It’s awkward, it’s difficult, and it is hard to talk about sexual assault even when you live a life of openness. Victim isn’t an adjective I like to use in any context when describing myself. I prefer quirky, funny, kind, sincere – you get the idea. And I imagine that of the women who have found the courage to speak out about misconduct and assault, feel the same way.
I remember early on in our relationship my husband and I were drinking a couple of beers and holding hands while we sat outside doing nothing. Remember that part of a relationship? When doing nothing was easy? If you’re still in that phase – cherish it. We sat there and after a beer I was feeling saucy and brave and I asked him that awkward question, how many partners have you had? He answered, unembarrassed even though I stared at him with wide-eyed shock. And I have pretty large, innocent looking eyes, so he was pretty brave. When he turned the table on me and asked for my number I started shaking, similar to the way my hands are trembling now as I type this.
It wasn’t because I didn’t know. It was because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to count the person who had raped me.
Then I wasn’t sure if I should tell my new boyfriend I had been raped.
What would his reaction be?
Would he blame me?
Would he see me differently?
Would I be able to see this relationship until “I Do,” holding onto this secret?
Anxiety was building up inside me, as I awkwardly started ugly sweating. You know, my upper lip started dripping down my mouth, my armpits had a ring that would never wash out properly and I knew I was going to blurt it out. He would be the third person I’d told in the 3-years after it had happened. I told my therapist after 18-months of seeing her. I told a friend that grew up with me and knew my assaulter. And now I was about to tell the man I had just started dating.
“Do I count being raped as part of my number?”
“I think so?” he smiles awkwardly. “No… Wait…were you raped?”
“Yes, but I don’t think it counts. Right? You don’t actually think it counts, do you?”
“I think it counts, but not the way you’re asking.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, so don’t ask me any questions, I just wanted to know if you thought it counted.”
He laughed, nervously. Not because he thought it was funny, but because he was uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle the information. He’s a good guy, I married him. No one had ever admitted to him before that they had been sexually assaulted. He was naïve.
I was assaulted as an adult woman, by someone I’d known since I was 14-years-old, he was a friend. I had been alone with him so many times before, we had been schoolmates. We had gone out to the movies and dinner never quite framing ourselves as dating – we were always just buds/pals/friends, over the decade plus of growing-up together.
When it happened he was engaged/about to be engaged/had a ring for his girlfriend, so there was no misunderstanding about his actions. And while there had been one regretful kiss, when he pinned my arms down and straddled me so I couldn’t kick or move, then yanked off my pants while I screamed “NO,” there was no way the situation could be misunderstood.
When he was done he cried. He told me he didn’t know what had come over him. He felt he had to prove himself to me.
I did not cry.
I flew home to L.A. and made a list of the things I had to do to prevent disease, infection, and pregnancy. I had to show up to work the next day after landing and pretend I was okay.
I had to pretend when he called several months later from an unknown number and greeted me with a giggle and an “are you feeling better?” that he had the wrong number and that no Jaime existed here. Then I changed my cellphone.
I had to pretend for 18-months I was okay, until a therapist told me it was okay to not be okay anymore.
We come from a smallish town where everybody knows everybody. I couldn’t let anyone know this happened. I would be deemed a slut, a whore, or worse a liar. That is what I had seen happen to other girls and women and I was just too afraid. I didn’t have support of family, and I didn’t know how to trust anyone.
I feel sorry for the man I dated after it happened. I was holding myself together by dental floss. He was a gentleman, and kind, and trustworthy, but I needed to be alone and I needed to straighten out the mess the assault left behind in me. I should have told him that. I was an imposter living a strange version of myself.
I had to deal with my fear, guilt, anxiety, and a biopsy on my cervix, because I was assaulted.
I hate going home and wondering if I’ll run into him, so I don’t go out when I visit. I don’t go to reunions. And I make sure he’s blocked from my peripheral.
This is my story. Me too.