I’ve Been Sexually Assaulted More Times Than I Can Count… And What that Says About Rape Culture

Trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault

Note: Before anyone starts accusing me of exaggerating and using the term sexual assault liberally, let me remind you that it’s any unwanted/non-consensual sexual activity. That’s it. I don’t like that these experiences count either. No one wants to be a victim.

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For the last week or so, I’ve been reading through an old journal which was written during the time I was dating P (one of the guys who sexual assaulted me). I found some interesting tidbits in there.

Realization #1: I’ve been sexually assaulted by P more than once.
For a guy who claimed to respect me so much, he was really terrible at it when it came to the physical part of our relationship. I know asking for verbal consent can be awkward, but I guarantee PTSD  from sexual assault is far worse. Suck it up.
Anyway, I guess the good news is that the two other times he sexually assaulted me weren’t terrible. He tried two new things without asking. I just got uncomfortable, because I wasn’t sure if I was okay with what he was doing or not. Then I thought to myself, if I’m not sure into it, what’s the point? One time I told him afterward that I wasn’t ready yet for what we did, so he didn’t do it again. Another time, I moved away from him a little bit and he got the message. Not terribly traumatizing, thankfully.

Realization #2: I’ve been sexually assaulted more than 10 times.
After thinking about these more subtle types of sexual assault, I started combing my mind for more of them. And boy, were there a lot: coercing me into French kissing, touching my butt without consent more than once, taking his shirt off after I explicitly told him I wasn’t comfortable with it, rubbing his privates on me (and doing it again after an explicit “no”)… The list goes on. (For those of you who are familiar with my story, all of those were done by N, unsurprisingly).

Realization #3: My first boyfriend sexually assaulted me.
The crazy thing is that I even found it almost… romantic. There’s an ex I’ve never talked about in here: R. He was my first love. We were in a long distance relationship and then broke up when he cheated on me. We remained friends and were still deeply in love long after the relationship ended. Over a year after we broke up, he was in town. In a nutshell: my heart (and hormones) said yes, my mind (and mouth) said no to being anything more than friends. He “seduced me” (coerced me, more accurately) into kissing him anyway which resulted in a two week fling that thankfully ended before we could do ourselves any more damage.
(I feel super weird calling this one sexual assault, but it does fit the definition…)

Realization #4: I’ve been sexually assaulted by half of my boyfriends.

Realization #5: These experiences are pretty “normal” and are part of a bigger issue.
Honestly the experiences I described above don’t really bother me a whole lot. They were uncomfortable. They shouldn’t have happened. But I’m over it.
However, I think they speak volumes about the culture we live in. We live in a “do first, ask later (if at all)” culture. A rape culture. Affirmative, verbal consent is not the norm. And it needs to be! All of the experiences above could’ve been prevented if a) they had actually asked for consent first and b) respected me when I gave them an answer they didn’t like.
In our culture, the coercion and assumptions made above by my exes are considered normal. Disrespecting another person’s bodily autonomy is considered normal! If those more subtle types of sexual assault are considered normal, is it really a surprise that so many people rape others? Some types of sexual assault leave more lasting scars than others, but it should never be considered okay to cross a person’s boundaries no matter what the circumstances.
Our society needs to get into the habit of obtaining consent every step of the way — not just for the “big things”. Once affirmative consent at every step of the way is the norm, I think sexual assault will be far less common. Can we do it? I don’t know. But it’s worth it to try. The less people who know what it’s like to be a survivor, the better.

That got a little heavy. So how about a mood-booster? What I’d like to see in our world is a lot more of this:

Update: I’ve found my number. Yikes!

Thank you for reading this post. My backstory can be found here.

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