Relationships do not protect you from sexual assault
Disclaimer: This article is part of the spectrum special addition on sexual assault awareness. As a result, this article covers content that may be triggering to some readers including sexual assault, rape, and consent. Please read at your own discretion.
You said no, but they kept insisting. You did not want to make them upset but you knew you did not want to go through with it. They keep trying and after a few ‘not nows’ and ‘maybe laters’, it’s just easier to not say anything. You do not want them to be upset with you after all. You want them to be happy. It’s just easier this way. You are not really giving up anything that important. It’s just sex.
That’s what I used to tell myself.
I never understood why I felt bad giving in and why I felt even worse after because I did not know what it was. I got tired of fighting about it, and it just became easier to give in, and then everything would be good. They would be happy and I could pretend it did not happen and I would be happy too.
It worked for a while until it did not.
I look back now and realize I was not even present in that relationship. I dissociated through everything. I blocked out all the feelings, and once I did not have to give in and pretend anymore, everything came out.
For months after, I was confused and blamed myself for what happened. “I should not have let them do that,” and “I should have ended it sooner,” plagued me. How could I let that happen to myself?
I let it happen because nobody told me you could be assaulted by your partner. Nobody told me what a healthy sexual relationship was supposed to look like. I learned about abstinence and how terrible STI’s were, but nobody said I could have sex and still say no when I did not want to.
I was born and raised in North Dakota — a Christian, conservative and Republican state. Nobody talks about sex, and if they do, it’s not about sexual abuse, assault or rape. I blamed myself for a long time for what I allowed to happen to my body and took the consequences that had been on my mind as punishment, but it was not my fault. Nobody talks about what happens ‘behind closed doors’ so how were we supposed to know it was not okay?
I could not have known it was wrong because nobody talks about sex. I was alone in that relationship because I was not given the tools to understand what a healthy sexual relationship looks like.
It was not your fault and it was not mine.
I realized all of this when I got to college after a lot of healing and work. I was diagnosed with depression my freshman year and I attribute a lot of that to my trauma. It took me a long time to seek help but once I did I felt so empowered by the realization that I am most certainly not alone in my experiences.
It was very beneficial for my healing to find other women who had been through what I had been through and specifically other women who were making efforts to educate others. I now find peace in sharing my experience with others, because I know that listening to others helped heal me.
For a long time, I always felt it would just be a stain in my past, something dark that I would look back on and be reminded of how traumatic that time was for me. I look back now and I will not lie, it’s not a happy feeling that runs through my body but here’s what I learned from my trauma:
You can say no to anyone no matter the circumstances, including your partner. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. You do not owe anyone any part of your body ever. You do not owe anyone anything. You are worth more than the relationship and you should never have to give up any part of yourself for it.
If they loved you, they would not force you to do something without consent. Saying ‘sorry’ after does not mean they will not do it again. You are not broken because it happened to you. You can have healthy relationships after. You do not need to be ashamed. Sharing your trauma helps others talk about theirs and normalizes what a healthy relationship should look like ‘behind closed doors.’