“We were in a relationship so it couldn’t have been rape…right?” Wrong. Unfortunately, when the event of rape involves your partner it is often invalidated. It is a trauma that tends to get looked over because it doesn’t seem as serious. It doesn’t seem as brutal as those scenarios that make mainstream media. So I am speaking up to say that, it is very much real and it very much leaves the victim at a sense of loss and guilt. Questioning what possibly happened. Because he loves you and you love him. But this was not love. I know the feeling all too well. And I am sorry for those who understand. My story puts me at the age of 23, John and I had been in a relationship for two years and living together for about a year now. We were happy. We had a wonderful life together. Earlier that year, I had a major surgery requiring a year’s time for full recovery. In those first three months, I was not able to drive, to lift more than five pounds at a time. I was not able to shower myself, my body overwhelmed with the significant post-surgical pain. Somewhere along the way, I started to feel like I was on house arrest. I missed the normalcy of life. One night, John and some friends went out for drinks after work. When he finally arrived home, I felt his intoxicated body crawl into bed and begin kissing my neck. It had been so long and I craved the idea of feeling sexual again. I gave him one condition, “We have to stop if I start hurting. Please.” It was wonderful. At first. My boyfriend was so gentle, so considerate. Until something changed. I began to feel the weight of this man, twice my size, bearing down on my broken ribs. Pain started flowing through my body so I called it, I said it was time to stop. Then I tried to push him off as I cried, “Please, please stop!”. I will never forget his response, “I’m not done”. Within seconds, he had pinned my hands to the bed and I could not move. I could not push him away. I felt crushed under his weight as he picked up in speed and became more aggressive. I bit my lip to keep from yelling in agony, to keep from waking up our roommates, but could not stop the tears. Then finally it was over. He went into the bathroom to clean up, while I took two doses of Percocet to try and kill the pain. For the night. Then curled into the fetal position and quietly cried myself to sleep—while the man next to me fell into a drunken slumber, unfazed. Sitting in bed the next morning, I tried to slow the residual pain from the night. The after-math radiating through my body with every breath I took, I tried to confront John. He claimed there was no memory of the previous night and took offense that the story could in-fact be reality. I retracted my words, simplifying my pain to the conclusion, “No, it’s fine. We just need to be more careful next time”. But I saw it on his face. As he walked away guilt-free, I was consumed with all of the guilt of letting that happen. That night, this morning. It was my fault obviously, I should have known better. He was drunk and he didn’t remember. He loves me… it couldn’t have been rape. I was clearly making a big deal out of nothing. I will just be more cautious next time, next time he’s home. Excuse after excuse circled in my head—for days, weeks, months, years. I came up with anything to try and make it right in my mind. To pretend I was not held down, to pretend I hadn’t cried out for him to stop. Nothing ever settled the unease of it. It just became something to live with. A part of life. John and I went on to date for three more rocky years, filled with plenty of good times and tainted with moments of emotional abuse. I never seemed to be good enough, to do the right things, to be complete. I was always at fault. At the end of the relationship, I was left with a guilt-ridden conscious and minimal self-esteem. Despite the complexity of what is a relationship, I know the downfall circles back to the night he raped me. The night he raped me was the night I lost my voice and I had lost the ability to stand up for myself. The night I couldn’t admit what was happening, what happened, what I deserved. Years after the break up, I told my best friend about that night. I told her it was one night, that it was okay. Her response was simple but gave me the validation I did not know I was searching for. A sense of relief. “That is not okay. That is rape. Are you okay?” In that moment, I was not crazy for the months of confusion, for feeling violated, for feeling broken. Finally, I was not alone. With the truth in front of me, I could face my reality head-on, knowing I would have a shoulder to support me along the way. Finally, that night was real. It happened. It was rape. So slowly but surely, I am now taking the steps towards healing. Slowly but surely, I am finding my voice. Slowly but surely, I am becoming me again. Your turn.