Monthly Archives: November 2016
Posted by Bella Rosa
It’s an ambitious title up there.
I feel like I should have something profound to say to live up to that title.
Instead all I have are distant observations that are colored by the more vivid memories that I deliberately want to block out.
TW: Descriptions of sexual assault, rape
Twenty years ago today, I was raped.
I was raped in a college dorm room. Right before Thanksgiving break in 1996, my freshman year. It was less than a month until my 19th birthday. I was 900 miles away from home, there alone, without any of my familiar friends or family nearby.
I was an A student, sorority girl and up and coming leader when I was raped. I had just been initiated into Alpha Chi Omega. Within a few weeks I elected to be Vice President of Intellectual Development, unprecedented in our chapter to have someone so young on the Exec Board. I was chosen in part because of my academic credentials, which i admit now were pretty decent. It helped that I was mostly articulate and could flirt easily with the men in the fraternities on campus.
I was raped by someone I knew. I was in the room of my current fuck-buddy at the time. His friend was visiting from out of town for his last hurrah before getting married. We sat and watched the Fly while drinking beers. I left for a bit to sit and talk with the Indian guy down the hall whose name escapes me.
I was raped after a lot of alcohol had been consumed. But I had two beers that night. Two over the course of maybe three hours. They had the rest of the case to themselves. I’d say they had at least four or six on me each.
I was raped after I had previously consented to a sexual activity. When I returned to the room I was caught in a three way kiss between the fuck buddy and his friend (not the bachelor) that I had previously fucked with. This kind of threesome had happened a few times before and we always had a good time with each other. They invited Bachelor to join in and I consented to that–three pairs of hands on me at once is so magnificent.
I was raped after someone had drunk so much that they passed out: At one point in this 10 minute group grope session (which, if I’m not mistaken may have hinted at some man-on-man action too), fuck buddy had to get up and take a piss, so we all stopped. We turned another movie back on and pretended to watch it. Fuck-buddy’s friend noticed that fuck buddy had been gone for a while, so he got up and left to go find him, leaving me alone with Bachelor (and a creepy dude in the opposite corner of the room trying to go unnoticed).
I was raped by someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He suggested that we make out while we waited for Fuck Buddy to return. I consented to making out. When he tried to grope under my clothes, I didn’t feel comfortable and told him to stop. He didn’t.
I was raped by someone despite trying to fight back. He continued to undress himself and me. I struggled as he was trying to get my jeans off. I told him no repeatedly. He was able to get my pants and underwear off while keeping me pinned down with his knee. He had slithered a hand between my naked thighs and I was squeezing them hard to try to get him to stop. I didn’t want to be touched anymore and I gave every signal both verbal and non verbal that would be recognized.
I was raped by threat and force. As I struggled, he had flipped me over onto my stomach, his hand holding me down into the pillow by the neck. I could only look to the side–I couldn’t even tell you which side. We were on the top bunk and my head was smashed into a pillow. Tears and drool on the pillowcase, blacking out for a moment because I couldn’t breathe. I remember being outside my body at that point, ready to make due with whatever happened so long as I didn’t die. That was my bargain. If I don’t die, God, I promise I will deal with this. Even our bargains with deities are soured by internalized misogyny.
I was raped anally. I had never done anal play of any kind. I had a boyfriend ask for it once and it just never came to anything. While still holding me down he first tried my vagina. Then when I was still blocking him with my thighs and movements, he raped me anally. No lube, no prepping, no asking.
I was raped as a demonstration of dominance over me. Rape is and always will be a crime of power. This is about power and control over another human being–sex is just the vehicle for that exertion of control. It’s pathological, angry and destructive by intent. It is not impulse or a force of nature. It is a deliberate choice. I was his promised Bachelor’s gift (I would later find out) and fuck this bitch for daring to say no to me. Entitlement. projection and blame is the environment where our rapists dwell.
I feared for my life. I screamed into the pillow the minute I felt him enter me, his grip became tighter around my neck. I was worried my neck would snap. I froze. In shock. I still don’t know where my head was looking. I was out of body again. Maybe blacked out.All I know is how much all of my senses were on overload. The only thing I felt besides life-threatening fear was the white-hot, searing pain from my ass.
I was raped in front of a silent accomplice. Remember creepy dude in the corner? He was still there, watching the whole thing. When my rapist was done, all i could hear was the fapping sound of his hand on his skinny, shitty prick. He was getting off on this. I was doubly humiliated. I call him an accomplice because he was complicit in what was happening. He would have been clearly witnessed me saying no. He would have clearly seen me struggling. He would have clearly known that I didn’t want it. And what’s worse is that he got off on witnessing that.
- Fuck Buddy had passed out in the bathroom. Friend was blocking people from getting into the room I was in.
- Fuck Buddy’s roommate heard me screaming and the Friend told him to not worry about it that we were all role playing.
- Another guy who was just getting back in that night, heard banging against the wall and faint sounds, but the music in the hallway was too loud for him to know what was going on.
- At least 5 other guys on the floor heard me that night; not one of them intervened. Two others (in addition to the in-room witness) had gotten off to it.
- I found out he had used a condom. I heard him snap it off when he was done.
- It took me more than 10 minutes to get back to my room, from getting over the shock to getting my clothes back on, to drying my tears, to breaking through the guys who were trying to block me in and make me go for round 2.I stumbled down the flight of stairs to my floor
- I was bleeding and in a lot of pain. I already had a bad back and it had completely seized up.
- I called one of my major crushes who was in school in Detroit. He was an architecture student, so I knew he would be up. I cried on the phone with him for 2 hours without being able to say much.
- I skipped all my classes the next day.
- I skipped my date that night with a man who I’m pretty sure would have taken me straight to the police to report it to distract me while he would have been getting his mob friends to dispense justice.
- I did eventually shower, but only because I couldn’t sleep.
By the end of that weekend, I had taken myself down to the lake at 4 am. I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours at a time. I decided to take a walk to the lake, halfway torn between suicide and victorious resistance. One of the guys from that night who had been just getting home from a date, saw me leaving. We didn’t really talk much as we walked. I confirmed his suspicions: that I was really saying no and crying out for help. His feeling of guilt and shame was evident. We found a bench outside the library, looking out at the lake.
Right now, I’m reminiscing about Lake Michigan. All the healing that happened in that spot over the years. Not just from this, but other things too. Remembering one of my most stable and stalwart lovers during my years there. A Navy Man who still provides me comfort and protection from my overthinking and strict need for control even after years and many miles apart. Texting with him right now.
As we sat there, he just held my hand. He was present for me as I channeled whatever strength I had left into the words that tumbled out of my mouth. It was just a stream of consciousness. Acceptance that what happened to me was real. Resolve that it would never happen again in the future. A commitment to dictate the terms of any sexual encounter I had from there on out. From now on I was in control of my body, my voice, my actions, my motives. And if a sexual encounter didn’t align with what I waned then it wasn’t going to happen.
But there was one glaring absence in my bold speech of recovery:
I didn’t call it rape.
Posted by Bella Rosa
TW: Descriptions of rape, sexual assault, child sexual assault, sexual harassment.
(This is a story of my comeback from rape, prior and subsequent experiences of sexual assault and harassment, internalized misogyny, depression, anxiety, PTSD and Catholic guilt. Read Part 1 here. )
It wasn’t until the past year or so that I started to see the night of my rape in the larger scheme of things. Patterns started to emerge that were both good and bad for me, for us as a society. The following is just a dispassionate description of those observations, loosely woven into the part of my personal story i’m willing to share with the public.
Sexual assault is far more common than we think.
In the three years I was in college (yes, gradutated a year early), I encountered many stories from women and men who had been sexually assaulted. Either taken advantage of when drunk or high or coerced and pressured into sex by a needy, jealous and demanding partner.
One night, at the end of my senior year as our sorority held one of its fireside chats (usually an attempt to clear the air about our grievances with each other), I confessed to them this story I shared here. More than a third of the sorority shared similar stories that night. I remember all of us sitting there, tears in our eyes as we recalled separate but shared histories of the humiliation of objectification and dehumanization. It had never been quantified for me like that before.
But beyond this, I started to recognize and see all the minor ways in which sexual assault has been normalized. So when we talk about rape culture, this is what we mean. The legitimization of smaller aggressions against the consent of those involved in a sexual scenario.
Tolerance and acceptance of sexual assault, harassment and objectification have been way too common in my life.
As a woman and at that a Catholic, Mexican-American woman, I had been conditioned to accept violation of boundaries on a near constant basis. I mean, when the Church condemns women to a grave sin for exercising control over their own bodies, we send a very powerful message about the sanctity of female autonomy. Or rather, the lack of it. When we control, regulate, gaze at and objectify women we create a world in which rape and sexual assault is normalized and accepted.
I learned just recently how normal it was in my life (and I mean even as a child) to put up with this kind of behavior. I use the word “inappropriate” to describe these today, but I was definitely trained through experience to treat these things as normal and expected. Because going along with it has usually been safer than calling it out–after all, I’ve been close to death a few times for daring to say no. And it’s not just the assaults or attempts or harassments that are important, it’s the cultural attitudes and expectations that made them acceptable and relieved the perpetrators of any consequence or responsibility for honoring my consent or autonomy. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Someone close to my family sexually assaulting me at the age of 6 or 7.
- Grown men in the Army sending me naked pictures of themselves when I was as young as 13. At least two of them knew my real age.
- Also at 13 a boyfriend was stalking me, slashing my neighbor’s tires and making threats outside my window while I slept after I refused to have sex with him.
- Co-workers at my first job taking monetary bets as to who would get to fuck me first.
- A 36 year old co-worker trying to finger me when I was 15.
- A 40 year old delivery man inviting me to his house alone when I was 16.
- The biggest womanizer in school stalking me until I’d have sex with him. I lost my virginity to him at 16.
- Being pressured into having sex with a classmate as a way to be jumped into a gang at 13. I backed out at the last minute.
- Engaging in sexual activity as more of a defense mechanism than as a rational and enthusiastic choice.
- Being drugged by two men who secretly tried to record me “consenting” to sex. I eventually escaped.
- Being outed and slut shamed by a republican blog and losing my job as a result.
- Getting unsolicited dick pics whenever I’m on any dating site.
- Relentless harassment to coerce me into sending nude photos.
- Sexual prowess in male co-workers are joked about with ease; sexual interest I expressed being condemned as a stain against the organization.
- Emotional manipulation including guilt and shaming if I express limits. Usually takes the form of “not a real submissive” or “not really poly”, especially when trying to hold someone responsible for behavior that violates those limits.
- Threats of violence for refusing a drink/kiss/ride home.
- Being given a dildo as a present by my boss when I turned 17; my acceptance of that gift was used to imply consent for all sorts of touching, grabbing and propositions for years to come.
- Subjected regularly to groping when doing absolutely nothing–like ordering a drink at the bar or even standing at a bus stop.
- Having my consent violated in a scene by an “elder” who never obtained my consent for a needle scene he had planned.
- Not reporting any of these because of the fear of retaliation, ruin and rejection.
- Screaming red in a dungeon and having no one intervene in our scene; this was after the DMs held me down for a tickling scene I did not consent to.
- Sacrificing my own needs and voice in order to protect the ego of the person I was with.
I just don’t have the energy to describe each and every detail but I think you get my drift. I have been raised to not just expect this behavior, but to reward it with my attention, time and politeness. And guess what? So have you.
This is about as far as I can get tonight. The rest is just too raw on the surface.
Too much shit has been stirred up lately.
Example: Playing with a new submissive boy, still dipping my toes in the water of what my own dominance might look like, he fell oddly distant and cold afterward. Stirring up those feelings of rejection, feeling exposed and like I was being judged for my size, my taste, my age, my grace, my fashion, my ignorance. That feeling, that all too familiar feeling like I was supposed to change myself to accommodate invisible expectations that he didn’t communicate, but I am supposed to somehow anticipate. I could be wrong–we haven’t discussed it, but even my equivocation of how I feel is evidence of this trend to set aside my own insight in favor of someone else’s.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
How much of my existence has been defined as being the pretty, little doll existing solely for the pleasure and whims of others? And let’s face it, I’m not the prettiest, so it’s an existence that is easily defined as being the doll at the very bottom of the trunk that carries nostalgia, memory and this sensation of soul-full-ness. I’m kept around for memory’s sake, but used, discarded and forgotten until I’m needed again.
I have spent most of my life trying to convince myself, through the excuse of my calling, that this was the purpose of my life. I molded myself around these awful, horrible experiences, trying to become the perfect woman that could easily slide into people’s hearts unobtrusively to bring out goodness and love. It’s not to say I didn’t do that or that the goals were bad, but it was that I became an avatar of myself, a projected 3-D image of myself that was real in every way, except my own desires, needs, hopes and dreams. Those were always irrelevant to the more important business of pleasing the people I was with.
None of this is to say that the rape was my fault, that the sexual assaults and harassments I’ve endured are my fault. Those men made choices. Choices that they knew were wrong. Choices that knew were a violation of my autonomy and free will. These violations, because they bundle together super vulnerable things–like sex/nudity, self-worth, guilt and shame–they are easier to manipulate and exploit. It’s not our fault that these things are vulnerable–they are vulnerable for everyone, but we are wrongfully accused of being too open to sharing those intimate parts of self, when it was the manipulator who violated the terms of that sharing. Most of the time we are left shadow boxing with ourselves in a distorted mirror of shame and guilt, feeling utterly responsible for the fallout of choices that someone else had the audacity to make for us.
We have to remember that this mirror only reflects a particular facet of ourselves. The part locked away in time and trapped behind the glass. But diamonds, those hard as fuck little mini crystals that manifest from the pressure of the earth, have several facets to them. The ultimate in resilience, radiant with reflection and beauty. And what we see in that mirror, in that battle with ourselves, the shame and guilt that were projected onto us, that’s just one facet of who we are. But we contain so much more than that and deserve so much more than that.
So shine on you crazy diamonds.
I sit with all of these thoughts, reflections on what it took for me to become a whole and healthy person. I can’t say I’ve done it well, but the fact that I’m still here, still fighting, still making these realizations, understanding my patterns and fighting to change the perverse patterns of exploitation around…this is how I will continue to shine, the crazy, hard as fuck diamond that I am.