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Things I told myself when I contemplated sharing this difficult part of my life:
It's not relevant to your life today. Don't tell your story.
It's not as serious as what other people have been through. Don't tell your story.
Are you sure it wasn't your fault? Don't tell your story.
What makes you think anyone would care? Don't tell your story.
Nobody is going to believe you. Don't tell your story.
People won't look at you the same way. Don't tell your story.
Nearly 24 years later, I'm still afraid to talk about the fact that I was sexually assaulted. And that's why I'm going to talk about it. That's why I'm telling my story. I'm telling it for me and for other victims. I'm telling it for those who are afraid to come forward, and those who did and are burned at the stake of public opinion for it.
I was fourteen. He was nineteen and my first boyfriend. I was making a lot of bad choices at that time, and starting to date someone my gut screamed at me not to date was no exception. He was pushy from the start, trying to get me to do things I didn't want to do. I didn't feel ready for sex yet - with him or anyone else. I just wanted to date someone, fall in love, and, when the time was right, make the choice to lose my virginity.
But I was young, insecure, and loved the compliments and attention that fell in between the moments that raised giant red flags. He was older and lived on his own and had cool friends. I didn't know what healthy relationships were supposed to be like because I had never had one. Maybe this was it.
We had only been dating for a couple of weeks. It was New Year's Eve and my parents were out. I had told him he could come over (even though they had told me he couldn't.) When he did show up, he was drunk. We ordered pizza and watched TV. He had his hands all over me.
"Remember how you said you might want to tonight?" he breathed in my ear.
"I remember," I said. "But I don't think I'm ready."
"Come on. I didn't come over here so we could just eat pizza," he said with a hint of aggression, and began getting a little more forceful with his hands.
"I really don't want to have sex tonight," I said.
"But you said you wanted to."
"I said I might. And I now don't want to."
"Come on. Don't be like that," he said, and pushed me down onto the couch, roughly kissing my neck.
I tried to push him off of me. I said stop. I said no. He kept going.
I remember weighing the options in my mind:
1. I could fight back harder. It's what my insides were screaming at me to do. But he was bigger, stronger and intoxicated. Our short history had told me he had no respect for boundaries. Would he get mad? Fly into a rage? Put a throw pillow over my face to stop me from screaming? I legitimately feared for my life.
2. I could stop fighting and let him have his way with me. I would very likely get out of the situation alive that way.
I chose survival. And so, through tears and pain, I lost my virginity to the man who took it without my consent.
When he was done, he asked me if I had enjoyed myself. Something in his eyes told me I should lie. So I wiped my tears and said yes. I even tried to convince myself I had.
When he left, I hugged and kissed him. I then paced around the house with my arms wrapped around myself. I wondered if this was how every girl felt when they lost their virginity. Maybe it was that painful for everyone. Maybe all girls were scared and needed to be forced a little, or it would never happen. I tried to reframe my rape in a positive light. It didn't work.
I broke up with him the next day.
I never thought about going to the police. Part of me felt like it was my fault. I chose to date a guy who was clearly bad news and far too old for me. I chose to ignore the signs prior to that night, which would have sent many girls running in the opposite direction. I chose to have him over when no one was home, knowing what he was like.
Some of the (very few) people I did tearfully confide in didn't believe me, or felt it must have been my fault for many of the reasons I tried to tell myself it was. One even went so far as to call me a slut.
If there was ever a dark tipping point in my life, that night - and the reaction that followed - was it. Within months, I was in a drug and alcohol treatment center, my already addictive personality now completely out of control. I nearly died trying to suppress the pain.
Years later, when I was in my mid-20's, a friend of mine dated the same man. I warned her, but kept my distance. Within months, she had to get a restraining order against him for violence and stalking.
I often wondered if any of her traumatic experiences would have happened if I had gone to the police and tried to press charges. Would he have been put away? Would he have received the help he certainly needs? How many other women had he assaulted over the years? I'll be honest; I try not to think about it too much.
Like so many women (and men), I am a victim of rape. I was a fourteen-year-old girl. It was not my fault. It took many years of therapy to be able to say that and believe it. Still, the little shame trolls sit on my shoulder, reminding me that society never sees victims as blameless.
Why am I sharing this now? Recently, Canadian radio show personality Jian Ghomeshi was fired from his job at the CBC, most likely due to allegations from four women that he physically and/or sexually assaulted them.
The number of women coming forward has now climbed to eight. While most of the alleged victims have remained anonymous, Actress and Royal Canadian Air force captain Lucy DeCoutere has bravely chosen to come forward publicly with her story. Given how difficult it is for me to write this blog post, I can't begin to imagine what it took for her to come forward in such a public case.
I don't know Mr. Ghomeshi outside of listening to him on the radio, nor do I know any of his alleged victims. Is this one giant conspiracy against a man who is arguably Canada's most famous radio personality, or is this a case of someone we thought we knew with a much darker monster inside than most of us could imagine?
If these allegations become formal charges, we can let a court of law decide who's telling the truth. What I find interesting, however, is how quickly people have taken sides in defense of or against Ghomeshi. Two of the most prominent arguments I've seen in defense of him are: "No way. I love his radio show!" and "If these allegations were real, charges would have been pressed already."
So, basically, if you think someone is likeable, they can't be an abuser. And if you were really assaulted, you would have gone to the police.
I dated a likeable guy and he raped me. That rape went unreported. It altered my view of men and changed my relationship to sex. It reshaped my life - and nearly took it. It was most definitely real.
It's my hope that sharing my story will help others to let go of any shame or guilt they might still cling to. The more we share our stories - publicly or privately - the less shame there will be to them, the more educated people will become, and the less society will blame the victims. Because we are victims.
Rape is about taking someone's power away. Today I'm taking it back.