First off, put this number in your phone or somewhere you can find it easily: 1.800.656.HOPE (4673). It is a sexual crime hotline which can help you find local help and talk to you. No victim should ever feel alone.
Second, let me tell you my story before anyone jumps to conclusions or makes ill-informed judgment calls on me.
I was raped at 15. It was my first time having any sex and my attacker was my boyfriend whom I had dated for over a year. I had come over to his house to hang out (playing video games, watching movies) the usual things we did. We were kissing as usual and went to his bedroom to make out. He had never tried anything on me before so I was not suspicious that he wanted anything more. Suddenly he had his pants off and was on top of me telling me over and over “don’t worry don’t worry it will be okay” as I pushed at him and said “No” repeatedly. I stopped struggling when I realized I couldn’t get him off of me and it was over quickly. There was blood everywhere and he looked horrified so he moved off me. I ran to his bathroom and locked the door. He was outside the door saying things like he was sorry and he’ll drive me home. I quickly washed up in his sink and said, “no thank you. I’ll just walk home.” I ran from his house as fast as I could and ran all the way home.
He broke up with me two days later after no contact. I did not speak to him again for years. I blamed myself, that I had somehow lead him on by kissing too much or being alone. I did not tell anyone what happened. Instead, I withdrew from future relationships. I refused to be alone with a guy, I was scare to kiss too much or let anyone touch me. I assumed that all men were horny jerks and it was my job to be safe. It was not until 5 years later that I trusted someone enough to even try having consensual sex. And even then it was awkward and unnerving.
I have since had progressively worse relationships. I have attempted suicide multiple times. I have knowingly let myself be used sexually and abused physically by convincing myself I deserved it. Ten years after the incident, I saw him again in a random encounter. His first words were ” I am so sorry for what I did to you.” He went on to say that he has felt nothing but guilt since that day, that he is sorry for ruining my perception of men and that what he did was the worst possible thing a man can do. He had apparently become very religious and was joining a missionary service overseas. He said he had wanted to “cleanse his heart” and asked for my forgiveness. I told him, I cannot forgive him, but I hope he will in time forgive himself. With that, he left. I have never filed criminal charges.
So, now you know my background. After hearing what happened in India recently and seeing the re-posting of “rape prevention advice” all over facebook, I decided I need to say something. First off, there is no 100% way to “prevent” rape. There are many good tips for protecting yourself from further violence or from avoiding being a target of randomized rape. But the fact remains that good 85-87% of known rape is perpetrated by someone you know and trust.
So does that mean we can’t protect ourselves? No.
I have compiled a list based purely on my own experiences of warning signs that you may be with a potential rape-threat partner or friend. When I was 15, I did not know many of these things so I hope that it can help at least one person: *** Please note that one or two of these signs do not equate a rapist, but if you see multiples, it’s probably NOT a healthy or safe relationship!***
Signs of Aggression:
1. Quick to Anger. Seemingly benign things agitate him to extreme rage or fits of physical violence.
2. Physical threats. Constant griping and threatening of violence should be treated like the growl of a dog. A warning.
3. Friends/Family fear him. If the people closest to him who have known him long amounts of time act like they are scared, it could be because they have seem him do horrible things.
4. Prideful boasting. A man who feels the need to always be top dog dies not take “no” easily.
Signs of Control:
1. Does he try to dictate portions of your life as if you are his child? Your clothing, food, friends etc.
2. Does he easily get upset when things do not go to plan?
3. Does he often shout or talk over you or, contrastly, does he not even let you speak or listen when you do?
4. Do your goals or dreams have any bearing on his future plans?
5. Do you ask for permission to do simple things?
Signs of Sexism
1. How does he treat female members of his family?
2. How does he treat females in customer service jobs?
3. Has he made any negative remarks about the “proper roles/place” of women?
Signs of Sexual Hyperactivity
1. Does he seek constant sexual stimulation? (pornography, strip clubs etc)
2. Does he pressure you to do other sexual acts when you are on your period?
3. Does he threaten you with cheating if you refuse him?
4. Does he try to use sex as an all-cure instead of taking into account your illness/concern?
5. Does he try to guilt you into sex with comments or statistics about what is “normal” or “expected”?
Now, again, I must reiterate that people come in all ages, creeds, backgrounds etc. So some of these actions are not auto triggers. But I want women to know that whether it’s a first date or someone you’ve been married to for years and had children with, you can ALWAYS say no. You do not “owe” anyone sex. Your body is yours alone. Your best defense is to raise your standards for a mate. DO NOT accept anyone who treats you as anything less than human.
Lastly, you cannot fix him. That’s it. Move on, let go and stop hurting yourself. Until generations of boys are raised respecting their mothers and sisters, we cannot just talk him into being a new person. He is the product of his upbringing. Perhaps if we all stop enabling rapist behavior, men will realize that THEY are the ones who need to change THEMSELVES. And there is no greater motivation for the man than his libido.
***As an aside, YES I know men get raped too. Mostly by other males and mostly in prison or jail settings. So that’s a whole other topic and one I will not pretend to be an expert on. I am not dismissing the male experience, nor will I be accused of forgetting same sex relationships. I understand that to every topic there are exceptions. But bringing them up does not change the topic at hand. It only detracts and dismisses.***