Not Rape, but not right

When I was 16, I met this sweet boy, Richie (not his real name.) He was quiet, and handsome, and two years younger than me so it was safe to flirt and fan his adoration. Richie was a summer kid so when September came, he returned to wherever he lived while I remained at the shore and grew up.

A handful of years later, our paths crossed again. Richie was now big and strong, still quiet, even more handsome, but no longer “too young.” We were at a small gathering one night, circling each other as we drank and laughed with friends. A few of us were talking in the bedroom. One by one people left, and soon I found myself alone, with Richie, as he leaned in for a kiss.

Vallotton/detail, visipix.com

It was our first. And it was weird. Like some kind of time warp. (How did we become adults, let alone peers?)

But there was something else. Something not right. A prickling went up my neck. Richie was leaning in too hard. He was too quiet. He had been drinking too much.

I glanced out into the livingroom and the kitchen and saw that it was suddenly emptied.

My breath caught as Richie began driving me toward the bed. I tried a joke to shift the mood, but he wasn’t budging. If I didn’t think of something fast, I was about to be… raped.

“Not here, let’s go to my place,” I said, hoping to wake him from the spell he was under.

It worked. Richie stumbled into my car and rode with me to my apartment; climbed the stairs, and got into my bed. Whoever he had been at the party was gone; and now he was only generous and gentle. But I felt dirty.

I’d never felt that before.

Afterward, I slipped on what was once my mother’s nightgown (the one she wore in the hospital at my birth), and stepped out onto the porch where I sat in the rain until it soaked me through.

Richie came out to see what was wrong. I didn’t say a thing. Until now.

25 years have passed since that night, and I can still feel the rain on my skin, and the humiliation in my bones.

Kelly Salasin

Author’s note: Do you ever wonder what makes you write something, all of the sudden, that happened long ago? And then you see this CLICK HERE. And you know. We’re all connected.

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20 thoughts on “Not Rape, but not right

  1. I wanted to stop in and thank you for reading my essay on Ms. Magazine’s blog–and for commenting. It led me to your post here, where I see even more women are speaking out. It’s time to say no. It’s time to take back our dignity. Even if we didn’t have a say as children, we have one now.

  2. Kelly, given the content of this post, I thought you might want to know and join me in removing the “Reddit” button from your site–I’m also encouraging other bloggers to do so. I’m looking into other such aggregating sites to see if I need to remove others–I’m afraid I probably will have to, and that’s too bad because they can help bloggers to build readership. I’ll just have to find another way.

    I decided to remove Reddit because on their site they have usergroups and sub-groups. Among those sub-groups are things like “Chokeabitch” and “rapewomen”. They’ve had complaints, but as is typical of many people and organizations (like Facebook, whom Ensler mentions in her article on HuffPo), especially male-dominated ones, who like to use the excuse of advocating free-speech, they haven’t removed or banned the creation of such subgroups. I question whether they would be such strong advocates if the speech was from a group called “rapechild”. It’s another indicator of the devaluing and dehumanizing of women.

    I’m a strong advocate of free speech, but I also know that in cases such as rape and violence, free speech can become the coward’s excuse for not doing the right thing. The existence of such groups is, I feel, a tacit acceptance of such things in practice, and presents a dangerous impression of acceptability of these things to those who embrace them.

    So, I hope that you and anyone else reading this will decide to join me in boycotting Reddit and other sites that refuse to take a stand against violence–toward women or anyone/anything else. Maybe the only thing they understand is loss of readership and revenue, and if that’s the case, so be it. Please consider boycotting Reddit.

  3. Thanks for this article. It is time to speak out. In many ways. I feel such empathy for your situation. I said “NO!” I fought off his drunken advances when I was 16. I had gone to a party in his car. He picked up up like the gentleman he wanted my mom to believe he was. He drank too much, and I was in his car, helpless, miles from home. He took me to his apartment, put on loud music, and kissed me too hard, started to feel me up. I said, “NO!” and alternately pleaded and cried and demanded to be taken home. He skidded off the road several times, but he got me home. My mother was waiting up and saw me disheveled. She called me a whore and I defended him, so I would not be punished. But I was. I was “gounded”– kept in my room for a week. And the guy? He told everyone he’d had consensual sex with me and I wasn’t even that good. This was in the years when a girl’s reputation could be ruined by locker room talk. And it was. I was not raped physically, but rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power. And I learned everything I ever needed to know about being powerless that night.

  4. Thank you for sharing this story. I was first sexually molested when I was 13 by my father. Over 3 years there were several other instances of sexual intimacy before I finally left home at 16.

    Fast forward to 29 years old. I was involved in an affair with my husband’s best friend – not something that I’m proud of by the way – and one evening, while visiting with his family, he took advantage of a short period of time to coerce me into intercourse. It was quiet, quick and over before I knew it. But it left me feeling completely filthy, weak and pathetic. It was like that one act took away the last shred of dignity and sexual autonomy from me. I had been sexually active throughout my teens and during my marriage which was in its tenth year at that point, but never quite felt like I owned my body. Offering sex gave me a temporary feeling of power, but then after I felt shame or I felt nothing. This incident confirmed in my heart and mind that my primary value was as a sexual object.

    It’s now 23 years later and I am still promiscuous by most standards. I find that sex has lost its sacredness and that’s truly what I miss the most. The sense of mystery, magic and deep intimacy that makes being with someone special. When I do find myself ‘connecting’ emotionally with someone during sex, it triggers such a powerful sense of grief and I end up crying. It’s like my soul is still grieving the loss of my sexual autonomy. It’s like that part of me died a long time ago. The part that would allow me to fully release my feelings of love with a man. I just can’t seem to get to a point where I feel like a woman during sex – I still feel like a little girl.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this on Eve Ensler’s “Over It.” I experienced a similar situation when I was sixteen. The fear of violent rape, after my “No” had been ignored several times, lead to passively giving in. An experience that has brought a mixture of shame, guilt, and anger well into my adult years. These are the stories the media ignores – the almosts, the sort-ofs, the not rights. And there are so many of them.

  6. You’re a brave girl for sharing these things, Kel. I’m sure you can’t imagine the feelings your writing brings up in other people who are less brave but have had some shared experiences. I bet sometimes you thank God that you have boys instead of girls!

    • Actually, it’s having boys that makes me want to share this, particularly as my strong teenage son is curious about alcohol.

      Thanks for showing up in the comments. That takes bravery too!

      • I plan to ask my sons, “How would you feel if a woman spent her whole life thinking, I wish I spoke up and said NO! about sex with you? …..That is why it is important to get explicit, and enthusiastic consent.”

      • Kelly,
        Thank you for sharing this, I saw it linked on Eve Ensler’s recent post “Over It.” It takes a lot of guts to share something like this, and I would know, it took me 14 years to write about being sexually assaulted by a girlfriend I had when I was 8. In the meantime, the three years I kept that secret inside I lost most of my childhood in what now I can only remember as a blur. Silence does indeed eat you from the inside out.
        Men have a big role to play in creating a better society, and I think that starts by admitting that both men and women can be sexually assaulted/raped. We don’t want to be marginalized in this movement, we want to help you transform our world into a better place. I personally stopped a rape from happening in the dorm room I was sleeping in my freshman year in college, so good, active, and compassionate men are indeed out there.
        Again, thank you for helping shape a better future for all of us.
        ~Nigel

        • Nigel, I’m so sorry for your pain. Thank you for your presence here. I had a boyfriend who was sexually abused as a young boy so I know that women aren’t the only ones hurting.

          • Its ok. It makes me stronger, and being a survivor makes us all stronger people. You’d be surprised though, I don’t blame the girl who victimized me, because I think she was naturalized to it, and taught to believe that such advances at that age were normal. So I’ve always been furious at whoever did that to her, even though I may never know who they are. Sexual abuse, especially of boys and girls under 18 is an enormous problem, in the US alone there are 49 million people who are survivors of childhood sexual assault/rape/ or molestation. This is a cycle of violence that we need addressed at every level of our society (personally, I would love to see a presidential candidate run with one of his main goals to be to address this rampant epidemic). If no one will step up to that challenge, I plan to one day at least try. :-)

      • I am so glad that you said this. I have heard too many people say, “I’m glad I don’t have daughters,” as if the problem of rape is only a problem for girls or parents who have girls. Can’t people see that it affects everybody?

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