Good Lord! The level of foolishness I’ve heard about sexual assault over the past week — what it is, what it isn’t, when a claim’s valid, when it’s fluff, is unprecedented. So much of it makes my stomach crawl because I’ve heard everything from people questioning why a woman would wait years to report it to proclaiming that spousal rape doesn’t exist. A few of the stories I’ve heard over the past week left me shaking. I was physically shaking.
I know what sexual assault it. I lived it, so let me tell you about it.
Here’s the Stuff You Can’t Just Do Because You Want to
- You can’t grab my boobs. No, you can’t squeeze, pinch, or poke them, period.
- You can’t rub my behind. Nah, you can’t. I don’t care who you are, what you have, what your title is, or who you’re going to be some day, DO NOT rub, poke, or otherwise move on my ass.
- You CANNOT kiss me – not on the lips, cheek, neck, hand, or anywhere else. Just the thought of this makes me want to throw up.
- You can’t pull me in for a “hug”. Sigh. Just don’t.
- You CANNOT tell me (in person, on the phone, in an email, via text, on paper, or by video chat) all the lewd crap you want to do to me. Jesus.
The First Time
Now let’s address spousal rape. Not too long after I was divorced, my family came in for our reunion and naturally, people wanted to know what happened. I had gone through my story about the mental and emotional abuse and while most of my cousins sat quietly, one began to question me. You see, we come from an extremely strong line of women and anyone who knows us knows that. Up to that point, I had only told two people about the two times my ex-husband raped me. That day, I decided I would no longer hide it. When the words, “He raped me twice”, left my mouth, every single head in that circle turned to look at me. Some of my cousins were shocked, some were clearly hurt. I saw some anger, but on the face of the cousin who started the questioning, I saw a look of confusion. She was genuinely confused. She said, “Trease, how could he rape you? He was your husband. A husband can’t rape his wife.”
My most immediate reaction was anger, extreme anger. We are one of the closest families you’ll ever meet and while we never bite our tongues with each other, we are, for the most part, gentle with each other. I said to her, “What do you mean?” She said, “A husband can’t rape a wife.” I actually had to count to 10 because I was getting angrier by the minute. I said to her, “Yes, he can. I wanted him to stop, I pleaded with him to stop, but he wouldn’t. He ripped the zipper out of my jeans. HE RIPPED THE ZIPPER OUT OF MY JEANS! He used so much force going in on me that I bled for two days. I could bearly move the next day. He raped me.” She lowered her eyes and put her head down.
DO. NOT. EVER. SPEAK. THE. WORDS: “A man can’t rape his wife.”
Why I Kept My Mouth Shut
After that man raped me the first time, I was stunned. I don’t remember much about the two days that followed other than the fact that I repeatedly told him that he had raped me. I was in a daze. Initially, he said he hadn’t. He was adamant that he hadn’t. Then I showed him my jeans and the detached zipper. He began to apologize. Then the excuses came (…”I was drunk”, “I was high”). I also showed him the ginormous maxi pad I had to keep tucked between my legs because the bleeding wouldn’t stop.
Despite what he had done to me, I loved him. There will never be enough words to describe the confusion I felt after it happened. I didn’t know exactly how I was supposed to feel or what I was supposed to do. In all honesty, the thought of calling the police or going to the doctor never occurred to me. I was his wife. I loved him and didn’t want him to get in trouble. I was some 1700 miles away from my family, but I knew that if my brothers found out, it may as well have been 17 miles. I kept my mouth shut.
Why You Can’t Keep Quiet
It took years for me to gather the courage to speak on this thing. It took years for me to shake the shame of it all. It took years for me to understand that if I kept quiet, other women wouldn’t know that you have to buck the ideology that sexual assault and rape are okay. Nah, you can’t keep quiet. Shine the biggest spotlight you can find on it. It’s not okay.