Fear seems to be a good place to start when discussing the emotions surrounding rape and domestic abuse. Fear was the foundation of the relationship I built with my rapist. And it was there from the start, though I did not realize it.
When I first met Mark, I was an extremely shy and insecure 14-year-old. My best friend introduced us. He was a little older, very good-looking, more popular than I was. I was nervous every time I saw him. He was charming and friendly. Once we were dating, he made it perfectly clear that I should be grateful to have him. He told me how when he first saw me, he didn’t like that I was skinny and wore glasses. But then I got contacts! Lucky me. Yes, I should have bolted right then, but what did I know. I was 14. These type of comments continued throughout our relationship, balanced out by compliments and loving talk. One minute he was affectionate and caring, the next minute he was avoiding me in the halls of our school. So the first fear was the fear of losing him. My insecure teenaged self continuously questioned every word I said, every action I took. What would he think? Was this what he wanted? Would this make him leave me?
The fear increased as the abuse escalated. His offhand comments turned into rants. Private rants turned into public ones. Criticism turned into verbal abuse. Finally, it turned physical. Again, this escalated over time. A push. A shove into the bedpost. Punching the wall next to me. Finally hitting me. Again, this was counterbalanced by kindness. If you’ve been a victim of abuse, you know this pattern well. The apology the next day. The “But I love you, don’t leave”. Now I was truly afraid for my safety. I was afraid that if I left, he would hurt me. This was a threat he used. I was afraid to tell anyone, even my closest friends or my parents.
During our relationship, there was an ever-growing pressure for sexual acts that I was extremely uncomfortable with, being so very young. He demanded that I do things for him. Then he berated me when I didn’t “do them right”. I was 14!! What was I supposed to know? He was furious every time I did turn him down. Once, he took me to a family wedding. We stayed at a relative’s house after the reception. He took this opportunity to get me very drunk. His hope was obviously that I would sleep with him. Instead I got very sick. His anger was unbelievable. I had nowhere to go and no way to get away. This was a last straw for him. It was about a week later that the rape actually occurred. Again, fear is what kept me from fighting back the way I wish I could have. By this point, it wasn’t an option. I was paralyzed by the fear.
Since mine was a date rape situation, there was no lasting fear of, say, going outside at night or walking in parking structures that I know often accompanies stranger rape. But the fear does linger on long past the actual event. There is a fear of running into Mark that stays with me to this day. We were in the same circle of friends. It was unavoidable for several years after we broke up, and was a constant source of anxiety. I saw him at a grocery store about 5 years ago, and found myself shaking and crying in the car after I left.
I think the worst fear that this produced was a fear of other men. I automatically assumed that everyone would be the same way. This was basically my first experience with a boy, and I didn’t know any better. Even with my husband, a very sweet and gentle man, it was several years before I finally was able to let my breath out and truly feel I was in safe hands.
I’m trying to break through my final fear. The one I feel every time I’m about to hit publish 🙂 Thank you for listening and letting me fight back against the fear.