A few months ago I was hanging out with a guy who I will call Aaron. He seemed really nice and we had such pleasant conversations. The first time we hung out, within minutes I felt comfortable joking around with him. I found him very attractive, he is a conventionally handsome guy, but I just didn’t feel attracted to him. Perhaps it was because he reminded me of a good male platonic friend I used to have.
We hung out about a dozen or so times. I was trying really hard to like him romantically because I couldn’t find a reason for me not to like him. I didn’t want a relationship but I figured it would be nice to try to see someone as more than a friend and he seemed like the right person to try for. He didn’t put any moves on me, but he did make it clear that he was interested in me.
One night after some drinks and a Keanu Reeves movie marathon, we ended up messing around. I tried to get into it, I really did, but it was really awkward for me. Probably because I just wasn’t attracted to him. It is entirely my fault that I tried to force something like that and I felt bad about the whole thing.
The next time I saw Aaron, I explained to him that I’m not interested in hooking up or anything romantic, that I just want to be friends. I explained to him that it hasn’t been a full year since I was single and that I just don’t want anything to do with anything that feels like a relationship. I told him I had really tried, and I did my best to assure him that I found nothing wrong with him and that he did nothing wrong.
He said he understood my reasons for me not wanting to be “intimate” right now. Then he tried to hold my hand and asked if we could still cuddle, and he got offended when I didn’t want to.
Now, instead of taking my word for why I wasn’t interested in him sexually and romantically, he insinuated that my rape (which was almost five years ago now) may have had something to do with it.
“I can’t even imagine what you are going through,” he said. My initial reaction was: Huh?
You can’t imagine wanting to be single? You can’t imagine not being attracted to someone? Minutes later he asked me if I was still disturbed by the number "666." Huh? Oh. Oh, God. My rapist had a 666 tattoo on his lower abdomen. He was bringing up what he had read about my rape (I’ve written about it and it’s easy to find on Google, which I’m totally fine with) randomly.
I told Aaron no, that I was absolutely not disturbed by a number, especially now. Hell, I’ve even hosted a “Feliz Apocalypse” themed party with my old roommates and I drew a 666 sign for the occasion. Aaron must have noticed the confused look on my face when he brought up all this, because he then apologized and said, “I’m sorry. I should have -- I mean, we never talked about that and how that may have affected you.”
Then he told me about a girl he was seeing not long before and how it ended. Aaron used to have a large friend group, and both he and the girl he was dating were in it. All was going well with the girl he said, until she accused him of saying something insensitive about her dad’s suicide. Apparently her father shot herself in front of her. Whatever he said to her, that girl and all their mutual friends no longer talk to him for it. Aaron claimed he didn’t say anything insensitive, that he never would. And then he said this:
“I mean, whatever,” said Aaron. “She’s crazy. Obviously, she’s gonna be crazy after something like that.” Then he smiled and let out a laugh.
Obviously, she’s gonna be crazy after something like that.
That phrase kept repeating in my head, over and over, and each time it replayed I became increasingly irritated by it. I felt sad for that girl: She saw her own dad get shot in front of her and then she’s got some asshole assuming that she is now crazy because of it, something she had no control over.
That phrase really made me think about how people perceive people who have experienced heavy shit. If you expect people to be crazy after a crazy experience, will you ever be able to perceive them as not? What if they are reacting “normally” to something but you attribute it to them being damaged because you already have that idea planted in your head? That in itself is enough to drive someone crazy.
There are so many depictions in film and books where after a person experiences trauma they “are never the same as they were before,” a shell of what they used to be. I used to think that was just what happened after a traumatic incident. I’s so prevalent that people assume someone is “messed up” because of a past trauma. How can somebody fully overcome something with a stigma like this?
But being sexually assaulted didn’t change the way I perceive sex or men. Not once did I ever put my rapist in the same category as the kind of males that I hang out with.
Instead my attacker (who was a serial rapist) has been filed into the creepy predator category of my mind, alongside aggressive catcallers, pedophiles, and serial killers. Of course the incident was horrible and deeply upsetting to me, but I was more disturbed by the way that “good” people reacted to the incident.
My perception of how rape survivors were treated changed as I experienced first hand how horrible it can be (which is why I feel the need to write about it a lot) but I didn’t struggle with intimacy issues.
After I got over the initial shock of that incident, the way I viewed sex was the same as it was before. I continued to date and got into a few relationships. Last April, I broke up with my boyfriend who I lived with. After ending such a serious relationship, I haven’t had much interest in dating. I’ve been enjoying being single and focusing on my career. I like not feeling responsible for another person’s feelings. I feel free, nothing is lacking in my life. The very idea of being in a relationship right now makes me shudder. Not that I think it’s bad, it’s just bad for me right now.
I couldn’t tell if hinting that I may have intimacy issues was just Aaron’s ego trying to justify rejection. Rape can absolutely affect one’s intimacy and very understandably so. But, one should not assume that it does.
In my case, the reasons for not wanting to be with Aaron were based on very standard and normal relationship situations and for him to assume it was because I was raped was pretty offensive.
Though a negative experience can destroy a person that doesn’t mean that it will. People can pretty much overcome anything. Human beings are very resilient. I’ve had an eventful life with a few rough patches but I feel like my basic personality never changed at all.
If anything I’m more content and comfortable with the world than ever before: the opposite of how someone who has been raped is often depicted. A lot of women have been sexually assaulted and many of them are as functional and successful as they were before they were attacked, if not even more so.
Everybody has been through something and everyone deserves to not have what they’ve experienced used against them.