“I don’t think so.”
“I thought you weren’t allowed to say ‘no’. Isn’t that how it works?”
“Actually, it’s illegal for it to work that way.”
We had this conversation, one that acknowledged that what was about to happen would be rape, the night before I stopped struggling. (I have no idea what he meant by that; I think he was on something. I doubt he realized he was so succintly expressing the male privilege that can still be so deeply embedded in their mindset, making them feel they’re entitled to sex with anyone, any time.) And, for weeks I was so confused as to why that afternoon had upset me so greatly. It wasn’t until a month later after suffering two more physical attacks while on vacation by myself in Paris that I finally admitted to myself that I had been raped. I, ever the fighting feminist, knew there was such a thing as date rape, but it still wasn’t like I had pictured in. I wasn’t drunk or drugged. Even thought I was bruised and bleeding afterwards - so much so that he asked me if I had been a virgin - it wasn’t particularly violent. It had this surreal quietness to it, and was cloaked with such a confusing blur. Even nearly two years later, I still have my doubts sometimes, as if I haven’t suffered severe psychological torment ever since and have just barely rebuilt my trust in men and sex.
If someone were to ask my attacker if he is a rapist, I guarentee you he would say no. It was all too obvious that he is blissfully unaware of the destruction that day had caused when he invited me over a month later, and I said no.
“What, are you mad at me or something?”
“Yes. Yes, I am mad at you.”
What we are taught when it comes to rape, over and over and over again, is that “No means no.” And, of course, that’s true. But what so many people don’t seem to understand is that there are many shades of gray when it comes to rape, that it can be confusing. That doubt, that constant need to defend and reaffirm my experience even just to myself, is one of the worst parts of my recovery. But, I know that my experience is not unique, and it’s because of those women and men that I wanted to participate in Project Unbreakable.
Photographed on March 18th in NYC.
Not sure what Project Unbreakable is? Click here.
Want to be a part of Project Unbreakable? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org