How many of us, when we hear a story on the news about a stranger being molested or sexually assaulted, stop and meditate on the pain and stigma that person will carry with them after this crime has occurred? How many feel hurt for them in their heart at the trauma they have been subjected to, at the cruelty and malice with which the most intimate part of their being was damaged, shattering their trust beyond repair? Some will make up reasons that these assaults happened, and so few of them actually focus on the party to blame: the perpetrator. They justify that the girl was a prostitute, so she deserved it. That she was dressed like she was begging for it. That it was proper punishment for the type of life they lived or people they kept in their lives. That she / he should have known better.
If someone you loved told you that they had been sexually assaulted, raped, or otherwise molested, how likely would you be to believe them? Would you look them in the eye and tell them that the stranger who made this decision of conquer by force was innocent? That the victim was unaware, perhaps mentally altered by alcohol or controlled substance at the time and incapable of knowing what was going on, or that they misunderstood? That maybe they had changed their mind, felt shame for a bad decision or experimentation and therefore decided to assign blame to avoid embarrassment or judgment? Would you look at them hurriedly and tell them that they had lied? Could you look at this person you love, this person with whom you share a strong emotional bond, and tell them that they asked for it? That they deserved it?
What if this person further told you that the one who violated them was in fact not a stranger, but their husband or wife? Boyfriend or girlfriend? A sibling, perhaps a friend, a co-worker, or a parent? What would your reaction be then? Could you look them in the eye then and tell them the same justifications that people apply every day to strangers? Strangers that may not be in your life but are someone’s mother, sister, cousin, brother, father, or friend?
The disappointing answer to the questions immediately preceding this paragraph is that victim blaming in this manner happens all the time. When we take into consideration the complex nature of familial and friendly relationships, many find it hard if not impossible to believe that a person sharing this bond with another would choose to violate them in such a demeaning, heinous way. Hearing these revelations shock and disgust some so much that they may choose to side with the perpetrator over the victim, because they are simply unwilling to entertain the thought that it could maybe, just possibly, be true.
One of the worst myths surrounding sexual violence is that it cannot happen at the hand of someone with whom you share an intimate connection. Were you aware, however, that most children who are sexually abused are victimized by a family member or a friend of the family? Did you know that battered women are far more likely to die violent deaths when the sexual assault is committed by their intimate partner? Would you believe that men are also the victims of sexual assault in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships (women as well)?
For those of us who have endured sexual abuse, our experiences run the gamut from threats, molestation, and coercion to the unthinkable extreme of rape and incest. None of our stories will be the same, and not all of us suffer the same assaults. I have known several women throughout my life, some childhood friends who were molested by a friend of the family and some as an adult who suffered violent attacks that left them incapable of maintaining relationships with anyone around them. One attempted suicide but thankfully survived. I was devastated to watch all of them suffer their trauma, their pain, the shame they felt after being attacked. It’s empty and lonely to hurt for them and only be able to provide emotional support when you wish you could take it away from them.
>>> CONTENT FLAG <<< Trigger alert: brief discussions of physical violence
I saw the destruction sexual assault leaves in its wake more times that I care to recall. So why when I was with Kevin did I not consider it abuse? Because I was not raped. Never once did he subject me to this. Oddly enough, stories I heard about similar situations with other women, I had immediately labeled it as sexual abuse, but in my case, I felt it wasn’t really that bad…. Was it?
And here is where it gets personal. If you choose to skip the following paragraphs to the bulleted list of examples below, I will not be insulted. You have your own reasons for doing so, and if it is because you have trauma you would prefer not to relive, I would actually prefer that you did not subject yourself to it. Even so, I will keep it as non-graphic as I can. I have carefully avoided sharing this portion of my experience up until now. But I did not come here to this little corner of the blogging world to smudge out a part of my experiences like they were never there in an effort to conceal what I endured. By sharing these scars, I want others who maybe found themselves unsure what kind of abuse they were dealing with to see that they weren’t alone. That it is not anything to be ashamed of and hide, because it is undeniably part of who we are now. We carry it with us and use it as encouragement to others and as a testament to the strength we all share on our journey to defeat the struggle within.
With relief I can say he did not rape me. I have, however, been held down and forcefully examined for evidence of whether or not I was intimate with anyone while he was out of the house. I was not supposed to take showers when he was running the streets for this reason: if I did, it meant I was running clean-up. So he would go through his checklist and verify to make sure the shower was dry, that the towels and wash cloths were dry. If I was going to the bathroom when he showed up back home, he would stand there and watch. (I was never allowed to be in the bathroom with the door shut anyway. This was a punishable offense.) He would dump out the trash looking for used condoms, etc. And then he would make me undress, hold me down, and inspect me, sometimes cutting me with his nails. I have been burned with a hot stem more times than I care to recall and picked, poked, and prodded at while he was hallucinating.
He thought he owned me, that he had rights to everything whenever he wanted it, but he was not the type to rape. His preference was to coerce me into giving in, into relinquishing control over my body, so he could win. So he could throw it in my face and humiliate me and prove how worthless of a woman I truly was. Night after night, he would let me fall asleep for about a half hour, just about the point where he knew if I woke up, I would be out of it. And he would walk up behind me as I slept, punch me in the back of the head full force, and throw me off the bed.
As the night turned into dawn, he would persist in endless hours of arguments, accusations, threats, and physical brutality. I have been punched in the stomach, kicked in the side, dragged around by my hair (often with small clumps being torn out), and punched multiple times in the head. All in the name of wearing me down. Tiring me out. Night after night, I would become more exhausted and by the seventh or eighth night, I would be delirious from lack of sleep and in so much pain, I could not think. My vision would be blurred, sometimes blacking in and out for a few seconds at a time. My head pounded; I had lumps and small lacerations on my scalp from being hit so hard so many times… both with his fist and with various objects. He would attempt on several occasions to strangle me with stockings, empty all my drawers onto the floor, and force me to pick it up, so he could kick me and accuse me of trying to hide something I supposedly didn’t want him to see.
He kept up this routine for as long as it would take for me to give in. And I would give in, only because I wanted it to stop. I made a conscious choice to allow him this humiliation of my being. A choice that was forced by a vicious onslaught of anguish, fear, exhaustion, and resignation. Because I desperately needed sleep. Because I would worry that if he hit me in the head one more time, I would black out and be at his (lack of) mercy. So I would give him the control, and he would have his way. And when he was done with me, he would beat on me again. And the cycle repeated, all the while his finger pointed at me.
“You did this to yourself. If you have something raggedy, you gotta treat it raggedy.”
“You disgust me. No one would ever want you if they knew how worthless you are. If they knew what you were.”
His street friends and drug dealers would send him texts threatening that they would come to the house and rape me, which, of course, to him meant I had to be sleeping with them. He even threatened once that he would let them in. The same ones who would allow female addicts to perform various acts for a free hit of rock. The same women who were HIV and Hepatitis C positive, knew it, and still worked their way through the line anyway. The same women he ran the streets with. Women who had shared needles and prostituted themselves. It would be my fault, he offered, if he did contract something, so I’d deserve it if he were to infect me, too. (Don’t worry, I went and got tested for everything, and the results all came back negative.)
At the same time he was bragging to his friends in the street about “the piece” he had at home, he was spending nights out of the house, driving other women around in the car that I bought. He would come home and subject me to the most degrading verbal assaults, make comments like, “You better remember how you smell,” and then stick his hand in my face. After he finished relaying the entire evening from start to finish, all the while being sure to spare no small detail about the other woman’s body and how inferior I was to her, I would be forced to endure hours of physical brutality.
As many are unsure as to what constitutes sexual abuse within relationship, here is a brief list on Doorways for Women and Families’ page Types of Domestic Violence. It is not by any means all-inclusive but gives those of you who remain uncertain an idea of some of the things you would have endured. The ones I experienced in this list are designated by red text. Other things I experienced that were not on the list are in purple text.
The following are some examples of sexual abuse:
- Using a sexually derogatory name
- Forcing a partner to strip
- Accusing a partner of promiscuity
- Forcing a partner to watch the abusive partner with others
- Subjecting the partner to unwanted touching
- Forcing a partner to participate in any form of sexual activity
- Biting, pinching, or hurting a partner with objects during sex
- Sexually assaulting a partner
- Physically assaulting a partner after sex as a form of punishment or control
- Withholding sex and/or physical displays of affection as a form of punishment
- Threatening to allow others to rape a partner
- Knowingly engaging in sexual activity outside the relationship with others who are at risk of carrying various sexually transmitted diseases and not caring what a partner is unwillingly being exposed to
- Describing in graphic detail various parts of others’ (exes and current conquests) body and how a partner is inferior
- Describing in graphic detail the sexual activities they have participated in outside the relationship
- Forcing a partner to engage in sexual activity she/he finds to be vulgar and demeaning
- Verbally assaulting a partner using sexually demeaning, belittling, or threatening language
- Forcing a partner to tell family, friends, or co-workers sexually demeaning things about themselves
If you would like further information on sexual abuse, please visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) website: