If you find yourself feeling upset and violated enough to be googling “was I raped?” at 2am, the chances are you probably already know the answer to that.
He is naked and on top of me, and I am saying, no, you’re not wearing a condom, you need to stop.
He doesn’t stop.
I keep asking him to stop.
He whispers in my ear: It’s ok, I won’t come inside of you.
As if my only concern right now is getting pregnant.
I lay there thinking, is this rape? Am I being raped?
I don’t struggle. I don’t shout. I am terrified if I do this, he will do something that makes it unequivocally rape.
This is not “rape” as it is depicted in mainstream media. It started out as consensual. We were having fun. It’s the kind of rape where many people – many women – would say it wasn’t rape. They might say it was my own fault for being alone in the house with this man – even though he has been my boyfriend for a few months now.
It’s questionable whether your average person on the street – perhaps even my friends – would even call this sexual assault. After all, I was naked and in bed with him. He wasn’t violent. Perhaps if I had struggled or shouted he would have stopped and apologised. Perhaps that makes it my own fault. Perhaps I am creating drama where there is none.
According to Rape Crisis, rape is “penetration with a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent.”
Eventually, he stops… long enough to put on a condom before starting again. By this point I am very much not in the mood – and it hurts. I tell him it is hurting; he doesn’t stop.
At first I think, if I don’t move he will realise I’m not enjoying it, and he will stop. He doesn’t stop.
Then I think, if I pretend I’m really enjoying it, that will excite him and he will come, and then he will stop. He doesn’t stop.
Eventually, at a loss, I fake an orgasm.
Several minutes later, he stops.
I feel sore and bruised, mentally as well as physically. I get up to take a shower, and despite the water being stone cold, I scrub my entire body twice. I don’t want any trace of this experience left on me.
Later, fully clothed and pretending everything is normal (apart from my slight trembling, which I cannot stop and he puts down to my not having eaten much today). He hugs me and I think perhaps I should tell him: When I say stop, you need to stop. I don’t. Chicken.
We have a nice chat. He kisses me goodbye, promising to call me.
That night, I feel cold and shaky and exhausted – but I do not sleep. I lay in bed Googling things like “was I raped” and “how to get over being raped.”
The next day, he calls me 3 times but I cannot bear to answer; I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I avoid chatting to friends and sit around, staring into space a lot. I replay the scenario in my head, thinking of what I could or should have done differently. I think about what I should say to him. For hours at a time, all I can think is: I was raped. That was rape. Perhaps I should talk to someone. Perhaps I should tell someone. Perhaps I am wrong and it wasn’t rape. I need someone to decide for me whether it was or it wasn’t.
The problem, you see, is that this was not the first time it had happened.
So if this one was rape, the other times were rape too, right?
Every single time I have gone to bed with this man, he put his penis inside of me without protection. The difference this time was that I was not in a position where I could physically move myself away. Before, I had clearly said no, removed myself, repeated myself where necessary. This time, I was stuck until he decided I could move.
Eventually, with the support of a friend – the one person I can bear to tell about this – I text him to say I can’t see him any more. He asks what is wrong and I tell him: What happened yesterday was not cool… I asked you to stop several times. His response is that if I don’t want to see him any more that’s ok and he wishes me well. This infuriates me and I ask, Is that all you have to say? What you did yesterday is considered to be rape. You assaulted me. He says sorry. It seems insincere.
Until this point, I had convinced myself that he was not aware of how this had played out from my point of view. Surely if I told him how I felt – if I used the R word – he would be mortified at his actions. He would fall at my feet, begging my forgiveness. The fact that he does not do this is perhaps worse than the act itself. He doesn’t care how I feel, or what he did. While I am left here, tying myself up in knots about how a man who said he loved me could disregard my boundaries and feelings in this way, he gets to drop it and walk away, no harm done.
Of course, there is no point in reporting something like this to the police. It’s my word against his; there is no evidence. And I’m not interested in punishing him. Plus: to this day I have only ever told that one friend. I remain convinced that upon reading this, many friends and acquaintances will either say it wasn’t rape/assault, or say it was my own stupid fault.
Then again, whenever the subject of rape and sexual assault is raised, I find that every single woman who is part of the conversation has her own story to tell. Some are more horrifying to listen to than others; some are more recent than others – but every woman has a story of a man (or men) who ploughed down her boundaries in the pursuit of his own pleasure and enjoyment.
Perhaps the answer then is for women to share their stories. Not with the aim of “outing” men who have harmed them, but in the hope of showing others that they are not alone. According to Rape Crisis, 1 in 5 women have experienced some form of sexual assault since the age of 16 – but that figure includes only the women who have talked about it. I often think that either I talk to a lot of very unfortunate people, or the real figure is in fact a lot higher. Only 15% of people who experience sexual violence report it to the police – and conviction rates are frankly laughable. My own local constabulary had a 0.5% conviction rate in the most recently reported 6-month period.
There is often this idea we have about rape and sexual assault, that it happens in dark alleys after midnight, to drunk women wearing too-short skirts; perhaps is perpetrated by a scary, hooded stranger carrying a knife. The fact is that 90% of those who are raped know their attacker. It’s their boyfriend; their friend; their colleague at the staff party. And the next day, they often have to get up and walk back into that same room, that same situation where they were violated and pretend they are ok. Pretend it didn’t happen.
We put aside our feelings, bury our shame and our anger because perhaps we were a bit too drunk, or our skirt was a bit too short. Perhaps we led them on. Perhaps we should have known better than to be alone in a room with that person. Perhaps they didn’t hear us saying no, asking them to stop. Perhaps they didn’t realise what they were doing, the damage they were causing. But what if they did, and they just don’t care?