Here’s a dark place that seems to be in the news a lot lately: rape. And whether or not it’s “legitimate”.
In a word: rape is NEVER “legitimate”. Ever.
Any sexual encounter, unless it’s consensual, between two adults, is rape. (Now, we could argue the age at which one becomes an “adult”, but that’s another topic, and one I won’t address here.)
This is how dictionary.com defines it:
1. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3. statutory rape (sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of consent, which age varies in different states).
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic. the act of seizing and carrying off by force.
Note the words “force”, “duress”, “violence”, “abuse”.
And I have to be honest: writing this post was very very difficult for me. Posting it? Even more so. I’ve talked about rape, I’ve talked about sexual abuse, but only to individuals. Not to like, the entire world (or whoever happens to stumble across my blog).
A writer friend of mine, Mhairi Simpson, was raped seven years ago. And before that, and after, she was abused by her so-called best friend. She courageously wrote about it on her blog, in a recent post titled Thoughts on rape, seven years later. Her post is actually what gave me the courage to finally start this series on The Dark Places, a series I’ve been thinking about for a while.
Another woman wrote about her experiences on alternet.com. She got raped, she got pregnant, and her life fell apart. As she wrote in the article, “I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually broken, and the thought of what had resulted from this vile act took my self-hatred into another dimension.”
I can’t even count on all 20 of my fingers and toes the number of girlfriends who’ve told me they’ve been raped. Yeah, there are that many.
And for all these years, I’ve been saying I’ve never been, just “almost”. Twice.
I recently talked to one of my besties about this topic, and we discussed her rape. Then I said the above. Then I added, “I escaped once because I did X.” And she pointed out that in fact, that meant I had been raped. Not penetrated, but forced to do a sexual act I didn’t wish to do. Under duress.
The first time it “almost” happened to me, I was 17 or 18. I liked to run, but my dad wouldn’t let me go out for track in high school. So I’d drive down to Flagler Drive (in West Palm Beach, Fla.) and run next to the Intracoastal, a beautiful spot. A boy at school, a really really cute boy, liked me. He invited me over to his apartment near Flagler. Since none of the guys in my high school showed any interest in me, like ever, I went, a silly, naïve little virgin. I don’t know what I expected. Chatting? Maybe some pizza? I most certainly didn’t expect what happened.
I remember it clearly: I had on yellow shorts. And a white top striped with various colors. I hadn’t gone running yet. He let me in, and we talked for a minute, then he led me to his bed. He laid me down on it. I didn’t know what to do. He took off my shorts. I didn’t move. He got on top of me. Time seemed to stop. I could no more say NO than I could have screamed. Or hit him. Or done anything else to indicate that this wasn’t cool with me.
I don’t know what stopped him, but something did. He got up, I pulled on my shorts, and left. I didn’t tell anyone for years and years.
You can argue that nothing happened, but yet, something did. Something broke in me. I couldn’t trust anyone. (The guy I married? My first husband? Never ONCE tried to get into my pants. Not ’til I said it was okay.)
The second time it “almost” happened, I was a rising college sophomore. I’d crashed with my sister for a few months, in her tiny efficiency apartment in West Palm. I’d met this guy, a really rich and terribly handsome Italian with a house in Palm Beach and a Lamborghini. He would ask me out on dates and never show up. He’d stop by my sister’s place and we’d hang out for a minute, before he “had to leave”. Then one evening, he invited me to his house for dinner. His very very nice house in Palm Beach. (For a very poor girl, and one who rarely felt desired by a boy, this felt spectacular.)
I drove over. He let me in. The house was dark. There did not appear to be any dinner. He took me to his bedroom. He took off my clothes. (And yes, I was still a virgin at this point.) He took off his clothes. So he wouldn’t do anything to me, I performed fellatio on him. When he finished, I washed out my mouth, got dressed, and left, shaking. Once again, I didn’t tell anyone for years and years.
I guess I felt ashamed. Like, it was my fault. I should have known better. And if I told anyone, I would be ridiculed.
But now, 20 years later, I don’t care if I am ridiculed. Because you know what? Rape is NEVER acceptable. In any shape or form. If it helps just one person, then actually writing this down (stomach in my throat, hands shaking) and putting it out in the world (same feelings), is worth it.
Next post in the series: what to do about this.