(Reblog) I Loved The Man Who Abused Me

Read Elizabeth Brico on The Establishment

The memory that haunts me most is not being strangled until my body gave way to seizure. Nor is it the three days I spent being beaten in a motel by my lover. It’s not the day he raped me on the bed next to our three-month-old son, or the time he punched my head again and again into the cement floor of a garage until I had to prop myself against him, his arms wrapped around my waist, just to get home. These memories hold their share of terror, but the one that haunts me most begins with a bicycle.

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Sexual Violence Lasts Far Longer Than The Act

The trauma of sexual assault doesn't end with the attack. Learn more on bettysbattleground.com

I am shocked when I hear people telling sexual assault survivors to “just get over it.”

I don’t understand how someone can categorize sexual assault as a singular act; as though it is just the event that happened without any further reach. Because nothing that has to do with sex is a singular, inconsequential event. Our society, and frankly our biology, has made sure of that. When the sexual event is violent–and by violent I mean non-consensual, not just forceful–it is a violation of our bodily autonomy. That alone is bad enough, but for women it is much more complicated.

This world is so confused about how it feels about female sexuality. Female sexuality is at once a symbol of purity and rejuvenation, while also a source of sin, temptation, and destruction. Historically (and even today in some especially draconian parts of the world) women and girls have been killed for being raped, their value so diminished by the symbolic theft of their purity they are believed to no longer deserve to want to live. Even where these practices are no longer in place, we are still bound to that history. Sexual violation becomes a way of robbing women and girls not just of autonomy for a moment in time, but also of worth for her lifetime–at least that is the intended effect. This is why wartime rape is so prevalent; women’s bodies are more than just bodies. They are symbols.

As much as we try, our bodies can’t just be our own.

Beyond the psycho-social implications of male-female sexual violence, there is also the biological dangers that accompany rape–pregnancy, which has been politicized due to the abortion debate; disease, which takes months to detect, so that even rape victims who walk away biologically unscathed must go through a period of anxiety. Often there are other injuries that can take weeks or months to heal; especially rough attacks can lead to chronic pain. Even in instances where there is no physical injury whatsoever, however, the psychological pain persists.

Sexual assault has such a long legacy of torment and shame in our culture that I truly cannot understand how anyone with half a brain could ever tell someone to “just get over it.” But they do. It happens.

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How To Help A Loved One Who Has Been Raped

Learn about the aftermath of rape on bettysbattleground.com

The first time I was a victim of rape, I didn’t immediately realize I had been raped. I was sixteen, a virgin, and in love. I had no idea that I was still just a child, or that my boyfriend, a man seven years my senior, had been grooming me since I was fourteen years old. Or that he was also doing it to another girl, only thirteen.  Later in our relationship, he would rape me in much more obvious ways; under knife point or threat of violence. But that very first time, on a quiet day in June, I thought it was love. It didn’t matter that it was hurried and painful, or that he seemed to lose interest in me just moments later. It didn’t matter that we were in a cluttered garage, or that a thirteen year old homeless girl would soon rap the door demanding to see him. I thought it was sex, I thought he loved me, and I thought everything was okay.

Rape changed me. There’s no way to fully describe this change without experiencing it. I hope it’s something you, dear reader, never understand. But if you already do, if you’ve been raped, then you know what I mean. No matter how young or old you are, it ruins a place of sacred innocence within you. It exposes you.

This month, November, I am dedicating my blog to rape awareness.

We will be hearing from people who have been raped, and from their loved ones, about how the experience has affected them. If you’re interested in being included in this series, there are still a couple spots available; please see my guest post info page for more details and then shoot me an e-mail.

This first post describes how surviving rape has affected my mental health, followed by ways you can help someone in your life if you learn he or she has been raped. Please note that I have chosen to use she/her pronouns to reflect my own experience and also the fact that more women than men are raped; however, please understand that I believe male and gender-fluid rape victims absolutely deserve the same level of care, and that these tips apply across gender.

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