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The Uncomfortable Truth About My Rape — & Why I'm Coming Forward Now

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Photographed by Bianca Valle.
Ed. note: The following includes a graphic description of the author's experience with rape.

I was raped. This is a very hard thing to say, and I have struggled for decades with the un-sortable Pandora’s box of emotions that are released after I say it. The myriad feelings, insurmountable, insuppressible, unspeakable.

Yet I must try today to describe the indescribable. I must speak, because right now, women are being told that we can be raped, without consequence, behind a Dumpster. That it’s okay for a judge to ask a rape survivor why she couldn’t “just keep her knees together.” That when a man is “a star,” it’s okay for him to grab us wherever he wants — that a man like that is fit to be president. Time and time again, blame for sexual attacks falls on the survivor, for their lack of strength and their inability to prove complete and utter moral perfection as a human being.

To speak as a rape survivor is to speak of things one shouldn’t speak of — or so we are taught. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s too graphic for conversation, too lewd to publish. But how can we solve a problem we can’t discuss? If we whisper it, then it must mean that it’s something to be ashamed of. And I’m done with that.

When I was 15 years old, I was invited to a high school keg party at a house where the parents were out of town. Invited through a friend, Jane*, who went to the same all-girls Catholic school I did, I knew no one at the party — which was made up of mostly boys. On the way there, Jane swooned about the host that I was soon to meet. Let’s call him Blaine*. He was hottest guy at the public school that she used to attend before coming to ours. He was rich, popular, drove a brand new Nissan 300ZX, was captain of the lacrosse team, and lived in a huge McMansion — notable to me only because, although I was a private school kid, I was like a white, female version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I had a troubled home life, was poor, and had moved in with an aunt who was generous enough to pay for my education in hopes of steering my future in the right direction. I wanted more than anything to be like my peers from happy, normal homes.

Blaine was a senior, soon to be 18, which to the average sophomore is the equivalent of a Fortune 500 CEO or a rock star. Like most 15-year-old girls, cars, popularity and fame impressed me. My friend’s description of Blaine had me dreaming of a steady boyfriend who picked me up in his 300ZX and let me wear his letterman's jacket. I knew my mission before I arrived: Make Blaine like me. I had started to model locally, and my physicality (leggy, strategically buxom), meant I was usually popular with any teenaged guy I set my sights on. And I was again that night when we arrived at the party. Blaine beelined to the door to greet me. In typical teenage fashion, under the influence of several watery Midwestern light beers, we flirted over the next few hours with tall tales and juvenile jokes. Blaine kissed me in the kitchen when no one was looking, and I liked it. I kissed him back, because I wanted to. Someone said, “Get a room!” We were making people feel uncomfortable.

We mauled our way from the garishly lit kitchen into the vastly boring and tackily chandeliered foyer, and again, I liked the way he kissed. Passionately. I felt important. Desired. Loved. New partygoers arrived through the foyer, and Blaine steered my body toward the stairs, which led to the bedrooms. I knew what that bedroom steer meant, and I resisted. “No, I’m not going upstairs,” I said, “I’m not having sex with you. I’ve known you for, like, an hour.”

The reality was I was on my period; I was no virgin. And I probably would have wanted to have sex with him on a different day. But not today. The heaviest day.

“C’mon,” he said. “I’m not trying to have sex with you. Everyone is watching. I promise. We won’t have sex. Let’s just go upstairs.” He kissed me sweetly.

“GET A ROOM!” someone yelled again. I giggled, rolled my eyes, and reluctantly went up the stairs and into his room, where he laid on top of me on his bed and kissed me. And again, I liked it as he pressed his body against mine. But I did not want to have sex with him. Not now. Not like this. Because I actually liked him. When he went for the button of my shorts I said, “No,” and pushed his hand away, but he didn’t listen and swiftly brought it back, ripping the button and the zipper open with one swift gesture. His dexterity alone was shocking. “I’m serious,” I gasped, and pulled my face away from his.

“I said, NO! For fuck’s sake. I’m on my period. Stop it!”

It was at this point that everything changed, and we began a serious struggle. He lifted himself and, in another quick gesture, yanked my Bermuda shorts to my knees. I tried to get up, and he pinned me back down. “Stop it!” I yelled at him, while music blared on the family stereo downstairs. No one could hear me. I was now frightened. He smiled, wickedly mocking my No's, and grabbed my wrists harshly as he pinned me down and tried to kiss me. “No! I don’t want to kiss you anymore! I mean it! Stop it!” I twisted my face away from him as he reached between my legs, ripped out my blood-soaked tampon, and threw it across the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was horrified. Again, I tried to get away from him, but he pushed me back down and pinned my wrists above my shoulders. I fought for what might have been a minute or two, as his star athlete body weighed down my waif frame, and my thin arms managed only to lift millimetres from the bed.

It was at this point that everything changed.

I collapsed. I knew I’d been overtaken. And then I dove inward, into my mind, into a montage of thoughts and memories. The first, a comprehension of what was happening to me. My god, I’m getting raped. This is really happening. Then, the feeling that I had to survive. Physically survive. Sadly, a familiar feeling to me, as I had been repeatedly beaten and molested at age 6. I was not only street smart, but sociopath smart. How do I get through this? my mind asked, scanning options with nanosecond speed, while individual thoughts that led to answers came in slow motion.

A thought. Don’t resist anymore. It will make him more violent. It will hurt your outsides. Save the outside. Stay inside.

Another thought. Rape. Just the word. Brain pulling from the rape file.

A memory. I’m 7 years old at the kitchen table, “Mum, what is rape?”

“It’s when someone forces you to have sex with them when you don’t want to.”

Blaine penetrated me with one swift thrust. I wanted to cry.

A memory. I had asked Mum about rape after stumbling across a pamphlet at a family friend’s house. The word “rape” was in large, bold black font on the front. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant, but I understood it was horrible and violent, because the pamphlet included sections called “How To Survive” and “How To Take Control.” The physical survival seemed most important. A line struck me as something to remember — the same way I know to throw flour on an oil fire. “If you’re being raped, try not to resist or tighten up (in that area) as much as possible. You will prevent additional trauma. If you can, try to relax.” What the pamphlet suggested was to pretend this was by choice, in order to get control, in order to remove control from your rapist. The rapist gains pleasure from controlling you.

Blaine’s hands gripped my struggling arms so tightly that I could feel them turning purple. He fucked me hard as I laid still and played dead. I decided to relax my hands; he loosened his grip subtly. Now my arms hurt less. I thought of the pamphlet again. Had my family friend been raped? How had she never spoken of it? What do I do?

His legs, pressing against my shorts around my knees, acted as a harness, pinning my legs flat against the bed.

I was now thankful for the menstrual blood smearing in between my restrained legs. Lubrication. Prevent further trauma to the area. I focused on the pamphlet. Relax. So you don’t get hurt. Relax. There won’t be damage. Relax. And my body let go. I’ll stay in my head. Relax. And for a moment I thought of how I would tell on him, of how serious this was. He could go to jail, and his future would be ruined. This future was terrifying. Relax. Relax.

He kissed my face as he forcefully pumped into me, and I felt detached, and a bit victorious over my body. I’ve tricked him. He believes I like this now. All the while I dreamt of his punishment.

“Do you like it now?” he asked. Steering himself to press his hips strongly against my clitoris. My blood felt colder. My thighs, wetter.

A daydream. I was in a courtroom. He was the defendant. I was pointing at him. Then I imagined the questions, and my hopes of future revenge shrivelled. Every girl has seen enough TV to know what I would be asked:

“Are you a virgin, Miss Martel?”

“No.”

“No? And only 15 years old?

“Yes.”

“How many people have you had sex with?”

“Five.”

“Did you willingly kiss Blaine?”

“Yes.”

“Did you willingly go upstairs with Blaine?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever been a victim of a sexual crime before, Miss Martel?”

“Yes.”

“Was this person convicted?”

“No.”

“Were you underage drinking that night, Miss Martel?”

“Yes.”

“How are your grades in school, Miss Martel?”

“Terrible.”

“Have you ever tried drugs, Miss Martel?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever been suspended?”

“Yes.”

“Your honour, I’d like to call my next witness, Mr. Party-goer-in-the-foyer.”

Was the court to believe that this picture-perfect rich kid raped this poorly raised, promiscuous, law-breaking, drug-using menace?

No.

“Do you like it?” Blaine asked again. Pressing into my clitoris. But I stayed in my mind.

Another memory. Adam and Eve. A bible passage that says suffering is the lot of women. That we’re being punished for all time at the hand of God. That it’s our duty to suffer for eternity over a single apple. This is what we’ve learned in school. If God wants me to suffer, then there is no God. The pamphlet says enjoy it, so that you don’t get hurt. I took the apple. Because it was the only way to win.

Now I will write, here, the hardest detail to write about my rape. The detail that will make you doubt me, call me a whore, make you think I deserved it. Disbelieve my story. But I’m telling the truth, so I will say it anyway.

I went back into my body. And I came, as tears streamed down my face with a shame and self-hatred that made me want to rip the flesh from my bones and pull hair out of my head in handfuls. My body failed me. Or was it my mind? I lay like a corpse as he came inside me. He kissed me. I used his shower to wash my bloody legs when he was done. I locked the door and muffled my sobbing with a towel in the bathroom. He went back to the party, for pats on the back.
“Miss Martel? Do you expect the court to believe that you had an involuntary orgasm?”

“No.”

So I’ve never said a word, until now. Who would believe me?
Some time after my rape, there was another high school party, this time at Jane's house — Blaine showed up and took a liking to Amber*, a sweet girl with perfect grades, who was a virgin and may not have even tried alcohol before that night. She ended up going upstairs with Blaine, like I had done before. I won’t go into the details, because hers is not my story to tell, but Amber’s experience was even more horrific. She ended up with life-threatening injuries — and Blaine got a slap on the wrist from the law.

One of my life’s greatest regrets is that I stayed silent after my rape, when I now know I might have prevented the horror Amber experienced (or at least made her rape a second offence, meaning stricter punishment for Blaine). My conscience often haunts me. I wonder, how many others were raped by my silence? I have lived decades with this secret shame. The rapist seeks to control the victim. I gave him strength and control when I doubted my voice. My fear and my silence became his accomplice. I used defence mechanisms to maintain control of my body in the act, but it has taken me until now to realise how to protect and control my mind.

As tales of hideous attacks on women flood my newsfeed daily — the essentially unpunished Stanford rape, the Bill Cosby charges, the Sharia law stonings of victims who have “brought shame” to their families, the state of Texas attacking the rights of women seeking legal abortion — I feel a bubbling within me beyond description. An indescribable sensation I cannot articulate. A question: What can I do — about all of it?

A thought. “Regain control from the rapist.” Because there is still someone to save. Today, I will be the pamphlet. Today, I raise my voice like a weapon, with zero fear of consequence. Does this tale make you uncomfortable? Is the content too lewd for publishing? Good. I know no shame. I am no martyr. I owe no apples to God. My silence is broken — and my voice, invincible.

*Name has been changed.

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