Not Just a Hashtag

I thought my It Happened to Me blog was hard to write, but I’m afraid that this blog will be much more difficult. Frankly, I’m scared. This was a visceral experience, I still have nightmares, it still makes me sick, I still blame myself, and this person is still in my life in one way or another albeit distantly.

I haven’t shared the full experience with anyone but my husband and my younger brother (who took it to his grave). I never told my parents. I never told my son. I have a handful of close friends who know what happened, who know this person, who’ve heard parts of what went on but not the whole thing.

It’s terrifying to put it out there because I feel like I still need to protect this person’s anonymity. He has a life and kids and knows a whole lot of people I know. I’m afraid to say when I dated him. I’m afraid to say how I knew him. There’s still so much fear and so much emotion and guilt wrapped up in this I may not even publish what I’m writing.

One of his ex-girlfriends asked me once if he’d ever forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do. From the time we first dated he was very aggressive and yes, he had coerced me and manipulated me and harangued me into doing things I didn’t want to. I heard “well I’ll just break up with you if you don’t” frequently and often. His ex grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye waiting for an answer, and told me he’d hurt her. I look at her and said “me too.” That’s why the #metoo hashtag struck such a chord with me. I remember this conversation vividly because I said no when she asked if I thought we should tell someone and I became involved with him again a couple years later. I feel so much shame I can’t even express it in words. I did nothing and I put myself right back in the tiger’s cage after I’d gotten away scarred, but alive.

me_too

I’m going to be very blunt about what happened, as much as I can stand. I understand the details might be triggering and upsetting. It makes me nauseous, it makes me want to go back in time and scream at myself, it makes me cry. I’ve woken up from countless dreams where this person apologizes to me or simply acts like nothing happened or tries to kill me.

I told myself I was in control of the situation. I told myself this was my conquest. I told myself this was revenge for his offering my “oral skills” to another boy the day we broke up. I wanted my power back, I wanted him to hurt the way I hurt, and I still had feelings for him. Everything leading up to this experience is so complicated and such a mess of insults, rumors, revenge plots, and negativity it’s no wonder it happened. I knew it was possible, I hoped he’d changed. He hadn’t.

I believed it was “we.” Apparently it was just me and clearly he had something else in mind.

I’ve tried to reconcile what happened as anything but assault. It started out consensual. Was there anger between both of us? Yes. We both gave voice to it, we knew it was there, and thought maybe a friendship was salvageable if we just got this out of our systems. I believed it was “we.” Apparently it was just me and clearly he had something else in mind.

When it started I was in a comfortable controlled position. I could have stood up, put my clothes on, and tried to leave. Five minutes in everything changed. He picked me up and dropped me down on the couch on my back, my neck completely scrunched into the back of the couch, my tailbone on the frame, my legs pinned in the air. I thought, ok this is fine, he won’t keep me in this position for long when I say it’s uncomfortable so I encouraged him to continue. Then he got rough. Really rough. I was in pain. I was being smothered by the damn couch cushions. My neck was being crunched into the back of the couch, my tailbone forced into the frame, not to mention the pain from what he was doing to me. I looked up and said very firmly “Stop, this hurts! It’s too rough.” He looked down at me and said “just shut up and take it.” At that point I tried to get up, I tried with all my strength to get some leverage to pull myself up, to fight him, I tried to move my legs- nothing worked. He pinned me harder, he pinched the inside of my thigh until I screamed, he pushed me down and choked me, he pushed my abdomen down into the couch when he didn’t have a hand pinning one leg or the other. I knew telling him to stop again wouldn’t work, I laid there concentrating on gasping for air while his full weight was on me, while he was thrusting me into the back of the couch. Tears slid down my cheeks and I sobbed and moaned from the burning pain between my legs. I waited for it to be over while berating myself for being there, for thinking this was going to be mutual, for thinking he cared. I know he said things while all of this was going on, unkind things about my body, calling me names- but I tried not to listen and tuned everything out. He did things I hadn’t let him do to me when we were together because I couldn’t stop him. This time I was in his house, no one was coming home, no one could hear me, I was helpless and terrified. No one could save me, not even me. I deserved it. I put myself there.

When it was finally over I remember the blood, being asked if I was on the rag (I wasn’t), being told I had better not have gotten anything on the couch, and both of us laughing about how he’d “almost fucked me right through the back of the couch.” Yes. I laughed. I just wanted to leave safely. I was petrified, I was humiliated, I wanted my mom, I wanted my bed, I wanted to tell my brother and have him hold me and hug me and say it’s ok and prove not all men wanted to hurt me. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

He asked if I was ok, I think he saw that I was still crying. I nodded yes. I don’t remember getting dressed, I don’t remember how I got there or how I got home, I don’t remember what happened when I got home. I do remember the blood. I remember the pain in my neck, my back, my entire lower body, and in my soul. I remember not being able to walk for a day or so and playing it off as menstrual cramps. I remember the heating pad between my legs. I remember sobbing by myself curled into a ball in my closet. I remember my brother begging me I to tell my mom and dad. I remember begging him not to tell them.

He continued to do and say more hurtful things and found every way to kick me while I was down as often as possible.

I knew no one would believe me. This happened in the middle of consensual sex, I convinced myself it wasn’t rape. I thought my parents would be angry. I didn’t want to get him in trouble, for some reason I still felt like I needed to protect him and his reputation. I just didn’t want anyone else to know. So I played it off as rough sex. We joked about it, but I tried to steer clear of him- which was difficult since we saw each other every single day, 5 days a week.

As the year went on I dated someone else, became pregnant, and had a very scandalous and widely discussed abortion. At the hardest time in my life I had to deal with him calling me a slut, a whore, a bitch and a lot of other names. He continued to do and say more hurtful things and found every way to kick me while I was down as often as possible.

I still wake up from the nightmares wondering when they’ll stop.

I never did anything to stop him from hurting anyone else. I hope he saved that behavior for only me and never anyone else. I was weak and I still am. I still wouldn’t call him out. I tried to leave out identifying details and I’m still nervous that someone will put two and two together and figure out who this person is.

Twenty plus years later I continue to hope for an admission of guilt and an apology that will never come. I still wake up from the nightmares wondering when they’ll stop. He still has control over me that he likely doesn’t know or care about. I doubt he remembers it at all. I doubt he would admit that he didn’t stop when I asked him. None of that matters though and here’s why:

I know when I say stop that no matter what’s happening or what the situation my partner should stop- as I would if asked to stop. I made sure my son understands how important it is to not only be aware of others feelings, to listen, to be gentle and to stop when asked to stop. To take no as an absolute answer and never hear no as maybe.

I married a kind, protective, and rational man. A man who holds me when I cry, who empowers me, and is a calming presence when I need it. I don’t always tell him about the nightmares. I don’t always tell him when I’m feeling down on myself over what I should have done or what I allowed to happen. I know if I did tell him he’d be there for me. I hope that if I’m ever approached by or about this person he would protect me and help me protect myself.

This experience, harassment throughout my life, and other assaults (including being molested by a church member when I was 10 years old) completely broke me, but broken bones grow back stronger and broken spirits can too.

Tell your story. Don’t keep it in. You don’t have to point a finger or say “he’s the one,” but if you do you might keep the same thing from happening to someone else.

Don’t be silent. Because, yeah- me too.

If you made it this far I’d like to mention that I had several boyfriends and dated several people who were wonderful, caring, and treated me with nothing but respect. I hope they know who they are.

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