Was I sexually assaulted? Can we still have a relationship if I was?
January 1, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I think I may have been sexually assaulted in the past by my best friend in the whole world. I'm conflicted about this and I'm wondering if it's possible for us to still be friends? And if so, how?

I'm a gay male in my late 20's and I live by myself in a city very far away from my family and where I grew up. I met a very sexy, wonderful man when I moved here and we hit it off right away. I considered him to be a soulmate although (I have come to find out) he thought less so of me. We've since separated but have remained good friends and he is probably my best friend -- we talk and see each other every day. We genuinely like each other.

Basically, as I began to become more aware of the various types of sexual assault, it slowly dawned on me that he may have assaulted me a few times, although I'll admit that this is kind of "iffy". He knows that I can't deepthroat, for example (I choke too easily) but loves to shove his cock down my throat over my loud protests and rolls his eyes when I tell him not to. "Whatever, stop being such a whiny little bitch" he might say. Then he would get bored and we would move on to something else. This has happened a bunch in the past. Probably more times than I can count.

The only other "incident" I can think of was where he forcibly sat on my dick when I wasn't wearing a condom. I told him to get off and that I didn't want to have unprotected sex but he (again) just rolled his eyes and was like "Whatever". After a minute he got bored and, again, moved on to something else (that I had no problem with).

Was I sexually assaulted here? I'd like to think that I WASNT, because thinking that I WAS makes me feel awful.

If I were to show him this AskMe, and he could come on here to defend himself, he would probably say that my failure to immediately call the police or run away implies a certain level of consent on my part. He might say that only I am responsible for my own well-being and that if I didn't protest hard enough or have clear-cut boundaries then this wouldn't be a problem. I can see his point.

I've never talked to him about this, btw, but from what I know of his personality, I would say that's a fairly good example of what he would say if he were here.

The other factor here is that we are still best friends. We no longer have sex and I no longer feel used and abused by him, although some unpleasant memories still remain. I usually stifle those memories because I really do love him and I want to be around him. I can say honestly that even if I came to the fundamental conclusion that he raped me on several occasions that I probably wouldn't break off the friendship because he really does mean that much to me. The other truth is, I really have nobody else in this world who understands me as well as he does.

I would also say that he does love me, in his own way, although I don't expect any of you to understand that.


1) Was I sexually assaulted? Yes, no, maybe, or it's complicated?
2) Is it possible to remain friends with this guy? Has anybody else in this situation been able to maintain friendly non-abusive relations with someone who assaulted them?
3) If it's possible to build a better relationship with him, how can I go about minimizing the hurt from these experiences and maximizing the friendship?

You can reach me at AskMe.Brother@gmail.com if you desire privacy as well. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

1) Yes. He might not be legally culpable but ignoring a "no" = sexual assault.
2) Maybe, but why would you want to? You say that he loves you, but his actions show that he doesn't, or isn't capable of real love. Even without the assault, no one who loves you calls you a whiny little bitch for expressing your feelings.
3) Therapy is the best way to get over the trauma you have suffered, but there is a good chance it will make you more resentful of him, not less.

You are worth more than this. You will find other friends who understand you. He is an abusive fuckhead.

Understand me, I do not think you are a stupid or pathetic person for wanting to remain friends with someone who ignored your sexual boundaries. I think this is more common than most people believe. But I also think the fact that you are asking this questions means that you know how people here are going to respond, and that is with a resounding DTMFA.
posted by chaiminda at 8:18 AM on January 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

1. on the scale of No to Maybe, we can't really answer that. It went beyond your comfort zone, you asked him to stop, he stopped.
2. It is possible to remain friends with unpleasant people if you choose to do so.
3. Why remain friends with someone who refers to you as a "whiny little bitch"?
posted by tomswift at 8:20 AM on January 1, 2012

Wow. Talk about unacceptable on the deepest level, including but not limited to the rolling of eyes and dismissal of your requests and feelings.

I know you feel you want to be friends with this person, but consider what it does to you in the long-term to be told that your opinions, needs, and boundaries don't matter. He has demonstrated that he's anything but an understanding friend or soulmate. You deserve much, much better.

Here's the kicker: NOBODY BUT YOU gets to make that determination and enforce that boundary. Nobody, least of all him, is going to show up and protect you from his bullshit...which means you need to show up for yourself and ditch someone who would even think of treating you this way.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:21 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

His behavior may have been tacky, but if, after these purported sexual assaults, you went on to do things with him that you had "no problem with," I'd say no, not a sexual assault. He pushed the boundaries, and that's about it.

And how can he sit on your dick without you being able to stop it at once or at least have the ability to pull out? It's really hard to force someone to penetrate you.
posted by jayder at 8:27 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reading this made me alternately cringe for you and want to sock your so-called 'best friend' one.

He is not your best friend. He is not even your friend. He is, at the very least, an abusive, manipulative asshole who has no consideration for your feelings or needs.

He knows that I can't deepthroat, for example (I choke too easily) but loves to shove his cock down my throat over my loud protests and rolls his eyes when I tell him not to. "Whatever, stop being such a whiny little bitch" he might say. Then he would get bored and we would move on to something else. This has happened a bunch in the past. Probably more times than I can count.
No. Just... no. Not only does he not respect the fact that you said no, he's done it more than once. This is unacceptable on so many levels I can't even begin to count 'em. And that's not even getting into the fact that this guy demeans and disparages you in the bargain.

my failure to immediately call the police or run away implies a certain level of consent on my part.
Again, hell no. A lack of a negative response does not mean consent. His failure to respect your boundaries, on the other hand, does make him an asshole and a rapist.

He might say that only I am responsible for my own well-being and that if I didn't protest hard enough or have clear-cut boundaries then this wouldn't be a problem.
I'm sorry, what the fucking fuck? He's your friend, by that definition he should at least give a shit about your well-being, and it's clear he doesn't. And if telling him 'no' isn't a clear-cut boundary, I'd like to know what is.

The other truth is, I really have nobody else in this world who understands me as well as he does.
This is classic abuser behaviour, making their victim feel like no one else will understand them. There are people who will understand you and treat you better than this. Please believe that.

I would also say that he does love me, in his own way, although I don't expect any of you to understand that.
You're right, I don't, because this guy is abusing you. What he feels for you isn't love, at least, not a healthy kind of love. He hurts you, physically and emotionally, he dismisses your feelings and boundaries as unimportant, he's got you dependent on him. That is not love and you deserve so much better.

To answer your questions:

1. Yes. You said no, he didn't listen. I'm sorry, but there it is.

2. I haven't been in this situation myself, but from my experiences with friends who have... no. It's all too easy to fall back into the cycle of victimization. You need a clean break.

3. To be perfectly honest, it's not possible. DTMFA, get yourself out of his life and move on to the one you deserve, the one with people who treat you like a decent human being.
posted by Tamanna at 8:37 AM on January 1, 2012 [23 favorites]

He sounds like a sexual sadist and a complete asshole, and it certainly does sound like he sexually assaulted you.

I would get away from this person stat and stay away from this person eternally. Get therapy to figure out why you feel it's possible to get compassion, empathy and respect from someone who forcibly shoved their penis down your throat and called you a "whiny bitch" when you objected.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Forget whether it was assault or not. It bothered you then, and it bothers you now.

Tell him you want to talk about it. If he tries to blow it off, tell him it's important to you. If he refuses to talk about it, find a new friend.
posted by empath at 9:04 AM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't need us to tell you that your friend's behavior is wrong. You know deep down that it's wrong. Otherwise you would not be asking this question.

I know you feel like shit, and I'm sorry. You are worthy of being treated nicely, and only when you realize this fully will you be able to get away from this person and get close to others, who will treat you like a friend should. And there are people you can be just as close with who will.

I'm sorry you're in this situation. Whether what he did is technically categorized as sexual assault, or whether mefites think it's sexual assault, is totally irrelevant. The point is, no matter how close you are or think you are with this person, he is treating you poorly. Why do you accept treatment like that? Think about it.
posted by bearette at 9:05 AM on January 1, 2012 [15 favorites]

Running away and calling the police are not the only two reactions that determine whether a sexual assault has taken place.

On the deepthroating issue, I think it seemed to him that you were complicit in some sort of sexual game of power exchange. Unfortunately you supported this presumption by letting the sex continue unchecked in each case, and by not addressing it with him (from what I can tell) at times when you're not actually having sex.

Was this power game somewhat exciting or interesting to you? It sounds like you had confusing feelings about it. If he is really into domination and was sort of experimenting with you, that should have been made PERFECTLY clear in advance -- it's not really an excuse.

The condom thing is more of the same. He initiated penetrative sex without a condom, you protested -- but by then you often protested during sex, from his point of view it's part of the game you two play, part of the sadomasochistic power dynamic he has (recklessly, inconsiderately) lured you into. This situation was worthy of (at the very least) a serious discussion outside the bedroom.

I would say he was definitely sexually abusing you, and abusing your trust as a friend. Good friends don't get off on putting you in a position where you're genuinely in pain or at risk. Also, good friends -- especially friends who fuck -- should be capable of talking openly about sex: their desires, their turn-offs, their boundaries. This is something that you and he each need to work on in your own lives.

I think characterizing these as outright "rape" incidents or somesuch may be too oversimplified, especially in terms of eliciting some sort of meaningful response from your abuser (if that's what you are really after). You allowed and possibly even encouraged a series of sexual encounters in which your protests didn't really meant anything, that's the way he's going to remember it. If you bring it up with him, then I think your intentions should be as specific as possible. What do you want from him now: Acknowledgment? Space? Assurance? An apology? If he can't bring himself to listen to you or give you what you ask for, then what kind of friend is he really? If you approach him with sincere concerns about these incidents and he refuses to take your concerns seriously, then that right there is an inhumane person with psychological issues who you should distance yourself from at all costs.
posted by hermitosis at 9:16 AM on January 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

I understand your desire to try and figure what happened and what it means. But, to figure out how this affected you (you mentioned that if it was sexual assault, you would feel awful) and whether this person should be in your life, I would stop thinking about legal terminology. I don't know what the statute says, and personally, I don't think I need to to in order to see that this situation did make you feel awful in some way.

If it was a positive sexual experience, you would not have felt compelled to turn to us to figure it out. I believe that in your gut you know this was wrong. None of his predicted explanations you mentioned above should have any affect on what you feel about the situation. You are allowed to take your body and what happens to it seriously. There is no protocol or formula for how you are supposed to react. It sounds like an incredibly hurtful experience, he knew your boundaries and he physically and intentionally pushed them and compromised your sexual health so he could try and get off. I'm sorry, but he was not thinking about you at all.

It takes time to love yourself and learn that you deserve to be treated better. Sometimes it takes meeting other, better people to put it all in perspective. You don't expect any of us to understand that he loves you (in his own way). And I probably don't expect this message board to convince you, at least initially, that someone who treats you like that is not a good friend. Maybe some of what is posted here will stay you. Maybe, one day, you will meet a loving, respectful partner and I predict that if you shared with him what happened with this guy, he would be horrified on your behalf and be adamant that he would never ever disrespect you like that.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 9:17 AM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

1. The only time it's okay to ignore a "NO" is when you agree to it beforehand and it's part of sex play. And even then you have a safe word that's the equivalent of "no." He ignored your statement of your boundaries. If this were me (girl), I would be pissed at my partner for ignoring my boundaries.

2. It honestly sounds like he may be emotionally abusive too. If what you give as "what he would say" is accurate, it sounds like he belittles you. You DON'T need somebody like that it your life. It ruins your self-esteem and makes you feel like other people think that way about you (when the absolutely don't). Kick him out of your life -- you will be the better for it.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:18 AM on January 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Even if you don't believe the previous responses, this relationship still sounds unhealthy. You think of him as more than a friend. Trying to be friends will be very frustrating. It could be a waste of your time and stand in the way of happiness in another healthier relationship.

Also, you should really seriously consider those previous responses, including the one about therapy. Good luck.

The fact that you engaged him sexually after his actions, whether during the same encounter or in subsequent, does not alter the nature of what he did. It sounds like that may very well have been sexual assault. A therapist or counselor may be helpful in deciding whether it was and whether you should report it as such.
posted by stuart_s at 9:29 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately as you will probably see from the comments here, there are a lot of discrepancies between definitions of sexual assault, and a professional can help you sort that out. There are some really awesome movements about enthusiastic consent and avoiding violating the boundaries of others even when you find you can get away with it and I think they need to become standards of sexual education for all young people.

His statements that your submissive responses implied consent even if you said no are head trips you don't need. He's being needlessly cruel. You probably have a high level of need and high desire to please others and you have nothing to be ashamed for. These are difficult things to figure out and there are plenty of people ready to use your weakness in the worst way against you.

It is not ever kind to use someone elses submissive nature or neediness to hurt them. Find people who are kind. There are many people who value enthusiastic consent. Enthusiastic consent does involve responsability both ways, which means you need to learn about and understand yourself and learn to communicate what things you do and don't like, and learn how to seek and find people who like this kind of communication and exploration of enjoyable sex with you: most importantly of all you need to learn how to leave a partner who shows they are not demonstrating they respect how you feel about how they treat you. You need to stand up for all human welfare by counting yourself among them. If you witness one person harming another (you), you stand up against it because no human deserves to be harmed even if they are confused or needy or carry any number of human traits. This is the hardest thing, but you need to learn to value it as the right thing for both you and others.
These are things therapy may be able to help you do.

You need to stand up against his belief that it's ok to violate someone when they are needy and feeling powerless. You also need to stand up to your own belief that it's ok for him to violate someone who is feeling needy and powerless if it's you. If he did this to someone else, you would think he was in the wrong, right? So stand up to your own insecurity and low self esteem. I don't care what your flaws are (and I know you have them as you are human) they do not make you fit into a category of people that are ok to violate in this way. There is no such category.

Also adding that if power play and violation are things you enjoyed exploring but want to find a partner who wants to set the situation up in a way that is empowering and respectful to your needs there are many community resources to connect with others who feel the same way. It never feels good to have our insecurities and desires used against us, but for some of us there are arousals and desires and needs that get sparked during such interactions and they are part of what feed the other persons power over us. This is also nothing to be ashamed of and you can use your traits and desires, whatever they are, to find a mutually beneficial relationship that involves a partner who truly cares about your well being every set of the way, as you for them.

What's more, sometimes people who are cruel know how to bring out confusing arousal patterns and bad feelings in others that are not a dynamic you actually want to participate in. Arousal is not consent. Even if you felt arousal and hightened desire for him BECAUSE of this dynamic, it does not inherently mean it's healthy for you or something you need to explore. Again, getting to know yourself, what you like, and how to find partners who want to share that journey with you with mutual concern for each others well being along the way is a skill set you won't regret developing. (And yet again, therapy can be helpful for this.)
posted by xarnop at 9:45 AM on January 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Look up trauma bonding.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:50 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

He may "love you in his way." I actually don't doubt that. But the thing is -- sometimes the ways in which two people love each other don't match. And the fact that you're asking us whether this was "love' or "assault" is a big clue that, at the very least, the ways in which you love each other don't match.

You need someone who loves you in a way that works FOR you. He needs someone that he can love in the way he DOES love them (although, I doubt he'll have an easy time finding them).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

1. i think the term 'abusive relationship' is better applied here-but yes, abusive relationships can include sexual assaults.

2. you will need to come to terms with his assaults, including forgiving him for them.

3. this would require both of you to change. for you, it would be point two above. in regards to how to achieve that, i would view his earlier transgressions as something that he needed to learn was wrong, and that he has the ability to now see that his previous actions were wrong.

the change he needs is obviously out of your control. if he's still doing these things then i'd recommend throwing in the towel as waiting around for him to realize what an ass his is may take a long time and you surely can do better then that if he's figuring things out and you feel comfortable with him, then you're already on the right path.
posted by lester at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2012

I notice looking back I made a lot of "you need to" statements and I'd like to retract that word use. I merely meant to offer some options you may or may not find useful.
posted by xarnop at 10:22 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nothing makes it okay for someone to explicitly ignore and ridicule your boundaries, or to belittle you for having them. You guys have a lot of history together, which is easy to mistake for understanding, but a best friend doesn't pull this shit on you. This is incontrovertibly sexual assault, that guy is an asshole who doesn't respect you, and you should cut him the fuck out of your life. I know that giving a Big Deal label to it is difficult and feels horrible, but what would you say if one of your close friends had posted something like this? Wouldn't you also be springing crazily to their defense against this abusive jerk?

Disclosure: an ex-boyfriend did astonishingly similar things to me, so this question hits pretty close to home. It may be helpful to ask yourself why "thinking that I WAS [assaulted] makes [you] feel awful." It took me a really long time to stop asking myself why I "let myself" be assaulted, why I stayed with my ex for such a long time despite it, because what kind of weak victim lets that kind of stuff happen to them? If you're like me, then you might be thinking things like, "I chose to date him, I usually loved giving head, I was pretty subby--I must have brought this on myself." Remember: Nobody deserves to be treated the way he treated you. You are not weak or stupid for "letting this happen" or for still wanting to be his friend. The specific incidents of sexual assault seem to be symptomatic of a larger web of emotional abuse that you were and perhaps are still caught in. The way to escape is to get away from him. You will find people who do respect you.

Some resources that may be relevant: this question on AskMeFi, this post about sick emotional systems. I wish you best of luck.
posted by flawsekno at 11:45 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

One approach would be for you to avoid getting stuck in these vexing questions for now. It looks like you know what the answers are, though they are very painful to know. Here is one thing that is True, and it's big enough to trump all the troublesome details:

YOU DESERVE MORE RESPECT THAN THIS. And if you want to have a reasonable level of emotional health, you need to avoid significant involvement with people who treat you like this. Even if it might be possible to be "friends" with this guy, that wouldn't make it a good idea. Why invest so much of yourself learning how to function in a poisonous relationship?
posted by Corvid at 12:26 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) You can define this in any way you choose. But please don't make "I wouldn't be able to interact with him again if I defined it as sexual assault" the deciding factor when you consider how you want to think of it. He's not worth it. (And for the record, not calling the police right away or running away does NOT signify consent in most states.) Also, my relationship violence educator past would never forgive me if I didn't slip this in here: AARDVARC.org. It's a clearinghouse on sexual assault and relationship violence issues.

2) Not without major, self-chosen change on his part.

3) You deserve better. However you define what happened to your body, it sounds like he's also messing with your mind.

What would you say to a family member (normally I would say friend but...do you have other friends or has he cut you off from them?) who was going through something similar? Would you be concerned about their safety and mental health?
posted by camyram at 2:01 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. I am pretty comfortable calling this sexual assault and am surprised that so many people think it's a gray area case. I don't see why you'd want to be friends with someone who treated you like this.
posted by naoko at 3:11 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bordering on a-hole to assault, yes. Only you know. More importantly: He was your first big city gay friend. Cool. You know the ropes of the city now--you don't need him as a big part of your life.
posted by manicure12 at 6:42 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Addressing a very minor part of this, while agreeing with mostly everything said above - I want to add that yes, you can still grieve for losing a close friend when/if you cut ties with him. You're conflicted because this guy also has lots of good qualities that you treasure, and you have a lot of good memories to go with the bad experiences. It is very very sane and normal to feel conflicted and wish there was a way to minimize the bad or explain it away so that you could keep the good stuff.

IMHO, he's too abusive and it hurts you too much to balance out the good stuff, but that doesn't take away the sting of what you're losing. Mourn the loss of the friendship, and the good stuff too. A minor example: I still miss the complete asshole who insulted my kids and owes us scads of money and stuff - he was very funny and occasionally remarkably kind at the same time. Good luck - admitting out loud that the relationship isn't working and it's not you - that's a major first step.
posted by viggorlijah at 3:55 AM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

He's doing things you have made it clear you are NOT OK with. And he's rolling his eyes at your objections, which is an act of total disrespect. This man is NOT your friend, and his behavior is indefensible. There are many, many reasons people who are victims of assault do not go to the police, so he doesn't even have you on that. You're in an abusive relationship, despite your feelings of liking for this person. You may also be justifying the behavior because you're new to an area and it's difficult to form new relationships.
posted by medea42 at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2012

I really have nobody else in this world who understands me as well as he does.

He does seem to understand you very well, it takes a keen understanding of someone's thoughts and emotions to maintain an abusive relationship. Someone understanding you well does not necessarily mean they will make a good friend.

I would also say that he does love me, in his own way, although I don't expect any of you to understand that.

Only you can decide if the way he loves you is something that is healthy for you to be around. That he loves you in his own way doesn't mean you are obligated to overlook bad behavior.

You feel that this "best friend" would tell you that all this is your fault because you did not run away from him. You might consider whether you feel friends should look out for each other's well-being... there's a continuum between looking out for a friend's well-being, and feeling that it's OK to treat your friend however you like as long as they don't run away or call the police. This guy seems to be at one extreme of that spectrum, and whether you can still be friends depends on what range within that spectrum you want your friends to be.
posted by yohko at 4:25 PM on January 4, 2012

This sounds callous but I won't spare feelings if it prevents progress:

If you didn't enjoy it, why did you continue to have sex with him?

It sounds like you have a particular valence for being used; physically and emotionally. I understand that this need can supersede logic, which puts you in a distressing mental space. For that, I empathize.

I don't expect you to accept it based on my post, but this man will never return the love you feel for him. Not on the same level. That can only result in a loss for you.

My skepticism is partially due to personal bias; I've been in situations that would have constituted sexual assault. None of these times was his dick already near/in my mouth - none of these times was my dick hard. Every time (for the sake of accuracy, both times*) I did whatever it took to remove myself from the situation. I wouldn't even consider resuming any kind of connection.

He only has your cues to go on. I don't continue having sex with someone if I don't enjoy it. There's undoubtedly mutual responsibility in this. I think that's the first step.
posted by aca.int at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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