An important re-post written by a friend:
I left an abusive partner after three years together. those three years included a variety of forms of abuse, including routine sexual violence.
when i first left him, i was quick to use terms i found empowering – being able to call him “abusive”, to describe what he had done as “gas lighting”, or “crazy making”, or to distinguish between the different kinds of abuse (financial abuse, verbal abuse, etc); all of that felt so heartening. i was even able to use phrases such as “sexual abuse” and “sexual coercion”.
i could not and would not use the word “rape”. it took a year of counselling with a woman trained as a trauma counsellor i saw at the local sexual assault centre. when i finally acknowledged and called what he had done to me as “rape”, when we finally discussed all the bullshit, victim-blaming, denial-based reasons i had refused to call it rape, something bust open inside of me. layers of pain, shame, rage, and sadness poured from me.
i still struggle with the word “rape”. i still hear my tongue fumble through articulation whenever i say “i was raped.” it is a process. it is a healing. it is anger and isolation and panic and doubt. it is never a term i can say, hear, read, or see without all of these internal process ricocheting throughout my body.
would you like to know how i figured out that my experience was rape?
my counsellor asked me, point blank. “why don’t you call what he did to you rape?”
my answers so appalled me, as i started to answer. i would catch my own words, would cry, backtrack, try again. i had no answer to that question, no answer that didn’t make me sick to my stomach. my answers included:
-because i didn’t “fight back hard enough”
-because i froze and “let it happen”
-because i didn’t say no often enough or loud enough
-because i gave up fighting
-because he was my boyfriend
-because i was unconscious
-because i said it was ok and then changed my mind and that wasn’t fair
-because i owed it to him
and i realized that these words were things i would never in a million years say to any other survivor ever. the opposite, in fact: if a friend uttered any of the above phrases in relation to their own experiences as a survivor, i would adamantly insist that absolutely none of the above statements in any way justified rape; that there is no justification. ever. full stop.
i heard myself say these damaging things about my own experiences and my heart truly broke.
i think it is hard to call what has happened to us “rape” because of this heartbreak – because of the deep knowledge we have that we did not deserve it, do not deserve it, and are left with all these pieces that now must be cleaned up somehow.
I STAND WITH SURVIVORS.
regardless of what your experience looked like or felt like. regardless of what vocabulary you use to describe it. regardless of whether or not your perpetrator has been held accountable.