Trigger warning: This article discusses rape and sexual violence
When talking about sexual assault, one topic that is often misunderstood is intimate partner sexual violence, i.e. when someone is raped by a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or long-time partner. In such circumstances, many often feel unsure whether or not to come forward for a variety of reasons, and it often ends up going unreported and not talked about.
Below you’ll find various accounts of what it’s like to be raped by a partner.
1. ‘I Didn’t Even Break Up With Him Afterwards’
“The man and I had been fighting. We fought and then we made love, and as we did he said, ‘I want to come inside of you.’ This was not dirty talk – it was a proposal. I told him not to, I didn’t want him to.
When he finished he said, ‘I did it, I came inside of you!’ Then added, ‘fuck you’ sticking his middle finger up at me. His face, pink with a slick of sweat, was full of fury and glee.
I don’t know how to write what happened next without sounding pathetic. All I will say is that it was an automatic reaction. It came on without consideration. I burst into tears. I ran into the shower, crying, and said over and over again, ‘get it out of me’.
I call what he did ‘rape-like’. He called it ‘pushing my boundaries.’
That’s the most violent bit of the story. I call what he did ‘rape-like’. He called it ‘pushing my boundaries’. You say tomato, I say sexual assault.
Everything else is messy. I didn’t even break up with him afterward. Even though we’d only been dating for a couple of months and fought all the time. He drank a bottle of wine a day, talked about how much he loved my vagina in public and was plagued with mental ghosts that tortured him but, apparently, also bestowed him the ability to change people’s energies.
None of that bothered me. I have a high tolerance for weirdness. He was under my skin. It was intoxicating to feel like a pinch of salt dissolved in his black, turbulent seas. Eventually, he broke up with me. He resented how I reacted to his ‘boundary-pushing’ – said it made him feel like a rapist. And held up the fact I didn’t want him to come inside of me (I wasn’t on the pill) as evidence I didn’t really love him.
The trauma of being sort-of raped evaporated fairly quickly. I don’t feel like what happened was rape, or that I’m a rape victim. On the scale of sexual assault this incident, for me, lies halfway between a stolen kiss on the cheek and a full-blown rape. They are all different kinds of assault but connected.
It would be easy to efficiently cut him down with the word ‘rapist’, particularly when I will not face any reprimands for my own imperfect behavior during the relationship. But in fact, I have nothing but compassion for my sort-of rapist, the same kind I reserve for every miserable man, woman, and dog on this planet.
It was not rape, but my reaction was too involuntary, and its intensity too high, to say that nothing bad happened. Something happened. And it had the whiff of rape.”
– Monica Tan, for The Guardian
2. ‘This Time, Something Felt Wrong’
“After we’d finished I ran to the bathroom and immediately hunched over the toilet in agony. My insides burned like they’d been sandpapered. After half an hour, there was a faint knock on the other side of the bathroom door.
‘You alright?’ he asked.
‘You’ve been in there for ages.’
I told him how the sex had hurt, how it was still hurting an hour afterward, and his voice softened, tinged with remorse.
‘I’m sorry. Hope I didn’t hurt you.’
I fixed my hair and pajamas back into place and returned to the bedroom another 15 minutes later when the pain had finally subsided and crawled into bed beside him where he was asleep, knotted in sweaty sheets. This time it wasn’t like returning to bed after we’d had sex in the early days of our relationship, throwing my half-undressed body across him so he could wrap his arms around me and we could fall asleep together, both with smiles plastered across our faces.
This time something felt wrong. There was an unsettling, rancid feeling in the pit of my stomach that kept me awake. I listened to him sleep from the other side of the bed for the rest of the night, wedging the pillow behind my back.
Sex never hurt before that time, and it never hurt after it. The reason it was so painful, was, as one wise gyno finally pointed out, that I wasn’t turned on. It was a question no one had ever asked, and as such, I’d grown to assume was completely irrelevant. The uncomfortable answer to the question as to why I wasn’t turned on any longer having sex with my boyfriend was, that I didn’t want it. Almost as if to protect myself, my body was seizing up every time he touched me, causing a rush of sharp pain through my pelvis every time I was penetrated.”
– Nadia Bokody, for ravishly
3. ‘He Killed Something Inside Me Forever’
“His hands began to wander more than usual and he started to undress me, constantly promising me he wouldn’t do anything against my wish. ‘This is against my wish,’ I wanted to scream, but could not gather the courage. Before I could make sense of what was happening, he laid me on my back and climbed on top. I resisted and asked him to get off, my voice swinging between angry screams and soft pleads. He placed his hand on my mouth.
Suddenly, I felt a dagger piercing through my body and then a warm trickle of blood. Between pain and anguish, I lay there trying to make sense of what was happening to me. He finished his business and rolled away, remarking, ‘Oh, so you were a virgin.’
If I had a dagger, I would have happily lodged it in his heart for breaking mine into a million pieces.
His five minutes of pleasure killed something inside that 17-year-old girl forever.”
– Anonymous, to the Daily O
4. ‘I Was Scared of What Would Happen If I Said No’
“My (now ex-) boyfriend Shawn* looked down at me. I stared back at him, my eyes wide and bottom lip trembling. Only seconds before, he had been thrusting into me while I cried and tried to focus all my attention on the ceiling, too afraid to utter ‘No’ or ‘Stop.’ I dared not protest against him for several reasons.
For one, I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t have sex with him. Prior to penetrating me, he had brought his palm to my cheek in a slap that rendered me silent in disbelief. He told me I was a slut, then pushed me onto my futon and held my chin as he forcefully kissed me.
Second, after what I had done to make Shawn angry, I felt too guilty to defend myself. At the time, I thought I deserved to be punished. Lastly, I loved this boy. He had promised to marry me and he had never hurt me before. I had betrayed the person closest to me and ruined everything between us. Shawn was heartbroken and I was to blame.
Maybe he was doing this out of passion, I told myself; Maybe this was like that angry make-up sex always featured in romantic comedies. Except it wasn’t ‘angry make-up sex.’ It wasn’t passionate, romantic, or respectful. It wasn’t consensual. It was rape.
Shawn and I stayed together for six more months after the initial assault. I dismissed the rape as a miscommunication and assured Shawn that he hadn’t done anything wrong. I made excuses for what had happened. I didn’t fight back, I didn’t scream ‘no’, I didn’t try to get away. I felt as if I called what happened ‘rape’ then it would be an insult to everyone who had been ‘really raped.’ I convinced myself that this was my fault and I needed to accept it.’
– Coline-Hay, for xoJane
5. ‘I was in Denial the Whole Relationship’
“Throughout all of it, EVERY TIME I told him ‘no’, he gave me a look like nothing could hurt him more than my telling him ‘no’. Every time he gave me that look, it was like I was failing him somehow. I never considered breaking up with him. Nobody knew what was happening, and frankly, I didn’t want anyone to know. Everybody thought I could do better, but he was my first love. I felt so strongly that even after everything he did, I still loved him months after we finally broke up. He knew he was playing me. He knew how to make me comply. The sick part is, I would kind of joke about how if he really wanted sex, he would have to rape me. I was thinking along the lines of physically pinning me down and physically forcing me. I had no idea that all of that time, he was. He was emotionally pinning me down and psychologically forcing me. He stole my virginity by intimidation, manipulation, force, and fear. He wanted rape, just in a way that was harder to prosecute, a way that was less believable.
I was in denial during the whole relationship. Who wants to think that they are being sexually and emotionally abused in their first relationship? Who wants to think that their first boyfriend raped them? As I’m typing this, I realize that according to Tennessee’s law concerning rape, I have no idea how many times he raped me, and retribution is not an option anymore. It basically says any form of penetration that is gained by means of force or coercion is rape. I think that to a certain extent, I recognized what happened at the time. I became depressed. I came to hate him. I hated his laugh, his smile, his attitude, and that look more than anything, and yet I still loved him somehow.
Four years after the rape and abuse, I’m finally accepting what happened to me. I’ve never confronted him, although I want to, and I don’t talk to him, even in the rare attempts that he’s made. I’m still trying to move on. I’m still getting help. But I’m in a better place, and I refuse to let him affect my life any more than I can help.”
– Anonymous, for Her Campus
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, you can find information on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website here.