Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, sexual violence

‘Coercion is how you can rape someone who has, literally speaking, said yes.’

I have struggled with this for a long time.

Where is the language for what happened to me? When we talk about rape, so much of our discourse focuses on violence. But what if it wasn’t violent – at least not in an overtly physical way? What if I have no outward scars; no scratch marks; no bruises? Then what do I say? How do I explain it to you? You’ll probably say, ‘but you said yes?’ and I’ll falter and stumble over my words, feel the shame rising in my throat as I struggle desperately to find a way to say, ‘yes, I said yes. But I didn’t want to. But I said it anyway because I felt it was the only option available to me at that time.’ Would you understand, friend?

‘But he was your boyfriend.’

‘You were with him for three and a half years.’

‘He knew your whole family; all your friends.’

‘He really loved you.’

I want to tell this to so many people but I don’t know how. And I am afraid that you will judge me just as I have been judging myself for so long.Yes, yes, that’s all true, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t hurt me. I wonder if he knew it at the time? If I had to confront him about it now, would he know what I was talking about? So many questions.

I still don’t know how to speak about this with anyone other than my therapist. I am too afraid that if I take that massive leap of vulnerability that no understanding will be waiting for me on the other side. That all I will be met with will be blank faces and victim blaming. And I can’t handle that right now. I am still fighting so hard to convince myself that it was not my fault. I don’t have the energy to try to convince you too. So what I need you to do is take my word for it. To believe me when I tell you what happened and not question me for one second. Because why would I make something like this up? Why would I want to be that person?

What I need you to do is nod and say, ‘I believe you and I support you’ – even if you don’t fully understand. I need you to help me find a language for what happened. Even if we stumble over words together. Maybe what we need is a new language for this. I’m still figuring it out.

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