We got together when I was 17, he was 21. Everyone wished they were dating him. He was such a “great guy.” I felt lucky.

When I told him I didn’t want to have a sexual relationship he said “I feel like you don’t love me. If you love me and want to be with me, you’ll let me touch you.”

When I told him that I was afraid to do more than kiss because of past sexual abuse, he exposed his erect penis and begged me to touch it and put my mouth on it. He kept saying “Please.” and “I know you’ll like it.” When I finally did it, reluctantly, he begged me to let him cum in my mouth and to swallow. I almost threw up. When I lay there afterward and cried he said “Thank you, that was nice.”

After 2 years I could see that he was abusive. I broke up with him. I dated another much nicer boy, but when he learned that I wasn’t a virgin he broke up with me. I thought the only way to fix things was to marry the only person I’d ever had sex with, because who else would want me? He had good qualities too right? And I could help him to be better.

When we had been dating for 4 years we got married. We had 3 children together. He did whatever he wanted to my body whenever he wanted to and no matter who else was around…even our children. The more chance there was that someone might see, the more he wanted to do it. In his parents house, in a public room where anyone could walk in, he held my hands and forced me to let him perform oral sex on me. In our shed while our children and my brother played in the yard…we were stacking boxes and then he was forcing me to have sex with him while I stood in the cobwebs and said “NO!” repeatedly.

He did me when I was sleeping, he did me when I said “NO!” repeatedly. He did me when I punched him. He said “You don’t have to do anything, just lay there if you want. I’ll be quick.” I thought it was like that for everyone. I believed him every time he said
“You’re cold and frigid.”
“You’re boring.”
“You should be more slutty.”
“You smell bad.”
“You need a boob job and a tummy tuck.”

I only knew it wasn’t true when he said, “We don’t have enough sex.”

His unwanted groping hands every night while I tried to sleep and said “No, I don’t want to.” weren’t enough for him. Sex 3 times a week or more, wasn’t enough. I thought I needed to change. I focused my attention on his more acceptable flaws, ones I thought I could fix. I only talked with friends about the flaws that I thought they could relate to, flaws the husbands on TV sitcoms had too. I was ashamed, embarrassed and I didn’t have the courage to ask if the other things were normal or if I was really a frigid, crazy, bitch for thinking that they weren’t.

Everyone thought we had the perfect little family, and I wanted that to be true, so I made it true in my own head.

When we had been married for 10 years things were at their worst and had been for about 2 years. I began to let myself see and somehow, I began to like myself enough and to love my children enough to realize that we deserved better…and to accept that I couldn’t change him or save him because he didn’t want any of that.

When I told him I wanted to separate he said, “Sex is the most important thing to me” and “I want to fuck you.” When I decided to ask for a divorce he raped me. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time that I realized what it was. When it was over he said “You could have made me stop.” Even then I wanted to try to help him if I could, I wanted to try for an amicable divorce. I believed he was still human.

The last time I allowed myself to be alone with him, while he was packing his bags, he raped me one more time. He said, “I want you to be sure about what you’ll be missing.” He still wanted me to like it. I had never hated it more.

Some people didn’t believe it was rape because we were married, or because I didn’t scream.

Some of my closest friends believed that because I fell in-love with another man (a truly good and kind man) that my rape story was just that, a story to cover infidelity. But the only lie I ever told was that my marriage was a good one…I regret the lie, but mostly because I told it to myself for far too long, I believed it, and it kept me and my children with a sick person who hurt us all, over and over again. I lied to myself to keep from going insane. I understand. It’s easier to believe that your friend is an adulterer than to believe that unbeknownst to you, you’d been enjoying BBQ’s with a rapist.

I don’t regret falling in-love with another man. Knowing that I could be loved and respected, treated tenderly and humanely was part of what held me together when I finally faced the hellish reality of the first 15 years of my adult life.

When my ex asked me to come back and I told him that I never would he said, “What is this about? Is it the rape thing?” The scariest part is, he knows what he did…and he doesn’t think it’s wrong.

I’ve lived hours away from him for nearly 2 years. I am safe and with a good and loving partner. But there is not one night that I do not go to bed without a haunting fear of his hands and the weight of his lust. I try not to go to bed until I am so tired that all I can do is fall right to sleep. If I lie awake at all, everything he’s done crowds my thoughts and it’s all I can do to lie still and try not to claw the image of his face out of my mind. 

Photographed in Boston, MA on April 25th.

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