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I had turned 18 that year and it was my first year of college. At the time, I had been in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend Brad* for a few years, so I chose a college close to him.
We didn’t have the perfect relationship, but we loved each other and were determined to make it work. Being able to spend more time together helped to strengthen our relationship. I stayed at his apartment most weekends and we often took walks together, explored the wilderness, and built bonfires at the beach. I was on cloud nine.
I had been in college for two months when I was abducted and brutally beaten and raped by a stranger. After this man let me go, I returned to my dorm and phoned Brad. I tried to remain calm as the phone rang, but as soon as he picked up, I was hysterical.
Through my heavy sobs, I managed to say those awful words I never thought I’d utter: I was raped. He told me he’d be there as soon as possible so we could go to the police station. Brad stuck by my side the entire 10 hours I spent at the police station and at the hospital.
With little help from the police or hospital staff, I went home and was left to deal with what had happened to me. Brad was very supportive… at first. For a short while, he was my rock. But it didn’t last. The first two weeks were an absolute nightmare. My acute trauma reactions confused and angered Brad. I didn’t want to be touched and couldn’t lay in bed with him. When I was asleep, I whimpered and cried out because of the nightmares. I was afraid to leave the house and was very jumpy.
My cuts and bruises were still healing when he started asking if we could have sex again. He took offense when I said I wasn’t ready and that the thought of having sex made me feel physically ill. I told him I needed time and didn’t know when I would be able to have sex again. He raged at me, saying he couldn’t be in a relationship completely devoid of sex. He said I was being unfair to him by denying him sex. I tried to hold my ground, knowing I couldn’t handle it yet.
Brad then tried a different argument: It would be better to have sex as soon as possible so I wouldn’t associate bad feelings with sex forever. When I still didn’t cave in, he started badgering me for details of my rape. I began to divulge certain aspects of the ordeal, but quickly realized that this was a mistake. Brad was jealous and upset that the rapist had gotten to do certain things to me before he had. He became more insistent that we do those things as soon as possible so I would have “good feelings” about those acts instead of bad ones.
His whole personality appeared to change right before my eyes. When I wouldn’t have sex with him, he became suspicious about how the rape had happened and if it had even happened at all. He surmised that I had tried to go out and cheat on him and it had gone wrong, leading me to getting raped. Brad became more and more sure of the conclusion he had reached because A: I couldn’t have possibly been abducted by a stranger because it was just too rare and B: Because I didn’t want him doing the sex acts that the rapist had done to me.
According to Brad, I had “let” the rapist do those things to me. According to Brad, it was “unfair” that I wouldn’t let him do the same.
The year that followed was the worst year of my life. Brad abused me emotionally, physically, and sexually. It seemed like he was punishing me for getting raped, or as he saw it, “cheating” on him. I berated myself for not seeing the warning signs. I felt that I should’ve seen this coming, but since I didn’t, I was trapped.
Sometimes he outright raped me, but most of the time I was manipulated and coerced into doing sexual things with him. One of the ways he got me to do sexual things was to tell me he wasn’t going to drive me back to my dorm until I had sex with him. Brad trapped me in his home and even prevented me from trying to contact anyone. When he left the room for a few minutes, I grabbed the phone and started to dial my mom’s number, but he came back and ripped the phone cord out of the wall and smashed the phone until it was broken.
He also prevented me from eating until I did what he wanted. If I tried to go to the door to get out, he physically prevented me from leaving. Another way he got me to do sexual things was to make sure I didn’t get any sleep until I gave in to him. He played loud music and slammed things around to keep me awake. One time he even sent me to the hallway to sleep since I wouldn’t have sex with him.
Everything he did, he blamed on me trying to “cheat” on him. He preyed upon me and took advantage of me when I was vulnerable and in pain. He made me feel guilty for getting raped. He used my guilt against me and in essence, used my own rape against me, to hurt me and to justify his abuse. Brad was “allowed” to abuse and rape me because I had “cheated” on him.
He kept my head spinning for a year until I finally escaped. I told him I had to go back home for the summer, but I swore I would come back. He believed me and with that, I was on a plane headed as far away from his as possible.
This was five years ago. As a result of the rape followed by the abusive relationship, I developed a severe form of PTSD. Surviving is still an uphill battle, but I will continue to share my experiences in hopes that I can at least help someone else. I’m still here. I’m still fighting. He can’t use my rape against me anymore.