Boy, am I getting up there in age. I say that because when I sat down to write this, one of the first things that came to mind is a commercial I used to see all of the time; one that is at least 35 years old. Emmanuel Lewis was in it talking about how to respond/react when someone tries to molest you. He said that you should "Say 'no', then go and then tell."
As a child (and teen), I was molested by a family member. I did what Emmanuel suggested. It's a long story but let's just say that although that man should be in jail for what he did, folks seemed more concerned with how things looked and opted to protect images more than anything else.
As I've been healing from the abuse of my childhood (and adolescence), I honestly think that is a part of the reason why it took me so long to recognize and then accept that not only was I molested when I was young, I was date raped by two men once I became an adult as well. My aha moment is, just like my family member was someone I loved and trusted, so were those two men.
It's not like I didn't grow up understanding what rape was. I always heard that if someone forces you to have sex with them and it's against your will, it's rape. I know a woman who was raped by a stranger in a parking lot. I also know a woman who was gang-raped after being drugged in a bar. I'm very clear on what happened to them. They were raped.
But what about when it's a guy you are attracted to, have great chemistry with and, at one point and time, even had great sex with?
This describes the first man who date raped me. Long story short, we dated for a little over a year, moved on and later reconnected. He asked me to dinner and, afterwards, came back to my place. We started kissing and messing around on my couch. I liked it. But right when his hands went for my panties, something suddenly clicked.
I remembered all of the reasons why I ended things in the first place – other women, giving him tons of money, his constant lying, etc. – and I told him I wanted to stop.
He kept going. The more I pushed him away, the more aggressive he'd become. Full disclosure, we used to get pretty sexually intense in times past, so I actually think my forcefulness was turning him on. But as I kept saying, "No, I don't want to do this with you tonight", tugging at clothes turned into tears and "Girl, stop playin'" turned into—and this is a direct quote—"Don't be mad at me that your other niggas ain't f*ckin' you right." Wow. I had always heard rape was about power, not sex. His words just proved that.
In my totally dark living room, the experience was cold and uncomfortable (borderline painful). I was crying. When he was done, I crawled into a corner, completely shell-shocked and he walked out of the door, not saying a word. When I turned on a lamp, I noticed a few marks on my body. He had never left those before.
I knew it wasn't the kind of sex I wanted to have, but because we had sex before – and again, sometimes it would get pretty ravenous – I couldn't get a good read on if it was rape or not. Unpleasant? Sure. Out of hand. Yep. But rape? Did this man actually RAPE me?
Fast forward several years later to another guy. I had known him for at least 10 years and he always made it clear that he had a crush on me. I had an odd attraction to him too but always managed to keep him physically and emotionally at arm's length.
He persisted. I broke and one day gave into him wanting to kiss me as we watched a movie up in his bedroom. Honestly, he's one of the best kissers I've experienced to this day. Over the course of a few months, kisses on the mouth turned into kisses other places.
I liked how he made me feel, but I also knew that I didn't want to sleep with him. He had at least six kids at the time. He never used condoms. And there was an entitlement in his attitude towards everything in life that made him seem more like a spoiled child than a grown man. Still, because we were friends and because he was so consistent in his declaration of love for me, I didn't feel unsafe in his presence. Not one time. Not at all.
Then one day, while hanging out, we started kissing. As he started reaching for my clothing, I told him "no". Several times. He said nothing but kept on kissing and reaching. I turned my head, tried moving his arms…he overpowered all of my efforts.
I finally got so tired of squirming and fighting that I stopped and thought to myself, "Please let this end quickly." He was so excited, it did. As he laid on top of me talking about how right it felt (huh?!), something in me snapped. I told him I hated him and I wanted him to get out. He then responded that we probably should've waited because I was being hyper-sensitive. By the way, I later found out that a couple of other women accused him of rape before.
I told him "no" and he persisted. But this was a friend of mine and he admitted himself that he pushed me past my limits. But is that rape? Is it really?
I already know there are going to be people who are immediately going to want to put this on me. What was I doing making out with a guy I didn't want to have sex with? And of course, because I had sex with one of them before and he was in my living room in the dark, he was going to think that he could sleep with me again; that was a poor judgment call on my part. Sure, they might have taken advantage of their opportunities, but rape? If that's what I think happened, I'm not taking ownership and perhaps I'm just being dramatic.
To that, I say two things:
One, I tend to believe that people who think that way either 1) have done what those guys did or 2) have never had my experiences before. Because anytime anyone has sex that results in feelings of violation, on any level, it's a problem. Someone's been victimized.
Two – and this is something I share even in counseling sessions with married couples – sex is supposed to be beautiful. It's supposed to feel good. Both individuals need to feel desired but also safe and cherished before, during, and after. Neither one should want sex so badly that they don't care how their partner feels (especially if they express it's not something they want to do at that time). Anyone who doesn't believe this to be true also has a problem. Not only that but, whether they want to accept this reality or not, they've probably victimized someone before.
The one word that both of these points have in common is "victimized" and the very definition of rape is 1) someone having sex with another without their consent and 2) someone who violates another individual.
It took quite a while for me to really get that because I said "no" and because I felt unsafe and was violated, it didn't matter what my past experiences with those two men had been. There was a time when each of them raped me. There's nothing "grey" about it.
And you know what? On this side of clarity, because I had to even wonder if that's what happened in the first place, that's my greatest indication that rape is exactly what went down. I say that because no one should EVER have a sexual experience with someone and, after it ends, wonder if they were assaulted or not. If that crosses their mind, I am comfortable enough in knowing what a healthy sexual experience should be like to say that they were.
According to RAINN, someone is raped within the United States every 98 seconds. I know there is someone reading this who's had a sexual experience with someone they don't feel good about but they're not sure if they can call it an assault.
Hopefully, my stories will help to make things clearer. Either way, I can assure you that sex isn't supposed to hurt, harm, or damage you in any way. So, if when you think back on a sexual experience, you have to question if it was rape or not, sis…just in the fact that rape comes to your mind, I'm 99 percent certain that it was. And recognizing that is the first step towards healing.
For more information on sexual assault or if you need assistance in getting the support that you need, contact RAINN.org or call 800-656-HOPE.
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