A post about my story and thoughts on sexual and emotional abuse, in light of sexual assault awareness month.
I have been wanting to share my story for a long time now. I have felt that sharing my story will allow for me to get some sort of closure but I have been afraid for so long. The fear stems from the attempt to move on, because each time I try to heal I fall and the pain of my past hurts more and more. In an attempt to find peace and closure, I have decided to make a post to speak of the pain and trauma that stems from sexual and emotional abuse. I want to start a conversation about sexual abuse because people still seem so afraid to talk about it. I want to explain my abuse so people can understand that what happened to me was not my choice. I want to explain how the stress of abuse and sexual violence can affect one’s mental health for years after. I want to tell my story because these horrible experiences occur more often then we think and it is time to show the world that we will not let the abusers and rapists win.
For many years I wanted to contact my abuser. I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t broken any more. I wanted him to see that I was ok in spite of everything he did. The thing is, reaching out to him would have given him the reaction he so badly wanted and it would have given him a chance to defend himself. After all of the lies he spread about me and “his side of the story”, after all that I have had to do to cope with this, it’s time for me to share my story.
A common statement I’ve heard over the last month when talking about sexual and emotional abuse is that “there are two sides to every story.” Then, with those words hanging from their lips, I see the abuser or rapist telling their side of the story and the victim being denied of any justice or truth. How is this fair? How is one side more important than the other? Why is it that every time there is a sexual assault case in the news, the victim is called an accuser rather than a survivor? This is not to say that there are not false accusations, but only 2-5% of reported sexual assault cases are false accusations in Canada and the USA?
I have come to realize that my silence does not benefit anyone as long as there are people in abusive relationships or that have experienced sexual assault. I need to use my voice for myself, and hope that me sharing my experiences can help those who are sexually abused and assaulted. To have something so awful happen to you is hard enough to deal with, but to have to defend what happened to you because people dismiss it is the traumatic cherry on top. People need to stand up, for every woman, child, and man who experiences sexual abuse. Whether you have experienced sexual abuse of any sort or not you owe it to yourself to speak up against it. Think about your siblings and parents, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get justice for a family member who was killed or beaten? What if your sister said she had been raped? Would you really stand on the side of her rapist? Remaining silent allows for the continuance of this and signals to the abusers and rapists that they have the power. It shows society that these people have the right to deny others of their dignity.
For you to understand my story we need to start even before I met my abuser. For a long time, I didn’t know that manipulating someone into having sex was sexual assault. I was never educated in this. We were taught that the best way to avoid pregnancy was abstinence, but if we were going to have sex, condoms worked. In sex ed I was taught that I always had the power to say no. I never learned that there may be people who would not respect that. I never learned what to do if I was drugged and I couldn’t say no. I never learned what to do if I said no and I was still pressured into having sex. I was never given resources to reach out to if someone did assault me. I was never taught that these forms of sexual assault existed. So when my friends said he was manipulating me, I cut them out. When my therapist told me he was abusive, I denied it. When my aunt told me that any boy who calls you names has no respect for you, I mumbled under my breath that he loved me.
Eventually, when speaking with friends on my year abroad I realized that if I said no to having sex, it is not up for discussion. I didn’t know that when he threatened to kill himself if I didn’t have sex with him after I had said no, I had been assaulted when he forced me into having sex with him. I didn’t know that when he came over at my house put his hand in my pants and didn’t stop after I’ve told him three times I didn’t want to have sex, that I had been assaulted. I didn’t realize that if I was having sex and was in physical pain, with tears running down my eyes I had been assaulted. I thought because after persuasion, I had said yes, so therefore I had consented.
Consent is so much more than saying yes. Consent is enjoyment and engagement. How is it consent if someone is laying down in bed and you are humping their limp body? Does it look like they are enjoying it? Does it look like they want to be there? When someone is crying while you are having sex with them, and they say “it’s okay, keep going,” does it look like they want to have sex with you?
This is how so many rapists justify having sex with someone while they are passed out and drunk: “well they didn’t say no.”
How is the absence of no, consent?
If you feel as though a sexual experience you had was wrong, you should trust that feeling. It is wrong for someone to touch you or take advantage of you. It is wrong for someone to manipulate you into having sex. It doesn’t matter if it is your friend, camp counsellor, spouse, partner, family member. It is wrong.
While you read through my post think about the one in three women and one in six men that will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Think about how most people are silent and those who are told side with the rapists and abusers. Think about everyone close to you and think about the pain they would experience if they were victimized. Be kind and empathetic enough to let your loved ones approach you if they experience this sort of trauma. Trust me, they will need you.
Another topic I would like to bring up is the fact that the justice system is failing us. Of course, most victims don’t press charges, because most people don’t believe them. They speak up, try to get justice, and are faced with indifference and bias. Why would any victim want to go through the pain of paying legal fees and putting their lives on pause to be told they are lying or for the abusers and rapists to get off with a slap on the wrists? Why would anyone want to go through so much pain to get justice if justice isn’t truly afforded them?
It doesn’t make sense to me.
Rape should never be minimized or blamed on the victim. No one should ever hear the words “if you dressed differently they wouldn’t have raped you.” There is never a justification for rape or abuse. It doesn’t matter where someone is, how they dress, and the alcohol levels in their system. Rape happens because of rapists, not the victims.
I wasn’t wearing promiscuous clothing when he raped me. I wasn’t at a club or a house party either. I was in my basement, in his room, in my car, in my room, and at my summer camp. My rape was imprinted all over the walls of my home. I felt like I couldn’t escape. My basement walls were painted with the words slut, cunt, and bitch.
I would try to listen to music to distract myself from the memories and all I could hear was his voice calling me a liar.
That I should kill myself because I didn’t deserve to live.
That my boobs were too saggy.
That my butt was too flat.
That I was stupid,
That he was only with me because he pitied me.
He told me I was lucky to have him, because I would be alone without him.
He told me that I was the reason he wanted to kill himself.
So many people have told me that it’s impossible to be raped by your partner or spouse. It is not. If you say no to having sex, and they have sex with you anyways, that is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter if it is your spouse or partner. They do not own you. Your body still belongs to you, and regardless of a relationship, that will never change.
Another thing I want to address is the use of mental illness as an excuse for their actions in an emotionally abusive relationship. Over the last month, I have also heard excuses like “it was a cry for help.”
Was it a cry for help when he told me that if he’d kill himself it would be because of me wanting to go on a gap year abroad?
Was it a cry for help when I would want to spend time with my friends, and he would tell me that leaving him was the sole cause of his depression and anxiety?
THIS IS NOT A CRY FOR HELP. This is manipulation into keeping someone with you. This is taking advantage of someone’s love and kindness. This is wrong and should never be justified.
It is also important to understand that you cannot fix these people, they need professional help. No matter what you do and how much you change, it will never be enough for them to get better. In order for them to get better, they need to do the work on and for themselves, not by trying to change or belittle the ones around them.
So, if one more person tells you to stay and deal with your abuser’s issues, never speak to them. The people that tell you to stay with an abusive person do not truly care for YOU. If they did, they would support you with whatever YOU needed.
The end of my story was not very happy: I protected him for years. I kept quiet to make sure he wouldn’t get into trouble. I changed schools because he told people that I was a monster, and I was almost kicked out of my youth group because of him. I remained quiet the entire time. He told some of my peers from my summer camp that he wanted me dead, so I went to the other side of the world in fear. I remember I was walking back to my apartment from the gym and I smelled his cologne. I remember running into my building so quickly, even though there was no possibility of him being near me. Every little change I made in my life was to benefit him. I was running from him, while his life remained the same. I was so afraid to speak about my experience and I wanted to avoid the pain that comes with standing up to an abusive person. I was so afraid he would hurt me if I spoke up and told my story.
But I am not afraid anymore.
If there is one thing I want him to know, it is this: he started this fire in my soul. He made me want to stand up to people like him, on behalf of myself, my sisters, and all of the people on this planet who can get hurt by people like him. The time has come for me to finally stand up for myself. I will not give him the satisfaction of remaining silent any longer. Especially while there are millions of people out there who have been through what I have, while many of my friends have been victims of sexual assault. I cannot remain silent for the people who experience sexual and emotional abuse but can’t stand up for themselves because the justice system is against them. It is time for me to share my story, and I will never remain silent again.