I Made Fun of Feminists… Before My Abuse
I used to make fun of feminists because I wanted boys to like me. Back before I met a boy who abused me. Before realizing that I lived in a culture that supported my abuse, and that kept me from questioning it.
TRIGGER WARNING May be triggering for some survivors of sexual violence
At seventeen I met my ex-boyfriend. It was small things at first. He’d put me down and laugh it off.
The first time he raped me I didn’t cry. I was numb. I asked if he realized what he’d done and he had said, matter-of-factly, “All girls get raped at some point.”
I don’t know why I didn’t leave. I couldn’t process where I was at. I had never had to think critically about the way women are treated. I had never realized that someone you loved could rape you.
That’s because I lived inside a rape culture. Rape culture is misogynistic. It glamorizes sexual violence, trivializes sexual assault and blames the victim. She “asked for it” and “ruins” the rapist’s life. I had believed this, myself.
He began abusing me emotionally, physically, and sexually on a regular basis, increasing in frequency and intensity with time.
By the time I was ready to leave, I was too scared. He threatened to kill me. He said he owned me; I felt like he really did. I spent my days and nights in anxiety.
I became irritable, despondent and numb and turned to drugs and self-mutilation to cope. No one could reach me anymore.
I went on study abroad as a means of escape. He couldn’t find me in a different country, and I could pretend it never happened. I was something close to happy for the first time in so long, even though it was a farce.
But when I returned home my abuser began calling me from blocked numbers and my nightmare returned.
I told my parents what had happened, but not everything. They didn’t know how to handle it.
I began using drugs again, I drank and cried, I had panic attacks, and I cut frequently. I went inpatient at a hospital but it didn’t help. In the early morning hours of June 6th, 2012, I tried to end my life.
I woke up in a hospital two days later with two shattered bones, 32 stitches and a neck brace.
Oddly, it was just what I needed. Physically, emotionally, and totally broken, I was forced to confront my issues and accept the help that I so desperately needed.
It’s been 10 months and a lot of therapy since then. I still struggle; some days are good, others feel impossible. I’ve alleviated a lot of the guilt—I’d really felt the abuse was my fault.
It’s odd how things happen and you just accept them as your burdens to bear. You don’t connect them to your society and culture. But when you do, you better understand. Understanding is healing.
I now know that I have experienced both direct violence and structural violence, which is hidden within legal, economic and cultural conditions that disadvantage the less powerful members of society. We don’t usually notice it because it’s all we know, like a fish in water.
It was years ago, but I still feel tired, and angry, and sad more days than I’d like. I want to move on, but it’s hard because I live in the same city as my rapist. I see him all the time.
I have spent years trying to understand. I don’t entirely know why he did what he did. I don’t know why the world is this way. I don’t know why.
Here is what I do know: I can’t remain silent anymore. I need to let this out, and I hope that others will one day join me. We need to talk about rape, and we need to educate girls and boys on matters of consent, boundaries, and violence.
I wish I had known then what I know now.
This was written by one of my students who gave permission to post to my blog.
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Posted on January 10, 2014, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women. Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.
I am so deeply sorry for all this survivor had to endure, but am glad she’s still willing to fight and come forward with her truth. It’s distressing that so many youth and adults are unaware of boundaries and how to set them (from minimal things like time scheduling to major issues such as abuse). I think it’s vital that discussions around feeling safe during sex, boundary setting, and similar topics should be brought up early on in sexual education or even home economics/life study classes. I remember only being institutionally told about consent from my university’s dorm life introduction videos. Creating a safer society and culture on respecting other people is the basis for all of the above, and it starts early in teaching kids about behavior and language.
I remember feeling such confusion myself with my first sexual encounter because my limits were constantly pushed or ignored, but I never outright said “no” or “stop”. I know better now that many actions were thereby done without my consent, but I felt so lost in admitting it to people in my life because of strong opinions on what defined rape or sexual harassment.
I’m always horrified, and yet never surprised, at the lengths institutions will resort to in covering up and dismissing sexual assault. The values of reputation and capitalism are strong in elite schools especially. I am so proud of the strength all of the survivors and advocators took in this case. Even silent supporters against any form of sexual harassment go a long way in partaking and creating open discussions on the subject. I hope the systematic and cyclical pressures and protections for these criminals disappear so survivors can speak their truths freely. Having any form of supportive and safe spaces to protect survivors are the beginning steps for active change.
Reading this article made me realize that the rape culture is still very instilled in us. We have come a long way from when women were blamed for their rape in court, instead of their abuser. And yet is still very obvious that women are still afraid to speak up and stop the madness, and this is with reason. Just like in this story and many like this, the abuser is someone we know or even love. Which is one of the reasons why some women wont speak up, another is that no one will believe them, or some women still blame themselves for what happened. I am very sorry that this person had to go through this experience but I am glad they were brave enough to share their story. Sharing this story no matter how difficult I’m sure it was, can open peoples eyes and help someone seek the help they may need to get out, before it’s too late. So thank you very much, I hope your words can reach the people who need to hear it most.
Thank you for your courage and strength to write this paper, and have it posted. Unfortunately, this type of abuse is common, often accepted, in relationship and even in marriages. While there has been much progress in laws on domestic abuse and violence, the ability to convict and sentence a rapist is still a huge challenge for most women. A woman’s life is destroyed, and the perpetrator gets to walk free with little or no consequences. One of the issues with victims is the false belief that if they are silent and hide the rape or abuse, it will not hurt them or they will be safe. Rape is something that never fully goes away; at best you learn to live with the pain, especially if you are able to share it and get help. I agree with the writer, women need to speak out to find their healing, and to help other women heal.
I first want to say thank you for sharing your story. While reading your words I couldn’t help but to relate to some of the emotions and traumatic events you have experienced. I haven’t had the strength to share my story to really anyone and you have made me realize how important it is to open up and begin to face what has happened in the past. My wound is still fresh and everyday is a struggle like you said. Reading your blog has brought me a different kind of hope then my therapist and family have given me in the past three months. I haven’t talked or listened to other stories of abuse before now. I admire your courage and honesty. Being in a abusive relationship can happen so quickly and before you know it you feel its too late to get out. I know I have a rough road ahead of me but Its comforting to know there are other women out there who share the experiences of violence and abuse. I know some higher power was looking after me the last night of my abuse and all I can do now is be thankful to be alive. I hate not knowing when these sick feelings will go away. I am looking forward to the day my guilt and shame go away. One step at a time. Thank you again for sharing such a unbelievably traumatic time in your life. I mean it when I say you have brought light and hope to my future.
Only an extremely strong individual can share this experience with others. Two of my close friends experienced a similar stage in their lives; the thing is I had no idea both had gone through all of that until years later. When each of them finally decided it was time to talk to people about and let people know their situations, they felt relieved. They explained that they felt that after they could talk about it, they could move forward in life and let that part of their life slowly fade away in their memories. Although I’m sure that it is a huge thing to experience, only you can move forward and learn from those experiences and begin to better your life. I definitely agree that rape needs to be talked about and girls as well as boys need to be aware of matters of consent, boundaries, and violence. Rape is happening so frequently and many people are so good at hiding it, when in reality it is all they think about. Being a victim of rape is not something to be ashamed of. So many women, and even men, have faced the same problem and their stories need to be heard so rape and sexual harassment can be put to an end all together. Thank you for sharing her story, she is such a strong woman and I hope that she can find all positives in life.
And thank you for sharing, Too.
I want to thank the student that was brave enough to share her story, it gave me lot to think about. Specially that I saw similar things happened in my family and I know it takes a lot of courage to get out from it. Reading her story reminds me of what I want in my life and that no one can’t hold me back. Someone that truly loves you doesn’t hurt you.
I’m so glad that her story can help others.
I e-mailed the student who wrote this piece, suggesting she read the comments, and she sent me back this response:
Wow, I really can’t express my gratitude properly via email. Thank you so much for letting me tell my story. Reading those comments felt like a huge boost of transatlantic support (I’m currently abroad in Europe!) Reading those comments was a healing experience; I’m so happy you brought them to my attention. I’m also happy to report that I’ve been doing great in school and in life and in love lately. It’s getting easier.
Please extend my gratitude to everyone who commented. Thanks so much, Dr. Platts.
You hear about it everyday, and you hear it on the news, but you can’t ever imagine that it will happen to you. So many things must be going through your mind so many emotions as well, anger, hate, fear, confusion all coming over you at the same time. It’s so easy to see the right thing to you when you’re on the outside, but when you’re in the situation or hits home its hard to get yourself out of it or even see whats going on. When I read the story it seemed so obvious that she should of left a long time ago, but when you’re in the moment and when you’re afraid of the other person it can be impossible to let go. Your subconscious can blind you from the harshest realities. I hope that her recovery is still going well because its a life long journey.
I thought this only happens in film (TV show) or story, because her story is really sad 😦 that I think it can be made to be a movie. I am sorry for what happened to her and for what she has gone through.
Based on my experienced, I think that women sometimes cannot revolt against men for some reason; it is because you love that one a lot. I have been dating my boyfriend for 2 years. He is a kind, a caring, and a responsible person. However, what I thought about him at the first time we met was a gentle man, but he’s not. During a year of dating him, we often argued together, and the problem mostly is not big. Once, when arguing with him, I couldn’t control myself and used some bad word to talk to him ( as “FU” or “Mother F…ker”) which I never ever say to my beloved one in my life. It’s because he got out of the car, left me sitting there alone, and walked away. When I looked back, he’s gone; and I thought how dare he leave his girl friend in the car by herself on the street like that. Therefore, I said those words to him on the phone. He was really angry, then he walked back to my car, opened the door, slapped on my face and and gagged my mouth to stop me crying. I was so surprised of what he did and I cried a lot so that I couldn’t breath and felt really hurt on my heart. After that day, I was brought to emergency because of chest pain, so he felt guilty and ask me for forgiveness.
Even though, I know if I continue with him, I would not have a good life in future. However, I gave him a chance because I still have feeling for him, and what I have been seeing for a year later is a new man has changed. We both had a deal to each other that we have to try to calm ourselves when we have problem.
I come from a traditional family where daughters are treated like they aren’t anything. And have seen my fair share of my mother being abused: verbally, mentally and physically. Plus I have first hand experience of family members, especially the male members who would abused and put down with negative comments about me.
So I understand what it means to be abused, feeling like how the world is against you and all the negativity surrounded yourself. Wondering what have you done wrong to deserve such an abusive life.
My mother is now a single mother and I have become a stronger female. But there will always be those invisible scars within ourselves that will never disappear forever. So I applaud for this author to willing to share her story to everyone for people, men and women,to understand the abuse that we, as females, have to go through. Especially to those who are scared to come out from a relationship that they know in their hearts that isn’t healthy but is afraid.
It definitely shows bravery when someone can open up about the abuse that was put upon them. I can some what relate to this situation because I was there when my best friend who is just like a sister to me was abused by her step father. It amazes me how the one doing the damage can have the audacity to blame the victim for the actions of the rapist/abuser. It is never the fault of the victim and it doesn’t matter what they did, no one deserves to have this happen to them. I truly admire the women who have been through this type of situation and have been able to come stronger just by surviving and telling their story.
Growing up Ive often been told “you need to go out there and make your own mistakes to learn” and although I am a believer in that I was also born into a family of all woman, growing up Ive seen my mother and older sister go through abusive and disfunctional relationships and IVE learned. To the student who shared her struggles, thank you for sharing and recovering not only for yourself but also for all of us unknowing girls. Ive never experienced an abusive relationship and because of girls speaking up im most likely never going to and for that Im truely greatful. Thank you for being brave enough to share with others your scars.
My goodness!! Thanks for sharing this my friend. And not only your students is brave and so are you to share. God bless!
I hope you will please extend to the author my praises for her courage in sharing this story as well as my awe for everything she endured.
The statement “It’s odd how things happen and you just accept them as your burdens to bear. You don’t connect them to your society and culture.” really resonated with me. I believe that the very defining feature of femininity in our culture is bearing undeserved burdens. I’ve written on the subject here: http://tiffanysopinions.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/the-nurture-myth. Perhaps the author and other women would be interested in reviewing it.
Thanks for sharing this piece; rape culture is epidemic and it’s so important that we speak out about it.
Thank you so much. I’ll send a link again in a few days and tell her to read the comments.
I empathize with her and I’m so sorry for what she has gone through! I also have been in similar relationships. I was raped by my best friend’s brother when I was 14 and he was 18. I blamed myself because I had been drinking, even though I was passed out at the time. For weeks thought it was just a nightmare and I still figured it was completely my fault! I didn’t even tell my friend until after moving from NY to CA at 16 years old. I didn’t even tell my parents until I was about 20 years old.
I went through multiple horrible relationships including my 1st marriage. My ex-husband started off nice and caring but eventually ended up being verbally abusive. At the time we had an 18 month old son together. It all changed when one day he decided to “beat the crap” out of me in front of our son. He was careful to sure no marks from his beatings could be seen by anyone and that my clothes would cover them. He gave me bruises from my neck to my waist, 3 broken ribs and even bruised my kidneys. That same day, I asked my sister and dad for help. My dad loaned me money after I showed him the bruises. My sister ran me around for help including doctors, lawyer, court houses and police. Happily I can say by the time he got off work that same day, I had a restraining order, kick out orders and divorce papers started. He continued to stalk me at work for months prior. It was a long 2 year ordeal but with the help of true friends and family, I survived!
I have learned with age to look at a man’s true intentions instead of just exterior benefits. I can say that my current husband – who I knew for only 6 weeks prior to marrying him– is the most caring and compassionate man I have ever known with the exception of my father. Now if I can just teach my younger sister this!!! She refuses to leave her abusive boyfriend of 14 years because of her kids. Even though I tell her she’s hurting them more by staying than leaving!
I’m so sorry. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom.
Thanks for putting out what is happening. Boys with unmet needs turn into young men without an ability to know how to get their needs met. THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE.
But as long as we ignore sexuality when children are young and look at puritanically, we will invite that Christian devil into consciousness and that will be harmful as this poor girl experienced.
Please keep putting this out there. I am glad you are.
TK: I broke off with the first guy I was involved with after four years of cohabitation. He was a great guy in a lot of ways, but he was moderately paranoid-schizophrenic and what we would probably now call an Aspie. I had a poor sense of what to do with relationships myself.
We stayed friends but he was clearly deeply unhappy about being friendzoned, and five years later went entirely around the bend, hit the road on foot, and was never seen or heard from again.
I was devastated and felt responsible and guilty for years, even knowing people have the right to leave relationships that aren’t working for them. I don’t know what I could have done differently, but that didn’t stop me from thinking I’d failed him somehow. People get to you like that. I think as a culture we push intimate personal relationships far too hard. A bad one can mess you up in so many ways, while being alone, though rough, has its upsides and does teach one some useful, if difficult, lessons. Though I admittedly speak from the perspective of age.
Please thank the author for being brave enough to write about her experience. And how wonderful that you have a class in which she can tell her story.
Thank you. I let her know that I posted the piece. I hope she sees your comment. I’ll suggest that she read them.
For the final paper I have students relate concepts from the course to their lives. They choose whatever concepts are relevant. I often end up asking if they would mind if I edit the piece down to around 500 words and put it on my blog. I’m glad most agree, since we can learn so much from each other’s experiences.
Possibly the saddest thing I’ve read here. I am so sorry this happened to your student.
This is why a lot of us develop scorched earth policies towards people who don’t respect boundaries, once we see a pattern of behavior. It’s a form of bullying, a form of terrorizing, and it tends to escalate.
I let her know that I have posted her piece, and I hope she sees your comment.
Yes. So important that we move out of rape culture, and my student is hoping that sharing her experience can help with that.
Reblogged this on humanitysdarkerside and commented:
One of the many reasons I am a feminist.
I’m sorry that this is too often the route to feminism. But at least we have feminism now, which helps us to deal with and even end this sort of abuse.
This is brave and important, thank you for sharing. You’re absolutely right that we don’t naturally connect such experiences to wider culture, but that this is key to understanding and resolving them.
When my student wrote this paper I thought it might be helpful for others and am grateful that she allowed me to post it on my blog. She felt it was important, too, to get out the word.
This is why I wish more people understood ‘rape culture.’
I had my own (thankfully not as bad) experiences in high school. The only reason I stayed was because I was afraid he would hurt me and/or kill himself if I broke it off. It only took a month for that fear to set in. It took two more months for me to realize that if I ended the relationship and he then made the decision to take his own life, that would not be my fault. If I ended the relationship and he then made the decision to bring a weapon to school, that would not be my fault.
But it’s hard when you know the person in question made their decision based on your action. It’s still their decision though. A woman in such a situation is no more at fault than anyone else.
I’m so sorry that you had to go through something like this.
He put you in a hostage-type situation in an attempt to control you… Which is right in line with the abuse itself, which is also a form of control. And yes, it is always the fault of the person who commits the crime, no one else.