Was I raped?
May 30, 2008 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Was I raped?

This happened many years ago, but I guess there's something wrong with me because I can't forget about it.

When I was 17 and I had just moved out of my parents' house, I had a male roommate. I guess I was high on my new freedoms as an adult in my own place, because after just a few months, I slept with him. He was my first.

It seemed like he changed dramatically after that. I wore skirts a lot back then, and he would often come up behind me, push one hand on my back to bend me over and lift up my skirt. I felt so utterly worthless when he did that. I didn't say anything, but just gave him a really hurt look. He just laughed, but it was a playful laugh rather than a mean laugh. After I got used to it, I just gritted my teeth and kept my head down. I started getting really jumpy and nervous whenever I heard something behind me, and he laughed at that, too.

Then, one time, I happened to be sitting in front of his web cam, which I didn't know was on. I was wearing the "choker" style of necklace. He took the leash for his dog, attached it to my necklace and posed for the web cam, holding it. It happened so fast and just kind of shocked me, and I didn't know how to respond. I just covered my face and giggled a lot, which is the stupid response I usually have when I'm freaked out and don't know what to do. The next day, I saw that someone had posted screenshots of that event on a forum. The worst thing is that it looked like I was smiling, but I was actually laughing nervously because I felt so humiliated.

After that, I spent pretty much all the time in my room crying. I know it's silly to get so bent out of shape, but I'm unstable or something. I thought that my friends were all mad at me or something, because I didn't hear from them for ages. I later found out that until I started acting normal again, he told anyone who called that I was "hormonal or something" and that I'm refusing to talk to anybody. I did get disproportionally upset, so I see where he was coming from, but I never refused to talk to him or anyone else, so I don't get that. He also kept e-mailing me porn at this time, even though he knew that I hate porn and find it disgusting. I think he was mad that I wasn't so available anymore.

A little over a year after this all started, I decided I didn't deserve this treatment and moved out. The day before I moved out, I woke up to find him sitting on my bed and touching me. I was sleeping in the nude. I didn't do anything but just put my arms over my face and stayed still. He climbed on top of me and had sex with me.

So...I just want to know. Was this rape? And if not, then why am I being such a freak about it? And even if so, why am I still being such a freak about it nearly 8 years later?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (64 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you know the answer to this.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:35 PM on May 30, 2008


Crap, I think I was being much more enigmatic than intended. I think yes.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:37 PM on May 30, 2008


I don't think labeling it as "rape" or "not rape" is what is important here. What matters is that his behavior was not normal, not respectful, and not appropriate, and that it has had a profound effect on you. You are entitled to whatever feelings you are having as a result of what he did to you. Your feelings are valid. I think you could benefit greatly from speaking to a professional about this.
posted by kitty teeth at 6:39 PM on May 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


Upon further reflection...

"Not normal, not respectful, and not appropriate" doesn't go far enough. Disgusting and appalling is more like it.

Best of luck to you.
posted by kitty teeth at 6:45 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with kitty teeth 100%; don't be hung up on whether this meets any particular definition of "rape" (colloquial? legal?) because the important thing is learning to deal with what happened and your feelings about it. A psychiatrist or therapist sounds extremely appropriate here. I'd encourage you to seek one out.
posted by Justinian at 6:46 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know it's silly to get so bent out of shape, but I'm unstable or something.

No, it's not. You were not even feeling secure in your own home, and this was before the rape. I can't imagine putting up with that for a year. Your feelings about this aren't/weren't silly.
posted by Airhen at 6:59 PM on May 30, 2008


Any normal guy should have long ago realized his sexual advances were not appreciated. Guys who keep pushing are usually called assholes or dick heads.

I agree with kitty teeth. Whether it's technically rape or not is less important than the fact that it was traumatic. The experience obviously has a grip on your life that will (if it hasn't already) affect your future relationships. Do what you need to do to come to terms with this.
posted by sbutler at 7:11 PM on May 30, 2008


I think legally you are in a pretty gray area because you didn't give your consent, but you didn't say no or try and stop him either. (IANAL so I could be totally wrong)

Having said that I think what happened to you is horrible and you have every right to be upset about it - I would be too. It doesn't make you unstable, it makes you human. He is the unstable one in this situation and I am glad you are away from him.
posted by Julnyes at 7:14 PM on May 30, 2008


I agree that labeling it in a binary way is not going to resolve it. The touching you while you're asleep part is a pretty easy call. But as for the intercourse part - if it could be shown that it was not technically rape by some definition, would you feel any better about it? Could you forget? Would it make a difference in what you would do with any guilt or anger or shame or hurt you may be feeling? For example, did you say no or resist in any way? Should you have to do that? Does failing to do that mean yes? Does putting your hands over your face count for anything? If you didn't try to stop him but you still really didn't want it to happen and were too traumatized and paralyzed and shocked to act, does that still count? What if the only reason you didn't try to stop him was that you were too scared of the consequences? Is there legal precedent to make that enough to count as rape? I don't know, but cases have gone both ways.

But whatever anyone wants to call it, you didn't want it and it scarred you. He violated your person, and not just physically. This was psychic damage. The answer to why you're "being such a freak 8 years later" is that it was profound trauma for you, kind of like rape. Don't paint yourself as a freak here, because it suggests that you did something wrong or are now doing something wrong, that you are to blame. "I should have done something," maybe you say to yourself. Google "rape self blame" and you'll find a lot of literature on this phenomenon. One hates to give the kneejerk AskMeFi answer of "go to therapy" but this one is a home run. You need to confront and process these unresolved feelings. Unfortunately that means digging them back up and feeling them again. I'm sorry this happened to you. Good luck.
posted by Askr at 7:16 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think that legally there is a gray area in this case; I do believe that there is a practical issue of attempting to convince a prosecutor, judge or jury, however. That does not diminish the fact that non-consensual sex, as described, is rape.

The last thing you want to do is minimize the trauma that the act has caused you. And if that means labeling it as "rape", then do it. The first thing you want to do is talk to a counselor that can help guide you through your feelings.

IANYL
posted by jabberjaw at 7:30 PM on May 30, 2008


Can I give you a definitive answer? Not from what you wrote, maybe not at all.

But I'll copy his actions and take out the unvoiced discomfort and objections:

I wore skirts a lot back then, and he would often come up behind me, push one hand on my back to bend me over and lift up my skirt. I didn't say anything, but just gave him a really hurt look. He just laughed, but it was a playful laugh rather than a mean laugh. I started getting really jumpy and nervous whenever I heard something behind me, and he laughed at that, too.

Then, one time, I happened to be sitting in front of his web cam, which I didn't know was on. I was wearing the "choker" style of necklace. He took the leash for his dog, attached it to my necklace and posed for the web cam, holding it. I just covered my face and giggled a lot. The next day, I saw that someone had posted screenshots of that event on a forum.

I woke up to find him sitting on my bed and touching me. I was sleeping in the nude. I didn't do anything but just put my arms over my face and stayed still. He climbed on top of me and had sex with me.


This reads to me like it could be written by any number of people I know in perfectly fine relationships involving teasing flirting and wakeup sex, and just the first two paragraphs would be normal between friends in certain social circles and situations I've been in. (Though I especially don't know where your relationship was at towards the end for a go at wakeup sex to be appropriate or not. Were you still having sex recently before that point?)

It seems the only thing he did against your expressed will was to send porn, and if you reacted to the porn with a giggling "EW! GROSS!" sort of like the necklace thing, that's not an effective communication.

He may certainly been a rapist asshole taking advantage of you, but he may also have had different expectations with regard to boundaries, so I write this to encourage you to VOICE YOUR BOUNDARIES AND DISCOMFORTS in the future. People end up socialized in all sorts of different ways, so if you clearly communicate things will probably go much better in all interactions and at a god-forbid minimum you will know for sure whether or not you were raped.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:41 PM on May 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


there's something wrong with me . . . I know it's silly to get so bent out of shape . . . I did get disproportionally upset

No. Not wrong, not silly, not disproportionately. You have every right to feel this way. Please don't disparage yourself like that. This goes to the heart of a lot of conflicts I've seen about acquaintance rape, and how it can be gray in some senses. A lot of guys think as long as a woman's not saying "No" or "Stop," she wants it (putting all the onus on her, which is problematic considering how often there's a power imbalance, whether physical or otherwise).

Whereas if they actually gave a shit about her, they 1. would check in every so often to confirm she wants what they're doing (not like a step-by-step checklist, but just an occasional something like, "Hey, are you ok with this?" especially before proceeding with major sexual milestones; and 2. would refrain from going further unless she verbally, and with body language, indicated "Yes, yes, oh God yes, I want you to keep doing what you're doing".

I agree that talking to a professional therapist would probably be the best way to help you process how you think and feel about this. Good luck.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:44 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


He sexually abused you for a long period, and then raped you. Proving it in court is another matter, but it seems pretty clear cut to me that you didn't give consent at multiple points.

Trauma doesn't often go away on it's own, and I don't think you do yourself any favours by minimising it, or the effect it's had on you. I would strongly advise talking to a professional trauma councillor. Your reaction to the events at the time and afterwards is both normal and nothing to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. It's not your fault, and you're the one being punished by reliving something bad that happened to you that was not your fault.

Don't let the wanker hurt you any more than already has. It sounds stupid, but seriously, seek some proper trained help to get a handle on this. They'll be able to do far more for you than us bunch of half-assed armchair therapists.
posted by ArkhanJG at 7:49 PM on May 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Julnyes -- it's not fair to say that if someone doesn't do something or make some effort to stop the situation that it's somehow slightly more okay than a flat "no." Anything that is not "yes" in a sexual situation is a "no."

Anon, this was definitely rape in my book, even if you were at or beyond the age of consent. I experienced a similar living situation, and I must say, you were (and still are!) very brave to get yourself out of there. If you really think there's something wrong and you're lingering uncomfortably on the past, you should seek out help if you haven't already.

If you're still jumpy/nervous/hyper-aware (you didn't use the past tense), I would definitely consult a therapist regarding the possibility of PTSD. I can recommend some related literature if you're interested.
posted by giraffe at 7:55 PM on May 30, 2008


I am so sorry that you went through all of this.

I think that the answer is yes. Sex without consent is rape.
posted by mewithoutyou at 8:00 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I didn't say anything, but just gave him a really hurt look.... I started getting really jumpy and nervous whenever I heard something behind me...I didn't do anything but just put my arms over my face and stayed still.

All of these are clear non-verbal indicators to stop. Expressing it verbally is stronger, but that still doesn't mean that consent was granted. Under UK law, it's the man's duty to seek consent, not the woman's to deny it. There's a pretty good chance that this 'wake up sex' would be legally classed as rape in the UK.

There are also Rape Crisis/sexual assault centres where specialists are available to help and give advice, as well as an anonymous support telephone line. Perhaps there are similar services in your country? Again, it's not your fault, and you have nothing to feel guilty about. there's nothing wrong with you. You're a normal hurt human being reliving a traumatic event.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:01 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


One last place to read:

* One in four women surveyed was victim of rape or attempted rape.
* An additional one in four women surveyed was touched sexually against her will or was victim of sexual coercion.
* 84 percent of those raped knew their attacker.
* 84 percent of those men who committed rape said that what they did was definitely not rape.
* Only 27 percent of those women whose sexual assault met the legal definition of rape thought of themselves as rape victims.
* 42 percent of the rape victims did not tell anyone about their assaults.
* Only five percent of the rape victims reported the crime to the police.
* Only five percent of the rape victims sought help at rape-crisis centers.
* Whether they had acknowledged their experience as a rape or not, thirty percent of the women identified as rape victims contemplated suicide after the incident.
* 82 percent of the victims said that the experience had permanently changed them.

You are unfortunately far from alone.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:14 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


nthing that you are not silly or unstable for being bothered by his actions. His actions were definitely "disgusting and appalling," in the words of another poster, and I can completely understand why you'd be traumatized by them. Whether it's called "rape" in a court of law makes absolutely no difference. You were certainly abused. Please, see a counselor.
posted by desjardins at 8:23 PM on May 30, 2008


Learning how to confidently say No is a very important thing. I am in no way implying that the things that happened to you were acceptable or your fault, but being able to say No and be sure about it when you say it can help you a lot. Perhaps it is just a matter of confidence, but once I got it into my head to say No when I am thinking No, things felt a lot less uncomfortable--and not only with touching and sexual things, but in all situations where I feel like I'm being pressured into something I don't want to do. I may feel a little uncomfortable being under that pressure, and sometimes having to say No multiple times, but when it's all over I'm happy that I stood up for myself.

I can understand the feeling of being uncomfortable but not wanting to say anything, but things didn't get better for me until I was willing to stand up for myself. Sometimes it still happens, that I'm not confident enough to just say no, but it gets less and less frequent as time passes, and it happens almost never when it really matters.
posted by that girl at 8:37 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Then, one time, I happened to be sitting in front of his web cam, which I didn't know was on. I was wearing the "choker" style of necklace. He took the leash for his dog, attached it to my necklace and posed for the web cam, holding it. It happened so fast and just kind of shocked me, and I didn't know how to respond. I just covered my face and giggled a lot, which is the stupid response I usually have when I'm freaked out and don't know what to do. The next day, I saw that someone had posted screenshots of that event on a forum. The worst thing is that it looked like I was smiling, but I was actually laughing nervously because I felt so humiliated.


There was no touching, no penetration? If so, it was an abuse, but I don't know that it rises legally to the level of rape. It felt that way though so in how you deal with the abuse that is a good model.

I wore skirts a lot back then, and he would often come up behind me, push one hand on my back to bend me over and lift up my skirt. I felt so utterly worthless when he did that. I didn't say anything, but just gave him a really hurt look. He just laughed, but it was a playful laugh rather than a mean laugh. After I got used to it, I just gritted my teeth and kept my head down. I started getting really jumpy and nervous whenever I heard something behind me, and he laughed at that, too.

This is closer, but there are so many ways in which the communication is just missing here. He could actually think, or even just simply claim, that it seemed to him that this was not something you objected to. Did you ever tell him outright to stop, that he did not have permission?

These are horrible interplays that no person should ever have to experience. He took advantage of you. Was it "rape?" Does it matter? It was abuse. Legally, there may be no crime. Personally, you were violated. That is what you need to overcome. You do not need to punish him, get back at him, for you to heal. Focus on your healing. Forget him, even perhaps forgive him, just move beyond this abuser.

I give you props for posting here, even anonymously. It isn't easy stuff. However, you now have a pretty big group pulling for you to find your way beyond this. Good luck to you and may you find the strength to overcome this violation of your person.
posted by caddis at 8:47 PM on May 30, 2008


Caddis - did you read the last part of the poster's story?
posted by crabintheocean at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2008


Probably I will catch hell for this, and be grossly misunderstood. I am not trying to be a jerk or in any way justify the bad things done to you, but you ask if it's rape, and I have to go with 'no'. Before i give my yea or nay, let me say I am sorry that what happened, happened. Based only on what you say, this guy was an asshole, a jerk, and an opportunist.
But I don't see how you were raped. You were laying naked in bed (your choice, and not a bad one, but in the same situation I'd be wearing a sweatsuit, socks and a toboggan).
He is sitting on yr bed, caressing you. You say nothing, but cross yr arms over yr eyes. He gets on top of you, you do not resist verbally or physically. would he have done it if you had screamed? Said NO! Curled into a tight ball?
We don't know, but based on yr own testimony...no, you were not raped. Looks of disapproval do not a rape make. You are not a bad person, you are tender hearted and intelligent, and, in this instance, you were not raped. Let it go or get some decent therapy.
with best wishes...
posted by dawson at 9:16 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


It sure sounds like rape to me. You didn't give consent, and you gave a lot of non-verbal signals of "I'm not into this." In another context (that is, within a relationship in which you are consenting to those things) those same actions (flipping up the skirt, silent sex in the morning, etc) would be totally ok -- absent that consent, they are abuse and rape.

I doubt that something that happened eight years ago, wasn't reported then, etc, can be turned into a prosecution, but those kinds of options depend totally on where you are living and the specifics of the situation. A sexual abuse advocate in your area would be able to give you an idea of whether or not you have legal options at this point.

But I agree with kitty teeth's comment above, that the legal definition of rape is not the central issue here. What matters is that you are still feeling upset over what happened, and your memories and feelings are negatively impacting your life. It's easy to say "go see a therapist," but that is something that really does help a lot of people. However you do it, you need to find the support and help you need to bring your life into balance, and move forward with this.

(Lastly, I have to strongly disagree with dawson's comment above, that it isn't rape if you were naked and didn't fight tooth and nail. No -- it's rape if you didn't give consent. There are plenty of ambiguous he said/she said situations that happen, where consent is partial, the circumstances are confusing, etc. This situation, as described, is not one of those ambiguous ones -- it reads like a straightforward story of abuse, control, and violation. This isn't a court of law, we aren't looking at both sides of the story, there could be other factors, I don't know. But her sleeping naked is not consent, just as her not screaming "no" is not consent. She definitely could have made different choices -- but her choices do not justify his behavior.)
posted by Forktine at 9:53 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Absolutely, you were raped. Maybe what you went through won't meet the "legal" definition in your jurisdiction, but you were violated against your will. So what if you were too messed up to forcefully express your objection. The guy manipulated you and he knew it.

You need help. You need to heal. You need to become whole again. Go to a women's crisis centre -- they will know what you've been through and what you need.

My sister was raped and the rapist was never caught -- I am so sorry that this had to happen to you and happens to so many other women EVERY SINGLE DAY.
posted by randomstriker at 9:56 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


He gets on top of you, you do not resist verbally or physically

I disagree. Many persons freeze when they face an aggression. This is their way to survive a difficult situation.

I don't know if he raped you or not. But he abused you and I believe he sexually assaulted you. He didn't respect your limits. The choker incident might sound like a juvenile prank, but it sounds like it was extremely humilliating and controlling.

These links from RAINN might help:
Types of sexual assault
Was it rape?
Recovering from sexual assault

You are not unbalanced nor a weirdo for being upset about this, even 8 years later.
posted by clearlydemon at 9:57 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you were raped, and the asshole sounds like the sort of guy I wish I could revoke the right to participate in S&M from. I think he was doubly in the wrong because of the clear D/s overtones of his assault on you. From the skirt flips to the leashing, even if he would claim he failed to read your signals, if you are going to play those sort of games with people it is your job to make 100% sure the other party (in this case you) likes it and enjoys it.
posted by Phalene at 10:10 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Julnyes -- it's not fair to say that if someone doesn't do something or make some effort to stop the situation that it's somehow slightly more okay than a flat "no." Anything that is not "yes" in a sexual situation is a "no."

posted by giraffe at 10:55 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


I didn't in any way, shape or form say what happened to her was okay. I said it might be a gray area legally.

Every person has different boundaries and different attitudes about sex. That is why you have to be extremely clear in situations that make you uncomfortable. They had a pre-existing sexual relationship and she, according to her own post, never negatively confronted the jerk about his behavior.

but I do feel for her and hope she gets help to deal with what was clearly a traumatic event.
posted by Julnyes at 10:34 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am sorry that this happened to you. What happened to you certainly fits my definition of rape: someone had sexual intercourse with you without your consent.

The way that I use the definition, though, is not legal, with intent to prove in a court of law to discipline and punish; instead, I view an event like this as something of profound psychological relevance to the victim. It is quite normal to ruminate on a traumatic event like this and try to discover its meaning in your life for years afterwards, working through all of the different emotions that it produces and all of the questions it raises about your autonomy, your identity, your locus of control, your senses of security and trust.

A therapist might be of great assistance to you in working through some of these issues. I hope that you can find some peace.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:40 PM on May 30, 2008


I prefer to not go into deratil, as I'm not anon. But if you, based on yr testimony here, were raped, then I guess I was violently raped, more than once, by a rather well-known writer (female). I never really considered it 'rape', tho I recognized it as a horror. And perhaps I'm in some deep denial, but I can't honesty say my experiences involved 'rape'. Lets be very careful to maintain the original meaning of emotive words. There are degrees and circumstances that make this situation less wrong criminally, tho no less horrific, than that of a classic, brutal, rape by, say, a masked stranger who hold a gun to yr temple.
That';s my take anyway, and if it makes me seem indifferent I appoligize and assue you that I most assuredly am not.
posted by dawson at 10:43 PM on May 30, 2008


dawson, the part of your post that upset me was the idea that it is less an act of rape if someone is naked in the privacy of their own room.
posted by giggleknickers at 11:05 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Criminal law has a certain definition of rape/sexual assault. That definition changes through time (it used to be impossible for a man to rape his wife, for example). Criminal law is an imperfect compromise with plenty of room for improvement. It tends to define rape from the perspective of the perpetrator: if the he thought at the time that he was raping, then he was, if he didn't, then he wasn't.

Whether your roommate thought of himself as raping you or not has NOTHING to do with whether or not you were raped. Whether or not the criminal law system is currently capable of recognizing your experience or not has nothing to do with whether or not you were raped. If you experienced sexual touching that you did not want, you have ever right to consider that experience rape. *You* have more right, and more ability, to know whether you were touched without consent or not, than the system, than the perpetrator.

Nevertheless, I bet this guy knew what he was doing, that he was manipulating, bullying, and violating you. The situation you were in sounds like a nightmare. I agree with the other posters that you shouldn't for a second judge yourself as being oversensitive or something. You're exactly as sensitive as you need to be. Thank goodness there are resources out there, and it seems like you're now at a time in your life when you can deal with the trauma. Contrary to conventional opinion, dealing with trauma often doesn't happen at or even near to the time of the trauma itself, and, time by itself doesn't heal all wounds. Time helps but people (friends, therapists, books, and at least yourself, your own will and caring for yourself) are also necessary.

In the scheme of things, eight years isn't that much. Take care of yourself and also respect yourself. You did what you had to do to survive, and you got out, and you kept on living and building your life. And now, you're doing that but even more so, in continuing to deal with the trauma and possibly in a new and more direct way.

I hope all the best for you.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


But I don't see how you were raped. You were laying naked in bed (your choice, and not a bad one, but in the same situation I'd be wearing a sweatsuit, socks and a toboggan).
He is sitting on yr bed, caressing you. You say nothing, but cross yr arms over yr eyes. He gets on top of you, you do not resist verbally or physically. would he have done it if you had screamed? Said NO! Curled into a tight ball?


No.

She can wear a tutu and a tiara or a suit of armor or nothing at all, but if she doesn't consent to sex, it's rape. If I walk through Times Square naked and someone has sex with me without my consent, it's rape. Rape has nothing to do with what the victim is wearing or doing or saying. Rape is forcing a person to have sex without their consent.

And I don't know about any of you, but if my intended sexual partner tried to block me out of his vision and reacted in no way to my advances, I'd stop. Because it shouldn't be a question of 'she/he didn't say no' as the justification for continuing. It should be a question of 'he/she said yes'.

This was rape. Whether or not it could be legally prosecuted as such is irrelevant to the feelings of violation. I am so sorry this happened to you, anon.
posted by winna at 11:42 PM on May 30, 2008


Any issue that you've been dealing with for eight years is worth seeing a counselor about, I would think. My own, completely unprofessional analysis, is that you're uncomfortable with the story - was it rape? who's to blame? who should have acted differently? and so on. You need to come to terms with what happened and that means accepting a certain amount of gray. Figure out what's to be learned from this and move on, accepting that you'll do your best to see it doesn't happen again. I think you're having trouble processing this because (1) it's a confusing situation and (2) there are probably some aspects of the situation that you are uncomfortable with. Know that stuff like this in one form or another, not necessarily sexual but often so, happens to just about everyone.
posted by xammerboy at 12:06 AM on May 31, 2008


A little over a year after this all started, I decided I didn't deserve this treatment and moved out. The day before I moved out, I woke up to find him sitting on my bed and touching me. I was sleeping in the nude. I didn't do anything but just put my arms over my face and stayed still. He climbed on top of me and had sex with me.

This is all you had to say. Yes, this is rape. You weren't in a romantic relationship with this guy; this wasn't wake-up sex, it was rape.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:14 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sad, scary but true thing: even the strongest of people can find themselves feeling utterly helpless in situations involving sex (particularly when you're young). We are taught that we absolutely must say no if a situation comes up that we're not happy with, and so we should be, but if you're shy or uncertain of yourself or any number of things that reveal that you're not as strong as you feel you should be (and most likely are in all other aspects of your life) it can be really, really difficult to speak up and say no. And that really does make you feel like shit, because you know that you should have but you just couldn't. And there's that part of you that's so devastated that the other person couldn't tell that you really weren't into it or didn't really give the tiniest fuck about you at all and then that makes you think that you're hopeless and weak because you know that you should have said something but you also know that you couldn't so you hoped they'd see and stop but they didn't because they didn't give a shit about you so you're stuck. And in the end it becomes all about what you felt you should have done, rather than what they did to you.

Shitty, horrible feeling, and not what you deserve at all. Talking it all out with a unbiased listener is very cathartic. It was a rape because you feel raped. Fucking someone who's hiding from you is not a friendly act.
posted by h00py at 2:23 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was a bad relationship. He raped your soul, which has an insidiousness all its own but no you weren't raped.
Who cares what we think though? You're hurt and this won't heal you, Angel.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:33 AM on May 31, 2008


Just a quick addendum: that this was your first sexual experience probably makes it, I think, even harder for you to get past. It's important to realise that you're not defined by past experiences. That doesn't have to happen to you ever again, and you know that.
posted by h00py at 4:40 AM on May 31, 2008


Argh mere seconds after posting, I regret that last comment. I'm sure you know that, and you've had 8 years to ponder it. My apologies, I didn't mean to be condescending at all.
posted by h00py at 4:41 AM on May 31, 2008


This story infuriates me so, and I have to agree with h00py. Girls and young women are often taught by culture to be and feel very passive in the face of bullying and domineering from men, especially, especially if they have "let" the man have sex with them. Though culturally this is changing, a girl - she was 17! - would have to be incredibly strong and precociously confident to take the upper hand in the situation she describes. A vanishingly small percentage of people would have the resources to take command of this situation and set the jerk straight. These humiliation tactics inspire a passive response and a feeling of unworthiness in the victim.

In many girls/young women, the first sexual experience leaves her feeling incredibly vulnerable. That, followed by this type of abuse, adds up to a feeling of powerlessness.

Anon, he definitely abused you and took advantage of you and it is utterly understandable how (a) you didn't fight back, and (b) you feel this way now. Many, many women share this secret shame you are feeling. The important thing is to talk to a therapist about it, to know you aren't alone, and as h00py said, know it doesn't define you.

What is so difficult is that girls and women are expected to take all of the responsibility for a sexual encounter and are the gatekeepers of how far things go, and then are punished for what they do. This isn't across the board, obviously, and the majority of men are wonderful, but there's such a lingering lack of responsibility on the part of the male when you are in the presence of a sexual double standard. You are blaming yourself, and believe me, I understand, when anyone reading your account knows that this guy is a tremendous asshole. Somehow, with sexual violations, the ick sticks to the female. I've never figured this out but it's terribly sad when you see how rape and sexual abuse victims feel (as referenced above). It is close to a sexual Stockholm Syndrome in some cases.

Anon, best of luck to you and as h00py says, you aren't that experience. It in no way defines you.
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 5:09 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, my first impulse isn't to say anything, but to hug you right now, because, DAMN.

Whether or not this was rape, this was really, really, REALLY fucked-up, and there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON for you to feel like it's all in your head. You are NOT being a freak about it, you are reacting normally to something really hideous that happened to you and hurt you. You may not have said "no, don't do that," but the reason why you didn't is because you were paralyzed from fear.

THAT MEANS IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.

I would urge you to contact RAINN -- it's a national organization for survivors of rape and other sexual abuse. They have a 24 hour hotline, and can refer you to the different kinds of counselors that can help you. They can answer any questions you may have about what your legal recourses are, if you like, but they can also refer you to other counseling to give you the emotional support you need.

I can't say enough good things about them; I had occasion to call them when a friend suddenly had a PTSD-kind of flashback to an attempted rape that had happened to her ten years prior. She contacted them and they were able to refer her to the help she needed. They even dealt sensitively with me, when I had this hand-wringing attack of "but I'm a friend and I want to help her more" and called them to find out what I could do.

I would suggest that trying to figure out the legal definition of what happened to you is putting the cart before the horse. Whatever it was called, it clearly hurt you, and you are clearly shaken up about it. I would suggest that you take care of you right now, take care of recovering from that hurt about what happened; and in doing that, you will figure out what to do about it, but you will also be strong enough TO do it.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:22 AM on May 31, 2008


but I guess there's something wrong with me because I can't forget about it.

Actually, there's nothing wrong with you. It fact, it's completely normal to be unable to forget about such a traumatic event, especially when you haven't fully dealt with it. This is where a professional therapist can help, by helping you come to terms with happen, so that while you may never forget it, the emotional pain will dwindle and you can move on.

If you're unsure how to go about getting a therapist, you can send a message to this thread by way of the moderators (via the contact link at the bottom of every page) and they'll post your message to this thread. Mention what city you live in (or are close to), whether cost is concern and any other relevant (but anonymous!) info and I'm sure other posters on this thread will help you find resources.

You may also wish to register an anon gmail account and have that address posted to the thread also, if you'd like some basic, but anonymous contact from other posters here.

Again, what you're feeling is shockingly normal and valid. It's to feel what you want to feel about what happened. The most important thing to know is that you can get past this and seeking a therapist is one step down that road.

Best of luck to you and take care.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:28 AM on May 31, 2008


Systematic abuse depends on the ambiguity that still haunts you. Was it rape? Should I have stopped things sooner? Is it my fault? If I'd just said no, would it have been okay? IMHO, those questions are immaterial. The real question are: did he know what he was doing, did he realize it was hurtful to me, and did he use shame to exploit and humiliate me? Yes, yes and yes.

This was a full on abusive relationship, and I my wonderful, strong, intelligent best friend of 30 years was in a similar one before turning her life around and developing healthy relationship with a great guy. You really need to get in touch with at least one woman like her who can help you stop questioning yourself and your own culpability.

My advice: keep repeating: I was young; I didn't deserve that treatment; I got myself out of it. A lot of abuse victims get stuck.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:58 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


i don't know if it fits the legal definition of rape, but you were certainly abused. have you seen a therapist about this? that's what they're there for! you might just need to figure out how to process and package the memory so that you can put it away for good.

also, remember that a good life is the best revenge--it sounds like you didn't let it hold you back. good for you.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:56 AM on May 31, 2008


He sounds like a jerk, but it's pretty clear that he is not technically guilty of rape. I think some of the commenters are getting the issue of whether what he did was wrong, confused with the issue of whether it was rape. Some people think that, when a woman asks "was I raped?" the correct answer is always "yes."

From the phrasing of your question, you are focused on the legal issue of whether he raped you, and not on the issue of whether what he did was wrong. Determining whether you were raped requires that the situation be reviewed with benefit of the doubt given to the person who is being accused of the crime.

You were in a sexual relationship with him. You allowed him, over and over again, to treat you in debasing ways (the coming up behind you and lifting your skirt, the episode of the "dog leash"). You could have moved out after any of those episodes, but didn't. You have not indicated that he ever forced you to do anything; i.e., nothing in your question says that you ever told him, "Stop it, don't touch me," etc. You haven't given us any indication that he would have kept doing these things if you had demanded he stop. Similarly, with the wake-up sex, you tell us you were already sleeping with the guy; but you did nothing to stop the progression of his intimacy on that morning. Yet nothing you have said indicates that you think he would have kept going if you had demanded he stop.

So, why are you being such a "freak" about it? I think it's because you have matured, and you have acquired self-confidence and self-possession, and you realize that you let this loser treat you in very awful, debasing ways.
posted by jayder at 7:28 AM on May 31, 2008


Do you think it’s possible that you (both) were quite young (you never mention his age) and maybe a bit socially/sexually awkward, and the process of feeling things out lead to some unfortunate experiences?

Maybe the turmoil you feel is not being able to forgive your younger self for lacking the maturity to have made different choices (which would have been a tall order for someone all of 17 and a virgin)?

Perhaps seeking validation through an admission of rape from anonymous sources really isn’t going to help you to see things clearly?

And perhaps you could forgive him for lacking the character to understand just how much pain he put you through?
posted by quintessencesluglord at 7:39 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty upset at some of the responses here. There is a tendency in our culture to assume that a woman is always saying yes unless she's screaming no. That's wrong and ridiculous. Consent doesn't mean a lack of dissent, consent is an actual active thing.

A man who isn't a monster won't just want to be careful to make sure he can't be held criminally liable for rape (because then really, there's not much difference between choosing a vulnerable and young victim who can be manipulated to not quite reach the legal standard of dissent, and being very careful to wear a mask not to leave any bodily fluids on the scene), he'll want to be careful he doesn't leave a woman feeling violated and abused. A decent man will actually want to do his best to make sure his sexual partner feels good about their experience together.

Maybe this guy really did have an awful and painful childhood, who knows? It's true that too many boys and men men aren't taught about mutuality, consent, and empathy. That's a huge problem and it's all of our problem, but right now it's not your problem, nor is it your responsibility to have more empathy on him than you do for yourself.

It's up to you to define your own experience, and some women might feel better not considering this rape. But you have every right to consider it rape and every right to consider him a rapist. You don't owe him any benefit of the doubt. The legal system might, but you don't, and your friends and people who love and care for you don't.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:17 AM on May 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


I realise I'm repeating what some others have said here, but I think it's important that you separate the concept of rape from that of having been wronged.

You were certainly badly wronged by this boy, and you have every right to be angry at him and blame him for what happened. From what you say, he is certainly a very unpleasant person, and he certainly took advantage of you and abused you emotionally.

But, from a purely legal point of view, you weren't raped. In law, rape is *not* about the state of mind of the victim. What you felt or thought is of only passing relevance. Whether or not an actual crime was committed depends primarily on the state of mind of the alleged perpetrator.

Did he know that you weren't consenting? Or should he have known that from your actions in the circumstances? "Positive consent" is a great idea, but generally speaking, it's not the law. If the alleged rapist had an honest and reasonable belief that they were engaged in consensual sex, that is a defence in law against the charge of rape; ergo no rape occurred. That's the law folks, pretty much everywhere in the world.

Many mefites won't like this... but the truth is that for a couple with a previous and ongoing sexual history, where you did nothing to indicate a lack of consent, and where there was no violence or coercion, there's almost no chance of a rape conviction.

And that's how it should be. Because no matter how big a shit this guy was, no matter how selfish and how exploitative, and no matter how much he hurt you emotionally, it does sound like he just had a very different idea of the status of your relationship than the one you had.
posted by standbythree at 8:33 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just to say that despite having just laid out the legal reasons why this wasn't a case of rape, I completely agree with Salamandrous that a decent man holds himself to higher standards than the law requires. Positive consent really is a great idea.
posted by standbythree at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2008


If you were 17 then, and it's been 8 years, that means you're 25 now. Lots and lots of people are pretty confused and messed up between those years even if nothing like that ever happened to us. So you don't need to feel weird or wrong regardless of what happened or what you want to call it.

To those who say she didn't resist strongly enough: she was seventeen. Don't you remember having less-than-stellar judgment at that age? I'd say the average age of mefites is around 30ish, so we have the benefit of much more experience and hindsight. I know NOW that I would fight tooth and nail if assaulted in such a manner, but I'm not sure my 17-year-old self would have known any better.
posted by desjardins at 8:37 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's nothing wrong with you because you can't forget this. You are NOT "silly or something". This was not your fault, not something you did wrong.

He forced you to do and receive sexual activities. You didn't actively consent. In fact, I hesitate to even call them sexual, because to me "sexual" implies consent and enjoyment on both parts; discomfort, hurt, trauma, humiliation, your crying all imply abuse and violence to me. You asked this under law & government, so I will say I doubt you would be able to prosecute him, but that is because the law isn't good enough, not because what he did was morally okay or because it was a healthy sexual relationship. Salamandrous is right, and I want to emphasize this in particular: "Consent doesn't mean a lack of dissent, consent is an actual active thing."

Anon, I promise you, seeing a good therapist who is trained and experienced in dealing with sexual abuse and assault can help. Please go see someone--you can let go of the trauma from this, but having someone help is really important! You made a huge, major step by moving out, and your post says to me that you want to be able to let go of this and not have it impact your life so much. You can do it, but please, please do not feel inadequate or stupid or anything else if you can't do it alone, because most people need help to get past this kind of trauma.

Please feel free to mefi mail me, if you want to talk.
posted by min at 8:41 AM on May 31, 2008


I don't know if it is rape or not, because you seemed to let him do this to you and maybe he thought you were easygoing about sex, but, at any rate, he sounded like a truly awful man who was taking advantage of you in many, many ways. I think you were very young and were in a situation you didn't know how to handle. As an older person now, you wish it had been different and that you had looked out for yourself more.

It doesn't matter if you can define it as rape or not. What matters is that you gain your ability to be happy and confident again. I definitely think it was sexual abuse, but it seems like you two didn't have a highly communicative relationship.
posted by onepapertiger at 9:13 AM on May 31, 2008


To those who say she didn't resist strongly enough:

I don't think anyone is remotely saying that, and it's a little unfair to attribute it to anyone. They are specifically addressing her "was this rape?" question, and whether she clearly communicated her resistance is of primary importance in that question.

But, again, getting hung up on "was this rape?" is completely missing the point, OP. There's nothing that can be done about what happened 8 years ago; what can be done if you coming to grips with what happened and learning to move forward, probably with the help of a professional.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 AM on May 31, 2008


Legality isn't what matters here. What matters is how these incidents have affected you life and your emotional well-being, and working through those very real feelings so that you can learn to trust other men and have healthy relationships in the future.

Here's why I say what I do about the legality issue: from your account and all the things you have written about what you felt, you were clearly a victim of emotional and sexual abuse. Yes, you were raped.

But If we were to read his account of the same period, it's likely your roommate would not view himself as a rapist. As pointed out above, a large percentage of men who have raped do not believe that is what they have done. This is a dangerous difference of perception, and it may also be where some of your confusion is coming from. You may be saying to yourself, "He didn't seem to think he did anything wrong, so it must not have been wrong." Well, that's just not true.

I don't know the age of the guy in question at the time; he may have been just as young and inexperienced as you. He may have justified he own behavior as somehow okay because your attempts to dissuade him were non-verbal rather than actually saying, "No". Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, though, he took advantage of your vulnerability and inexperience to manipulate, debase and control you, and that is NOT okay.

You may be feeling compelled to confront this guy, even after all these years, thinking it would give you closure. That you would say, "What you did to me was wrong," and he would admit it and you would feel better. Many women continue to have contact with a man that has raped them, and people who have not been in the situation do not understand this--that the woman is looking for acknowledgment and validation for her feelings of betrayal.

I am saying to you that the healthier thing to do is to move on, accepting that your feeliings ARE valid. You were a victim. You can move on without having to hear him admit that it was rape, because that may never happen, for reasons that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with his own warped perceptions of your shared history. I'm sorry that you have to struggle through this, while he may not be giving those times a second thought. It absolutely sucks, and you should definitely take advantage of the support available to women who have gone through similar situations, like RAINN. You do not have to forgive what he has done to move on with your own life.

It may take quite some time to get over this, but examining your feelings about what happened is the first step.

Good luck to you. {hugs}
posted by misha at 10:00 AM on May 31, 2008


I don't want to repeat myself, but how this bastard treated you cannot be attributed to being young and insensitive. Abusers manipulate their victims into feeling shame instead of rage. If I could wish one thing for you, anonymous, it would be that you don't doubt yourself.

I'm clearly projecting my own rage at the guy who nearly destroyed a friend of mine without every raping her. Please find a therapist or an abuse survivor who can help you put this behind you.

For what it's worth, it took my friend some years to put her abuse behind her. I don't think what you're going through is that atypical. People are often guarded about these things.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 10:15 AM on May 31, 2008


. . . perhaps you could forgive him for lacking the character to understand just how much pain he put you through?

Anon, you should understand that unless you want to be the next St. Maria Goretti, this is totally unnecessary. It's not him that you need to forgive. It's yourself.

Love, forgive, cherish, honor, and remember the girl that this happened to. I went through an emotionally traumatic but legally unexceptionable relationship, and this -- over years -- was what helped me. I didn't forgive him, any more or less than you forgive a hurricane or a house fire. He was horrible, but he was a thing that happened, and could have happened to anyone. You are alive and you are the daughter of these things. Take care of yourself.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2008


Yes, you were raped.

And more than raped; most men (and almost all boys) would have been totally enchanted with you after you chose them to be your first, but this man turned on you, and used your openness to him to get power over you. He pushed you to your boundaries and then beyond them step by step. It sounds systematic and calculated, to make you tolerate more and more-- a shaping of your behavior the way an animal trainer would do it. He reminds me forcibly of the character Jack in Lessing's Four Gated City, who used very similar techniques to turn the young girls he was able to seduce into prostitutes.

I suppose your roommate was just an amateur or a wannabe-- though that business with the webcam and the dog-leash pictures that just happened to get posted to a forum, the unwanted porn emails, and especially the way he intercepted phone calls from your friends and lied to them in order to isolate you from their influence do make me wonder-- yet you actually did very well to escape him as you did. It's far from silly to get "bent out of shape" as you put it, or an indication you are unstable. In fact, your breakdown is a cardinal sign of integrity and strength of character; I think it may have saved you. I have a strong feeling that there are other girls in his life whose stories have had far worse endings.

I believe you need to go into therapy to explore this very dark thing you fell into so innocently. You are not over-reacting at a distance of eight years, you are under-reacting.
posted by jamjam at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm somewhat surprised at the amount of focus being put on the skirt flipping and the leash thing as universally abusive and horrible.

To address the skirt - this teasing/flirting, trying to "catch" your fuckbuddy/s.o. with a skirt flip or a pantsing seems ridiculously within normal behavior. I can find in my own experience a group of people with a very similar, albeit non-sexual, phenomenom (we weren't all fuckbuddies). Without dwelling too much on the details, you could assume everyone in this group was playing this game where we could "catch" each other with certain actions and under certain rules and the person "caught" had to take a light punch in the arm. Most people played, but a few found it annoying, had a low pain tolerance, or whatever, and if you "caught" them they'd just say "I don't play," and you'd leave them alone forever after that.

Believe me, when someone got you, you maybe shot them an angry glance because you just lost the game, and people walked around quite visibly being jumpy about not getting "caught," yet the whole thing was in good fun because in this group we could count on those who didn't want to play to say "I don't play" rather than sit there and take the punch while internally roiling.

With the leash thing, it doesn't even seem necessarily overly sexual - "Hah, your necklace looks like a collar, I'm gonna hook this leash up to it for a few seconds while I laugh and you laugh" sounds quite within the realm of normal joking around ESPECIALLY considering that she was outwardly signaling a good time.

The phone calls, the porn, that last sex, seem much more questionable.

It's certainly also quite normal and appropriate that someone would be uncomfortable with those two interactions - stressing the need for COMMUNICATION. It would certainly be highly abusive to continue them after the boundaries was voiced, but to require everyone to assume that their sex partners are uncomfortable with something like a skirt flip as flirting seems rather out there.

I'm not saying these were not part of an abusive context or done more abusively than the writing suggests, but I'll repeat that these being normal, acceptable, fun, joking behaviors really points out the importance of being open about one's boundaries and discomforts.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2008


I might get chastized here, but whether or not it was rape is a smaller issue to how it has impacted you. Whether or not it was rape won't change what he did or how you feel about it, as it still effects your emotions today.

If you haven't already, I'm getting on the bandwagon of "you should talk to a professional". They'd be more qualified to help you through the emotions you're still facing and be able to help you if, indeed, you were raped.

I'm really not comfortable answering it either way, if you were or not because IANAL nor am I a psych professional.

Please see someone if you haven't been seeing someone already. This is pretty intense stuff.
posted by Gular at 1:31 PM on May 31, 2008


I agree with TheOnlyCoolTim that the behaviors Anonymous describes are not prima facie abusive, and in fact in certain contexts could be just good lighthearted fun. I'm taking Anonymous at her word that the context of the roommate's behavior was dark and reprehensible.

But even if it was dark and reprehensible, perhaps the roommate was just an immature brat, as confused as Anonymous, who had watched too many Cinemax soft-porn movies, and who thought such kinky flirtation is how adults behave. He may not have been a bad person, just a confused person who eight years later is a nice and well-adjusted.

I think, Anonymous, that the heart of your problem may be seen in this line of your question:

When I was 17 and I had just moved out of my parents' house, I had a male roommate.

That leads me to ask, "Where the hell were your parents?" I can't imagine having a seventeen year old daughter moving in with a male roommate, and if she were to do so, as a parent, I would keep close tabs on what was going on with her. Perhaps, Anonymous, you are dealing with some more pervasive problems from your teen years, and perhaps your parents are somewhat to blame for the situation that is still haunting you.

But the position of these commenters who are saying you were raped, when you did nothing to manifest your objection to the attentions of the guy with whom you were having a sexual relationship, reminds me of the much-lampooned Antioch College sexual consent policy.

Do people here really think that when you're in an active sexual relationship with someone, you must actually vocalize your consent to every sexual encounter? I find that hard to believe.

Anonymous, I think a lot of people here believe that it wouldn't be "supportive" to say that you were not raped. But it seems to me that being quick to label something as rape, when it pretty obviously wasn't rape, is to misidentify whatever is bothering you eight years later. That is, it's all very easy to say, "What's haunting you today is that awful young man you were living with." But it's counterproductive to embrace that easy answer, if the real problem is that you were not assertive, didn't set limits and boundaries in your sexual relationships, and generally didn't stand up for yourself in your relationships with others.
posted by jayder at 1:57 PM on May 31, 2008


Anyone in this thread talking about "the legal definition of rape" has no idea what they're talking about; none of them are lawyers, or they wouldn't make such a blanket statement about such a complicated and varied area of criminal law.

I think it was rape, and I'm sorry you had to go through that. It must have been terrifying. Don't be afraid to get the help that you need. Hang in there.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:57 PM on May 31, 2008


This sounds like rape for any definition that makes sense to you right now. The hairsplitting about legal definitions here probably isn't going to help you much. You aren't really being a 'freak' about it. You are being pretty normal about it. As for why it's still upsetting to you 8 years later, I'd say that's because it was a traumatic experience that you need to work on.

Echoing the other suggestions that you get some counselling. Good luck, and I wish you lots of love and support as you work on this.
posted by Nabubrush at 3:07 PM on May 31, 2008


I don't think unequivocal consent is expected in our society once people are already in a sexual relationship. Anon, once you had sex with him he might assume the relationship was continuing in a sexual context. He is at the very least unobservant and inconsiderate for failing to pick up the signals you were sending him that it was unwanted (when he'd lift up your skirt, etc.) More likely, he probably knew that the sex was unwanted. If that's the case, it was definitely rape. And if you did not consent at the time, regardless of what he thought, it was rape.

The videocam incident is the most disturbing thing to read about, but the problem there seems to be more about the exploitation than rape. Were you raped in the eyes of the law? Maybe. Would the state really prosecute a case like this? Seems unlikely, but your question seems more focused on gaining closure than taking a legal recourse. Obviously, if you wanted to pursue a legal avenue here you should talk to a lawyer in your state who is competent to handle such matters.

I hope you are able to seek counseling in this matter. Regardless of what happened or how you felt about it at the time, you're clearly hurting now. I hope you can find healing from this.
posted by Happydaz at 9:07 PM on May 31, 2008


A lot of people seem to be glossing over the 3rd incident, where the roommate began to have sex with her while she slept. She, taken by alarm, did not move. He did not seek consent, did not stop.

Consent was never given. Never even sought.

That is rape.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:50 PM on June 1, 2008


Some legal thoughts, which only apply to a NSW, Australia jurisdiction, but may be of interest in building a frame work to assess the problem from a legal vantage point.

The term that is in use is, as others have pointed out, 'sexual assault', which seems more innocuous to a degree than the loaded term of 'rape.' Interestingly, while we have gone for the more neutral term in this regard, many pundits still argue against the creation of a single category of homicide (consisting of both murder and manslaughter) under the reasoning that the term murderer signifies societies deep disgust and abhorrence at the accused. 'Sexual Assult' (hereafter SA), I think, is a somewhat more prevaricating term than rape, but it is also a more inclusive term that brings to mind a wider variety of offences rather than 'just' rape. The model criminal code rejects both and instead prefers the term 'unlawful sexual penetration'.

I think the statistical evidence would support the view that the majority of SA are committed not in by those perverted monsters, in a typical CSI-fashion, but occur in the context of, as Hogg and Brown say "in the context of otherwise ordinary patterns of heterosexual social-sexual interactions." Domestic SA is indeed now classified as SA proper, and it is no longer justifiable to excuse SA based on marriage status. All this is getting at the commonly accept notion that the familiarity of your circumstances do not preclude your circumstances from being classified as SA. Just because it didn't occur in a dark alley doesn't mean it's any less serious or any less real.

That said, making empirical statements about SA is difficult because of the scarcity of evidence. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that only 15% of people report their experiences. This I think is understandable considering the trauma of the events, but I wonder what trends might emerge were the reporting rate higher.

NSW law reforms, in 1981, abolished the crime of rape and instead introduced a range of SA offences. There was later reform in 1989 which brings roughly to our current legal position where there are a spectrum of offences ranging from SA proper (sexual intercourse without consent of the other person), Aggravated SA (SA with actual or threatened bodily harm or in the presence of other people (which because of the webcam situation may apply here, however it would need to be established that they encouraged and or assisted in the commission of the SA, which would be difficult to prove because of the time aspect.) or a few more distinctions that I aren't relevant), indecent assault (assault followed by an act of indenceny), and so forth. I think your situation might fall under aggravated SA, however I'm far from certain.

In criminal law, ignoring strict liability offences, it is important to consider the actus reus and mens rea elements. Roughly speaking the AR would be "sexual connexion occasioned by the penetration to any extent of the genitalia...by...any part of the body of another person". This has moved beyond the simple and outdated common law definition of sexual intercourse meaning penetration of the vagina by a penis. I believe a secondary aspect of the AR would be the absence of consent (it should be noted the failure to offer physical resistance is not a sign of implicit consent). Elements of the MR would include an intent to have non-consensual sexual intercourse, the perpetrator must know that the other person does not consent for them to be found guilty under this aspect. This is very much a subjective element, and is flawed in someways. However, it is also held that recklessness to consent can form part of the MR requirement to rape.

I may be mistaken, but there exists a shield that makes any evidence to your experience and reputation as being inadmissible. Thus, wearing skirts is irrelevant, and could not be used a defense by the perpetrator. Public opinion is fickle, but I imagine the judge that directs the jury to hold it as being relevant will become very unpopular.

Please keep in mind that all of this may be wrong, and it is likely it is very different in your jurisdiction. However, I would advise you to seek if not legal help, than definitely physiological help. You experiences do not need preclude your happiness, and emotional and psychological well-being. I have refrained from using the word victim here, and this is not done in a pejorative sense. The vast majority of what I have typed comes, albeit in a mostly paraphrased form, from the 4th edition of 'Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process of New South Wales', by Brown et al.

I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you can find a happy ending to this sad story.
posted by oxford blue at 12:46 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


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