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.
- Posted in: Coercion and Threats ♦ Emotional Abuse ♦ Intimidation ♦ Male Privilege ♦ Sexual Abuse
- Tagged: abuse, abuser, abusive marriage, afraid, anger, boundaries, control, emotional abuse, forcible, intimidation, marital rape, marriage, married, minimizing, ownership, permission, playthings, power, punishment, rape, sex