She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
About a year ago, I met up with someone I had been talking with online. I anticipated getting sexual with him during the night, and we did, but I am pretty sure it turned into some form of date rape and I am also pretty sure he doesn't realize what he did.
Here's what happened…
I needed to leave by a certain time that evening. We established this long before I arrived. I get there. We talk. Hang out. He drinks a bit. We both smoke a little pot. And we start kissing. Things progress, and eventually we start having sex. Much of what is going on peripherally isn't being consented to. For example he keeps biting me very hard to the point it makes me yelp. I ask him to stop. He says he will. He does it again. (In retrospect, this should've been enough for me to leave but it wasn't.)
Anyway, it gets to about five-ten minutes before I need to leave. The sex is average at best but I'm pretending it's not awful up until then. Then I apologize (?!?!) but remind him I need to be going so I need to stop. This is where I believe it becomes non-consensual.
He holds me down and continues what he's doing. I repeat myself, again giving him the benefit of the doubt. He continues and says "I heard you." So now I don't know what to do. My body essentially becomes stiff as a board while I lie there, silent, waiting for him to finish. I know I didn't physically fight him off, but I know what can happen when you piss off an angry person who is drunk, so I kind of allowed it to happen because it was basically the safer option...if that makes sense.
Anyway, I don't think he realizes he raped me. He continues to text me every month or so asking when he can see me again. I've told him to leave me alone.
Do I have a responsibility to tell him he's a rapist?
Or am I giving him the benefit of the doubt again by assuming he doesn't already know?
I'm just worried about other people he meets in the future. Obviously I never pressed charges. I realize a lot of the burden lies on me for being in that position.
But...Is there anything I can do, now, to protect these potential partners?
~Suffering in Silence
Dearest “Suffering in Silence,”
I am so sorry that you went through this.
Make no mistake; this was rape.
It doesn’t matter how far you went consensually. THE SECOND after you say ‘no,’ and he doesn’t stop, is the second it becomes non-consensual; it becomes rape.
What happened to you is, sadly, a very common experience for many women. And freezing up as you did is also a common response to that sort of traumatic situation.
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My heart goes out to you. I don’t want you to think for a minute that you did anything wrong.
Okay, as for the guy, it sure does sound like he doesn’t realize that he did anything wrong (because this is what patriarchal privilege has wrought). I felt a little sick as I read your question, because I know that guy.
I mean, not the actual guy who did this to you, but that type of guy. The guy that keeps pushing and pushing, the guy who says he’ll respect your boundaries and then tramples right over them in bed, the guy who says he’ll put a condom on and doesn’t (or pulls it off without you knowing). It’s the guy who doesn’t hear “no,” the guy that thinks no means yes.
FUCK that guy.
To answer your question… You don’t have a responsibility to him, or for his sake. BUT, I think it would be cathartic (and hopefully a public service to women he meets in the future) to write him an email. And tell him, in no uncertain terms, that what he did was rape.
Because continuing to penetrate you when you said to stop, holding you down, and not listening does not equal consensual sex. EVEN though it started out that way.
You articulate what happened very clearly in your email to me. You can do the same in an email to him. Before you send it, block him. Block his number on your phone. Block his email. Block him on all forms of social media.
If you find that you cannot do this, in the interest of self-preservation, that’s totally okay. You need to take care of yourself.
Lastly, I want you to get some support to process what you went through.
I can tell you from personal experience that when we minimize trauma — because we think “it wasn’t that bad” or we were partially to blame — we don’t allow ourselves the space to heal.
And the aftermath of that trauma will crop up in pesky ways in future relationships.
Please, please, please, access the help of a therapist. I am always happy to point you in the right direction for your area. Additionally, a support group can provide comfort from peers who are also processing similar trauma. You don’t have to go through this alone.
*If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help. You can chat live now online or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE, through the Sexual Assault Hotline. It is free and confidential. If anyone needs region-specific resources, RAINN has a page where you can find centers near you, or you can email me.
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