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I never wanted to be known as “the rape victim” or the “girl with the sexual abuse story.” No one does. There are no perks that come with that. You don’t get into VIP clubs with that kind of notoriety. You don’t even get the the respect of your peers.
That’s part of what is so unfair about sexual violence. You never asked for it, and you definitely never asked for the flack you receive after coming forward with your story. I was raped and now I also have to deal with people calling my horrible nightmare experience a lie? Cool.
Especially being a comedian. I felt like people would be wondering: Is it safe to make a rape joke around her? Especially if she was abused by a fellow performer. Yikes. What if that guy is funny? Now I have to hate him or something just cause he raped a girl? Probs best to ignore the victim’s story and keep laughing, right?
I tried to get this story out on local comedy blogs that I admire, but they pulled out after agreeing to publish it. I understand in a way. They don’t want to be known for publishing a rape story. Even if it is an important issue affecting the community. Things like that only further illustrate how we deal with rape in our culture and in our small communities: We want the victim to just go away.
I was silent about this for a long time. I didn’t go to the police or to friends or family or anyone. Why not? Because I feared the conversation would go like this:
"I was attacked."
"By your boyfriend?"
"But it was a really recent break-up and you both still talked and saw each other?"
"So you used to have sex with him willingly?"
"Yes, but --"
"And you lived together?"
"Yes, but I was moving out --"
"But you hadn’t yet?"
"And you did hug him?"
"So…what’s the problem here?"
All of those things were true. We were very young comedy nerds living together while we began our careers. We fought instantly and often. Like any relationship, we had good times; but ultimately we were making each other miserable.
I told him that I wanted to move out. He asked me if moving out meant I didn’t want to be with him anymore. I confessed that I didn’t know. We broke up that night.
But we still shared a one-bedroom apartment since I couldn’t move to my new place for another month. I naively believed this would be okay. He and I could figure out a month of awkwardness in an apartment with a slow, simmering break-up. One morning we actually had a good talk about what was going on. It was so understanding and mature that we punctuated it with a hug.
During the hug, he tightened his grip around me. When I pulled away, he picked me up and took me to the bedroom. He swiftly took off my pants and slid them down my legs.
“No, don’t.” I said. He continued as if I hadn’t said anything.
I started to cry. Why was he unbuttoning his pants even though I didn’t want him to? I was shocked realizing what was about to happen. The guy that I trusted and loved was about to rape me.
I started sobbing. Loud, uncontrollable, guttural sobs. I haven’t really cried like that before. I felt like a wounded animal. I cried so loud that he stopped. I think he was afraid the neighbors would hear me and knock on the door to see what was going on.
I was at a loss for what to do next. I was too scared to tell anyone. For several reasons:
1. The ex-boyfriend thing. I was convinced people would tell me that because I had dated him and broke his heart very recently, that what he did was not wrong.
2. He didn’t finish. I honestly thought that it was not a rape because he didn’t finish. Who cares that he grabbed me, picked me up, took off my clothes, and touched me without my consent? He didn’t have an orgasm, so it wasn’t rape. I honestly don’t know why I thought this. So I’m writing it out just in case there are people like me out there. Rape is rape. Sadly, this was rape.
3. People liked him. He was around my friends and they all seemed to like him. Forget that they were my friends first. I was terrified that people would choose to leave me in the dust when I seemed like a victim.
4. We were both in the comedy community, so coming forward might forever tarnish my career. Unfortunately, I still worry about this. I’m afraid of putting my name on this story because I might be remembered for only this.
What was really hard about being in the same community as him is that shortly after this incident he seemed to be totally fine. He was just a guy triumphing over a breakup while I was terrified to tell anyone about what had happened.
I began exhibiting symptoms of PTSD. I would randomly have crying fits or be inexplicably angry and engage in fights. I locked myself in multiple bathrooms that I would not come out of. I had panic attacks that kept me up at night. I thought about suicide a lot.
After a year of this crazy behavior, I finally told close friends of mine who helped me find a therapist to begin the long road to healing. I’ve learned a lot of amazing things through therapy.
Like that this is far more commonplace than we think. It’s unsettling how common sexual violence is in relationships. A statistic provided by RAINN states that ⅘ assaults are committed by someone the victim knows with 47% being a friend. That includes boyfriend, husband, partner, etc.
What is more staggering is the fact that most assaults go unreported. A staggering 98% of rapists never go to jail. Most do not even appear in court. They go about their business while their victims go on trying to cope with what happened to them against their will.
Those statistics can be defeating to victims. To people like me. Why even tell anyone? After this happened, I found myself questioning everything I felt about the attack. Was it really an attack? Am I sure? Am I sure I didn’t want it? Did I lead him on though?
I asked myself those questions. It wasn’t until I got support that I realized that I was treating myself the way our culture treats victims of sexual violence. I was doing it to myself even though I experienced the attack. How twisted is that?
Everything resurfaced for me when the Bill Cosby story really broke this year. People were outraged, especially my comedian friends. Even people who were friends with my ex-boyfriend/rapist. It pissed me off.
Yes, what Cosby did is horrific, but this is happening in our own backyard. It’s happening with people we know. It happened to me.
Someone once asked me what the point of sharing this story would be. Since time has passed and I don’t even have medical evidence that would hold up in court against this guy, I probably can’t take him to court. I don’t even think I would want to. And it’s not like I’m calling him and demanding justice. I purposefully block him from my life. So why?
Because I wish someone had told a similar story when this happened to me. Because I didn’t think it had happened to anyone else in my community. I hope that I’m giving someone out there the signal that I needed when this happened to me: It’s OK. We do not have to be afraid.
We don’t owe the men we date or have dated sex. If you break up with a guy -- even if you completely destroy his heart -- he still does not get to have his way with you. Your partner doesn’t get to have free reign of your body like it is a literal sex toy. So if your boyfriend abuses you or does anything to you that makes you feel violated, please tell someone. Tell me, even. I’ll listen.