Guest Writer Wednesday: A woman heals from sexual assault
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, and it has deemed April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). During SAAPM, RAINN “asks individuals and communities across the country to engage with this issue that affects nearly every household in America by learning more about sexual violence, sharing important statistics and information, hosting events, volunteering, and donating,” (read more here). Week 1 (April 1-7) of SAAPM is “Speak Out” Week. It is appropriately timed that our anonymous guest writer today is speaking out about her experience with sexual assault. A form of sexual assault I had never heard of before reading this piece. Please welcome this guest writer as she courageously shares her story, embraces healing, and advocates for awareness.
*Trigger warning: sexual assault, physical, and emotional abuse
When I was 20 I fell in love. Hard. This was back in the days where you could apply filtered criteria to sort people on Facebook. My ex got really drunk one night and filtered people who went to our college that were liberal and liked The Catcher in the Rye. I came up and he IMed me. Something along the lines of “you can’t have too many friends who are liberal and like The Catcher in the Rye.” I was studying abroad at the time and we started a long distance romance. He told me he’d wait for me and then found another girlfriend in the weeks before I returned to the states. That should have been the first red flag. But I saw it as a challenge. I would show him what he was missing.
I came home. It was the holidays so I left a message on his Facebook wall saying “all I want for Christmas is you.” We had sex for the first time on New Years Eve. The condom broke to smithereens like a popped balloon. That should have been the second red flag. Instead I went to Planned Parenthood and got some Plan B. It gave me an early (and welcome) period but was otherwise completely fine. We kept dating for the most tumultuous 8 months of my life. He asked me to stop wearing makeup. Who was I trying to impress? I was with him. One time he called me a slut. I burst out crying and tried to run away from him. He pinned me down and wouldn’t let me leave. Convinced me he didn’t mean it and he was sorry. He was a narcissist and a pathological liar and I had fallen completely head over heels for his beautiful lies.
We broke up and he went to study abroad. I thought the distance would help but we kept IMing. I decided I needed to leave by the time he came back and moved away for an internship. We still kept in touch and decided to meet up and have sex. I told him he needed to get condoms because I was off the pill. He did- and then right before he came he took it off.
Fast forward 10 years and I’m browsing around seemingly innocuous Buzzfeed articles and stumble upon one about “stealthing” (1). I went cold. It happened to me. It has a name. It is sexual assault. I was a victim of stealthing.
Stealthing is “nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse.” Lawmakers around the world are currently working to bring awareness about steathing and reclassify this practice as sexual assault- even rape. As the article says “it’s no longer consensual if you take a condom off without permission. It’s about power and you think you have ownership of someone’s body and you don’t.”
A decade later reading this article shook me to the core. I had always thought that since I consented to have sex- I felt like somehow I consented to have unprotected sex. But I didn’t. In fact, I had explicitly told my ex he needed to buy condoms, asked him where they were before we started anything and made sure he put one on. But he took it off in the middle. Without asking. Without my permission. Without my knowledge until the end when I felt him finish and saw the condom was gone when he pulled out.
At this time we weren’t together. He had been seeing other people and I didn’t know if he was using protection or not. I was not on birth control and had to take Plan B- again. This time I had some pretty wicked cramping. But thankfully I did not get pregnant or contract any STDs. It wasn’t until I read that article 10 years later that I realized how truly f*cked up this encounter was.
I had loved my ex. I trusted him. I asked him to get condoms and made sure he was wearing them. But he broke that trust and did what felt best for him- a choice that could’ve had devastating consequences for me.
So what did I do a decade later? I wanted to call him up and scream at him. I thought about pressing charges even though I knew it would only be my word against his pathological lies. So I told my husband. It was an awkward conversation. I told him I read this article and realized something had happened to me and it upset me. And he listened as I cried and he said he was sorry and told me that it shouldn’t have happened to me. And that was healing. Healing I didn’t know I needed.
And I decided to write this article. Because stealthing is more common then you may think. According to one study, 32% of women and 19% of men have experienced stealthing (2). So now I’m sharing my story to help others understand that if this happened to them 1) it has a name 2) they are not alone and 3) it is not their fault. If this ever happened to you I want you to know this so that you too can heal wounds you might not know you have.
Also, don’t stay with a pathological liar or a guy who can’t wait 6 weeks to be with you. You deserve better. Find the guy who will let you cry on his shoulder over a heavy Buzzfeed article a decade later.
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