Sunday, 2 November 2014

"No" Is A Complete Sentence

As I sit here writing this, I have no idea if this will ever be published.  But I'm writing because it needs to come out.  Because I am strengthened and inspired by all the #beenrapedneverreported stories trending on Twitter right now, and because it has remained hidden in the shadows for too long.

Why?  Because until this very week, when the Jian Ghomeshi story broke and this tragic, yet inspiring, Twitter hashtag came to be, I had no name for it.  It wasn't "rape."  Or so I thought.  I know it had been wrong.  I knew I had said no, repeatedly, and yet it happened anyway, but not until this week had I ever called it rape.  I don't think I ever called it anything, quite frankly.  Because until this very moment as I sit here typing, I never spoke of it.  No one ever knew it happened.  Until right now......

Deep breath.......

So, here's my story.  I was 15.  He was 18.  He was my boyfriend at the time.  We had been dating about 6 months.  I knew he was "experienced" and was no longer a virgin.  I was.  Quite steadfastly, I might add.  We had actually had decent conversations about sex and he knew that I wasn't ready.  For a few months he seemed ok with that and respected my boundaries.  And then, one night, he didn't.  It wasn't intercourse (which was why I never called it rape) but it was sexual, and it was unwanted, and I said no.  More than once.  I don't feel the need to go into any further detail.  The bottom line is, it happened.  And you, as you read this, are the first people I have ever told.  After almost 25 years.

The reasons I chose not to tell anyone are many:

1)  Back then, "rape" conjured images of creepy old men jumping out of bushes and attacking you.  I knew this guy.  We went to school together.  He was my boyfriend!  That wasn't rape.

2)  My parents.  I can't say now what their reaction would have been, but 15-year-old me thought they would flip.  Sex was not discussed in our home.  Not even in an educational "here are the facts you need to know" sense.  It was just an unspoken rule that you would wait until you were married and that was the end of that. *sigh*

3)  My reputation.  Ironically, I was more afraid of being labelled a "prude" for not allowing my own boyfriend to touch me, than I was anything else.  Because everyone else was having sex right?  Probably not, but I believed it at the time.

4)  Fear.  The emotional (yet irrational) fear of a normal 15 year old, that the cool, hot, 18-year-old guy who finds her attractive may dump her ass.  (Sad, I know, but we've all been that girl)  And the physical fear.  This guy was a bad-ass.  He dealt dope from his locker, was rumoured to have robbed a local restaurant (this could just be a small-town rumour, but it did go around) and, on more than one occasion, he carried a gun in his duffel bag.  Dude was bad news.  And I was smitten.  Sad.  Very sad, in hindsight.  But very true.

You want to hear the utterly ironic part?  I had a reputation in high school. People thought I was slutty.  Which always made me laugh, and still does.  I was the girl who always hung around with the guys.  Guys always made more sense to me.  I still find it easier to relate to men than to women.  And I always had a boyfriend.  And so these 2 facts, hanging out with guys and always having a boyfriend meant, to the general high school population, that I was easy, slutty, whatever lovely highschool-ish term you'd like to use.  I knew it wasn't true.  I knew these guys were just friends and that my virginity was steadfastly intact, but no one else believed it.  And so I just let them believe otherwise.  Who cares, right?  Well, it turns out, I should have.  I should have cared what people thought of me, even though they were wrong, because it made it straight up impossible for me to tell anyone of this instance with Bad Boy and have them take it seriously.

Oh to be able to go back and chat with that girl.  She didn't do anything wrong.  Did she have low self esteem?  Hell to the yeah!  Did she hang out with guys who smoked and wore leather jackets?  Yup.  Did she date a few of them?  Yup.  Did she go to parties and drink a little?  Yup.  Did she wear her jeans too tight?  Yup.  Did she desperately want to be liked and accepted?  Yup.  But none of these things made what happened to her OK.  And she is just now, just this week, at almost 41 years old, coming to that realization.

And so I salute all the women (and men) who are speaking out as victims of rape and sexual assault using the #beenrapedneverreported hashtag.  I salute your bravery.  I salute your sorrow.  I salute your strength.  And I pray that this will bring change.  Change to our level of acceptance, and change to the way government and law enforcement handle these issues.

Is my story the worst of the worst?  No.  But it is my story.  And it has now been told...for the very first time.

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