This article was written by a youth activist with Advocates for Youth, who wished to share her story anonymously.
[Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault]
When I was a senior in high school, I was raped. My rapist was my most recent ex-boyfriend at the time and my rape was one of the many facets of an emotionally manipulative and abusive relationship. Despite my interest in feminism and advocating for survivors of sexual assault, it took me an incredibly long time to realize what had happened to me was rape, and an even longer time to admit it to myself and say it out loud.
The most common “I was raped” story we hear in the news is the one where their rapist jumped out at them from the bushes, followed them home from a party, broke into their house in the dead of night. We think we know how to tell people to avoid that: “don’t dress too slutty”, “let people know where you’re going”, “don’t get too drunk”, “make sure he doesn’t drug your drink”. But what happens when your rapist is someone you know, even someone you love? We’ve become more and more conscious as a society of these situations, especially because the statistics say that about 2 in 3 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. We’re gradually getting to the point where we realize that “I’m too drunk” and negative body language also mean “no”, but my rape doesn’t fall in any of these categories either.
The reason it was so difficult for me to name my situation was rape was because, ultimately, begrudgingly, I did end up saying “yes”. And I know in some people’s eyes, that one “yes” is enough, but it wasn’t enough for me. My ex-boyfriend asked me to hook up with him, send him nude photos repeatedly, and each time I said “no” he asked me why I didn’t love him and told me that if I said yes that we would get back together. He would pester me again and again, trying to wear me down, telling me I was a hypocrite for saying “yes” all the other times but for not wanting to this time. This type of behavior is coercion, and yes, it is also rape.
Coercion, specifically in a sexual context, involves forcing someone to perform a sexual act against their will by use of threat, intimidation, or physical force. Threats in this case also include emotional threats and manipulation. Coercion is a hard thing for us to wrap our heads around sometimes, because it’s so easy to think that convincing a person to have sex with you or wearing them down is “winning them over” and not a violation of their body.
When you emotionally manipulate someone into being sexual with you – that is rape. When you try to persuade someone to change their “no” into a “yes” – that is rape. When you wear someone down until they give up and say “yes” to get it over with – that is rape, and you are a rapist.