Monday, March 29, 2010

True Story: My Ex Tried To Rape Me

This is part of our True Story interview series, in which we talk to people who have experienced unique and challenging things. This week's interview is special because it is not, sadly, incredibly unique. I'm sure you know the statistics: every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Sixty percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Many, many of the women I know have experienced aggressive, unwanted sexual attention. This is Elizabeth's* story.

Before this happened, what were your feelings about sexual assault?I consider myself to be an independent, modern, and educated woman. I was and am a strong advocate of women's rights and equality. I believed in speaking up for yourself, voting, and fighting against injustice. I was also a Sociology major in college with an interest in women's studies and sexuality. My definition of sexual assault was any unwanted sexual advances in the form including penetration, inappropriate touching, and/or verbal abuse. I was also a strong advocate of the phrase, "No means no!" and was a black belt in karate.

I liked to think I was invincible and could bench-pressed cars and wrestled bears in my free time. That being said, I thought rape and sexual assault were awful things that shouldn't happen to anyone, but I didn't think that anything would happen to me. Rape just seemed like something that happened in the back alleys of sketchy neighborhoods that I didn't frequent. If I did go into those areas, I would be ever-vigilant and made sure that I was either with someone, or prepared to drop an attacker with a well-placed kick to the groin.

Can you tell us about your relationship with the man that attacked you?
We met in college. We both belonged to the same club on campus. We had been dating for about two months before we mutually agreed to split up. He was a tall, energetic guy - the life of the party. I liked his spirit and we had gotten along alright, but it wasn't meant to be. My friends didn't really like him much, but who really listens to their friends when you're dating someone new that you really like?

What exactly happened that night?
After our split, we remained friends. When school let out for summer break, we decided to drive 500 miles to my hometown for a week, where he could visit his cousin. One night, we decided to hang out at his cousin's place. He had bought a case of beer earlier in the day, and the two of them wanted to drink. Since I had to drive home after, I stayed sober. The two of them drank their way through the entire case of beer (one of the big cases that have like 24 beers in them) while I hung out and watched TV. I eventually fell asleep on the floor.

When I woke up, the cousin was gone, and the ex had just come back in the room after smoking. He came over and started kissing me. Out of habit, I kissed him back, although I wasn't feeling it. He started taking my clothes off. I stopped kissing him. He mumbled something about "wanting one last time together, for old time's sake." I stiffened and remembered a time when we had sex when I wasn't physically ready. It had hurt. A lot. Also, we weren't together anymore! Why did he want to be together if we weren't an item anymore in the first place?? I told him no.

He tried fondling me under my shirt. I squirmed away and told him to stop, but he took off my pants and shoved his hand down them. I tried rolling away, but he was on top of me. I considered using some of my martial arts, but this was a man that I considered my friend. How can you hurt someone you care about? I kept resisting for what seemed like forever until the vast amount of alcohol he drank caused him to pass out. Then I pulled on my clothes and left, angry.

How did he react when you told him "no"?He seemed to think that I was kidding. He had told me before that I introduced him to "passionate and angry sex" because none of his other partners liked it "rough". And by rough, I mean I liked a little wrestling sometimes, maybe an ass slap here and there. Nothing major. Rape play wasn't something I was really into (although if you are, safe words are key!). Let me get this straight: liking it a little rough and saying "no" are *two different things*. He apparently thought I was just playing hard to get when in fact, I wanted nothing to do with him.

When did it occur to you that what you had experienced had been an attempted rape?
It occurred to me as I left his cousin's house that he had violated the terms of our friendship, but I didn't identify it as "attempted rape". I blamed myself for it because I felt I had "led him on" by kissing him back in the beginning. For half an hour, I sat in my room thinking that it was my fault and that I could have prevented it by not going over there in the first place, not staying as long as I did, and not kissing him. Then I mentally slapped myself for thinking such things. I didn't ask him to force himself on me. Just because we had a relationship before doesn't mean he can have me whenever he wanted. It was perfectly natural to fall into old habits with an ex because it's comfortable and familiar, but that doesn't mean that I owe him anything or that he could continue touching me after I said no. I felt violated and angry, but I didn't classify myself as a "victim", nor did it occur to me that I had just survived an attempted rape. Rape was something that happened to other people, not me.

Could you tell us about the aftermath of this attack?After a long and silent car ride back to the university, I didn't really talk to him too much afterwards. I was mad at him. I had confronted him the morning after the attack online about the incident and he didn't even know it had happened! When I told him how it made me feel, he signed off. I never got an apology. We hung out a few times after that with some mutual friends of ours, but he never apologized and never acknowledged that anything bad had happened between us. It was frustrating, and I stopped talking to him.

When Fall quarter started, I took a fantastic class called the Sociology of Sexuality. There was a guest speaker one day. He was from an organization on campus that educated men on how they could educate themselves about sexual assault on women and how to protect the women around them. He started telling this story:

"One day, a young girl goes to a party with her friends. They're laughing, drinking, and having a good time. She sees a cute guy and starts flirting with him. They have fun, dance a little, and drink some more. It turns out they have similar tastes in music. He asks her if she's heard the new CD that their favorite artist has just released. She hasn't. He asks her if she would like to come listen to it in his room. She agrees and tells her friends that she'll be back and not to worry about her. Her friends look the guy over and tells her to call them if she runs into any trouble. She laughs and says alright, and walks out the door.

"At the guy's place, he puts the CD into his computer and turns on the music. They sit on the bed together and drink and talk. He puts his arm on her shoulder and she leans into him. He kisses her. She kisses him back. Things start to get a little heated and he slides his hand under her shirt. She stops him and says, 'I'm not ready for this.'

"He says, 'That's fine, I totally respect your boundaries.'

"They go back to kissing. He slides his hand up her shirt again, and she stops him for a second time. She tells him again, 'Sorry, I don't want to go too fast.' He says it's fine, and they continue making out on the bed. Then she blacks out from the alcohol.

"She wakes up and he's on top of her. He has taken off her clothes and is inside her.

"Is this rape? Did she consent because she kissed him? Does it still count because they were drinking?"


When I heard this story, I started crying. I started bawling my eyes out right in the middle of lecture because the story resonated with something inside me. I felt like the girl in the story because I felt like it had been my fault. That I had let it happen. That because there was alcohol involved, I couldn't say anything about it because everyone would say that it was my fault. It was at that moment that I knew that there was something wrong and that I needed to seek help as soon as possible. Luckily, there was a fantastic sexual assault resource center on campus that I went to the very next day.

I started therapy and continued it for about a year. One thing that my therapist said to me that really hit home was, "What happened to you was not your fault. You had no way of preventing it from happening. You cannot control the actions of another person. You can only control how you let those actions affect you."

I think that year was definitely the hardest year I've ever had to face, emotionally. On most days I'd be fine and go about my business, when all of a sudden I'd hear a song on the radio, or read a story, or see a picture that reminded me of him. Of the betrayal of trust. Of the violation that happened. Then I'd start crying for no reason at all. Other times, my boyfriend and I would be getting intimate and I would freeze up because something would remind me of what happened. It was frustrating because I felt like I was healing from my emotional trauma and all of a sudden these emotions would hit me out of nowhere. I kept thinking to myself, "It's been x number of months already. Why am I still feeling like this? What's wrong with me?"

Taking baby steps definitely helped me. First I needed to figure out what kind of closure I needed. Once something like this happens, my therapist told me, it's a violation of trust. It's a traumatic experience that is different for everyone, and when you've been emotionally ripped open like that, you need closure (like a bad break-up). *How* you get that closure is different for each person. For some people, it's seeking criminal charges. For some people it's as simple as getting an apology from your attacker. For others, it's being able to put the past behind them and never speak of it again.

How did the people in your life respond when you told them about this?
I am extremely fortunate to have so many supporting people in my life. My biggest pillar of strength was definitely my current boyfriend (not the ex who attacked me). He is always there to support me, listen to my rants, or simply hold me when I cry or have flashbacks. He was completely understanding, even if he didn't know what to do. He's extremely kind, gentle, understanding, and doesn't demand anything of me that I can't handle. When I'm feeling particularly vulnerable, I know that I can depend on his support. I definitely couldn't have done it without him. :)

My friends also helped and listened when they could, although they weren't sure what to do about the situation. They would be understanding, but not know how to react or what to say. Because I minimized the situation, it seemed as though I wasn't affected by it as much as I was. I think if I had gone to them crying immediately after it happened, they would have gone and tarred, feathered, drawn and quartered the man.

Did you file charges against the man who attacked you?
Sort of. I filed charges against him at my university. The files went on his student record, rather than his criminal record. I did this because at the time, I still wanted to protect him, for some reason. I wasn't out for vengeance, because I'm not a vengeful type of person. I wanted to *teach* him to be a better person, because I felt like he was a little misguided and needed help to become a better person.

With the school, he had to join Alcoholics Anonymous and take a seminar presented by the person who spoke to my class about sexual assault. I believe they also sent a letter to his parents. I thought that being lenient would help him out and give him a scare, rather than turning him into a criminal and making him register as a sex offender everywhere he went. Of course, it didn't work and he didn't learn a thing from it. I'm not too happy about that.

Do you feel that this experience has effected the way you view yourself/men/sex/relationships?Yes and no. I feel a little more jaded about meeting new people, but I, luckily, am in a long-term, committed relationship with the most wonderful man in the world. However, I am more skeptical of some of the guys my girl friends meet. As for me, I feel like I have a scar on my emotional psyche, but it's an experience in my life that has made me stronger. I can handle anything else that life can throw at me because I know how I react to emotional stress and how I can recover from it.

How did you finally get closure?Even with the therapy and the great support of my friends, I never really felt like I got the closure I needed. I knew that he was still the same guy that he was before and hadn't learned from the classes that the university made him attend. I was moving on with my life, but something about that chapter of my life just holding me back, somehow. I wasn't sure what it was. I thought that maybe pressing charges against him would help, but I would have to go back to my hometown (500 miles away) to press charges. It would also drag up all the messy details of what happened back into the light, and open all of the old wounds I fought so hard to close.

A few months ago, I found out that he was in an election in the club where we originally met. This would put him in power over many new and unsuspecting freshmen girls in the organization if he won. I made it my mission to go to the election, expose him to the world as the fraud that he was, and ruin his life in the organization forever. But I couldn't. I went to the elections and confronted him face-to-face, ready to fight... and he told me to get out of his way and to stop bothering him. Then I realized something. I didn't get the closure I wanted because I needed an apology from my him.

All these years, and he's never once come up to me, e-mailed, texted, called, or IMed me to say he was sorry. Ever. It was like I didn't even matter to him. He was just the asshole that everybody told me he was. The second chance that I gave him was a waste. Nothing I said or did would ever make him into the kind, mature person that I wanted him to be. And with that, I let it go. I let all the hate, all the frustration, and all the pain go. I was not going to let this one person ruin so much of my life. I had other things to do. I had places to go, people to love, and real friends who cared about me and who weren't like him.

I still sometimes get flashbacks, but they aren't nearly as crippling as they once were. I've come to terms with what happened and am finally at peace with it. He's an asshole that isn't worthy of my thoughts anymore. Do I sometimes wish I had pressed charges against him? Yeah, but it's not something that I'm going to pursue because, like I said, he isn't worth my time anymore. I'm not his babysitter, and maybe karma will come back and bite him in the ass for me.

What advice would you give to other women or men who have experienced something similar?Find someone that you trust and talk about it. Talk to a therapist. Talk to a friend. Educate yourself on what happened to you, how you can fight against it, and the steps that you need to take to heal. Most importantly: DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF. What happened to you was in no way, shape, or form your fault. It was the fault of your attacker. Your attacker is the one who did this to you. He or she is ultimately the one who made the decision to violate your personal space and trust. There was no way that you could have read their mind and stopped them from doing what they did. Understand that you did not give them consent to violate you. Here's a great definition of consent:

Consent is based on choice.
It is active, not passive. Silence and passivity do not equal consent.
Consent is possible only when there is equal power.
Giving in because of fear is NOT consent.
Giving in or going along with someone to gain approval or to avoid being hurt is NOT consent.
Consent means two people (or more) deciding together to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, with each other.


Find out what options are available for you and how far you are willing to go to seek closure. If you wish to press charges, speak to a trusted lawyer and learn what your options are. Be strong and know that unfortunately, some people will work against you and try to make you look bad. If you are afraid to leave your situation because your attacker is in a position of power over you, talk to someone who specializes in domestic or office abuse. Finally, believe that you *can* make it past this point in your life and that you *will* become a stronger person for it. You will always carry the emotional scars with you, but they do fade in time, trust me. It will take a long time - much longer than you want it to - but it will happen. You'll have ups and downs and it'll feel like your life is over and it isn't worth living, but you *will* get through this.

Some great resources that I've found are Women Said and Shrink4men The second link is mostly for men who are in an abusive relationship, but I find it to be one of the best resources out there for someone who is currently in an abusive relationship. I also find the UC Irvine campus assault resource page to be extremely helpful, and there's a section for friends of a victim as well.

If someone you know is currently going through a situation like this, visit the UC Irvine website. Listen to their story. And most importantly, do not judge them. Don't accuse them of getting into a bad situation. We all make bad decisions. It doesn't make it any better if you remind them of it. Encourage your friend to seek help. Seek help from a trusted source yourself, because no matter how good your intentions are, you most likely do not have the training to help your friend get over what happened. Professional help is THE best way to get through this for everyone.

I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and if you would like to remain anonymous, send me an e-mail at dinosrevenge @ gmail . com. Thanks for taking the time to read my story and a big shout out to Sarah Von for hosting this series!

Have any of you experienced sexual assault? Any questions for Elizabeth?
*not her real name

43 comments

  1. Thanks *Elizabeth for your story... it's sobering to be reminded that being a black belt in martial arts who's able to do 100 press ups does not mean we're immune to rape and sexual assault.

    It can happen to anyone.

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  2. I was here. I read. I enjoyed. I was interested. Thank you.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. I was in a similar situation and hesitated but finally decided to file through my workplace (a camp where we met) - he was let go, which made me feel guilty at first but later glad that he wasn't able to work around children.

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  4. Thanks for this. I was in a situation which still confuses me a great deal. My boyfriend at the time tried to...I don't want to say force himself on me, but took off our pants and climbed on top of me knowing full well it was an inappropriate time and that I was mostly asleep and did not want to have sex with him. The worst thing was I was a virgin at the time and we were in a room with two of our friends.

    Pretty scary stuff and I definitely get the feeling of guilt, like you have to minimalise it thinking you brought it on yourself somehow or it wasn't that big of a deal. As time passed I became more and more aware of the fact that it actually was sexual assault.

    Thanks again for this post.

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  5. Very powerful topic and I really feel like I learned a lot more about it that I previously just didn't know. Thank you for sharing your story, that takes a lot of strength to do!

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  6. This story made my heart hurt. Thank you for being brave enough to share it!

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  7. Unfortunately I relate to this story all too well, and I think I still haven't made the connection between weird feelings about sexual relationships and what has happened in my past...thanks for sharing, I think this is an extremely important message to get out there.

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  8. Such a mysterious girl.

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  9. I read this blog regularly but for obvious reasons have decided to post this anonymously. I'm glad you broached this topic, Sarah, it is so important.
    I was raped by a man I was dating who I would not have sex with because I wasn't ready. he then went on to be a leader for freshman on campus and now he is a member of the clergy.
    Life is fucked up. You did what you had to do for you. You're brave. Thanks for sharing your story, "Elizabeth"

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  10. a good story and good reminder. I've been sexually assaulted more than once, but only one time really tore me apart. The other times, I knew (from college classes and therapy) that it wasn't my fault, and I also took steps to control the situation and avert the worst. Thankfully, I was never raped in any of these times.

    I agree that the worst is that boys/men so rarely think they need to apologize. I was molested by my first boyfriend, but I didn't realize it until years later. I actually broke several friendships to make sure that guy stays out of my life, and I still occasionally have to do frustrating things like contact him on facebook and insist he take down pictures of me (!!! what a creeper, even years later). Another guy continually tried to initiate sex after a night of drinking & a little kissing, and it took a lot of effort on my part to push him off until he finally passed out, since the word "no" seemed not to work.

    It should also be said that girls/women can also be the aggressors, and the message we need to spread to all is respect for our partners. Be they one night stands or committed partners, their opinions and wishes matter, and we all need to respect that.

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  11. This type of thing happens so often in college but no one seems to act like it is a crime... by reporting it to the school and making it known, you did the right thing. Thank you for having a voice for the many girls and women that don't feel like they do!

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Elizabeth, and thank you for providing her with the opportunity to do so, Sarah.

    Elizabeth, you're incredibly brave, and your story is an incredibly powerful reminder and lesson that rape can happen anywhere, under any circumstances, by anyone. As a society, we still hold on to this notion that rape is only at nighttime, when a stranger jumps out of the bushes to accost a young girl on her way home from Bible study, and that's a really damaging notion to have.

    I'm awed at your capacity for forgiveness, especially when you decided to press charges on his student record, rather than on his criminal record. I'm sorry that he showed no sense of remorse, accountability or even gratitude for having spared him the criminal charges. I'm sorry that he betrayed your kindness.

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  13. I've had a similar situation happen to me. I was in a relationship when I wasn't ready to be very physical yet, and I gave in to doing things I wasn't comfortable with.

    It's comforting to know that a lot of girls here have had similar experiences.

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  14. This really resonates with me because I have been recently trying to come to terms with the fact that I have been sexually abused, and it's taken me far too long to realize it! When the person you're with is forcing you to make love to them, it's simply not right. You shouldn't have to prove your love to them. You shouldn't let them try to tell you that you're not normal and that "other couples do it every night!" And you should most definitely not do things against your will just to make someone else happy, no matter how much they "sacrifice" for you! And it is totally not your fault because you didn't make them happy in another way, or because you didn't get out of the situation earlier, or because you were "leading them on"... Sadly, it has taken me about two years to realize these things, and left me very emotionally damaged in some parts. Having a normal sexual relationship is difficult when all you can think about is the trauma you've gone through! Knowing that other people have gone through very similar things is comforting (yet also very saddening). Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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  15. "Elizabeth"3/29/10, 3:23 PM

    Thank you all for sharing your stories and being so supportive of mine. It truly is sobering to hear that so many women and men (thank you, penn) have to go through this sort of thing. It takes a great deal of courage to begin a conversation on it, but I highly encourage each of you to talk this over with the people you know. Silence gives your attackers more power over you and the others going through tough times like this. The more educated we are about sexual assault, the less it will happen!

    To everyone who commented, even anonymously, thank you for having the courage to share your stories. Realizing what happened to you is one of the most painful and shocking things that can happen to you. You WILL get through this, though.

    Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any sensitive issues you wish to discuss with me anonymously. dinosrevenge @ gmail . com

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  16. "Elizabeth"3/29/10, 3:31 PM

    @ love,S: Unfortunately it can happen to everyone and anyone. I wish it wouldn't, but the world unfortunately has a long way to go.

    @ Heidi: Thank you for taking the time to read today!

    @ Anonymous #1: I'm so proud of you! You did the right thing. One time (before this event) a guy working at the student health center went through my medical file to get my phone number to ask me on a date. I reported it and got him fired, too. Guys who cross the line NEED to be told when they do! You did the right thing. Don't ever regret it, because you may have saved someone else's life.

    @ Monster Girl: The hardest thing to believe is that someone so close to us could do something so terrible to us. What happened to you was definitely sexual assault. If you can, I suggest reading up on the topic and talking to a professional about it. Definitely discuss it with the man, if you feel comfortable about it, because there's always a possibility that he could do it again. The guilt is hard to get over, but it will pass.

    @Christie: I aimed to educate, and I'm glad it worked! Thank you for reading! :)

    @ TKOG: I love your blog and I'm glad I could provide something that you read. Thanks for reading.

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  17. "Elizabeth"3/29/10, 3:43 PM

    @miss chief: I think it is important to heal these emotional scars before they pop up somewhere you don't want them to, and at an unreasonable time. I think it may be worth it for you to discuss this with a therapist (even once could do it!) or with a trusted friend. You may decide you need to act upon it to truly understand yourself and what you've gone through.

    @gih: I'm not so mysterious, I don't think. I'm simply a girl sharing her all too familiar story to a world that chooses to ignore such a thing.

    @Anonymous #2: I'm very sorry to hear what happened to you, and thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. I highly encourage you to seek professional help about this matter, because it seems like your wounds are still open. It is tragic to think that such evil people end up being in positions of power so often.

    @penn: Thank you for sharing your story, and I'm sorry to hear that you went through the same things I did. I hope that therapy worked for you and that you're healing! It's very true that women can also be the aggressors. All people deserve respect and the chance to consent.

    @Kate: Thank you for your words of encouragement! It's up to those of us who have a voice to educate those in the dark about topics like this.

    @Kylie: There are times where I really do wish that I had pursued criminal charges, but that's just not the kind of person that I am. We are both Asian, and the sort of open revenge like that is frowned down upon immensely. At the time, I still had feelings for him and I felt like I could "save" him, or something. It was pretty foolish on my part, but it seemed to work now. I admit, I was also a little scared of what a trial would be like, because the defense tends to make YOU look like the bad guy/slutty/a whore, etc. That's frightening enough to anyone, and it's a shame that the system works that way. Thank you for reading.

    @melissasaurus: It's comforting and saddening to think that so many people go through similar situations. I hope that you were able to work through your tragic experiences, and if you ever need to talk, please feel free to email me.

    @Anonymous #3: NO ONE should ever have to do something that they don't want to do. It is not love. It is sexual assault. Please please seek help for this issue, even if it's just to talk to a professional for an hour. Love does not demand sex. Selfish and uncaring people demand sex. A normal and caring relationship is about equality and consent. Please, if you can, seek help about this, because it could negatively affect your sex and love life in the future.

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  18. Thanks for such a thought provoking article.

    The links look like being very useful also - I work with young people who are often the victims of this kind of thing unfortunately.

    I will be sharing them with colleagues also.

    Sarah
    http://sothisisthesecret.blogspot.com/

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  19. a different elizabeth3/29/10, 6:15 PM

    it's so sad how long it takes so many of us to even recognize that what happened was sexual assault. we blame ourselves for too long!
    this is really a provocative story for me.
    my first time having sex was my boyfriend forcing himself on me. i said NO over and over, i pushed him away and tried pulling away from him as far as possible but he was too strong. i never allowed myself to think that what happened was possibly sexual assault - certainly not rape! (like *Elizabeth, rape doesn't happen to me! or so i mistakenly persisted in believing) though i never labeled the experience as rape, i did and still do have a visceral reaction every time i recall the memory. sadly, i was very insecure and weak at the time, and i stayed with him. i'm really proud of *elizabeth for standing up for herself - it is NOT easy to do. and reading her story has inspired me to full-on address what happened to me a few years ago. thank you.

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  20. I just wanted to take a moment to thank *Elizbeth for sharing her story with us and also to thank all of you for helping make Yes and Yes such an supportive, kind, thought-provoking place. I'm really, truly touched and honored that you make my little corner of the internet part of your day <3

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  21. @Sarah J: I'm glad that this was helpful for you. Young people need all the help that they can get, particularly in developing healthy relationships! I'm honored that my story will help others.

    @a different elizabeth: I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to you. So often we just brush off what happens to us and believe that it's okay and that since we care for the person that they didn't really mean it because only violent rapes count as rapes. I actually had another experience in high school when my bf at the time started touching me even though I didn't want him to. I didn't know how to say no, though! I completely understand what you mean when you were feeling too insecure to say no. I'm so proud of you for facing your past! Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need help. Addressing your past is the best way to enjoy the future. Trust me. :)

    @Sarah Von: Thank you for allowing me to have the chance to share my story! I can see the positive effects from addressing such a sensitive issue!

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  22. I was raped by a man that I considered to be my friend on a college trip. He was the chaperon (some 15 years older than me) and everyone had been drinking, and I'd passed out after throwing up all over the room.

    When I told him how upset I was in the morning he said "I'm sorry you're upset, but I'd be lying if I said I was sorry it happened." I pressed charges through the school and they "investigated", but dropped the issue because he was top of his class and a high-profile student. My friends and family tried desperately to help, but none of them understood or knew how to, and that made me feel alone. All of our mutual friends took his side and spread rumors about how slutty I am because he lied to them (well, he lied to everyone). He graduated with honors and is getting a master's degree at a top institution now.

    None of us are alone, and though I'm still recovering I'm so much stronger for it. Like your story said, I'm emotionally scarred but smarter. It comes down to learning to trust the right people, and realising that even if life's not fair it still goes on.

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  23. @Anonymous: That's absolutely horrific! Not only did he know what he was doing, but he wasn't sorry?? That's appalling. And it's so depressing to hear that your mutual friends took his side and spread rumors about you. I'm sorry to hear that you had to go through such an awful experience. You seem to have come to some decent terms with your emotional scarring, and I applaud you for that. It's so depressing to hear about this happening to anyone, and if you can get through this, you can get through anything. You're definitely not alone.

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  24. Just today I confronted a coworker who made an inappropriate sexual reference about me. I was nervous and afraid of coming across as a 'trouble-maker' but decided he is the one that should be uncomfortable. I know this isn't exactly what this article was about but I felt such strength in being able to express my feelings and let him know that it was not appropriate. He apologized profusely and I think he did realize that joking does not excuse inappropriate sexual attention. We do not have to accept any unwanted sexual attention.

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  25. @ Anonymous: That is exactly what this post is all about! Sexual harassment can be just as damaging as sexual assault. Major props for you for standing up for what you believed in! Embrace your power! You did what you felt was right, and that speaks volumes for who you are as a person and what your morals are.

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  26. wow. i don't know what to say.

    Thank you for such an insightful blog. In all honesty, I think this is the most important blog i have ever read

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  27. Thank you, Elizabeth, for being brave enough to share your story and thank you Sarah for posting it.

    I think one of the most important things to realize is that even super-feminists blame themselves when sexual assault happens, because that is SO ingrained into our society. It is not anywhere near on the same level, but when thinking about this issue I distinctly recall a time about a year ago when I left the house and was walking to the car and someone shouted something vulgar & sexual at me. My first thought was "Is it what I'm wearing?" and that's coming from someone who reads feminist blogs and theory on a fairly regular basis.

    Sorry, kind of a long comment. But thank you for sharing your story, again.

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  28. Thank you for sharing. A powerful but all too common story.

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  29. I cried reading your story *Elizabeth. It took me a long time to know that the things my first boyfriend did to me were wrong. Even when I told him I wasn't ready, he pressured me so badly to have sex with him, until one day I just let him. I refused to do it again, so then he would force me to give him oral sex, and hold my head when I tried to pull away.

    It wasn't until a friend of mine put me in contact with another previous girlfriend of his (who he had raped, then made a social outcast when she reported him to the police, and harassed until she dropped charges) that I realised the things he did weren't normal. I still feel like I should have done something to stop him, or something to stop him from hurting other women. But also, I still admire that girl for coming forward to help me.

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  30. @jprp: Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

    @Michelle: You would think that being a feminist would protect you from the guilt, but surprisingly, it doesn't! I was also shocked with myself because it clearly wasn't my fault.. but I thought it was. I'm just glad that I was able to realize it in time and I had a great support base of friends and family.

    @j.lowe: Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    @Miss Peregrin: Thank you for taking the time to share your heartbreaking story. Your first boyfriend took advantage of your innocence and violated your trust. Don't feel guilty about what happened. You were young and inexperienced, and he preyed upon that like a wolf. HE made the choice and HE is the one with the problem. You could not have done anything to prevent his actions towards you. Did you ask him to hold your head down and force you to give oral sex to him? No, you didn't. I'm happy to hear that you got out of the relationship and that you have a very supportive and caring friend. If you can, maybe try to contact his previous girlfriend and see if there's any way to prevent him from hurting anyone else? Any past record (even if it was dismissed, there will be a record of it) will help built future cases against him in court. Please feel free to email me if you need to talk! Remember, it's not your fault. He's the bastard that forced himself upon YOU.

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  31. Thank you for posting your story here. It is absolutely true that situations like this are far too common and frankly are rarely taken seriously enough. The point you made:

    Let me get this straight: liking it a little rough and saying "no" are *two different things*

    seems so obvious, and yet it clearly needs to be stated. Thanks for the bolded section on consent. What an excellent, concise defininition. I think it should be the first thing taught in sex ed.

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  32. @RazorCandy: I think it's especially frustrating for all people to really understand the difference. There's such a stigma on liking it rough because so many people think it automatically makes you a slut. But it doesn't. It's simply an expression of yourself. It gets even more complicated when people don't understand that rape is not the same as rape-PLAY. If you like playing around and role playing in the bedroom, you definitely need to have an in-depth conversation about your needs, wants, and most importantly, safe words.

    As for the part on consent, I think it makes life so much less confusing when you know what consent is and that you know whether or not you've given it. I also agree that it should be taught in sex ed class! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Consent and safe play are so important!

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  33. it's a shame how common rape has become. I think the most difficult part for rape victims has to be telling about how they were raped...I would know, having known a rape victim. It took them a long time to open up about it, but it's definitely not an easy thing to do. But women should try to open up about rape, because we don't want this happening to others.

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  34. *Elizabeth4/3/10, 1:15 PM

    @kanishk: Thank you for taking the time to read!

    @alphaandomega: It really is depressing how common this subject is, yet no one will talk about it. Thank you for sharing your experience. The more we talk about it, the less okay it will be, but the better we'll feel.

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  35. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Elizabeth. You were so brave to confront him the way that you did.

    I protected my rapist, too, because he was a family member and I didn't want to disturb the rest of the family. Now I know that I didn't owe anyone that.

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  36. *Elizabeth4/6/10, 8:30 PM

    @Fattie Fatterton: I'm sorry to hear that your attacker was part of the family! You don't owe anyone anything and you definitely do not owe it to your attacker to protect him. You deserve better than that.

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  37. When I was 15, I had an experience which I have only now, years later, begun to understand as sexual assault. I had recently broken up with someone and decided that I wanted to hook up with a guy I knew who I thought was cute. He was 18, so right there is problem number one. I was not legal. I had stated off the bat that I wouldn't have sex with him and he respected that. However, I was a very innoccent 15 year old and I didn't realize that there was anything other than kissing/fondling beyond intercourse. After a couple of minutes he asked me how I was going to get him off. I was so shocked and taken off guard that I didn't protest when he asked if he could use my breasts.

    Never in my life had I felt more humiliated, but I considered it my fault because I never actually said no. And in many ways, I'm sure that had I said no, he would have stopped.

    I blocked it from my memory for years. I don't mean that I had any sort of dissociative condition that kept me from remembering, but I just refused to let myself think about it. Years later, when I got married and had intercourse for the first time, I experienced pain during sex that didn't seem to go away. Eventually, I sought help from a sex therapist and it was there that it first recounted the incident and for some strange reason found myself in tears, feeling terrified. That was when I first realized how much the experience had effected me.

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  38. *Elizabeth5/4/10, 9:51 AM

    @Anonymous: I'm so sorry you had to go through an experience like this. Being used for sexual gratification is humiliating and unacceptable. I hope that you are on your way towards healing your emotional scars and building a healthy sexual relationship! You're very brave to confront your issues, and I wish you all the best in your journey.

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  39. I was sexually assaulted by a "friend" at a party this summer. I had had too much to drink and was crashing there for the night so I crawled into bed with two friends, one of which was already asleep. He then came into our room, crawled into bed, and started kissing my neck and fondling me through my shirt. I was half passed out asleep (it was late and I had drank too much) and my many "No"s, and "Stop, I have a boyfriend"s didn't stop him. When he had crossed way too many lines, I pushed him and the friend who was awake, and had been protesting on my behalf, yelled at him. He left. Afterward, I blamed myself because I felt like I should have protested louder against his unwanted advances. If my friend hadn't been there, I don't think he would have stopped. He even gave me a hickey; I've never felt more dirty in my life. I still feel sick to my stomach whenever I think about what happened. Although one of our friends talked to him about it, he never apologized.

    I didn't realize how common this is. I now realize that I was sexually assaulted and it was not my fault - I did not consent. Thank you for this post, it was eye opening.

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  40. @Evangeline - It was NOT your fault and alcohol is NOT an excuse. You did not invite him to touch you and there is no excuse for his behavior. I'm glad that my post helped you in some small way. It truly is sickening to see that people STILL act like this, yet we don't realize how often, or even react to it! *hugs*

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  41. Thank you for sharing your story. An extra big thanks for the definition of consent. It is excellent, and I hope it helps others heal.

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  42. Thank you for sharing. Unfortunately this kind of thing happens all the time. I believe that if people band together, we can make a huge difference.http://changeaculture.blogspot.com/

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