, despite the fact that we are not alone, we are made to feel alone. I have a lot of weird stories, tragic stories, wonderful stories, devastating stories, but the story that upsets the hearer most of all my stories is the story of my rapes. In fact, if you know me, this is most likely the first you've even heard of it. I don't talk about it because of the points above, and other points, like the fact that someone usually starts talking about the women who falsely cry rape, and when I'm telling you about my rape, I do not want to be compared to those comparatively few women. (I'd wager that far more are the women who never report than the women who falsely report. This is not to say that those false reports are not a problem, because certainly they are, but when I'm talking about rape, I am not talking about not rape, thank you very much.)

Of all crimes, it seems like rape is the easiest one to blame the victim. I see too many news articles that even now in this "enlightened" age, mention where the victim was (like maybe at a bar, for example), what she'd had to drink, and even what she was wearing. Just as I can expect a man to not steal my car even if he's been in it, I should also expect someone to not rape me, even if he can see some extra skin. Men are not default rapists. Oh, when will we stop expecting them to be? When will we stop saying "boys will be boys" as if to excuse domineering and disrespectful behaviors?

The first time I told someone I had been raped- several months later- she said, "so? who hasn't?" Oh, what pain must have been in both of our souls, pain that remained un-felt.

I was 20. It had been 3 weeks since my boyfriend and I had last had sex, and I was determined to continue abstinence until we got married. We were planning to get married in about six months. I don't need to discuss the details of the event here, but it was awful, traumatic, terrifying, and soul-obliterating. It permanently changed me. I wrote in my journal that night, "he hates me." And later, "I'm nothing. If I'm going to be nothing, I may as well be his nothing." And so I became. He left me sobbing in my bed that night. All but one of my roommates had gone away for Labor Day weekend, so I had the room to myself. I dumped him by voicemail a few hours later, but in the morning he stopped by and offered me a ride to the bank. He gave me a package of Chips Ahoy cookies and said, "I'm sorry."

When someone rapes you and then the next day comes over with cookies as a token of apology, what do you do? I, unfortunately, ignored the figurative slap-to-my-face and simply said, "You can't be sorry enough," and he said, "I know."

I accepted his offer and let him drive me to the bank, reasoning that I had no car, but I needed to get to the bank, and also believing I deserved nothing better than him anyway. Even though I had verbally dumped him a few hours earlier, I didn't separate myself from him for another four months. I did move away a few weeks later, but during those few weeks of staying, I submitted to the worthlessness I believed about myself, and I just didn't care anymore. I didn't care what he did to my body. It was easier that way. It was easier to let him do whatever he wanted because if I didn't fight him, then it was mutual. If I didn't fight him, then he'd be finished with me soon enough and I could go on with the day. If I didn't fight him, then Labor Day Weekend doesn't repeat itself. It was easier to pretend like I wanted it because then it didn't feel like what the actual truth was: he was using me for my body, and to him, I was my body and nothing more. Instead of acknowledging that, I just, essentially, held my breath till he was done.

That went on for about two weeks before I allowed God to rescue me, and He gave me the courage to move. I dropped all my classes and left the college I loved so much to get away from being constantly used. I didn't break up with him right away, though. I still believed I would marry him, until I allowed God to grant me the courage to totally break it off the following December. To date, that's one of the most difficult things I've ever done.

At my disciplinary council two months later, I was asked, "did he ever force himself on you?" Well, I had slept with him before. On the day of the rape, we were in my bed together. My bed. He didn't drag me there kicking and screaming; I went with him. Also, it wasn't a movie-scene rape; I hadn't been hit or drugged or blindfolded, and so I figured it wasn't as bad as most rapes and so what right had I to feel crappy about it? Because of all that, and because I didn't want to be the reason he wasn't allowed to serve a mission, I said, "no." But the answer was "yes, a few times." Labor Day weekend, for one (but I believed it was my fault because I had agreed to be in my bed with him, and because I'd slept with him before). A few other times, I woke in the middle of the night to being raped (but I felt it was my fault because I was the one who fell asleep with him in his bed).

There are two important and significant problems with this story:
1. I believed his sin of rape against me was my fault
2. I believed I was destined to Hell because of my own sins

You and I can understand now that it wasn't my fault. Permission one time does not grant unlimited permission. Having a house guest for a night does not give them permission to move in, or to ever stay again at any point, without express permission. Lending a neighbor a garden tool one time does not give her permission to use it every time she wants it going forward.  People are ever more important than garden tools or guest bedrooms. I wish I could go back and tell myself I was not to blame. My sins did not grant him future, exclusive pardon. I wish I could go back and tell myself that sharing a bed with him, though unwise as a faithful Latter-day Saint, is not the same thing as agreeing to sex. I wish I could go back to tell myself that having sex before I was married did not make me hopeless and worthless, as I then completely believed. I wish I could go back and convince myself to call the police on that guy, and even if the cops didn't believe me (which was my greatest fear when I considered calling the police), the report would be there. I wish I could go back to my disciplinary council and say "yes, yes he did force himself on me," and even if they didn't believe me, the truth would have been in my report. I wish I could go back and convince myself, "telling the truth about him raping you does not look like you excusing yourself from your bad choices. Stop worrying about that," and "it's his fault he can't serve a mission."

But I just didn't understand. I thought I was doing the right, noble, righteous thing by withholding information about his coercion. I didn't understand that my worth was never changed, not for a moment, by my sins and choices, nor by Thomas's estimation of me. I didn't understand grace or the Atonement of Jesus at all. I didn't understand that I was truly eligible for complete forgiveness, and that God loved me every moment of that time, in the exact same way He loved me before I had made those very poor choices. I didn't understand that He was there with open arms, ready and eager to love me back to spiritual health.

It took years to fully believe that I was not responsible for being raped. Once I recognized that I had been wronged, I also recognized that I needed to forgive.

I'm going to tell you something. I have been through a moderate amount of life's crap. My ex husband's adultery. Extreme emotional abuse. Divorce. Poverty. Single parenthood. Mothering a darling son who has autism. Unemployment. Homelessness. None of that compares to being raped. All of that stuff combined doesn't compare to being raped. It's still sad to me, 14.5 years later. After all this time, it still causes me some pain and suffering; it still skews my perspective, even though I have finally reached the point where I do not hold it against him.

So how do you forgive someone for doing something he never could be sorry enough for? And why are we expected to forgive people who do unforgivable things?

More on that to come. 

3 comments:

  1. My heart breaks for your little young self. My heart also breaks for you now (you're still young, though). I can only imagine the devastation you went through. I'm so sorry it happened to you. I'm sorry rape happens to anyone. It's the ultimate violation.

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  2. "None of that compares to being raped. All of that stuff combined doesn't compare to being raped."

    This is such a heart-wrenching story, Stephanie. I'm so sorry it happened to you. You're very brave to share it now and I hope your story will help others who have suffered as you have to step out into the light too.

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