An interesting picture popped up in my social media news feed the other day, and it really got me thinking. It was a simple graphic that posed a question: “Would you lose your virginity to the same person again?”
It got me thinking because I lost my virginity several times. Not in the literal sense, as that’s only physically possible once. It happened in three different stages with two different people. First physically, second emotionally, and third mentally. Making it more complicated is the fact that the very first time I was involved in a sexual act of any kind was rape, yet I have essentially no memories of it. I remember going to sleep fully clothed with the door locked, and waking up with my pants on the other side of the room, the scent of strange cologne on my sheets and the door unlocked and slightly ajar. That’s all I remember. I was 16 or 17 at the time. That was the event, which physically took my virginity.
The second event was another rape, by a different man. That one, I’ve finally brought forth to my conscious memory. It was so violent and so traumatic that I repressed it for many years after the fact, only coming to terms with it fairly recently. I was 18, living with an older man, and extremely naive to his true intentions. He said he merely wanted to be roommates, just friends, but his behavior didn’t indicate that. Each night he invited me to sleep in his bed, and encouraged me to “get comfortable” by shedding my clothes. To anyone else it would have been quite obvious. The same way it’s obvious to me looking back on it as someone older and more mature. All that he really wanted from me was sex. We never openly discussed a sexual relationship, until after the night he decided to take it in a very brutal and traumatic fashion. So traumatic in fact, that as soon as the next night I was right back in his bed, with no conscious memory of being raped at all. That event left deep, and lasting emotional scars. I still struggle with them even being intimate with my husband whom with I have three children and have been married to for nearly a decade.
The third event is the first time I gave consent for the act of sexual intercourse, and the first one that immediately stuck in my conscious memory. It was calm, endearing, tender, gentle and sweet. If it hadn’t been with my roommate, the same man who violently raped me a few weeks before, I wouldn’t be ashamed to share the consensual experience with him again. That event is when I felt like I had changed, and truly experienced sex for the first time. Unfortunately, the experience was shared with my roommate. The experience was shared with the same roommate, in fact, who violently raped me. Of course having no immediate memories of the rape it wasn’t long before he and I started an extremely unhealthy and damaging romantic relationship. That relationship still has lingering repercussions present in my life even now, many years after it ended.
That’s the reality for so many victims of rape. Memories are often repressed as a survival response. Having no clear memories of a rape makes future choices involving your rapist, like dating them, or continuing a sexual relationship complicated to say the least. In emotional terms for certain, but also in legal terms. From a scientific, psychological standpoint it makes perfect sense. From the standpoint of law enforcement or the public at large, however, it appears to make victims seem jealous, scorned, looking for revenge, seeking attention, or anything else that can be negatively associated with coming forward years after a crime occurs.
I wish it were as simple as so many other crimes. Someone steals your car? Go to the police; receive victim’s resources. Get punched in the face? Go to the police; receive victim’s resources. Get raped? Go to the police, receive unrelenting interrogation and if you’re lucky maybe a pamphlet about victims resources. Even when the crime happened immediately prior to contacting the police, the emotional hoops a victim has to jump through for many prove to be unbearable. It’s often easier to live with the fear of being victimized again than it is to deal with the scorn and shame of coming forward.
It’s no wonder so many sexual crimes all over the world go unreported each year. It’s no wonder how so many rapists are allowed to walk free, even being completely aware of the crime they have committed. It’s no wonder how so many young women like myself can lose their virginity, something that is supposed to be sacred, to rape and nary anyone bats an eye.
It’s unacceptable. It needs to change, but many of the very same reasons that keep victims from going to the police keep them silent all together. If every single person who’s been the victim of a sexually based violent crime, took the time to stand up and say “me too” society wouldn’t be able to continue turning a blind eye and enabling a culture that finds it’s easier to teach “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape.”
To read more of Rebecca’s thoughts on surviving and overcoming sexually based crimes you can find her latest release Turquoise Boot Straps: A Survivor’s Thoughts on Amazon or by following the sales link above. Kindle and Paperback versions available now.
Copyright R. MacCeile 2019