Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I was 49 years, 2 months, 22 days old...

...when I realized that my "sexual assault" at the age of 11 was rape.

My stepfather first started sexually abusing me when I was 11.  My military mother was on a remote tour in Korea.

I first told someone that he "did something" to me when I was 15. I told my story on the front page of my college newspaper when I was 22. It's not something I talk about much these days because it hasn't been an active part of my life for many years. Depression? Anxiety? I deal with those daily. I tell those stories because they don't go away. I'm not ashamed and I'm no longer traumatized.

Yesterday, I was driving home and had pulled off the freeway to get some Starbucks (because THAT is what I do). It popped into my head that I had never connected what happened to me and rape. Which is exactly what it was. Repeated rape. I was shocked. Confused. I...

I DID NOT KNOW. How could I have been raped almost 40 years ago and not know it was rape???

I came home and went directly to my best friend. He knew I was raped. He understood why I didn't. He helped me understand how I'd missed it all these years. And told me what he always told me...that I'm the bravest person he knows.

Then? Since I knew this was what I was about to do, I set about telling the others who needed to know...

My partner sat with me through my crying and raging and confusion and held me and told me he loved me.

I told my best friend from college, who has always known I was raped...and waited 30 years for me to tell him or not.

I told my girl's 2nd mom...I'd never told her the story of my childhood, though she knew something had happened. She held me as lovingly as if she were right there sitting next to me. When I explained that I. Did. Not. Know. She stopped and asked me how I'd found out...And held me in her heart some more.

I told my husband what I'd do today. He was the first person I ever told in 1986. He's lived with me through therapy. Through triggers. Through our child. Through me being triggered at various moments OVER our child. For fleeting instances. He understands those moments have nothing to do with him. He's NEVER taken them personally. He's supported me. Loved me. Through hell and fire and insanity. He's seen me to the other side. He is magic and solid ground and love and rock all in one. He has a hard time understanding how the word rape it never once came up in therapy. Through all the talk about what happened. I probably couldn't have handled it. He told me he knew what I'd be doing today. And that he loves me.

I told my mom. That was hard. And between us.

I told my other rocks. They were embracing and we talked about why women don't identify things as rape. Why I identified it as incest and molestation and why it stuck. I felt an undercurrent of "are you ok?" but much more "I always have your back." I told them that they weren't people who were going to find out about this on Facebook. Not them.

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are softer phrases. They frequently come down to rape which is defined as unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim. Yes, there are some kinds that don't that can be just as damaging. My trauma doesn't outweigh yours nor does yours outweigh mine. Ever.

We use "sexual abuse" for kids. Kids don't have any control. And "rape" is entirely too violent for something a parent did. Even though something a PARENT did is incredibly violent regardless of what it looks like.

Rape is an ugly word. It's violent. Rape is something that happens TO you instead of something someone does. Someone is a rape victim, not a rapist. When we are raped we are assumed to be lying, we are asked what we were wearing, we are asked if maybe we miscommunicated, we are asked in a million ways how it was our fault. There are men who want to legalize rape...as if it doesn't seem legal already. As if we're ever treated by the law like we've been violated. We're told that we are ruining the lives of the rapists we accuse.

I've spent years telling people that women don't lie about rape. OCCASIONALLY, I'm wrong. People use that as proof that most women lie. Hell, I've been accused of lying about my story. By people who know EXACTLY how fucking creepy my stepfather was.

Rapists rape women. I didn't know I was raped for almost 40 years. I've called my stepfather many things in the last 44 years...rapist isn't one of them, but he was until. Other women who were raped don't always know they were raped. They call it something else. Or they block it. Rapists may not know either, but I don't give a damn.

My superpower is speaking out. I tell my story because stories are never truly unique. I tell my story because the worst part is feeling alone and that one is at fault. I tell my story because I've NEVER told my story without someone thanking me...for being strong, for being outspoken, for speaking for those who cannot.

I was raped. I'm grateful I can use that word now. Maybe I can help someone with it.