I’ve been thinking a lot about rape lately. It seems like I can’t go online without someone somewhere talking about rape. Even though I know it puts me at risk of being triggered I can’t seem to stop myself from looking. It shouldn’t surprise me really. When I was a teen trying to come to terms with my own assault I collected articles and research on sexual assault in a big fat folder. My best way of dealing at that time was to understand the big picture and make it political. My big project for OAC (grade 13) drama was a play about a girl getting raped by her best friend and killing herself. In retrospect the two predominant themes in my adolescence were sexual assault and suicide.
And yet, with all the of the processing I’ve tried to do over the last twenty three years I am still unearthing new and surprising aspects of my own trauma, and today is no different. Over the last two decades I have called what happened to me sexual assault or sexual coercion. I have said he did something I didn’t want him to do. I have told myself that what happened to me was bad and it messed me up but women who’d been raped had it worse.
And then I was reading the comments on this post and I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
Because rape is not only non-consensual intercourse, it is non-consensual sexual intrusion. That means that if the perpetrator puts anything inside of you against your will it is rape. I knew this. I’ve always known this but I didn’t somehow take the next logical leap.
I wrote a post a few years ago and published it on someone else’s blog. In it I wrote about not only my sexual trauma but about the physiological anomalies that have complicated my relationship with my sexuality in oh so many ways. In short I had what is called an imperforate hymen. I couldn’t get a pelvic exam, I couldn’t wear a tampon, and there was no way in hell anyone’s fingers could have gotten past that particular barrier.
I guess that’s why it hurt so much when he tried.
Immediately after he finished I said to him , “You said you’d never finger me” and he said, “I didn’t.” And I guess in his mind he didn’t, because my body wouldn’t let him in.
But in reality he tried, he really tried. And the question I’m forced to ask myself is this: Is it any less rape because my physiology kept him from “going the distance”?
Between the nature of the assault and my own physiological weirdness I have been invalidating myself for more than twenty years. I have told myself that my trauma was lesser than that of rape victims. Despite all the evidence of what it did to me I have been gas-lighting myself, feeling like I was crazy, like I was blowing it out of proportion, that I didn’t know what it was like to be raped, I “only” knew the pain of a lesser sexual assault.
But today I finally understand. I get it. Because what happened to me was indisputably rape.
And I don’t know how to incorporate that into my understanding.
It makes me angry, it makes me sad, and it makes sense of so many things.
But please, let there be no more surprises.