Trigger warning: marital rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse
Marital Rape. That was the phrase the lawyer used after asking about the intimate details of my marriage.
Over the years, I had known that the incident that happened was assault. I knew it was unacceptable and demoralizing. I knew it shouldn’t ever happen in a marriage. I just didn’t realize it was considered rape. I hadn’t wanted ever to label it. He hadn’t forced me down or slammed me against a wall. He hadn’t restrained my arms or ripped my clothes off. It had started as consensual sex. Physical intimacy between spouses. Then the pain came. He was thrusting himself harder and harder into me. I yelled out, “Stop!” over and over again. The pain increased. I could feel my skin ripping. His eyes were closed and it was as though he couldn’t hear me. He was almost in a trance-like state. The pain got worse. Fear and panic was all I could feel. He wasn’t stopping. He was hurting me and he wasn’t stopping. I laid there under him helpless and afraid. I couldn’t move. I screamed out and the tears were flowing. Yet, he didn’t stop.
When he finally got off of me, I ran to the bathroom. There was blood. A lot of blood. I could feel the torn skin. I was in shock and in pain. What the hell has just happened?!
He acted surprised and upset that I was so traumatized. The excuses and justifications spewed out of his mouth. He couldn’t stop; he was coming. He didn’t hear me; he was in the moment. He was climaxing; he needed to finish. I couldn’t hear him. My head was spinning and my crotch was burning. I fled out the front door demanding he not touch me ever again. To not follow me. To leave me alone.
I went to a friend’s house. She was a nurse. She suggested we go to the hospital. I couldn’t do it. My husband worked in the ER for college volunteer credit. The town we were in was very small. Everyone there knew him and they knew me. I couldn’t go there. I just couldn’t do it. She asked if I wanted to report the abuse. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. He was a paramedic student and the cops all knew him, too. I just couldn’t do it.
I tried to move past that horrific night. I tried to come to terms with it and live my life. We found out we were pregnant with our second child only a couple months later. I still don’t know if she was conceived that night or not. I couldn’t bring myself to break down the time frame.
I stayed another six years married to him. Sex was still painful and I always worried if he’d hurt me again. He wasn’t as rough as that one night, but he was demanding and abusive in other ways. He’d beg for sex, tell me how long it had been since we’d done it, ignore me for days if I denied him, become angry and demeaning if I said “no,” barter for things I wanted if I’d just give him more sex. He’d make advances and try to touch me even when I would say I wasn’t in the mood. We couldn’t just cuddle and watch a movie together without him trying to get in my pants. He’d beg me for hand jobs or oral because he needed to “get off” right then.
He even had me service him on Christmas morning by calling me from the room. Our children and my parents were there waiting to open presents. He didn’t care. He just wanted sex. All the time. He was always thinking about sex.
When I was exclusively pumping for our babies because I have inverted nipples, he researched and suggested that I get nipple extraction surgery. His reason wasn’t so that I could possibly nurse our babies more comfortably. His reason was so that he could have them to play with during sex. So that my breasts would then be “normal.” He didn’t care about me or how offensive I found that. He just cared about sex. He was always thinking about sex.
I knew this wasn’t normal. I knew this wasn’t real love. I knew I deserved better. I knew things were not healthy. I just didn’t know how to change things. I didn’t know how unhealthy and unloving this really was. I didn’t realize this was sexual abuse. I didn’t realize this was what living with a sex addict was. I didn’t realize it until I did.
I wish I had had the courage to press charges at the time. I wish I had gone to the ER that night. To have been examined properly. I have a scar from the tearing that I am reminded of at my annual physical. I’ve never told the doctors what I really got the scar from. I know they know it’s not from childbirth; I’m a C-section mom. I may tell them next year. I am not ashamed or embarrassed anymore. I was assaulted. It wasn’t my fault. I did nothing wrong. I was taken advantage of for many years. I am a survivor of spousal rape. The kind of rape that isn’t talked about. The kind of rape that goes unnoticed and undetected.
“Did you know what you just described to me falls under the category of marital rape?” the lawyer asked. I proceeded to sign the divorce papers. I’m one step closer to being free. Free from a toxic marriage. Free from sexual assault and abuse.
I come from a line of strong women. Women who endured spousal rape, sexual assault, and abuse. Women who held their heads high, smiled, but didn’t tell a soul about their horrible marriages. Women who thankfully escaped their toxic husbands and started new healthy lives. Women who now, many years later, are able to talk a bit about what they survived. Women I admire and look to for strength. I believe if more women would share their experiences, the chain can be broken. That abuse can be detected sooner.
For those in an abusive relationship, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Don’t hesitate to tell someone. Know that you are not alone. There are many women experiencing spousal rape behind closed doors, who may not even know it is rape and it is unacceptable. If you do not want to have sex or any other unwanted advances, even from your spouse, you do not have to. No one is allowed to force or coerce you into something you do not want. Ever. Not for any reason. No reason will ever justify rape. You deserve better. You can break free. I believe in you.