Rape – Yes, It Happens in Marriages

About 2 weeks after I realized that Bubba had been raping me, I was able to start counseling at our local domestic violence agency.  My counselor was Liz, an intern.  I met her first at the support group meeting.  It was nice to meet her this way because it wasn’t one-on-one and I got to see a bit of how she talked to the other women in the room.  It was a nice ice-breaker.  I did immediately feel comfortable with her.  

When I looked at Liz, I saw a very sweet, soft-spoken woman but I also saw a glint in her eye that spoke of her possessing a spine of steel.  She impressed me as a woman who would be your best friend but if you hurt her or hers, you’d better run because she would take you down.  In the coming year, I was shocked to find out that my first impression was right on!  I liked Liz immediately and was very anxious to get our sessions started.

In our first session, she wanted to get to know me a bit and asked for an overview of my situation.  I gave her the Reader’s Digest version and I remember telling her that the first thing I wanted to work through was the rapes.  It possessed my mind and it was all I could think about.  It tormented me night and day and I was compulsively researching and reading whatever I could get my hands on about the subject.  I was devouring books and websites.  After that first session, I didn’t bring it up again for three months.  Each week I went in with the intention of talking about it and each week I just couldn’t.  Liz never asked about it as she knew I’d bring it up when I was ready to work through it.  Eventually I was ready to tackle it out loud.

I wrote the following excerpt about 8 months after my first realization:

Serenity was four weeks old the first time Bubba raped me.  I still have trouble saying that – admitting that.  To me, rape had always been something that was done in back alleys at knife point.  It was violent and traumatic, it left bruises and scars, it sent women to hospitals.  I’ve learned that what I thought was rape was only a small portion of what rape truly encompasses.

Rape is very simply the act of not allowing a woman to say “no” to sexual contact.  Whether not allowing it comes in the form of physical violence, emotional coercion, mind games, or viewing her as a possession because she happens to be your wife just depends on the rapist.  For me, all but the physical violence had a place in my marriage.  I did not have a say over my own body.  If I said, “No,” Bubba would use any number of tactics to turn it into a “Yes.”

Coercion was his main tactic.  He would do anything from giving me silent treatments to becoming very angry to yelling to guilt-trips to a number of other ways to make me pay.  Most of the tactics he used, I can’t even put in to words.  To describe them to people who haven’t been there, done that, it almost sounds ridiculous.  To say, “He’d get mad,” makes it sound like it was no big deal to normal people.  But I could feel the anger rolling off of him in waves.  In fact, anger isn’t a strong enough word.  It was deep-seated rage – rage at me for having dared have an opinion about how my body would be used.

I’d gotten to the point where my life revolved around trying to manage his rage and to keep it at bay.  It is what an abused wife does – try anything and everything she can to keep life in the honeymoon phase, where her husband treats her half-decently.  Sadly, it is never up to us whether the honeymoon phase continues.  Eventually, the abuser will not be able to hold it together anymore.  He won’t be able to keep up the happy husband persona because the wife, at some point, will do or say something that, to him, is totally unacceptable and it will justify his need to exert his dominance and control over her once again.

I gave in to sex very often to try to keep him happy and in the honeymoon phase.  Granted, at the time, I did not realize that was what I was doing.  I just knew I didn’t want him to be mad at me and it was so much easier to give him those 15 or 20 minutes than to go days just waiting for whatever punishment he’d decide to dish out.

When Serenity was four weeks old, Bubba decided I’d waited long enough to heal and approached me for sex.  I told him that the doctor had told me to wait until after my six week check-up.  He became angry and told me how he’d been patient for four weeks and it was time.  I wanted to please my husband so I gave in.  The pain was terrible.  Serenity had been a very big baby and the doctor had had to do an episiotomy that required stitches.  I cried through the whole encounter. 

The pain didn’t end there.  I had that terrible pain almost every single time for the next 18 months.  I mentioned it to the doctor when Serenity was about a year old and she told me that if I still had pain in a couple of months then we’d see if something was wrong.  She suggested lots of lube and to take things slowly.  After Serenity was 18 months old, it started getting better.  At least it wasn’t painful every single time and I had really gotten used to it.

Sex is a driving force.  We are wired to want intimate relationships with the opposite sex.  Sex, when shared in a healthy, loving relationship is supposed to enhance the relationship and bring the partners closer together (at least that is what I’ve been told).  In my marriage, sex was about power and control.  It was just another way that Bubba used to dominate me, to exert his power over me.  There was nothing tender and loving for me in sex.  I was a possession to be used at his whim.

Rape is never about sex.  It is about power and control.  It doesn’t need to be violent to be rape.  The one thing that made the biggest impact on me was reading “Remember that submission is not the same as consent. on this page of Aphrodite Wounded.  That was life changing for me.  I submitted, I did not consent!  My husband raped me.  Repeatedly and often.  He never cared that I didn’t want to be on that bed with him.  It was about exerting his power over me.

For me, “No!” is a very powerful word.  I have every right to say who does and does not touch my body.  I am very protective of my body.  I am very passionate about defending my right to say, “No!” and to teaching my children that they have absolute say over who touches their bodies.  I am vigilant about teaching my children about body boundaries.  I want them to know that they do not owe anyone physical touch if they don’t choose to do so.

I grew up in a family where, if an adult wanted a hug from me, I was expected to give it.  I had no right to say no.  My children will know, absolutely, that they have a right to defend their bodies – no matter who is demanding touch.  I even tell them that they can tell me no if I want a hug and they don’t want to give it.

I have made it a point to ask my children before hugging them.  If we are being affectionate and just loving on each other, I usually don’t ask permission and neither do they.  They know they are free to tell me to stop at any time and I will and vice versa (although Shane is still learning this lesson).  But if I approach them wanting a hug, I will say, “May I have a hug?”  They are free to give or not give.  If they choose to say no, I allow them.  And I tell them that if they change their mind, they know where to find me.  I know it is a simple hug but the ramifications of learning to say no to something as simple as a hug are huge.  In turn, Serenity and Liam are usually very good about asking my permission before hugging me.

As I have said, I’m very protective of my body.  It is mine.  I have absolute power over it and if you violate it, you will lose any trust that I had in you.  It takes me a long time to trust as it is.  Respect me, respect my body boundaries and we won’t have a problem.  Bubba never respected me or my body.  Thus, we had a great, big problem.  I will never again tolerate anyone disrespecting my body boundaries because I went so long without respect.

Rape doesn’t just happen in back alleys, at knife point.  Rape happens in marriage too.  I am living, breathing proof that it does and that one can get free from it and heal from marital rape.  This has been the hardest part of my healing journey.  It isn’t over and I’m not totally healed from it yet.  The lasting effects and repercussions are great and daunting.  But I’m determined to heal and hopefully, find a man who will love me and respect me and my body.

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26 Comments

  1. BlueBiscuit

    I think you just made the penny drop for me. I had been resisting acknowledging this part of my abusive marriage. For some reason it’s easier for me to admit that I was physically, emotionally and verbally abused than it is to admit that I was sexually abused also. I was allowed to say no but if I did I wold pay for it in some way (argument, attitude, removal of all affection, etc.) I’ve had lots of babies so needed to recover many times over the years. I felt like I couldn’t say no if it hurt. My STBX would accuse me of trying to hurt him by causing “blue balls” if I wanted him to stop but at the same time get mad at me for not saying anything because he wasn’t a “heartless” man. Like me laying there as stiff as a board with clenched teeth wasn’t a clue. My STBX also would pressure and nag me to do a particular sexual act. In the end I would agree just to get me to leave me alone about it for a while.

    • I start delving into the sexual abuse aspect of my marriage in the coming weeks. I’ve by no means encompassed all of it as I write what the story tells me to. However, I did go back and add an aspect like you described – a particular sex act that I said, “No,” to every time and it was never respected.

      Admitting to myself and accepting that I had been raped by my husband was the hardest part for me. It is still the area that I need to do the most healing in even though I think it is the area I’ve already done the most healing in. I think that being violated in that way hits us in our very core because it is where we are most vulnerable.

      I’m so very sorry you went through that. My heart aches for you.

  2. Claire

    I know it’s what you wrote in your journal, so not what you think right now, but I have to say it. Even ‘he’d get mad’, even though it doesn’t do justice to what you would have experienced if you said ‘no’ – even that is still so far from ok. You didn’t believe it at the time, but if my friend said to me that she felt she couldn’t say no because ‘he’d get mad’ – I would be so upset for her, I would be so angry with him. I don’t know if I’d know the right thing to say, I rather think I’d say nothing, which I’m sure is wrong – bad things happen because good people say/do nothing – but I’m saying it now, if I never get the chance to say it again: it totally *IS NOT OK* for either spouse to not accept a no.

    • Thank you so much for that. I know I wrote it back then, but I still struggle with this sometimes – going back to that mentality of “oh, it wasn’t *that* bad.” Even after all this time, I do still find myself minimizing things because it was a part of my life for so very long. That is when I go to my friends who are in healthy marriages and ask them if their husbands did x, y, and z, what would she think. Every single time, each friend I’ve posed a question to like that was absolutely horrified. I’d hear something like, “If I ever told my husband, “No.” he’d simply express disappointment and ask me if we could plan something for the next night.”

      I know it is hard to know what to say in these situations. You don’t want to come on too strong…if she’s not ready to see the abuse, she won’t see it. But you can gently say, “I love you. I care about you. It is not ok that you are treated that way. It is not ok for him to not accept your ‘No.’ I’m here to listen if you want to talk.” No pressure. Just let her know how precious she is and that you hurt for her. There are some good books for family/friends of women in abusive situations.

      I will put up a post with resources since I can’t figure out how to link things here.

  3. Barbara Elizabeth

    Love the name of your blog. This was actually the first article I read. I still remember the last day I let my ex husband rape me, it was my birthday. I’ve started to speak out about rape in marriage in the last 6 months. Many women look at me with a blank stare. I started to feel like I’d over reacted, and that I wasn’t ACTUALLY raped. I started to beat myself up again that I could have been more in my marriage. But I finally realized that marriage rape is very real. My ex’s famous saying was that we NEVER HAD SEX. Because to him just “making love” was not sex. Dirty, porn sex was. Getting me while I was asleep and going hard WAS sex. He’d want sex while I breastfed. One baby was on one nipple he was on the other. He wanted it dirtier and more racier… I actually believe in the end he actually was getting turned on by the fact he was raping me. It became a fantasy. Even to write this it sounds horrible. I cried until I’d laugh with insanity. As a christian young woman and wife married to a PASTOR, I had this nagging voice in my brain that said, “never say no”. Oh baby, I’ve learned to say no. I confess that after coming out of my marriage I thought that to keep my man I had to throw myself sexually at him. Thank God I have a man I’m dating who won’t let me do it. He respects me. True gentlemen do exist.

    • I am so very sorry you had to endure that. I am in tears for you. I also hear you about being a Christian woman and getting the idea that what we lived was what we were called to do – suffer for Christ, even if that suffering was at the hands of our husbands. (BTW, this is not the suffering for Christ that the Bible talks about.)

      I also heard, “We never have sex.” At one point I started keeping track of how many times we did have sex and then it was averaging 2-3 times a week. If he went more than 3 days, I’d hear “We haven’t had sex in weeks.” I don’t know whether he truly had no concept of time or if he knew exactly what he was saying but truly thought I was insane enough to believe him. (I know now that it was the latter – he knew exactly every little thing he did and he calculated how to make the biggest impact on me.)

      I’m glad to hear you are in a good relationship. I hope to find a gentle man someday too.

  4. Amanda

    For years I listened to “We never have sex” and I too tracked it on the calendar but it was never enough. He had huge appitite for sex. Porn, masturbation, making me say things, wear things, taking pictures even when I didnt want it and if I didnt he threatened me. He would take me in my sleep, or masturbate in bed and rub my body at the same time while I continued to pretend to sleep and like the other commenter, even when my baby was nursing at my breast. He would grope me and grab me and watch me shower and dress. It made my skin crawl but in my mind I was to submit to my husband and meet his needs or he would cheat on me to get satisified since I was not meeting his needs. I thought there was something wrong with me, my sex drive was too low, I needed to be more open, experiment more, but I hated foreplay, I would grind my teeth and submit and hated every minute. I have also cried during sex not becuase it hurt but because it made me feel so empty and used. I would just close my eyes and wait for the few minutes to be over. Until I found this blog I did not know this was “rape”. Thank you for opening my eyes. Submission is not consent. i will carry that with me forever.

    • I am so sorry for all the things you endured. Feeling empty and used is a horrible feeling. We are so vulnerable when it comes to sex and they use it to hurt us. I think that is what is so painful, they get us in this most intimate area. There is nothing intimate about it though. No matter that we were married to them, it was still rape. It wasn’t about sex. It was about power and control – what they had over us.

      I too carry that phrase with me. I will never submit again. I will never enter another sexual relationship without full consent from me and the man I’m with. We either both say, “yes,” or it doesn’t happen. I will fight tooth and nail to protect myself from ever being raped again.

  5. Thank you for this article. This happens so often and few women know that they do not have to allow this. Keep writing for there are so many who are suffering with this abuse. We absolutely do have the right to say, “No!” and have that respected. I am linking this important write to one of mine on Source of Inspiration. Thanks, hugs, pat

    • Please feel free to share.

      It still boggles my mind that women are still taught that they are to do their “wifely duties” regardless of how she feels just to please her husband. As parents, we should be teaching our daughters that they have absolute right over what does or doesn’t happen to their bodies. Just because a woman is married, doesn’t give her husband carte blanche to do as he pleases to her body. She definitely has a right to say, “No!” and have it respected.

      I’m teaching all of my children about body boundaries, how to set and defend their own and how to respect others’body boundaries.

  6. tryingtodogood

    I am in shock yet again! Early in our marriage I began to sink into depression (now I know why, it’s common in abused women) and basically lost interest in sex. It was really because of a natural way of withdrawing from the one who mercilessly hurt me over and over I now realize. But he would want sex and say how hard it was to be rejected so I would submit reluctantly, then it would hurt and I would tell him so, he would say “just until he got off” so again I agreed reluctantly (and he knew it every time) and he would finish. Then after he would be all affectionate and hug me etc., and I would just want to run away! It was abuse 😦 OMG-I don’t know how many more of these revelations I can stand. He has never respected my space or my right to not be in the mood to hug or kiss him. It’s only natural when I subconsciously have known he was tearing me down all these years and making me feel like a bad person for feeling hurt and betrayed!
    Thanks for being so brave.

    • The continual revelations are so difficult. It is hard to wrap your brain around how horribly you’ve been treated. I’ve been gone for awhile now and as I heal, more stuff comes to light.

      Marital rape is something that isn’t discussed because society does not, for the most part, recognize it. Fundamentalist Christian will deny it with their dying breaths. It happens. It is real. It traumatizes and destroys.

      There is healing. There is hope.

  7. waking up

    This is something that is really hurting me, and something that I have not been able to bring out in our marriage counseling, nor even with friends who know my situation. i’m not even sure our counselor would understand, nor would I really want to tell him. I need to get into individual counseling, for sure.

    Our entire marriage, he was pushy about sex. It wasn’t even good sex or intimacy, it was like he felt is had to be done. He was particularly pushy after fights, when I was sick, and after the births of our chidlren. I was lucky if he would wait 2 weeks after a birth, especially since I didn’t tend to bleed very long. He would say “Oh, it is good for you! It will help you heal!” Jokingly and in a nice tone. It was my policy never to refuse, but I began to resent this a lot. Especially because early in our marriage he had accused *me* of being sex crazed. (desperate for intimacy, i thought if I was “sexy” with him, that would make him love me. ha. no such luck)

    I hesitate to call any of that rape, though it was certainly coercive. I chose not to say no or resist. I felt I should be grateful that he wanted me, and that he was faithful, no other women, no porn.

    But there was one incident last year. When I was nursing the baby in our bed, and I begged and pleaded with him to just wait until she finished and I put her back in her bed. He wouldn’t. I begged him to wait. I wasn’t even saying no. But he went ahead, with the baby still at my breast, and I wanted to vomit. I died a little that night. A few months later he asked me why I wasn’t interested in sex anymore. I couldn’t answer. I just had no words.

    • Coercion IS rape. If you aren’t willingly saying “Yes,” it is rape. If you do it to keep the peace, avoid punishments, because he wears you down, because it is the lesser of two evils, or any other reason that makes you feel you have no choice, it is rape. If you don’t consent willingly, it is rape.

      I look back at how many times I said “yes” to avoid punishments or how many times I initiated to avoid an arguments and I struggled so much that I was a party to my own rapes. I wasn’t. I knew the score and I was trying to mitigate the abuse by giving in to sex that I DIDN’T WANT.

      For me, admitting that Bubba had been raping me was the hardest thing to admit through all of the realizations of the abuse. Taking responsibility for my own rapes almost killed me. It was never my burden to carry. I wasn’t to blame. The rapes were solely on Bubba’s head, as was the rest of the abuse.

      Please, please, please get individual counseling. Read about marital rape (Aphrodite Wounded and Pandora’s Aquarium are two great websites – don’t forget to clear your browsing history any time you are reading something abuse related or do it outside of your home where you can’t be monitored). If you haven’t read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, I highly recommend it if you can read it and keep yourself safe. Learn about abuse, learn how to get strong, develop an escape plan (even if you choose to never use it), prepare. Protect yourself.

      Freedom is amazing! You do not deserve what your husband is putting you through. You are worthy of respect and care and love.

  8. MotherOfFourMakesWrongChoices

    I want to say thank you for sharing your experience. And I want to say how sad and sorry I am that you went through all of that anguish and misery. I understand. After 22 years with my husband I woke up in a panic last night, again, sweating on the couch (as it is the only safe place for me sleep after I wait him out) with the reality of what it actually is I am railing against every day. This clarity had been spurred on by the fact life has been telling me I need to approach my older daughters and hear what opinions they are shaping over sex. Above all, at this point, all I seem to have to say to them is “Don’t do what I did. Dot listen to the antequated opinions and teachings encouraging you that you’re a bad girl if you have sex and if you do have sex good girlz will marry that man, no matter what. Basically ‘or else’ is what they’re saying.” I let my value get undermined by somebody posing to love me and he had every effective method of keeping me captive. And although I hate myself for allowing to be such a stupid victim all I am do at this point is learn and try to teach my children. I am raising two young women and two young men and the idea of sexual entitlement needs to be educated about. And I started today with a letter to my husband, the father of my children, to tell him no more.

    “Trying to figure out how to approach the sex talks with my daughters and sons makes me reflect on my beliefs and my own experiences. Having to get examined by another doctor and seeing her surprise to the amount of scaring and adhesions I have inside of my body and having to sit and consider having a hysterectomy is all incrediblly orchestrated timing. It’s time I respond to you and what you’ve done. What I’ve allowed you to do, apparently.

    You’ve raped me. You’ve tried undermining my thoughts and feelings on it and I’ve tried to keep everything hush hush to not shame you or make myself look pathetic for marrying such a dead beat but you’re a rapist. You assaulted my body as you saw fit and when I didn’t comply you retorted with your silent rage treatment, shamed me and objectified me and tortered me into submission. You withheld love and approval as a means to get me to comply. All the while pretending to be an upstanding human being during the day. Because that is how you operate. You like to do your dirty sex in secret. And I made a relationship out of trying to find the good in you.

    You are a rapist. I didn’t consent to having sex with you. You coerced and badgered me until finally I would submit, but that isn’t love and you didn’t care. You just had to get off. It never had anything to do with me.

    Trying to sit and think about how I would shape a conversation with my daughters only leads me to try to educate them on how to maintain their value and avoid people like you.

    I hate myself for staying with you.

    Everytime I woke up to discover what you’d done to me the night before that was rape. Every time you encouraged me to drink too much so you could take advantage of me that was rape. When I said no and you wouldn’t listen that was rape. And you hid behind a marriage doing it over and over again.

    I know where my anxiety and stress comes from. I woke up last night and I realized it was from trying to justify your behavior. Trying to hold this marriage together for my kidz and my idea of family and my promise while you used my commitment as a tool to hurt me and to get some easy dirty sex.

    You disgust me.

    You tried keeping me a secret when we were in public when we were dating because you wanted to still attract the attention of other women. Other women who you might have the chance of secretly having sex with. And if you couldn’t have them when you decided to marry me, then you would make me pay for the privilege of being married to you by raping me and assaulting me while you thought of them. And those are the feelings that I have been trying to not put words to so I don’t just wake up and kill myself. But that is what happened.

    You are a rapist.

    And you’ve carefully constructed this image of yourself so other women actually feel like its an honor to be “considered” by you. Poor You. Trapped in this marriage where he isn’t taken care of. Maybe they can save you. That is you’re little game. You keep me out of your life during the day so you can elicit attention for other women and then come home and force yourself on me.

    You are a rapist. And you got into a marriage to take care of your dirty sexual desires and I covered for you. I kept your secrets. Shame on me.

    You make me sick. It makes me sick that I stayed. And I know you’ll never admit it, you’ll never be aware or care or have any respect for me and you’ll never change. I can’t change your belief system. You’ll just keep changing the story to however you need it to be so you look perfect and you’ll keep denying my feelings and you’ll keep trying to force yourself on me because I should be so flattered.

    I don’t want you to ever touch me again. You are a rapist. And I will educate my children on how to avoid you and how to avoid being like you. ”

    So, in reality, where do I go from here? I am the mother of four children with not a dime to my name. Where can I be with my children and be free of him?

    • I am so so sorry. My heart is aching for you and what you’ve been through. You are worth being treated with love and respect.

      I think a good first step would be to get in touch with your local domestic violence agency. You can see what services they offer and how you can get help. Many agencies offer shelters, practical help for finding employment and childcare, counseling, support groups, and other services. You don’t have to go through this alone. They can help you put together an escape plan so that you are prepared to leave when you are ready.

      I have some good resources listed on my Resource Page. I found Aphrodite Wounded and Pandora’s Aquarium particularly helpful. Please make sure you use a safe computer so that he cannot track your online usage.

      No one has the right to touch your body unless you give active consent. Submission is NOT consent. You are right – he is a rapist. You deserve so much better.

Trackbacks

  1. Sexual Abuse « Hope Wears Heels
  2. Taking Out the Trash « Hope Wears Heels
  3. Burning Down the House « Hope Wears Heels
  4. Stonewalling | Source of Inspiration
  5. The Shit Hit the Fan | Hope Wears Heels
  6. Two Anniversaries and New Memories | Hope Wears Heels
  7. Sexuality and Identity | Hope Wears Heels
  8. Another New Experience Regarding Sex | Hope Wears Heels
  9. Triggered! | Hope Wears Heels
  10. Moving | Hope Wears Heels

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