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Is It Rape If…

This article, Is It Rape If, has a trigger warning for sexual assault. 

It was my first year at Fullerton Community College, the place I fondly refer to as high school with cigarettes, and I was 19 years old. There, I found solace with familiar faces, including the guy who took me to his senior prom. I'll call him Steve.

On March 25th, 1999 my best friend at the time Nick, had a few of us over to his grandparents’ house since they were out of town. We watched movies and had a few drinks. I was hoping Steve would follow me upstairs when I was heading to bed, and he did.

For the record, we had been intimate one time that previous November.

Soon after we entered the guest room, we started fooling around. After a little while, he put on a condom but lost his erection, so he took it off. We messed around some more, and then he got on top of me.

I said, “No, not without a condom!” He said, “Don't worry I'll pull out” while he put my hands behind my neck. He then proceeded to get inside of me, “No, not without a condom” I repeated! I said no but he did not care and he did not respect me and I lost control of the situation.

– Journal entry from March 31st, 1999  

I didn't scream and I didn't fight. I didn't do anything but leave my body for a few moments.

It was as if I sunk deep into the mattress and was in some foggy place. How could this be happening? I wanted to have sex with him, but not like this.

It was over quickly, and I got up to get dressed and went downstairs. All I knew was that I wanted some fresh air.

I did go back upstairs a little while later and slept next to Steve that night. I didn't say anything to him or Nick in the morning about what had happened.

Life went on as normal, only it wasn't normal, and it never would be again.

Not long afterward I told Nick what had taken place. He didn't believe me. He said that if something like that had happened that I would've woken him up or cried out for help.

He made me question if my account of what happened was true. I started doubting myself and my story.

I shared what happened with another friend, and immediately said, “That’s rape.”

Rape?! I wanted to have sex with Steve, after all. He was my junior year prom date, and we had done countless plays together in drama class. I knew him. I trusted him. He did not rape me…or did he?!

After a few days, I felt the need to confront Steve. I remember I couldn't even look at him and I felt incredibly sick while I spoke.

The only thing that I wish I would've done better is – I was too nice. There was so much I wanted to say but all I could say was how I wanted him out of my life, and he was wrong for not respecting me. He just agreed with me and left my house – but it's over!

– Journal entry from April 1st, 1999

There was no possible way I was returning to Fullerton College for the next school year because I never wanted to see Steve again. When a family member suggested I check out Colorado, I leaped at the opportunity. Much to the surprise of my family and friends, I left the only home I had ever known in Southern California just five months later.

Alone in Colorado, I started doubting myself again. Did it really happen? I wanted to have sex with him so how could I consider myself a victim? I know victims of sexual assault, and horrible things happened to them.

I stopped doubting myself after the first time I had consensual sex in Colorado and found myself shaking uncontrollably. I knew it wasn't because of what had just taken place, but because of what happened to me that one night in California.

The night I had been sexually assaulted.

The assault only lasted a minute, but the impact has continued for nearly 20 years. From weight gain to having severe anxiety during sexual encounters, Steve took something away from me that I can never get back.

I met my now husband soon after moving to Colorado and he was the first man, since the assault, who made me feel completely safe and secure. He still does to this day.

I'm not sure I would've shared my story if it wasn't for what happened just recently. Out of nowhere, Steve sent me a Facebook friend request.

The moment I saw it, I jumped up from my desk at work and went to my friend's cubical. She immediately asked what was wrong. I was in shock and felt violated all over again. The assault took place so long ago and yet I found myself sinking into that same fog instantly.

A week later, I got furious and found the courage to SCREAM. To finally just feel all of the rage and anger that had been building inside of me.

What Steve did to me was wrong. It didn't matter that I was naked or wanting to have sex. The second I said no, he should've stopped, and he never should've forced himself into my body.

It has taken me a very long time to be able to forgive – myself.

I forgive myself for ever questioning what happened and for not speaking out about it until now.

One of the main reasons I'm going public with my story is because it's prevalent. Date rape makes up 57% of rape cases in the USA. Regardless of what a woman is wearing, how she is acting, or her willingness to have sex in the first place, no will always mean no. 

Rape is rape – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

If you're reading this right now and can relate to my story, please know what happened to you wasn't right and you are not to blame. When you're ready, I hope you also find the courage to scream and then forgive yourself. You’re worth it.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are victims of sexual assault. Below are some supportive resources.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE
RAINN

Safe Horizon

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liz

Tuesday 9th of December 2014

I have been raped by most of the men I've been with, because I was trying to find love and didn't think that it was rape, because I sought them all out for companionship. I had the sexual assault detective for my area ignore my calls and felt utterly alone in my experience until after I was in a committed, truly loving relationship. I wish I had known I wasn't at fault because it really affected my self esteem, but now I am able to share my experience and help others.

plussizebirth

Tuesday 9th of December 2014

Liz your story breaks my heart. The fact that you were ignored when you reached out for help is appalling. Though the fact that you're now able to help others lifts my spirits! Thank you for sharing.

Shalyn

Monday 8th of September 2014

Thank you for this. I read it every time you share it. I was raped by a "friend" and became pregnant. I had many calling me a slut, telling me to abort, and even my own grandmother wished a miscarriage on me. Not one of these people believed it was a rape, because I knew him. I invited him over. I didnt call the cops. I wasn't injured...

I was raped, and I am the only one who needs to believe it. However, it did bring my my greatest joy, my daughter Harmony. THANK YOU for sharing your story! People need to understand that rape is rape.

plussizebirth

Monday 8th of September 2014

You're amazing Shalyn!

Kim Mellberg

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Oh Jen!

You are such a strong person, thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry you had to go through that. Once again, you are helping others with your experiences. Look how many women are able to share their story, just here on your page. Hugs to you girl! XO

plussizebirth

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Thanks Kim XO

Priscilla Fowler

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

I worked for a women's shelter and rape resource last school year for my graduate internship. I worked in the shelter and in the court setting.

After last year, It still amazes me that women's rights are not considered by most. Our culture has to change in order to realize that NO means NO 100 percent of the time. What is SO sad is that most women that I worked with did not even recognize that their rights were violated because of interactions similar to yours and because of the justice system. I have to say, If I were raped I would have second thoughts about going to court or even reporting the rape (as a crisis counselor, I would have to go though the process because I understand that my actions speak for many, but the scared woman in me would think otherwise). The justice system is broken where rape survivors are concerned. The shame one goes through in order to get justice is the reason why so many rape cases are dropped.

You are a brave woman! I'm so glad you put this out there. It's never too late to advocate and get help. I have had women seek help for the first time from past sexual assault and abuse that took place over 20 years ago. It's really never to late to reclaim your life after sexual assault.

FIY-I'm plus size TTC and I have enjoyed your blog posts! There's not much out there for us. Most of the articles that mention overweight women and TCC fill me with SO MUCH FEAR. I couldn't sleep and came here remind myself that I'm not alone. :)

plussizebirth

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Priscilla thank you for sharing that. It doesn't seem right or fair but we live in a society where victim blaming is rampant. Congrats on TTC and I'm glad you've found my work to be helpful. Sending you lots of ***baby dust*** your way!

Samantha

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

I was 15 when I lost my virginity to a man who was 24. I was going through a "rebel" stage I suppose and had met him while hanging out at a party with friends. I was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana at the time. I blamed myself, along with others, for years. It took until I was probably 20 to realize it wasn't my fault. I was 15, I was still a child. He was 24, a grown man who should have known better. I was 15. I had lost my first love. I was being an idiot, doing stupid stuff, trying to figure out who I was in this world. That does not mean what happened to me was my fault. That does not make it ok.

When I was 18 and in the military I had another experience. Hanging out and having some drinks at a hotel with some friends a guy came on to me. The guy I was seeing wasn't able to be there and I figured flirting wasn't going to hurt anyone. As we all layer out around the hotel room for the night, he tried to kiss me. I kind of giggled uncomfortable, and he pushed harder. He then tried to get his hand in my pants. The only thing that stopped him was I began crying and it had caught the attention of a friend of mine. I made up some excuse to my friend and didn't speak up then either. Once again I blamed myself. I had flirted with him right? I had been asking for it?

We have a lot of issues in the US concerning sexual assault. One being that people do not see the spectrum of what it could be. Another that it seems to be on the women. Don't dress or act a certain way, you are asking for it. As a mother of a 5 year old girl it pains me to think I am going to have to teach her that way. That boys are not usually held accountable, that she has to watch how she acts and dresses because that is her burden. This story is amazing in the way you overcame and comes at an interesting time after the recent events that inspired the #YesAllWomen.

plussizebirth

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

Samantha thank you for sharing and I'm so sorry for all you went through. You're right that people don't see the spectrum. Thank you again!