Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You can't pretend it never happened.

I was 20 years old. It was the fall of my third year in university. We'd just gotten back into the swing of classes after a summer off, and everyone was busy reuniting with classmates and renewing friendships. I'd (amicably) broken up with my first serious university boyfriend over the summer, and felt ready to pursue a new relationship. It was truly a golden time - I was loving school, had a part-time job I enjoyed, had a ridiculous amount of friends, life was full of possibilities.

I'd noticed this guy before, a serious kind of guy, passionate about his studies, cute but not the kind of guy women were falling over. He was respected for what he was doing in school - he had talent - and while he was fairly introverted, we had some friends in common. I had a little crush on him, I'll admit it. There was something that intrigued me about his reticence, and his school work impressed me. I'd chatted with him briefly, but didn't really know him.

One Friday night, a bunch of us from school got together at the local pub. There must have been 20 of us, a really good group of people - lots of laughing, and lots of drinking. I have always been pretty good about knowing just how much it takes to keep a good buzz on without losing control, but that night I made a mistake in judgment. I had too much.

Slowly, as the night ended, people started leaving. Without cars, generally too drunk to drive anyway, and too frugal for cab fare, most of us walked the 1/2 hour or so to our various student houses. The guy lived on the way to my place and so we walked together. We chatted and laughed as we walked. His place came first - there was another 10 minute walk for me - and I was a little fearful of walking the rest of the way alone, well after midnight. He invited me in. Looking at the options - one one hand, the dark street, on the other his smiling face in the light of the doorway - I accepted. It felt like a safe harbour.

We were both drunk. We kissed. It went further than I wanted. He was stronger than I was. I said no. He ignored it. He didn't use a weapon, other than his body; he didn't leave a mark, other than internally/emotionally. He got laid. I got raped.

I never thought of myself as a victim. I was a smart young woman. I knew about rape, theoretically. I knew about making safe choices. I knew that what had happened to me was wrong. I didn't report it. I felt so stupid for getting myself into that situation. I blamed myself for "allowing" that to happen. I could hardly believe it had - I kept running over the sequence and doubting whether I'd really made it clear that I didn't want to have sex with him. It was like a choose your own adventure in reverse - if only I hadn't gone that night, hadn't had so many drinks, found a cab, hadn't trusted a stranger. If only I'd fought harder, screamed and shouted, woken the neighbours, run away, been able to defend myself.

I decided I wasn't going to give that incident any power. That I could get over it, learn from it, move on. And for a solid 15 years I have been able to say to myself, "I was date raped. I am over it."

The truth is, you don't really get over it. I don't think there's closure for that. I still blame myself for making bad choices that led to putting myself in that kind of danger (logically, I do know that's not entirely fair to myself).

This is not a story I've shared much. My husband knows it happened, my midwife, of course the guy who did it... that might be it. I didn't tell anyone at the time.

Before this happened to me, I didn't understand why women would keep silent about rape. I couldn't fathom letting someone get away with that. Before, I was a more judgmental person - now, I realize that there is an awful lot of grey in this world. A woman can see the black and white, but her choices are all grey.

It ended up being more about the consequences for me. In a completely typical, cliched response that I was, even as it happened, perfectly aware of - I felt like it must have been my fault. It was me, after all, who drank so much she wasn't thinking straight. It was me who agreed to go in to a drunk guy's place without knowing him very well. I questioned my actions rather than his. I could step back and look at it as though it happened to someone else and say very rationally, that was rape, that should have been reported to the police. But it happened to me and that's different. I doubted myself, I felt like I would be blamed and marked, it would ruin the rest of my studies, I'd always be That Girl. Some people might stand by me, but most would wonder if it were really true or, worse, back up the guy. I'd have to talk about it, relive it, it would go on and on. I wasn't beaten. I had no marks. It would be my word against his.

I honestly don't know that I would handle it differently if I were to go back and relive my reaction to the rape. Would I report it? It's not right that it happened, it's not right at all that he got away with doing that to me, it's not right that I felt too ashamed and scared of the consequences to come forward, and it is SO not right that the whole scenario is, I bet, way more common than anyone guesses.

So why am I thinking about this now? It's been so many years. It isn't something I make a habit of dwelling on at all. The first recent reminder was when I was filling out the forms for the midwife. A question asked - were you ever the victim of sexual assault? I hated checking off 'yes'. I hated that this one incident changed my history and changed the way I would be treated. The midwife asked me about it on reviewing the form and I said I was over it, it was a long time ago. I didn't want to discuss it, I didn't want to be treated differently or even reminded that it had happened. (Doesn't that reaction kind of scream, "Not over it!")

And now I'm 40+ weeks pregnant - a very much wanted baby, a loving and safe relationship with my husband - and suddenly the rape has come right back to haunt me. Not because of the birth - I'm not afraid of that, or of the pain of labour. Apprehensive, okay, nobody likes pain - but there's no fear there. I actually can't wait.

It's the induction procedures that terrify me. The concept of lying there while someone does things to me that I don't want to happen, that I know are going to hurt, that will undoubtedly make me feel bad physically - it's a big problem for me. Invading my body with membrane sweeps or hormone gel. It's a violation. I know it's meant to help and it's not malicious, it's about the baby and not about me. I know it's medical, and not about power or sex. I know these things. Logically, it's perfectly clear and not a big deal. Emotionally, it is something else entirely - it's huge and horrible and makes me want to run and hide. Despite the purpose of it, all for the good, it's the process that troubles me.

I feel like time is running out. I have until Thursday to try to change my attitude about this, to overcome the fear - or just accept that I'll be gritting my teeth, spreading my legs, and putting up with a bad thing happening to me again, a stranger doing things to me that I don't want. Of course, I could go into spontaneous labour naturally in the next 50 hours, but I am not feeling like that will happen.

A week from now, this part will be over. The induction will have or will not have happened. We'll have a new baby and so much more to think about than the past.

Meanwhile... well, after a major breakdown this morning about it, I'm writing this to get it out... hopefully it helps me deal with it, and who knows, maybe it will help someone else somehow.


  1. Wow hon, I am so sorry you have endured this kind of pain. I dont know how I would react in your shoes because I don't know what you are going through. But maybe just be honest with your doctor when you go in there, tell the doc exactly what you wrote here about your fears about being violated. I think it's important to communicate that with the medical professionals.
    Soon, hopefully, the love that fills your heart while holding your beautiful baby will take over any of these negative memories and thoughts you have. I will pray for you.

  2. Wow, you are very brave for sharing and hopefully by sharing, another girl wont feel so alone. *huge hugs*

  3. You're so brave Emily.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Sending BABY COME OUT vibes your way that you go into natural labour so that you can heal in your own time.

  4. I'm so sorry Emily :-( I can't even imagine what you've had to go through.

    Praying for a smooth natural delivery. I hope that you will be very focused on the birth and you'll be holding your LO very soon.

  5. Emily, you're brave for putting it out there and you never know how many it will comfort, encourage or give courage to. They may never comment but you never know who will stumble across this post...

    I'm glad you have a supportive husband; I'm sorry for your pain and experience. While I have never been raped, I was molested. I too {like many women before us I am sure!} questioned whether I brought it upon myself, was I flirting, inviting, did I truly make my no clear?

    You are right that you are hard on yourself. I'm outside looking in at a women (you!) who was not at fault and who had no cause to think it was her actions that caused his. But I understand where you are standing...

    I agree with Miss Emmy. I would share your concerns {to the extent you are comfortable with} with your midwife. You're hardly passed due so it surely a sweep etc. isn't mandatory. But that baby is coming before then anyway!!!! {let it me so!}

  6. Emily I am so sorry that this happened to you. So sorry.

    Whoever that man was, he was and is probably still an asshole. I have nothing nice to say about him.

    I wish you all the best for your birth. I wish you the birth you want. But I also wish for you to get through whatever happens during the birth. And know that everyone is there to help you and the baby. They are all there on your side.

    If you can, try to think of chosing the interventions. Once I passed meconium with Maddie we eneded up in the hospital. I was strep positive and tired from a long period of prelabour contractions. Something had to heppen to move things along so when my midwife offered me petosin I had to think about it, but then I chose it because I knew the intervention would help. And it made things go faster and the baby arrived sooner. But feeling like I chose it gave me the power to get through it.

    Thinking of you.

  7. I think you are beyond amazing for coming out with this! Truly, beyond amazing! To "come out" takes so much courage. You are so brave and I admire you! (and I know these things to be true because I'm not nearly as brave as you yet).

    I also want you to know that I don't think any differently of you. You are still the Emily who is just about to pop, a great artist, a great blogger and a potential friend in real life. Now you are also so emotionally strong as well!

    I'm sorry you have to deal with the worry of being induced. I hope it won't be too traumatizing for you! Wishing you the best experience possible.

    Lots of love!

  8. I am so sorry that happened to you. It is awful and logical or not all of your feelings are both valid and understandable. I'll be hoping you simply go into labor and VERY SOON. So, you can avoid that trauma. Have you tried any natural induction things? My midwife says that acupuncture is awesome for getting the baby out without induction procedures.

  9. Hugs to you, Emily. Sending good thoughts your way.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I dont think this is something you ever get over. But you can move on.
    I cant wait for the little one to arrive.

  11. You have alot of insight. Best wishes and baby is lucky for a mother who is so brave in many ways.

  12. Emily.....So sad and sorry that this happened to you. You amaze me with your positive energy!!

  13. I just happend to stumble across your page today, and what I read brought back some memories. Im 24 and I understand completly what you are going through. To this day I am haunted by my past, and not many know about my past for fear of judgement, and Im ashamed. My birth mother sold me to anyone who would pay enough for her drug habbit. I was taken from her and placed with my birth father and his new family. His oldest step son began molesting me when I was around 6. As many times as I tried to say something I was beat because my step-mother said no son of her's would ever do that and I should stop telling filthy lies. As I got older it moved from molestration to rape. He would tell me if I didn't keep quiet he was going to do it to my younger sisters. I couldn't escape him. He was 15 years my senior and alot stronger. Years of verbal and physical abuse kept me from trying to escape or get help. I felt defeated no one cared enough to believe or listen to me. I had just turned 21 and was out celebrating, I came home completly intoxicated and once more he tried. I guess from being drunk and not really caring at that point weither I lived or died pushed me to the brink. He shoved a gun in my face I kicked him in the balls and sent him flying down the stairs. The next day I had a nervous breakdown at work, quit my job and moved in with my friend and her family. They welcomed me with open arms. When the nightmares get to be to much someone is always there to offer me comfort and support. It took me along time to trust them with my secret for fear of judgement. Never once did they judge. For that alone I love them to death. I draw my strength from them on a daily basis.


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