Sexual Assault? Was this man raped by a woman?
December 10, 2014 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Roughly 20 years ago, I went to college in a rural state. An experience with someone in a position of perceived power left me scarred for life. Details within. Please be kind.

My first month at college, an R.A. knocked on my door and when I answered she pushed the door open and pretty much forced herself on me. I didn't say No, but I never once indicated (aside from the obvious physical problems) that I wanted that to happen. I had never spoken to her before in my life. As soon as it was done, she left and we never spoke to each other again.

Probably most young men's dream. I told my girlfriend the next morning, and that ended our relationship. This really fucked me up. Since then, I've cheated on just about everyone I've been with. I think it's sabotage and I'm working through it in counseling. I continue to struggle. I'm married and I constantly want to roam, and I think it all comes back to this one pivotal moment in my life.

Was that sexual assault? Was it rape if I didn't say no?

Please be kind in your response. I very much appreciate it.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it was sexual assault.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [30 favorites]

You do not need to say "no" for your consent to have been violated. (Whether or not it would have met the legal definition of rape in that place and at that time is an entirely different question.)
posted by Dip Flash at 8:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am sorry you had to deal with that. You ask whether it was rape or not, I think that depends on the question you are asking. If you want a legal standard, I'll leave that to those more qualified to provide it.

If you feel violated and that someone imposed a sexual act on you without your consent, then I would say that you had been sexually assaulted, yes. I understand that you would like us to confirm your feelings of violation, and I have no problem in doing that, but I hope you realise that if you feel violated, then that is a legitimate reaction to have, and no-one can take that away from you.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

How you choose to describe what happened, especially 20 years later and where the only question is your own happiness and well being, is entirely up to you. There's definitely all the elements there to make describing it as rape or sexual assault reasonable. You were made to engage in sexual intercourse without your consent, you would never be wrong to call that rape.

Does it help you to contextualize it as rape or sexual assault? For example, I've got some childhood stuff that probably meets the technical definition of sexual assault, but I don't find it helpful to think of it that way (I tend to call it "sexual bullying"), so I don't. Another person in my shoes might feel very differently, and that would be completely reasonable. If you're asking this question, my guess it that it would be helpful for you to think of it as sexual assault or rape, but ultimately that's your decision. You definitely don't need to have said "no."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:11 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

In your own words, she forced herself on you. You did not give your consent. That's sexual assault. Definitions of what constitutes rape vary by state, but is that what's most important to you in getting an answer here?

Speaking only from my own experience, I was relieved to find there was a term for what had happened to me. Maybe that will also be enough for you. Regardless, I am sorry this happened to you.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:15 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yes, if you did not give your consent, it was rape.

I'm so sorry this happened to you and from one survivor to another, I hope you can learn skills to help you cope in a healthy way. It is possible.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:23 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

You did not consent. It was an assault. I'm sorry you went through this, and I hope that you can find some peace through constructive means.
posted by xingcat at 8:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

No not every mans dream, inspite of all the shit we are all fed. Sounds horrendous and sickening :(
As a Mental Health Professional with over a decades experience and an interest in the impact of dangerous people on others, I'm kind of embarrassed at how long it took me to realise men can be raped. There's not nearly enough awareness about this.. (I've never had it mentionned in any training etc) but it is coming and if you rummage on line you will find some good stuff.. but trigger warning about all the bullshit responses such awareness can also elicit.. yes exactly.. about it being 'a dream' etc.

Lots of rape victims react by acting out (lots don't too) ie.. through action rather than emotionally dealing with stuff (too raw/painful) etc as a way of regaining some sense of control over their bodies and sexuality but it's temporary medicine ofcourse, like any maladapative coping mechanism is.

I think you might find sex and love addicts anonymous useful and perhaps exploring sex addiction which you may or may not relate to.
posted by tanktop at 8:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

How awful - I'm so sorry this happened to you, and that it's caused you suffering for so long. Yes, it was an assault. It was rape because you didn't say yes.

No not every mans dream, inspite of all the shit we are all fed. Exactly that.
posted by rtha at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I was unable to say 'no' when I was sexually assaulted (multiple times). That does not make it consensual.

I am dreadfully sorry this happened to you.

Yet I do think you should continue working with a counselor/therapist, because despite what we've been through, we all have the ability to control actions in the present.

A tendency to roam may be connected to your college experience, but in therapy you will learn that you are in control of your behavior now.

Again, I do believe you were violated, and still I believe you can control your current decisions. Truly.

Wishing you the best.
posted by whoiam at 8:35 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

There is a great deal of power in being able to name your experiences for yourself, so I won't dare to try to do that for you, but I absolutely understand the desire to have others try to pinpoint a word or words for your experience because it is so useful when it comes to being able to process or discuss your trauma. This is a recent off-site conversation about this very specific topic -- post-traumatically internally debating whether an experience you had can or should be called 'rape' vs. 'sexual assault' vs. something else entirely -- that I found very helpful in dealing with similar circumstances, although there is a lot of potentially triggering writing contained therein, so I wouldn't recommend reading it if you're feeling especially vulnerable right now.

Please don't castigate yourself for not being able to use your voice or say "no" out loud. What happened to you sounds overwhelming and scary and intense, and being party to such an experience can be so shocking to your sense of self that you can dissociate altogether. The only thing that matters is that you did not consent, your bodily autonomy was violated, and you are in pain because of it. Does your wife know about what happened? Are you comfortable talking to her about it?

If you think you might benefit from exploring your feelings in a therapeutic setting that's decidedly more narrow than what you have with your existing therapist, I would strongly suggest reaching out to an organization that is well-equipped to discuss situations like the one you experienced, such as RAINN or 1 in 6. You are not alone, and I'm horrified and heartbroken on behalf of a society that led you to believe that what happened to you would be "probably most young men's dream," because it simply isn't.

I'm so sorry this happened to you, and so sorry it is still haunting you after all these years. I wish you love, healing, and peace.
posted by divined by radio at 8:36 AM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Yes, it was sexual assault.
Yes, it was rape.

No, this is not "every young man's dream" -- it made you feel uncomfortable and was not consensual -- what person dreams of that?

Your girlfriend's response was entirely inappropriate and she should have been supportive, but society tends to want us to believe that men cannot be raped or assaulted. Unfortunately, this is untrue, as you have experienced.

Do you feel as though you can talk to your wife about this? Have you considered seeing a therapist? (sorry, I missed the part about you being in counseling) I recommend you do both.
posted by tckma at 8:45 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

You were assaulted. Lots of survivors don't actively say no, either through fear, impairment or shock. Men can be raped and if the encounter was unwelcome, unpleasant and by force, then it's rape.

I suggest that you work on your sense of shame behind this. You did nothing wrong. Given the nature of human relations 20 years ago, I can't think of anything you could have done at the time that would have been a good choice.

Don't judge your past self by what you know twenty years later. You were young, you were vulnerable and you were in a weird and horrible position. Your girlfriend at the time was young and stupid as well.

Forgive yourself for your perceived failures. Trust me, they are all imagined. Again, there was nothing you could have done at the time.

The only thing worse than this is letting this one, horrible experience ruin the rest of your life. There are resources for survivors of sexual assault, one is the National Sexual Assault Hotline - 800 656 4673. Call them, they can validate your experiences and point you to local folks who are specially trained to help you.

I wish you peace.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:47 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

You were raped. It doesn't matter if 1, 2, or 400,000 men would have enjoyed the experience; you did not (and I would not, either). You were raped; you are a rape victim; you have every right to think of yourself this way and seek therapy if you wish. And sympathy from anyone close enough to share it with.

What you are feeling has been felt by thousands of rape victims before of both/all genders.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:50 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

First, I am sorry this happened to you and I hope you do recover.

It certainly was an assault as there was no consent given and an intrusion happened, physically and mentally.

One thing to think about regarding your recovery- may or may not apply to you, so excuse me if I am off- is your asking of the question, is this rape since I did not resist, come from you blaming yourself in some way? (I could have/should have said no, pushed back, did something different) Because that is not your fault. In an assault like that, it is unprecedented and totally unexpected. It is completely human and reasonable to be overwhelmed and incapacitated in some way in that moment. I hope you aren't internalizing some responsibility for this.

Wish you the best in dealing with this and healing.
posted by incolorinred at 9:03 AM on December 10, 2014

Seconding check out RAINN.

And from another site: "Sadly, many men who were sexually abused by women are locked in silence, shame, and self-loathing. Society tells them that not only was their experience not abuse, but that they should have enjoyed it, and if they didn’t there must be something terribly wrong with them."

If you post a throwaway email address I can send you some scholarly articles on this, it's a topic I've read about a lot because someone I know and love was victimized this way.
posted by mareli at 9:10 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

One of the most common responses to sexual assault is to freeze up rather than fight or flee. Saying "No" is not required in order to label something sexual assault or rape.
posted by jaguar at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thinking that this is "most young men's dream" is completely false.
Despite what television media might tell you, young men are as nervous and awkward as anyone else.
Some young men might flap their guns and talk big about their sexuality, but it is an illusion.
Most young men would have been traumatized by this event.

Wish you well in finding peace with this heavy issue in your life.
posted by Flood at 9:55 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, you were raped.

I think that pragmatically you should work to move past being "victimized" by the event and instead assume control of your life. Ie, don't let victim-hood become a crutch or an excuse. Be a Survivor and be in control.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:59 AM on December 10, 2014

don't let victim-hood become a crutch or an excuse. Be a Survivor and be in control.

Best practices for healing from trauma involve acknowledging the trauma rather than trying to soldier past it without letting yourself first feel the pain it caused. Soldiering past it is a common form of denial, and tends to lead to acting-out behavior, like cheating on partners.

Please ignore anyone, including yourself, who tells you any variation on "Be a man and buck up." You didn't deserve what happened to you, and it's a normal and healthy human reaction to be upset by an upsetting event. As you said, what you need right now is gentleness and support. It's also extremely common for sexual-assault survivors to be able to hold it together for a long while, even decades, until they get to a point where they are ready to go back and deal with the trauma.

If your therapist does not have experience working with trauma survivors, especially sexual assault survivors, you may want to ask for referrals. (Therapists without specialized training can often make well-meaning but ultimately damaging suggestions when working with survivors.) Most rape crisis centers also provide low-cost or sliding-scale counseling for both male and female survivors of sexual assault. If you're in the US, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673), and they will automatically forward your call to the closest rape crisis center based on your area code. Even if you don't want or need additional counseling, you can use that hotline 24 hours a day to speak with a trained volunteer who can talk to you about what happened.
posted by jaguar at 10:16 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, this was rape. I am friends with several male rape survivors who were raped and/or sexually abused by women. It's often overlooked and minimized because men are perceived to be far more able to fight off unwanted advances due to their physical strength, because men are stereotyped as always wanting any kind of sexual contact that's made available, and also because of the the very, very incorrect assumption that physical arousal/erection equals consent.

Please seek out services geared toward sexual assault survivors and try to ignore anyone who minimizes what happened to you. Rape of men by women is real.
posted by quince at 10:38 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I heard a man talking once about being abused as a boy, and he said he spent many years being confused by the (multiple) incidents and the truth of what had occured because as he put it "my body betrayed me". It was clearly a difficult thing for him to admit and to own, but stating that truth also clearly gave him some peace and allowed him to process the mental and emotional parts of the encounter more productively.

There is a difference between what your mind may have wanted and the physicality of what your body responded to.

College is a confusing time, where many things that we've never experienced before occur before we even have a chance to process what is happening and whether or not we want to be a part of it. We are not grown adults when we're in college, we are freshly out of a more protected environment with no one looking out for us in most cases, and people definitely take advantage of others in those situations. I can easily imagine how this situation occured, and I agree with others upthread in that this was assault.

I think that in a perfect world your gf at the time would have been more understanding, but she was also an 18yo with little world experience and understandably (at that life stage) would equate "my bf had sex with someone else = he deliberately cheated on me". With the benefit now of time and life experience, I wouldn't hold her feet too closely to the fire on that one, even though it hurt you terribly.

Together with your therapist, I hope you will be able to find a way to let go of any guilt you have over having experienced this incident. I hope you will be able to find a way to put it in a different context than how you've been thinking of it until now, and to forgive yourself if you feel it was somehow your fault.
posted by vignettist at 12:08 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wasn't assaulted, I wouldn't say, but I was manipulated into a sexual relationship around that age by someone with a bottomless well of emotional neediness, and it took me many years before I started to unscrew my head about that. I would say give yourself permission to consider yourself a victim, or at least (if that has the wrong connotations for you) someone who does not always have the upper hand in your relationships and what that means (i.e. it is likely that your cheating is a way of maintaining a feeling of control, even if the other person never finds out about it). At the same time, I think you also need to mentally liberate yourself from this incident, and not allow it to define your future thoughts and behavior. Use cognitive therapy (socratic questioning) to debate within yourself how you think about it, e.g. "I think it was pivotal" could be followed by "Really? Pivotal is a strong word and I could also say that it was just one of many incidents and experiences that have shaped who I am today." Good luck with your course of therapy.
posted by dhartung at 1:46 PM on December 10, 2014

OP here, coming out of the anonymous closet because you all made me feel comfortable...

Thank you all for your kind words. I tried to speak with my wife a bit about this, and she says the old chestnut of, "If you didn't say no."

So many of you have been so kind, and not one person made me feel bad about it. I'll continue to work on my personal healing, but wanted to emerge and say thank you because you've all touched my heart.

Thank you in particular to those of you who shared your own stories. I'm going to reach out to 1 in 6 and RAINN.
posted by Draccy at 7:34 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Your wife may also find it helpful to look at the RAINN or 1in6 websites. Many local rape crisis centers also offer short-term services to partners of survivors. It sounds like she could use some more information or education in order to support you better, though that should be a secondary concern for you, after your own healing.

It sucks, but sometimes people going through difficult things have to educate their support people. I wish society did a better job of combating myths so that survivors didn't have to.

I'm glad you're seeking help and information and support.
posted by jaguar at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if she's ready for that. She sort of laughed at me when I explained it. A little traumatizing for me, and I think I'll just continue to work through it in my counseling. I can't blame her, there's so much denial around this topic. I think I've denied it for 20 years. Maybe one day, I'll have the strength to talk to her about it again.

Again, truly appreciate all of you. I may start an online chat with RAINN tonight when she's asleep to 'talk' it out a bit. Already have the stigma of mental illness, don't need to compound that.

Thanks for sharing your strength.
posted by Draccy at 4:25 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely don't set yourself up for more dismissiveness from people. I'm sorry your wife doesn't get it, but I'm glad your therapist does.

And just a note: I've heard people having slightly... "off"... experiences with the RAINN online chat, and I've stopped recommending it. I assume it depends on the volunteer staffing it, but I would encourage you not to give up on the idea of using the phone hotline even if the online hotline is less-than-helpful. I suspect there are fewer volunteers for the online chat than for the phone hotline (I worked for a fairly tech-savvy rape crisis center and our volunteers (including me) staffed the hotline 24 hours a day for our local callers, but we were never even contacted about staffing the online chat), and so quality and supervision may be different for the two.
posted by jaguar at 7:05 AM on December 11, 2014

Just wanted to add, from your updates it sounds like your wife is being pretty insensitive about this. That's not good. I'm glad you have the strength to go elsewhere for therapy and help.
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