On April 8, 2012, I was raped by a man I didn’t know well, but had invited into my home–for the second time. He held a job that caused him to travel a lot.
I’d met him in October 2011. We talked for a while. We made out. Because it was a chilly evening and he was planning to sleep in his truck–the temperature would drop below freezing overnight–I invited him to stay at my place. He worked for the government, in a position that would have required extensive background checks. He seemed safe enough. He left in the morning, when I went to work, to visit his brother-in-law in a town further north. A week later, he came back and stayed for three days, before heading southwest for the winter.
When he came back through town, in April, I didn’t think twice about offering up my place. The first night, he raped me, after dinner with my roommate and friends. We’d gone to bed–yes, my room, my bed–and when he asked if I wanted to suck him off, I said no. He guided my head toward his cock anyway, and I could feel the strength in his hands, the precariousness of my situation. Later, he asked if I wanted him to fuck me.
“No.” I said this clearly.
When he’d stayed with me in October, and asked about sex, I’d also said no. He asked if it was because I was lesbian–as though not being attracted to men was the only reason a woman wouldn’t want to sleep with him–and when I said no, he asked why not. I alluded to an earlier sexual assault. He told me to let go of my past, and when I still didn’t give in to his pressure, he pouted.
There isn’t a way to read between the lines of “Do you want me to fuck you?” and “No.”
You want to know what we were wearing, if we’d been drinking, if I’d said yes at some earlier point in the evening. None of this matters because I said no.
He fucked me anyway. I didn’t struggle because I was too much in shock, or believed I deserved it or that I’d invited it. I didn’t struggle because I couldn’t believe it was happening and because I felt like struggling would make it worse. I didn’t struggle because he carried a gun, even though he didn’t have it on him. I went limp.
When he finished, he told me he didn’t do that often, by which I assume he meant have sex, not rape. He told me he thought my roommate was cute. He asked if I would set them up.
He tried to fuck my roommate in a neighbor’s hot tub the next day, and wound up spending the next two nights in her room. The first night–the night he tried to fuck her in the hot tub–she popped her head into my room. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?” she asked.
I’d tried the entire day to find a way to tell her what happened. When she went to work, I went on a walk around town, until Planned Parenthood opened. Until I could request Plan B. I didn’t find time to tell her, couldn’t get her alone, to warn her.
The day he left, my roommate texted me her relief that he was gone. That he was persistent. When I got home, and went to see if she was okay, and to finally tell her what had happened to me, she said they had sex, and though she wouldn’t call it rape, she wouldn’t exactly call it consensual either. She felt hurt and used.
The next day, I reported it to the police. I needed him gone before going to the police could feel safe. The detective wanted to know what I’d worn. If we’d been drinking. What he’d said. What I’d said. He wanted to know if there was anyone else who could corroborate my story. He wanted me to call my rapist and confront him–to see if I could get him to confess. That would be the easiest way to a conviction, he said, since I hadn’t gone to the hospital to undergo a rape examination–something that hadn’t even occurred to me, despite hearing since fifth grade that this was exactly what I should do if I was raped.
1 in 6 American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape. These numbers are no longer if. If it’s not you, it’s your sister or your mother or your friend or someone else you love.
A few days later, after I’d unfriended him from Facebook, my rapist started sending me text messages–he was sorry, he said, and on his drive, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He thought I was okay with everything. He said if I wasn’t okay with everything I should have just said so. He sent me Facebook messages–which went into that “Other” folder most people don’t know exists.
Until I left that town, I got nervous every time I saw a white pickup with a cargo cap. I looked over my shoulder, expecting to see him.
I listened to a politician try to define a “legitimate rape,” and later apologize for it. I listened to another politician talk about how some women (girls) “rape easy.” I listened to men talk about how a woman’s body can “shut that whole thing down”–that whole thing, of course, being pregnancy. I listened to them discuss what constitutes “forcible rape,” as though there is any other type. I biked long distances and again and again that night flashed back to me.
That summer didn’t come with trigger warnings.
In October, I moved.
In January, my rapist walked into the shop where my former roommate works, hoping to speak to her. She disappeared to the back of the shop, and texted me, in self-described freak out mode.
I called her after she got off, and once she’d had time to get home, to make sure she was okay. He’d apologized to her through one of her co-workers, and left again. He was working nearby – which I only know because he sent me three Facebook messages that night, before I blocked him. I’d been half expecting to hear from him for months. But, when it happened for real, I couldn’t believe it. I read the messages twice.
“Hi Liz,” began the first of the messages. “It’s 9 months later.”
The new personhood bill, officially the Sanctity of Human Life Act, cosponsored by Paul Ryan (and 25 other politicians), which would give full human rights to a fertilized egg–before it even implants. If this were to pass, it would seriously restrict the right of women to do what we want with our bodies–and would potentially make certain types of contraceptive and any abortion for any reason illegal. A portion of the bill reads:
“The right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and … the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”
Emergency contraceptive, like the one I took after I was raped could be effectively criminalized if this bill passed.
That’s right, that means if this bill becomes law, if a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape, she would be forced to carry the fetus to term–even if it endangered her own life. Perhaps this is because some people believe that if a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape, this is something that God intended–which is to say, that God intended the rape.
My rapist’s timing was impeccable–nine months.
I didn’t respond to any of his text messages in the days immediately following the rape, or to the Facebook messages in April or January. I went through my internet presence and tried to delete or hide most references to where I lived.
I was practicing krav maga–close combat–when I got my former roommate’s message, and when I checked the “Other” folder on Facebook. It was between classes and I sat on a weight bench for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. I buried my face in my hands. I started to shake.
“Are we going to kick much?” I finally asked my instructor.
“Mostly we’re punching tonight,” she said. “Why? Do you need to kick things?”
I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak around the lump in my throat.
“You’ve got five minutes before the next class starts,” she said. She nodded toward a punching bag. “Kick away.”
I started kicking while my training partners warmed up before the second hour of class. I kicked and kicked and kicked, imagining my rapist. I let a few tears run down my face, and kept my back to my training partners so they wouldn’t see. I didn’t know how to explain to them. I concentrated on delivering powerful kicks. On delivering rapid kicks. On making them connect at the approximate height of my rapist’s knees, his ribs, his head. It wasn’t the first time I’d imagined him while practicing krav.
I’d started practicing krav because of him.
The last message he sent on Facebook told me which restaurant he was at, in my former town. He’d buy my former roommate and I dinner, if we walked in, it said. He wanted to make up for his wrongs.
I delivered kicks to the punching bag at every break in my krav class. And during the class, I punched until my fingers bruised through mid-weight grappling gloves.
I knew, even as each strike began to hurt, that I was beating myself up, not him. I knew I needed to do this to work out the emotions, to feel strong enough to remind myself I’m a survivor, not a victim.