My son had us listening to the KidsBop version of Katy Perry’s “Roar” on repeat all week. I’d been singing along for days, “You held me down, but I got up…” before it hit me: This song is my anthem.
He held me down (and I couldn’t get up). But then I did – I got up. I am up. I went from zero, to my own hero.
I initiated a divorce with my ex for a million reasons. He never followed through on his promises. He made a few big parenting mistakes I had a hard time looking past. He made my life harder instead of easier. When things were bad, we brought each other down instead of up. Our sex life was terrible. We didn’t make a good team. We had simply grown apart.
But once I stopped biting my tongue and holding my breath, once he was gone and I was on my own, I realized just how bad the dark parts had been. Our sex life wasn’t just terrible; my husband had been raping me. For years, I think.
I can only say “I think” because while the memories of the dark moments are crystal clear, I can’t say when the rapes happened or how many there were. But I know they did happen…
I would wake up and he would be on top of me, inside of me.
I’d be disoriented as I came out of a deep sleep. I would say “no” and “stop” and “I don’t want this,” but he would continue.
I would try to push all 215 lbs. of him off of me. Sometimes I would manage to get myself out from under him and snap him into his senses, getting him to stop.
But often I wouldn’t.
I would verbally and physically protest, but he would continue, his weight winning out over mine. Sometimes I would give up fighting and just lay motionless, willing him to finish quickly.
In the morning, I would say to him, “You can’t do that to me. It’s not okay. You have to stop doing this to me.”
And he would say, “I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I think I must have been asleep or something. I’m so sorry.”
And it wouldn’t happen again… for a while. But then it would. And I would protest. And he would apologize in the morning.
Until one night he pushed me past the breaking point.
(Get ready ‘cause I’ve had enough / I see it all, I see it now.)
When I woke up and he was on top of me, inside of me, I yelled, “NO!” And with all of my might I squirmed and twisted and got out from under him and propelled myself first up and then down into his chest, elbow first.
“OWWWW!!!!” He yelled. “What the FUCK was that?!? What’s wrong with you.”
And I quite calmly said, “That is how much I mean it when I say, NO! You CAN’T DO THIS TO ME ANYMORE. IT IS NOT OKAY. I have been telling you it’s not okay for a long time. This has to STOP.”
And it never happened again.
He never “accidentally” started having sex with me while I was sleeping again because it was never an accident. It was rape. Marital rape is rape.
I said, “No!” I said, “Stop!” I used my body (sometimes successfully) to forcefully make him stop. Married or not, he raped me.
The night I ended the vicious rape cycle was at least a year and a half before I told him I wanted a divorce, two and a half years before I was able to label what happened as rape.
Only I can’t roar. I can’t throw the word “rape” in his face and make him confront the horror of what he did to me. I can’t roar because everything I’m doing, everything I’ve done since I put a stop to the middle-of-the-night rapes has been to protect and care for our son. Confronting him now would ruin the delicate co-parenting balance we’ve created.
I didn’t get to grow up with a dad. I want my son to know his, however flawed he might be. I want him to make his own judgments about him, form his own relationship with him.
I keep choosing to take the high road. The road that will let my son have two parents.
But there’s a cost to this path, this silence. My ex could hurt someone else. In my attempt to protect my son, I leave open the door to further abuse. So I have an imperfect plan: I will tell my side of the story to my ex when he becomes seriously involved with someone else. I will tell him he raped me in the hopes that this label makes him face the gravity of what he did. And if there’s ever even a whisper of evidence that he’s abusing someone else then I will ROAR. Loudly and clearly.
For now, my roaring is me living my best life. It’s raising a son who has empathy and respect for all people. Who is loving and kind. Who understands and respects the importance of consent. That’s my path to tearing down the patriarchy.
You hear my voice? You hear that sound? Like thunder, gonna shake the ground.