Day in and day out, I hear stories from survivors of all situations. I work at a Rape Crisis center, and I find a lot of value in the work that I do. Getting to help someone who had the courage to come forward during one of the most difficult things a human being could go through is something I treasure. I have so much respect for the women and men that come forward after facing trauma.
Because I was not one of them.
My senior year of high school, I was changed for good. I entered the year innocently, I had never done more than kiss a boy, and I had been single for about two years. One of my good friends at the time was a typical "bad boy". He was into all sorts of trouble, drinking, smoking, and partying. He started to talk differently to me, take an interest in what I was doing and "who I really was", wanting to get to know me better. I found this all sorts of flattering-- all types of girls were trying to get with him, and he was focused on me? Naively, I thought he really liked me, and we started hanging out all the time. It became apparent very early on that he wanted to have sex, better yet, take my virginity. At the time, I again thought this was flattering, and that it would be a good idea to do this with someone who had "been around". One day I made the decision to do this, but when we tried, it just wouldn't happen. Little did I know at this point, I had a condition called Vaginismus. Vaginismus is a condition where my vagina would tense up at any contact, especially anticipated penetration. When any penetration (such as a finger) was achieved, it hurt. It hurt so badly that I wouldn't let it continue. I knew I was anxious, and so did he. But he said it was normal, and that I just needed to relax.
Trying to have sex continued for weeks, and months, and he grew more and more aggressive and more frustrated. He would force himself on me, try to force himself inside me, even when I cried. He even hit me once, when it wasn't working and I was having a particularly bad day. He would yell at me, telling me I was "broken" or "not normal" and that "every other girl he had been with was not like this". I tried everything, I got drunk, high, you name it. I didn't know those muscle contractions were involuntary, and I was petrified to tell anyone because they might say the same thing. No one validated that I actually could not do this.
Later on, I found out he was cheating on me the entire time, as I had expected. He called me worthless, a f***ing idiot, and a month later got into a relationship with the girl he had cheated on me with. When this happened, we had just graduated, and I was accepted into an awesome school. I thought it would be my chance to start over, and forget the whole past year. I joined a Facebook group for people who would be in my graduating class, and guys started to inbox me. It became clear everyone was looking to hook up, and one guy that I had a pretty good conversation with lived close to me. I agreed to meet him.
We met for ice cream, and he seemed nice. He invited me back to his house, and I said "why not". I thought, as I would continue to think during my time with him, I would rather be here, distracted, than being at home with all the memories and hurtful thoughts. When we got back there, he immediately started to kiss me. I liked it, it was exactly what I wanted, a distraction. He was sort of pushy with other things, but I explained that I just got out of a terrible relationship, and that I would need time. He agreed, I went home, and we talked for another week.
He invited me over again, and this time, we did more. This continued all summer long. He would text me "come over" and I would do it. I just didn't want to be home alone. He was always pushing sex, and at one point I pushed him back and told him I was a virgin, and tried to briefly explain the agony penetration caused me. He seemed to understand, and asked if we could continue doing things "for him". I was a little shocked, I saw that response as good, much better than when I told other people. So we went on doing things "for him", but between hooking up, he would treat me like an object. He would tell his friends I was a prude for not having *actual* sex with him, that I was specifically used just for that purpose. He would brag to me about the other girls he was seeing or texting, and though I never had feelings for him, it bothered me that he had so little respect he wouldn't even keep that discrete. He would dismiss me anytime I wanted to seriously talk about how I felt, saying that wasn't "in our arrangement". I felt cheap, used, and by the end of the summer, I was over it.
I told him I didn't want to see him while we were at school, and he didn't take it lightly. He said he noticed it might not be "fun for me", but that he wanted to continue with our arrangement anyway. I had to become very firm in saying that I did not want to do this anymore. When we moved to school, he kept texting me, begging me to come over. I would always answer saying no, but he kept texting me something else. The second night of college, I was drinking with my friends, and he was at a frat rush event. I was having such a good night, finally meeting new people and being happy for the first time in a long time. Towards the end of the night, he called me. I answered, and he sounded really drunk. He kept saying he missed me, that he just needed to see me and talk to me. I was concerned, because this didn't sound like him, it was way too emotional. So I agreed to meet him to TALK. I made it very clear I wasn't interested in anything else. He said that was fine, so I went to meet him.
When I saw him, he walked up to me and kissed me. I pushed him away, saying I didn't want that, and I was going home. He apologized, and said he just really needed to talk to me, that he was lying all summer and said he really had feelings for me and didn't like how we left it. I decided it was fair to tell him exactly how I felt too, so I agreed we should talk. We ended up walking back to his dorm, where I thought his roommate would be (I only went because I thought he would be there). When I noticed his roommate was not there, like he said he would be, I panicked. I said lets just talk so I can go home. We talked for an hour, about how I felt used and I didn't like him being pushy and assuming I was always there for him to have his way with. He apologized, and said he understood, but that he "cared, when he didn't want to." The talk ended on a good note, or so I thought. I felt my panic lessen as he said "okay, no more hooking up. That's fine". He asked what I wanted to do now, I jokingly said "drink," because I was already so drunk from hanging out with my friends earlier that I wanted to keep going. He pulled out a bottle of vodka and we did 3 shots "to friendship." The moment the last one was over, I felt my head spinning. I laid my head down because I felt dizzy. That's when I felt him pick my head up, and I shook him off. He then kissed me, and I said "no," to which he replied "don't worry, I'm only going to kiss you." I was so tired/light headed I let it continue, I was too out of it to fight with him on this. Plus, I took his word for it when he said "I'm only going to kiss you."
I started to go in and out of consciousness, and each time I would wake up, another piece of clothing was missing from me. Before I knew it, he had taken everything off of me, and had started to touch me. He touched me everywhere, and I felt a huge lump in my throat start to gather. He then shoved a finger inside of me, and I yelped out. It was so painful, it felt like someone had just ripped me open. I started to cry, and he looked up and said "did that hurt?" I stared at him, crying. The next thing he did will haunt me forever. He tilted his head, and went "I wonder if my d**k would hurt as bad." In my mind, I couldn't believe it. I was waving in and out, and all I could think was "no no no, not like this, not him, not like this, please don't." He climbed on top of me and proceeded to start to try to have sex with me. It was incredibly painful, but ultimately it wouldn't work. If anything came out of having this condition, it was that it saved me from having my virginity taken like that. As he saw it wasn't working, he grew increasingly frustrated, and eventually gave up. He leaned back, as if he was going to stop. I relaxed for a bit, thinking that was it, it was over, and he would leave me alone.
Unfortunately, that was not the end. He climbed up so that he sat on my chest, pinning my arms under his knees. He then pulled my head forward, forcing me to have oral sex with him. I was crying so hard at that point, that I couldn't breathe. This went on for what seemed like an eternity, until he went to adjust himself, and I was able to move over, flipping him off of me. I used every bit of awareness I had left to gather my clothes and keys. He sat on his bed and looked at me, then said to me "you're such a waste of time. I left my frat party for what? For nothing. No one is ever going to find worth in you, you just lead people on" I was still crying and told him I had said no from the very beginning, and that I was going to walk home now. He grabbed my forearm so hard that it left a mark for a day after, and said I wasn't going anywhere. I said I was, he finally let me go.
I ran out of his room, down 4 flights of stairs with my shoes in hand. I was crying still, and wobbling all over the place. I made it outside, and I lived all the way across the campus, so it was about a 15 minute walk. Halfway there, two boys walking the opposite direction saw me, and approached me saying "do you need help? are you okay?" and I couldn't look at them. I was terrified, I just looked down and kept walking. I made it back home, and went to sleep.
I woke up thinking it was a dream. I looked at my phone and saw I had a text waiting from him, simply saying "you forgot your hair tie." It was like it never happened. I didn't know how to process it, and at first I thought I was over reacting. I told my friends that we just had "a bad night" but that I didn't want to see him anymore. As the year went on, I grew increasingly anxious to see him around campus. I was sensitive to hearing about rape stories, and I never had been before. I knew something was wrong and I could feel it. But I never thought I qualify as a survivor because I hadn't "actually been raped."
I didn't tell anyone about these feelings, I never reported anything. I just kept it to myself, thinking that its over and I'm never going to see him again. But then I did, one day in the dining hall, with a girl. This girl was happy, she was smiling, and looked so innocent. I got an awful feeling in my stomach, what if he does the same to her because I never said anything?
Months had passed since the incident, and I didn't know what to do. I felt so responsible for that girl, and the girls that maybe I didn't see that might be affected. I didn't know what I could do to help. That's when I saw a posting for a job at the rape crisis center, and I applied immediately. I got an interview, and I was hired shortly after. During training, I felt validated. When we went over what exactly sexual assault was, what consent is, and the circumstances it cannot be given in, I felt better for the first time. I learned how to listen to survivor's stories with the intentions of helping, not reciprocating by telling my story too. I was ultimately able to compartmentalize between helping others who had experienced this violence (and other forms of violence) and my own experience.
To this day, a lot of people, my friends, coworkers, family - don't know this story. They may never. It's been 3 years since this happened to me, and I have since found a loving partner, who validates my feelings of anxiety, my condition, and he as been more than caring while I go through treatment for it. He knows this story and respects me, and is sensitive to the delicacies that come with being with me now.
I share this here today for the same reason I got involved with this work. I hope any survivor of violence sees this, and feels validated. It does not have to be "actual sex" to be rape. Just because you consented all summer to something does not mean you consent another night later on. It is not your fault that you went somewhere you thought was going to be safe, and someone took advantage of you. You can have a vagina that tenses up involuntarily without having someone call you worthless. You are not worthless because your body works differently than others. You are a human, you may have a condition, but it does not make it okay for someone to use force with you. It is a real thing, and you never have to feel like less of a person for that, or a person who is deserving of less.