Days like this, I don’t know what to do with myself

On July 13th, 1996, when I was 15, I was raped by an acquaintance.  I at first consented to sex while fully clothed, but by the time (maybe an hour or two later) that he wanted to get down to it, I had changed my mind.   He kept making advances after I’d voiced my objections.  When he was rubbing my back and trying to slip my clothes off, I said “I don’t want to do this,”, and he said—I still think this is amazingly stupid—“give yourself over to pleasure.”  And when he was trying to put himself inside me, I had to tell him to stop three times before he let me go.  I threatened to kill him if he didn’t get off of me, and he finally listened.

It wasn’t violent, in that there wasn’t a knife to my throat or anything.  But he did have knives, birthday gifts he’d received the week before and had brought along to show me.  And I wasn’t injured, unless you count my innocence.  That it ended quickly, before I was even sure I could call it rape, that he didn’t ejaculate, did nothing to comfort me.  It clouded things. I wasn’t sure whether I was still a virgin or not.  For fifteen years, I doubted my own version of the story.

The same summer I was raped, I was dating someone four years my senior.  And after what happened, I wanted to settle the lingering question of my virginity by having sex.  But my boyfriend wouldn’t do it.  I was only 15, and we weren’t in love.  He didn’t think it would be right.

I have always been grateful to him for that.  I decided I still was a virgin, because what happened hardly counted and I hadn’t wanted it anyway.  I did my best to minimize the experience in my own mind.  I was reluctant to tell people about it.  My parents, when I told them, said things that were less than ideal.  They didn’t know how torn-up I was about what had happened.  I didn’t let on.

*****

A few years ago, I went looking for information about the boyfriend I’d had the summer I was 15, the one who wouldn’t sleep with me because I was so young and we weren’t in love.  I found out that he was convicted of rape in 2008, for forcing himself on a 13-year-old and plying some 14-and-15-year-olds into sex with alcohol at parties that he and his roommate held.  He was 30 or 31 when he was sent to prison, and isn’t eligible for release until 2026.

I have no doubt that he is guilty. He was always a troubled person, the sort of guy you’d have no problem believing could do something criminal.  I’d hoped he’d done something better with his life, and in fact had heard from his brother that he was doing well.  So I was saddened to read about what he’d done, because he’d been decent to me.

I wrote him a letter in prison.  This is what it said:

It’s been years since we saw one another—ten years, maybe?  I was still in high school, and you were working at the candy store.  I wrote to your brother some time ago to find out how you were doing, and he said that you were doing well.  It saddens me greatly to hear what a downturn your life has taken.

If it were someone I didn’t know who committed the crimes you’re in prison for, I’d say hang him by the balls and leave him to die.  But ever since I heard about the charges against you, I’ve wished I knew of some way to reach out.  I wrote about you on my blog, and that’s how I found out that you’d been sentenced.  There are people in the world who want to defend you, and plenty of people who feel, as I do, that what you’ve done is reprehensible.  Still, I knew you once.  I can’t shake that thought.

What I remember about the time we were going out is how very respectful you were of my youth and virginity.  You had an odd habit that endeared you to me; you wouldn’t touch any part of my body that was covered by clothing, and you never removed any of my clothing yourself.  I don’t know what changed in you.  Your girlfriends didn’t get any older, that’s for sure.

I found out about your crimes by doing a Google search for your name sometime last year.  I was shocked, and wrote about you on my blog.  One of the posts has become sort of a mini discussion group for people who knew you.  Someone, who I assume is your former roommate, wrote to say that you’d been sentenced.  So I went on [a crime website], paid ten dollars, and found out where you are.  This morning I called the [State] Department of Corrections to find out how long your sentence is (Oh My God) and how to reach you.

So that’s how I know where you are.  I don’t know why I felt the need to get in touch with you, but I did, and so here I am.  You can write back if you want to; in fact, I’d like it if you did.

I hope that, even in prison, you can manage to make a decent life for yourself.  You are in my thoughts.  Let me know if there’s anything I can do, within reason, to help out.

He wrote back seven hand-written pages, and it was creepy as hell. He denied what he’d done, and I never wrote him another letter.

*****

On Tuesday night, I did a Google search for the name of my rapist.  I don’t know what I was expecting to find.  I was curious.  What I found was his name on a sex offender registry.  He was convicted of rape in military court in 2007.  It seems that he served two years in prison, something I deduced by the fact that he didn’t register as a sex offender until 2009.  And like the other instance, I don’t doubt that he’s guilty.  Perhaps of a lot more than he was convicted of.

The day after I found out that I was not his only victim, I walked around in a daze.  I didn’t know what to think or how to feel.  I wasn’t sad or distressed, exactly, just very full of thoughts.  Troubled.  Confused.  And I was baffled by this feeling I didn’t know how to process: relief.

I didn’t make it up.  I am not wrong to say that I was raped.  I’m not a bad person for maligning the reputation of someone who maybe just made an honest mistake.  He’s not a good person.  He’s a bad person.  I am so, so sorry for whomever else he’s hurt.  I am lucky to have gotten away so easily from him, even though the memory of that day still makes me sick to my stomach.  Apparently someone else wasn’t so lucky—he’s classified as a violent offender.  And I hear it’s hard to get rape prosecuted in the military, so I don’t think it’s an incredible stretch to say that what he did must have been pretty bad.

I have felt guilty and ashamed about being raped for half of my life.  As twisted as it is, I feel better knowing that he is the bad one, and that it wasn’t my fault.  I’m sorry he raped someone else. I hope he never hurts anyone ever again.  But there’s a sick solace in knowing I’m not the only one, it wasn’t my imagination, I’m not overreacting, he is a rapist, and it wasn’t and isn’t my fault.

*****

How did my life intertwine with that of two rapists in that summer?  How did I meet two such damaged, damaging people?  I was a fairly sheltered teenager, I grew up in a small, safe town, I didn’t get into much trouble, do drugs, hang out with the wrong crowd.  I am incredibly lucky am I that things didn’t end up so much worse for me, and I am incredibly sorry for the later victims of those two terrible men.  My mind reels.  My heart sinks.  There is absolutely nothing I can do except try to purge all these feelings, and try to find some peace.

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