True Story: I Didn’t Realize I Was Raped (trigger warning)

What if you didn't realized you were raped till years later? What if you thought you 'deserved' it or you'd somehow invited that behavior? Click through for one woman's story.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Bethany and I’m a 27 (almost 28) year old single mom. I’m also a full-time student and I work at a bank for kicks (right). I love to write and hang out with my friends and I have a puppy who was purchased as a beagle, but turned out to be more of a lab.
As a child, did you have any specific ideas about sexual consent or what constituted a good, health, satisfying sexual experience? Was that something you and your parents ever talked about?
I never ever had any sort of sex talk with my parents. My dad wasn’t really involved in my life and my mom was a bit hypersensitive. I became curious and active at a young age, in the too typical fashion of a girl with “daddy issues”. I craved male attention and for the most part, I thought all of it was good.
Can you tell us about the circumstances that lead to your rape?
I was fifteen years old. The guy was 30-something and sleeping with my sixteen-year-old friend. At the time, this didn’t seem the least bit strange or dangerous to any of us. If anything, it made her seem brave and womanly.
She had to sneak around and see him whenever she could, so when he called one afternoon while she and I were hanging out, she grabbed the keys and I went along for the ride. To a hotel room.
I don’t remember thinking it was strange to go along or being uncomfortable…until things got out of hand and suddenly I was involved in a way I had never intended to be and didn’t enjoy.
He raped me until my friend managed to pull him off, all while I beat on his shoulders and chest and told him to stop.

What about the experience made you think “that wasn’t rape”?
At fifteen years old, I already had an idea of the “type of girl” I was. I was no longer a virgin, I skipped classes, I smoked cigarettes. I felt like it was just…the sort of thing that happened to girls like me.

Also, the fact that I had been in the hotel room with them while they were having sex made me feel very much that I had asked for it. I had placed myself in a dangerous situation…and I had gotten what I felt like I asked for.
You didn’t tell anyone after it happened. How did you cope?
I told no one. Actually, I was terrified that someone would find out. I knew that if my mom found out, she’d be angry at me for being in that room, with that man. She wouldn’t have been concerned or sad for me. And I also didn’t want to do anything to get my friend in trouble.
I walked out of that room and thought I was walking away from what had happened. I didn’t realize until years later that my rape had helped shape the way I defined myself. I saw myself as the “type of girl” who got raped in hotel rooms. I carried that with me.
Did you ever see your rapist again?
I never saw him again.
What lead to you realizing that you had, in fact, been raped? How did you feel when you had that realization?
There has been so much discussion about what counts as rape or sexual assault lately. And hearing about those stories, about the girls being raped at parties or at school or in “questionable situations”…it made me think about my rape for the first time in years.
Suddenly, I was hearing about consent. I was reading about girls just like me and I felt sadness for them…and that grew into a sadness for myself.
I became able to look back on myself, as a fifteen-year-old girl, and see that I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t deserve it. My body is mine, no matter where I carry it. This was huge for me.
How did that realization change you, the way you felt about yourself, the way you felt about sex?
I don’t know if I can even explain what it meant for my self-image and self-esteem to finally identify myself as a victim. Not that I want to live as a victim or that I relish that role. But I took all of that blame and shoved it back onto my rapist. I could breathe.
I could imagine myself as more than just “that type of girl who grew into that type of woman”. I could see a life of success and happiness and healthy sex and relationships. Damn, it was real. My life wasn’t mapped out to be shit. I wasn’t destined to be discarded by society or used by men.
My ideas about sex have changed radically. I’m much more…involved in my own sex life, even though that sounds weird. I’m able to participate rather than just accept or receive. I feel entitled to pleasure. I feel like a woman rather than an object.
Is there anything you can do legally to take action against your rapist?
I don’t know. I don’t know his full name and am no longer in contact with my friend. I’m not sure if it’s a can of worms I want to open in that way. I feel like I want to help others (by sharing my story and in other ways).
Have you discovered any resources/groups/techniques that really helped you get through this?
Believe it or not…blogs. Feminist blogs, survivor blogs, all of them. I read the stories of other people and find comfort in their words. I can celebrate their success and feel the power of their recovery. Everyone goes about it differently…it truly is a unique form of self-discovery. Redefining yourself isn’t easy and unfortunately, not everyone is able to do it.
What advice would you give to someone going through something similar?
Think of yourself as another person. As another human being. And imagine the things that happened to you happening to them. You will likely feel huge sadness and compassion for them.
You deserve that sadness and compassion. Let yourself have it. You are a person, just as whole and clean and good, as those people you are able to feel empathy for. There is not one single person, include yourself, more deserving of rape than another. And you know this.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Bethany. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have you experienced something similar?

P.S. More True Stories touching on difficult topics: I witnessed a shooting & I was raised by an alcoholic.

Photo by Igor Cancarevic on Unsplash

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

True Story: I Did Teach For America

True Story: I Did Teach For America

What's it like to do Teach For America? Would you ever want to become a classroom teacher in a low-income area ... after five weeks of training? That's exactly what Samantha did! This is her story. Tell us a bit about yourself!  My name is Samantha. I'm from Michigan,...

read more
True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

What does it mean to reinvent yourself and your life at 50? I know sooooo many people who feel trapped in their lives or career and they're not even 35! I LOVED this interview Judy and I think you will, too. Tell us a bit about yourself! Hi! I'm originally a New...

read more
True Story: I lost my hand, leg, and sight to sepsis

True Story: I lost my hand, leg, and sight to sepsis

How would you navigate life if you lost your leg, hand, and eyesight to a surprise infection ... while you were pregnant? How would you cope with re-learning how to walk, parent, be a partner after something like that? That's exactly what happened to Carol in 2008....

read more


  1. quarter-life lady.

    Thank you for sharing this story, Bethany…and I'm really sorry that man raped you you. I have never been raped, but I was sexually assaulted in a McDonald's parking lot at 3AM once. It was absolutely terrifying and has really affected me to this day. At the time I didn't realize that what happened was assault until years after the fact. Now I'm an advocate and enjoy spreading awareness to the issue. I am thankful for people like Bethany who are willing to share their stories.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing your story. Until now I thought I was the only one with a similar story (15 yr old girl/ 35 yr old man) – I blamed it on my naievity and have never told anyone. However, reading your story and how you felt resonates with me. You have a gift for writing and by sharing your story you are healing others and brining light to that fact that it is NOT my fault for what happened. Thank you!

  3. Anonymous

    I didn't realize it either (the definition of rape is not what younger me thought it was).
    You must be very brave and kind for talking.
    I am still telling no one – even though it is very far away in the rear view mirror. Not sure what the point of talking would be, for me.

    • Anonymous

      I was in 17 I was drunk and I always thought that it wasn’t rape because first we had already had sex before and he was my boyfriend of two years at the time, and second I put myself in that situation basically “asking for it” I drank so much to the point I literally could not move. I already knew I would be staying the night at his house, but I don’t know how I got in his bed. I remember waking up while he was pulling my leg up onto his shoulder so he had better access to me, and I kept going in and out of cautious. I believe I told him to stop and even tried to kick him off of me but I was so drunk I couldn’t defend myself.
      I woke up and I felt like it was wrong but I didn’t do anything because I thought I put myself in that situation. Which just made me drink even more.
      I came to realize this was rape 4 years later at a premarital counseling session when I admitted this in front of my fiancé and our counselor

      Thanks for sharing your story

  4. Anonymous

    I don't like that I am writing this as 'anonymous' but I'm not ready to share this side of my life with the big old internet yet. I was a in an abusive 'relationship' (physically and mentally) and it still affects me now (3 years on) more than I care to admit. The hardest part is admitting it does affect you and then working to move past it.
    A therapist once told me that technically I had been raped as my choice was either to have sex or get beaten up but that is something I struggle to comprehend. I don't feel like a rape victim. But then, what does a rape victim feel like?
    Thank you for sharing your story, I admire your bravery and courage. Speaking up about these things not only helps as a form of therapy via discussing your experience but also raises awareness for others so they know what to look out for (I had no clue of the signs of an abusive relationship) and gives them the courage to come forward themselves.
    We've got a long way to go on this journey but any progress, no matter how small, is incredible. I wish you the best of luck!

  5. Anonymous

    Wow, thank you for sharing.

    I've been finding the same with all these articles defining rape and talking about consent recently. There have been two occasions when I was seventeen when I was staying the night at a trusted male friend's house, only to have them come on to me and imply that they expected sex as a trade for letting me stay over. Both times I felt completely uncomfortable but felt like I 'owed' them or else just didn't know how to say no! I have no idea if this was rape, kinda-rape, nearly-rape or not rape at all. Was I just a stupid teenager? Was I too naive and deserved what I got? Did I just make a bad decision and should have been more assertive? I never saw one of them again, but I agreed to meet the other for dinner one night a few years later, and he tried to do the same thing when he gave me a life back to my car because I'd parked across town and it was raining. I wonder if he makes a habit of taking advantage of people.

  6. Anonymous

    This. Thank you for this. I was raped by a man I was dating (I was 26 or 27) and had no idea it was rape until two years ago. I was falling over drunk when it happened (I remember throwing up all over and him literally showering me off, then putting me in bed) and while I would have consented to some acts if I were sober, there were many things that he did to me while I did not have the ability to consent that I would not have consented to were I able to do so.

    I thought for a very long time that rape was something that only happened to women in scary alleys or by masked men. What I've come to learn is that, yes, rape can most certainly be those scary violent violations, but it can just as easily be the quiet experiences that leave us breathless and broken in ways that are difficult to articulate.

    I realized from carrying around my rape that I truly believed that my body was simply something that should be possessed or owned by someone I was dating. Which meant that, in practice, I felt like I had very little control over my body, very little say in how it was used, and very little power to do anything once it had been abused.

    Again, thank you for sharing so openly about your story. Like you, blogs have also helped me tremendously, and this post is no exception.


    I went through a very similar situation years ago, and in the last 6 months have finally been able to admit that I had actually been assaulted. I feel like I was very much in the same boat–no one had ever discussed consent with me and I thought I had put myself in a bad situation and it was my fault. Thanks for posting this!

  8. Sarah Von Bargen

    As cheesy and pretentious as it sounds, I am so humbled and honored to provide a space on the internet for conversations like these. Such a huge thank you to Bethany for sharing her story, to all of you who have weighed in with your comments, and to all of you for reading Yes and Yes and making this possible. <3

  9. Janelle @ Two Cups Of Happy

    This is a powerful story and I am absolutely certain that your words have and will help others. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

  10. Anonymous

    When I was an 8,year girl I was sexually abused for – literally – nearly every night for several years.

    It wasn't rape, but very, verb close to it on several occasions.

    It was always uncomfortable & then through the help of my own little friends and our conversations I realized that it was indeed VERY wrong.

    One friend taught me how to tell him "no." The other friend coerced me to tell my mom.

    I don't talk about the subject much – really only with the people I am closest to – and even then I have a hard time with it.

    There is a small amount of closure…the man is in prison & I have forgiven him & let go of the guilt that really paralyze many victims – but here is a confession:

    At around 12 years old I decided that I would publicly write about this or speak about it, & I am 19 now. & haven't.

    I'm afraid.

    Anyone have a similar problem?

    • Anonymous

      i was molested by my stepfather around the same age as you. never raped (that i remember) but i am 26 and have never told a single person. one day i realized that i don't have very detailed memories of my childhood so i don't even know how much i've blocked out. i don't know if it happened the handful of times i remember or many more. i don't think i want to know, either.

      i do remember realizing it was wrong and working up the courage to say "no" or simply leaving every room he was in. i haven't seen or spoken to him in probably a decade and even though i know he should be in jail or dead, i don't think i'm strong enough to go through something like that and drag my whole family through it, too.

      my family has a history of abuse (physical and sexual) and i became the first in my family to graduate high school without becoming pregnant, let alone move on to college. i'm now starting my own business, i'm dating an amazing man, and i'm really happy where i am. i know it would probably be good to speak to others about it but i just don't want to be known for that. or i don't have the courage. i've thought about going to a therapist, but i probably can't afford once and it feels like saying the words out loud would rip me apart and ruin everything i've worked for. i guess it's just easier to put it all behind me like a bad fashion phase that no one talks about.

      anyway, i'm not sure I have any advice for you so i guess the point of this was just to let you know you're not alone. thank you, bethany, for sharing your story and to sarah for fostering a space like this.

    • Anonymous

      To previous Anonymous. I was molested and raped by a cousin when I was 9 for a few years I'm 31 now. I just started talking to a therapist (which is how I came to the realisation it was "rape"). This was a major break through for me. You have total control of how you go through the process of healing, which may mean therapy is not right for you As for my family I have not disclosed it too any of them as it will cause a huge rift, at some point I may take that step.

      Talking it through with a therapist has made me realise I should have done this earlier. The self hatred and disappoint I felt for myself was really unfair and as hard as it was to go through rehashing the past I could look at it as an adult. There are many free or discounted services for victims of sexual abuse. Everyone has to take their own journey but for me personally I wish I would have found my courage earlier. Best of luck and letting you know you aren't alone.

  11. Bethany Gray

    Hi everyone, it's me! Thanks for the supportive comments. I can't even explain how exciting and freeing it is to see this here and see a discussion evolving from it. It's really becoming less and less of a secret every day and that is the best feeling in the world.

    To the person who posted previously: I think it is normal to be afraid. Unfortunately, we still live in s society where this type of honesty and disclosure is frowned upon and winced at. People don't always accept our stories with compassion or grace. Also, there is a bit of shame probably lurking inside you that makes you feel that speaking openly about your experience would be scary and unpleasant. And it very well might be.

    But here's the way I look at it: the terrible thing that happened to you gave you an opportunity to help others. Children especially need to see and hear the stories of victims so they know that it is okay to talk and ask for help. You are a person with a voice that could be heard by another person in deep need of guidance and hope. Even just one person…and you have changed the world for the better. Isn't that awesome? Things were taken from you…but you also came into possession of a strength that could save lives.

  12. Anonymous

    Thank you for posting this. I was literally just journaling the other day that I don't feel like I was molested (was made for a year and a half to masturbate in front of a man I worked for when I was 19, he was in his fifties). Because the work was questionable in nature: I was a nude model, I assume it was part of the work. Lately, I've been having trouble with thoughts that I deserved it for not leaving or for not changing the situation.
    Thank you for the the graceful reminder to have grace for myself and to see my molestation story as it is: molestation.

  13. Jay

    Thanks for telling us your history. I am 42 years old and it is only fairly recently that I realise that what I experienced at 15 was rape. Jusy like some of you it was an older man (27yr) and like you I thought it was “normal” and told my self for decades it was no big deal. But it was… It “IS”. That event shaped the next 25 years of my life. I only realised lately that I a “more than one negative event”. To compound it there were many witnesses all “watching”. including my 18 year old brother (yup weird I know) and for years they made me feel ashamed. But now I finally realise that they all failed me (granted age and circumstances meant they were unequipped to understand / deal with it) I am tempted to tell my brother how I feel now but I’m not sure if it’s worth it? If I do it risks making him feel guilty and let’s face it I have had enough guilt over it already and why spread it? But at the same time I feel he should have At least should have told a responsible adult after the event?

  14. Anonymous

    Thankyou for sharing, I wasn’t so sure if what happened to me was rape. Lately the topic of rape has been appearing a lot in my life, and when I got to thinking I always end up with the same memory in my head. We were friends and I didn’t think much of it after. We had been hanging out in a parking lot in his car when he got a little touchy, and I didn’t say no, I let that happen, then he rolled over on top of me and took off my shorts, I didn’t say yes I just let it happen. Then he started… I started to cry and he asked if I was okay (he kept going as he asked) I couldn’t get the words out… I eventually said stop and he paused momentarily then continued and said are you sure, why? Then he finished and got off… I hoped off the car putting my clothing on, he convinced me to get into the car so he could take me home since I was far from home.. On the way home he told me he had finished in me… I freaked out cried more and told him please hurry and take me home.. He was pissed off and drove really fast and recklessly.. As I got home he asked if I wanted a plan b and I said yes.. He then got it for me and texted me asking why I acted the way I did.. All I did was apologize and told him it was my fault. And that was that. It was never mentioned again. Lately I’ve been having dreams of getting raped.. I’ve been in a year long relationship and it’s been great but he doesn’t know, and I’m scared about what he’ll do if I tell him I was raped..

  15. Nonny

    I realised last night, for the first time, that I was raped at 15. I was talking to a friend about ‘past encounters’, and the words ‘I don’t really remember much about my second time… I was so drunk I couldn’t stand on my own, but not that drunk that I don’t remember the night’, fell from my lips… He instantly picked up on it and his reaction was, ‘sweetie, that wasn’t sex… He raped you…’. My immediate response was one of horror because how could I not know I was raped? How could I have rationalized that to myself for almost ten years? I still don’t know the answers to either of those questions, and I know the road ahead is a long one… Hell I don’t even know if I’m capable of talking to anyone else about it yet… But it’s a start… And as weird as it sounds, it kind of helps to have realised this… It puts a lot of things into perspective and clears a lot of my recent behaviours up…

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      <3 <3 <3

  16. HP

    I didn’t realize I was raped or sexually assaulted until a year later after I thought back to the reasons why I was so depressed my freshman year of college and how every half-relationship would hurt me more because of the feeling of desperation of feeling loved or wanted.

    It was September, and I was just starting my freshman year and I knew of this junior guy I thought was pretty cute. We were both drunk at a party and I was flirting a little bit to get his attention. I was a virgin and pretty innocent at that time so my idea of hooking up is just making out and going to sleep. Well we went back and we were making out, and I thought wow this is amazing. Then he tried to go lower, and I would stop him, confused as to why kissing was not enough. We eventually stripped down, and I was uncomfortable as I didn’t want to do this. I wasn’t having fun anymore and I wanted to go home. I would make out with him, and try to go to sleep but he wouldn’t let me sleep because he kept wanting to hook up. I think I got only 2 hours of sleep that night, I was so tired. Then in the morning, I wasn’t sure if he woke up drunk or not but then he tried to go further with me, it was to where we were making out and he tried to have skin to skin contact. I allowed that, even though I told him before I didn’t want to do that. But I allowed it to happen. Then he tried to enter me, and I told him no and would push him off, and then he would stop, kiss me again, and try again. I would keep pushing him and at one point I just held his face and made eye contact with him and said “NO”. I wasn’t sure if he was processing this, but I still allowed it to continue but he would barely go in. Then he tried to just use fingers, and it was so painful that I kept pushing it away, he tried again and at one point I fell off the bed to get him to stop. I don’t know why I still was okay with this I just thought he was bad at this. He wanted to take a shower, I said no but he kept persisting so I eventually said okay. The whole time during it, I was thinking “I can’t wait to get back to my dorm”. After the shower and after our hookup, he wanted to make sure none of his roommates would see me as gossip would spread, and I too at that point didn’t want anyone to know I hooked up with him. We snuck out and we both got in an uber, headed to my dorm and I got dropped off. He wouldn’t let me wear the shirt he let me sleep in to go back home, so I had to dress back up in my party outfit, and was so embarrassed trying to walk all the way to my dorm as all of these families were walking around. I felt so shy and anxious that they knew what happened and that I was a slut. I made it back, and eventually, over time forgot about it because I was talking to a guy at the time who I wanted to make things happen with (but that’s another story), but I was so focused on my fling that I ended up forgetting about the details of that one night stand, and didn’t put any focus on it.

    But during the assault, I remember that I wanted to go home but I was new on campus and his apartment was far away, so I had no knowledge of uber and was too timid to get back on my own. After this whole event, I never talked to him again, but over time I would just joke with my friends about him and how it was so bad (his sexual skills), bc of the pain and how I fell off the bed; I took that as a joke. During the school year, I was depressed and taking medications bc I was always sick, and I didn’t know why I felt so clingy to the idea of love and to feeling wanted because I felt like nobody wanted me or understood me.

    Every time I thought about him, looked at his picture, or someone mentioned his name, I just thought to myself “He wouldn’t listen.” Those three words echoed in my brain every time it went back to him. I didn’t think about him often bc I did my best to erase it from my memory and reprogram my brain into thinking it was just a bad hookup.

    I shouldn’t have allowed him to continue and should have just left, I felt so helpless. I thought to myself well I did say no but I eventually gave in and consented, so that isn’t rape right? I still question it to this day if it was considered rape. Now that I realize it, and I’m recollecting these thoughts I’m like wow this was horrible, especially if I saw it from another person’s perspective. I didn’t realize that this hookup was rape, until I was jokingly telling this girl about my freshman year hookups, and I jokingly said “Yeah he was so bad at everything, and he wouldn’t listen even when I looked at him and said no.” Then I saw her reaction, she was confused and taken aback. But i laughed it off and then I started wondering why she acted like that, why was she like woah? Then, I thought to myself, “was i raped?”

    I don’t know if I will tell my friends that it was rape, as I used to joke about it before. Only one friend knows but that’s because she went through rape herself, and she told me yes it is rape because you didnt give consent in the beginning. That’s when it actually hit me and I just don’t know how to feel anymore, I just feel violated now and so stupid that I was foolish enought to let it happen. I just don’t know why I felt nothing and maybe I was focused on everything else wrong in my life.

Pin It on Pinterest