Feeling Trapped, but I Can “Fix” This

Disclaimer: The following contains some graphic content that may be considered disturbing or offensive. Please be advised.

I knew what had happened was wrong. However, I didn’t recognize it as rape. I was completely overwhelmed. I knew my rapist. He gained my trust only to crush it. He was not a stranger. He would be a constant presence in my life for the next two years. Surely, someone who must repeatedly face you on a regular basis wouldn’t rape you. There must have been a miscommunication. I thought only strangers rape, not people you know. Plus, he acted as if nothing out of the ordinary ever happened.

I had spent my most formative Junior High and High School years attending a fear-based legalistic church. While there I heard it said that when you sleep with someone, in the eyes of God you are married to that person. I also had a coach in high school who was a pastor of a church who adamantly believed there was absolutely no cause for divorce and anyone who ever divorced could never get remarried. It was sin. He claimed you have one chance at marriage and if you blow it, that’s it for you. These thoughts came rushing into my mind. What was I to do? My faith was very important to me. I understood fear. Everything I had been taught religiously was based 100% upon fear and 0% on love, grace and forgiveness. Was it possible to make this right? Could a wrong right a wrong if you got the right outcome in the end?

I felt an obligation to my rapist, whom at that time I did not see as a rapist. I just saw him as a guy I had went on a date with, but that the date went horribly wrong. I felt that since he had taken my virginity, which I had been saving for my husband, I had to marry him. I had to make this relationship work. I had to make things right, even if it meant doing the wrong thing in the meantime. I thought if I ever wanted to get married, he was now my only option. I had had such a strong desire to get married and have children.

I also knew “No” was not an option with him. He was not afraid to hurt me. There was also no avoiding him. I worked with him. We were in the same tiny College and we would be for the next two years. I felt trapped. If I refused him, would his violent actions toward me occur at work or in my College? At least giving into him would keep this part the relationship compartmentalized. Interactions at work and in our College would hopefully remain unaffected. I decided that I would do what I had to do to make this relationship work. I would not say “No” again.

He called me that evening to ask if I would like to go out. No apologies or excuses for what had happened the night before. He didn’t even acknowledge the events of the night before. He acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Again, I felt trapped. What choice did I really have? So, I agreed to go out with him. He picked me up at my dorm and informed me we were just going to head to his place to hang out. My stomach sank. I knew exactly what his intentions were. No beating around the bush tonight, just right to it.

I had never drunk before, but I knew it could numb you. Maybe tonight was a good night to start drinking. Hopefully it would help me make it through. I suggested we stop at the grocery store and pick up something to drink. He thought this was a great idea and we pulled up to the grocery store. Since I was only eighteen he told me to wait in the car. He ran into the store and picked out some hard alcohol and ice cream he thought I might like.

When we arrived at his house we found his roommate and a friend drunk in the living room. Both took an immediate interest in my arrival and started making lewd comments. We had to step around them to make our way to his bedroom, where he quickly shut and locked the door. Retreating to his bedroom only made the lewd comments escalate. Insinuations and comments were being yelled at me from the living room.

He made drinks for us, but despite the ice cream, I couldn’t bring myself to drink it. Never having drunk before, this drink was not the place to start. It was strong. It was too disgusting. Frustrated he downed both our drinks. All the while his roommate and his roommate’s friend were outside the door making crude comments about what we were doing.

After the drinks were done, he turned off the lights and made his way back to the bed where I was sitting. I knew what he wanted and this time I wasn’t going to fight him or say “No.” After all, it felt pointless to me. We started kissing and undressing one another. I finally pulled away; I did not think I could do it. I was so overwhelmed with guilt and convicted over what I was doing. I sat on the end of his bed and cried. I couldn’t bring myself to willingly sleep with him. I felt disgusting.

Pulling away only made matters worse. He became frustrated and started yelling at me. Insisting I was more interested in his roommate, his roommate’s friend and the vulgar comments they were still yelling from the living room. He accused me of being more interested in them than him. I tried to explain that it was not that at all, but I could hardly get words out between my tears. Then he threatened me. He told me I could either get back in bed with him or he would pass me off to his drunk roommate and his roommate’s drunk friend. I chose the lesser of those two evils and returned to bed. I wasn’t ok with where I was, but facing one man was better than two. I was so frustrated, confused and overwhelmed with guilt. I just laid there and waited for him to be done.

Afterwards, I could not get over how wet I felt. I wasn’t sure if it was because I hadn’t struggled this time. Maybe this is just how it is after sex? Curiosity finally got the better of me and I got up and turned on the lights. My thighs were covered in blood, he was covered in blood, and there was a large bloodstain where I had been laying. He had no idea I had bled the first time, but this time it was much worse. I completely freaked out. I was so frightened. I had not struggled this time. Why was I still bleeding?

He was furious. He got up and started yelling at me. He yelled at me for not knowing my body better. He accused me of starting my period. I was so scared and angry. I blamed him for my bleeding and told him I had bled the first time as well. He just blew me off. He focused all his attentions on his blood-soaked sheets. While I stood there alone and afraid with blood running down my legs, he yelled at me for ruining his sheets. As he stripped the bed, he told me I better buy him new sheets. I just grabbed a towel and ran to the bathroom.

I continued to struggle for some time with bleeding as we slept together. It did lessen with time and eventually stopped. However, the fear continued to loom over me. Why was I bleeding? Is this normal? He insisted it was not. He frequently told me there was something wrong with me. He urged me to seek medical attention. I had never been to a gynecologist and at this point I could not imagine bringing myself to do so. It was way too vulnerable! How could I let someone examine me in such a vulnerable way? I could not imagine telling someone what I had done. So instead, I carried a fear within me that something was wrong, because I was too afraid to seek help. I had no idea how severe this problem might be, but living with this fear was better than being vulnerable. I carried this fear with me for over a year.

The first time he raped me it was by force. The second interaction I just described was rape by threat. I was coerced into having sex with him. If not for his threats, I would have stopped. Of my own freewill, I could not proceed. Honestly, this second experience has scarred me as much as the first rape, but I didn’t realize until recently that this experience was also rape. It took these two rapes to completely break me. To instilled fear of him and what he was capable of. I was done fighting or saying “No.” I never said “No” again, because I was afraid of him. Besides, what was the point? I knew he would disregard my “No’s” anyway. I knew he could overpower me. I knew he was not afraid to hurt me. The second rape was when I learned to cope and emotionally disengage. Physically I was present, but mentally I was removed.

Despite my terrible experiences, I stuck it out. I remained in the relationship for the rest of the semester. No one we worked with nor anyone in our college ever knew we were dating. He never acted as anything other than an acquaintance within our college. I never called him my boyfriend. I really had no idea how to define our relationship, and I didn’t want to do or say anything that would upset him. It was 100% based upon fear for me. I stuck it out for as long as I could.

While we were dating, there was an evening when he volunteered to drive for an architecture tour. I knew he was busy so I had no intentions of hanging out with him that night, but he called me during the tour and informed me he was coming to pick me up. There was a party at the last home on the tour and he wanted me to come. I changed into something nice and waited outside my dorm for him. He pulled up in a University van full of attendees on the tour. I climbed into the back of the van.

When we arrived at the party he told me to entertain myself and look around. He then proceeded to mingle with the other attendees who included students from our college, professors and tour attendees from the community. I knew his comment implied that I was not to speak to him at the party. Since he was mingling with the other attendees, I could not mingle. I wandered around the home by myself and spoke with no one other than the owner of the home, whom I stumbled upon in the library. He greeted me with a warm and welcoming smile and we spoke briefly about his amazing home. I thanked him for his hospitality and then I continued to wander through the home. After I had seen everything I sat down in the living room. As an architecture student, we were encouraged to always have a sketchbook on hand. So, I took out my sketchbook and sat sketching for the remainder of the evening.

As the party ended I saw my rapist start to gather up the attendees he had been driving that night. He never came to get me. I just followed them out and climbed in the back of the van. He dropped me off at my dorm. Other than the attendees in the van, none of whom were students or professors, no one knew he had brought me to the party.

On another occasion when we were working together in the Architecture library, a classmate in his year of architecture approached me and invited me to accompany him to a Christmas Party. Before I could respond, my rapist, who was sitting next to me, told him that sounded like fun and I had no reason to say “No.” The classmate smiled and told me when he would pick me up. Without me ever uttering my consent. It was odd. It was odd that this man had asked me out in front of my rapist and even more odd that my rapist said “Yes” and cornered me into going.

I went to the Christmas Party with this other man. It was a Christmas Party for a Campus Club he was a member of. He frequently spoke with me about the Club when he was in the library and encouraged me to join. I had not joined, but I figured at least the Christmas Party would give me a good idea of whether I would like to join. It was not a drunken binge party. I never even noticed if alcohol was being served. There was food and a “White Elephant” gift exchange. After the party, he took me back to his apartment so we could go in the hot tub. We visited the entire time. I think in his mind this was a date, but in my mind, it was an evening I had been cornered into. At the end of the evening he dropped me off at my dorm and hugged me.

Even though my rapist had basically arranged for me to go to the party with this other man, he was jealous. He accused me of having multiple boyfriends. I finally spoke up and told him I only went because he cornered me into going. I told him I wasn’t interested in this other man and for me it was not a date. He dropped it.

However, the other man who had always been incredibly friendly toward me suddenly stopped speaking to me. He awkwardly avoided me. I have no idea if my rapist confronted him in some way. I don’t think he did anything wrong other than incite his jealousy. He had no idea we were dating, but I suspect he may be the one person in our college who knew about us. Since graduating I have bumped into this man around town twice. Each time he immediately recognized me, said an obligatory “hello” and then awkwardly and abruptly ended the conversation, avoiding interacting within me beyond anything superficial.

These last two experiences paint a picture of how my rapist treated me. He isolated me. He made sure I knew I could trust no one. He made sure I knew he didn’t need me. That I meant nothing to him. I was at his beckoning call. I did whatever he asked when he asked it. I dropped everything to accommodate him. When I finally did get a roommate, he immediately began criticizing her. Then he started calling me late at night. He would tell me he was too tired to drive home and he was coming to stay with me. He lived maybe five or ten minutes from the College. My dorm was probably two minutes from the College. Since I never said “No” to him I would go and wait to let him in my dorm. Since I never said “No” to him I wouldn’t even ask my roommate if it was ok. She was typically out with friends and would come back to discover that he was sleeping in my bed with me. She never confronted me about it, but I knew she was annoyed I didn’t at least ask her first.

With the rare exception of crashing at my dorm late at night, every time we hung out following the rapes he had sex with me. I never initiated these interactions. I just complied with his wishes. I never experienced any personal pleasure from our relationship. I just did what I thought I had to do to make our relationship work out of obligation; to try to please him. I completely blocked out the rape to cope and survive. Motivated by fear, I did whatever he asked. Before my interactions with my rapist I had grown up incredibly sheltered. I honestly didn’t even know exactly how sex worked. My introduction to sex was by a sadist. I learned it involved violence, fear, humiliation and pain. It meant his pleasure at my expense.

While I could give him physical pleasure, even that eventually was not enough for him. After all, I just lied there lifelessly waiting for him to be done. His bedroom was decorated with modern art posters. There was a Salvador Dali poster on the wall directly across from the foot of his bed: Impressions of Africa.   I remember staring at that painting, completely disengaged from what was happening to me, and thinking that painting represented my life.

The painting features a photorealistic self-portrait of the artist himself. He is seated at his easel presumably painting. His face and part of his body are obscured by his hand and the easel itself. All that is visible of his face is one eye; intensely focused. His eye can be seen right behind his extended hand. His hand is extended toward the viewer, as if he is intently focused on capturing that one moment frozen in time before it passes. The intense glare with which he stares out from the painting gives the impression of intense concentration. However, as I stared back at him, I felt like he saw me. He was staring right at me. Here I was isolated in this room of horrors, but he saw me. I felt frozen. Stuck in time. Like I was the subject of whatever he was painting on that unseen canvas. His glare still haunts me to this day when I close my eyes. It has been forever burned into my memory. A constant reminder of fear and pain.

I was completely vulnerable with my rapist. I desperately tried to please him. Yet time and time again, he conveyed to me that I meant nothing to him. I was worthless to him. He did not need me. I felt worthless. Dirty. Disgusting. Broken. Hurt.

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