He never thought of himself as a rapist.
Men abusing women was commonplace in my family. It was something I witnessed and experienced from the time I was very young.
I entered adolescence with a lot of angst in regards to feeling loved, wanted, and protected. Like many young people, I ran as quickly as I could, at the age of 14, into the same type of relationship that I had grown up in. I ended up with a young man named Michael from a very broken background who acted out similar, abusive, controlling behavior to what I was used to. I thought that was love. After having my first sexual experiences and a full year of abuse and control at his hands, he ended the relationship. It wasn’t easy; I actually had to move schools to really end things because he continually hounded me and physically assaulted several young men that even dared to speak to me.
Unfortunately, I created new problems quite soon, problems involving drug use and older men. I found myself within about two years in a relationship involving new types of manipulation and abuse that ended with a coerced abortion and the collapse of my social network. All of this really broke me in a way that Michael never had. I had shrunk to just 90 pounds and was desperate. I had really lost sight of the future, or the intelligent, creative parts of myself that I loved. I was too busy grieving and fearing the people I had allowed into my life.
It was the fall of my senior year of high school, and I returned to the school I started at. Almost immediately, I went straight to Michael’s doorstep. I told him what had been going on in my life. I asked him to help me. Just spend time with me, be seen with me. I thought this would get me some space from the trouble I had gotten into. He said he still loved me. I took that as an opportunity. “I know you can protect me,” I begged. He agreed. This whole “help” and “protection” request my sound odd, but Michael was one of the most intimidating men (boys?) in terms of size and temper in our area. He was known and feared far beyond an immediate circle of acquaintances. He had worked hard on this reputation and had backed it up more than once.
This worked for a time. I got some space from the people that had broken me. No one bothered me because they knew he was in my life again. It seemed good. Michael seemed to have calmed a bit and there was no abuse. A friendship almost formed, until he started asking and pushing for sex. But I didn’t want to have sex. I had gotten into such a mess over sex. I did not want to be touched. I was never unclear on this point. I was just starting to feel like myself again. We started getting into fights over it, until finally I started avoiding him again. I told him we needed distance. This time he seemed to be okay with my decision. No outbursts or threats.
One night just a few weeks later, Michael called. He was at a coffee shop with a few friends; did I want to stop by? I was feeling social and didn’t see any harm. We had a good time. His friends (one male and one female) were nice. Michael was staying in a new place and wanted to show us. It was a hotel – he had just gotten a five-digit settlement from a legal settlement trust fund and was spending it fast. The friends were going; we talked about watching a movie. I agreed to go. I rode with Michael and left my car. The friends followed right behind us.
We arrived at his hotel and went inside. He made small talk and showed me around the suite as he talked about the apartment he was going to lease. He had me peek into the bedroom and began to playfully push me into it. As you would a consenting girlfriend. He was smiling and just lightly pushing me at the waist. Teasing me, “come on, have a better look baby, you know you want to.” He didn’t seem angry, he was acting silly, like we were in love and he was about to seduce me. I rolled my eyes and tried to go around him.
Very suddenly he pushed me hard, down onto the bed and fell on top of me. All of his 275 pounds, heavy and pinning me down. He was taking my clothes off. I was trying to reason with him. Begging him, “please no, don’t do this, Michael. Please no.” I knew that once he did this, there was no going back, not for us, not for me. I felt sick, like I would vomit. “Please, Michael” I pleaded. I just remember how much force I put into the word “please.” Sobbing, I put a last effort into getting away, but he pushed down even more roughly and pinned my arms painfully against the headboard with one hand. It was proof enough that he knew what he was doing and didn’t intend to stop. Even as he stripped me to nothing, there was no getting away. He seemed to touch every square inch of me in the process. I remember wondering if he was just trying to claim the whole thing as his own. I could feel that he was erect and tears were streaming down my face. I knew what he could do and I was afraid. He could hurt me; I knew from experience when his version of rough sex got out of hand, and that was in the spirit of “fun.” He could break my bones if he wanted. He wasn’t saying a word. I knew that somewhere in this hotel suite he had a gun.
He pulled his pants down to his knees and forced his way inside of me in one thrust. I cried out. I was still wondering if I would throw up, but lying limp by now. I had given up the fight. I just couldn’t believe I was here. I was so stupid. Where were the friends? Shouldn’t they be here? What had he said to them? Who was this person that could be aroused by a shaking, sobbing girl? It went on for about ten minutes. Then, when he was done, he went into the bathroom to clean himself off. I slid down onto the floor next to the bed and I shook; I shook so hard it scared me. He laughed from the bathroom and said “don’t be so fucking dramatic” then paused and added “I just hope I got you pregnant, baby.” I was in shock. Did he really just do this to try to put some permanent claim on me? He came around and looked at me, and laughed again, throwing the dirty towel at me. “Get dressed, I’ll take you back to your car.”
I did. His friends walked up as we walked out. He let them in and said he would be right back. They looked a little afraid when they saw me. I must have looked like hell. He didn’t speak until he dropped me off. “Don’t make a big deal out of it. It was just a little fucking.” I slammed the door and he was gone.
I called a friend once I got in my car. Told him what happened. Asked what I should do. I couldn’t think. He didn’t believe me. I hung up and thought about it. Why would he believe me? I was just a 17-year old girl who, despite being clean and even celibate for a couple of months, was not known for pure living. I’d had an abortion just months beforehand. Everyone knew I’d slept with Michael countless times, and I was the type to do it again, and again. Right? Who would believe me? Then I started thinking, was it even rape? I didn’t fight. Not really. I didn’t hit him, and I had hit him before when he had hit me. I didn’t scream. So what was I left with? I was filled with the semen of a man I’d had consensual sex with in the past. A man I just went to a hotel with all alone. Willingly. Maybe I had even wanted it.
So, I buried the thoughts. I detached from him and many others in my life. At some point later he crashed his car one night, and overdosed the next (intentionally) and ended up hospitalized. He told the hospital staff that I was the only one he would speak to. I got the call. I was pretty sure that he was just trying to manipulate me again. I’m not sure why, but I did go to the hospital that day, and visited him once in the psych ward. I was never alone with him again though. And before long, he was gone forever to join the army and to kill people in Iraq.
It wasn’t until much later that I was able to really allow myself this truth: a man forced himself on top of me and inside of me, a man willing to hurt me and a man I feared. This man was aroused by my fear and pain and laughed at me afterwards. This is a memory that still revolts me even now, nine years later.
I spoke to him once, on the phone. I was already married and he had two children and was already divorced. I told him the truth, something I hadn’t ever said to him—“you raped me, you know.” He was silent then said, “I never thought of myself as a rapist.” I told him it was true. I recounted my story to him, in detail. He did not deny it. I changed my number after that because he didn’t stop calling. Some obsessions don’t die. But it was worth the closure of saying that to him just once: “you raped me.”
This is what I want others to know: just because I had allowed him access to my body before, didn’t grant him a permanent pass. Just because I’d been promiscuous or used drugs didn’t mean I was open game. Just because I had been trusting in going home with him doesn’t mean I secretly wanted it. Just because I didn’t fight harder physically because I was afraid, doesn’t mean I consented.
Michael raped me and it was wrong.
*This name has been changed.