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