What happened between my ex and I?

There was an incident that happened between me and my abusive high-school boyfriend while we were dating that I can't get out of my head, even now as a 23 year old.

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly yell at people to either stop dating someone or ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. (Mostly horniness!) I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 

You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com


A SWEETIE PIE:

[TRIGGER WARNING: Assault]

There was an incident that happened between me and my abusive high-school boyfriend while we were dating that I can't get out of my head, even now as a 23 year old. And I think it's because I don't know how to label it, so I feel like I can't process it properly. I also blame myself.

This guy was emotionally and mentally abusive. He was always getting in trouble and blaming me, he abused drugs, threatened suicide, pressured me to lose weight, and just really tore me down. There were many times I was fearful things would get legitimately violent. There's so much to unpack there - it was far too intense for a teenage relationship.

But, I do also feel like he was also somewhat sexually abusive. We were quite young when we first started dating - about 15 - and he pressured me to have sex then. It was a disaster, we laughed it off because we were just super young, and didn't do it again for a while.

As we got older, though, he still really pressured me to have sex. To the point where I was incredibly uncomfortable doing anything at all with him but I would comply because I thought I didn't have another choice.

At one point (still in high school) we were broken up and I was at a party I knew he was going to be at. Whenever we broke up the verbal abuse and threats were really intense, so I was having insane anxiety about seeing him. So I drank far too much, and ended up getting pretty much blacked out.

My recollection of that night is very foggy. I vaguely remember him literally following me around the party and I was trying to get away from him.

The next morning I woke up on the couch next to him and I panicked. I went home, went to the bathroom, and noticed I was in pain and bleeding a bit. It dawned on me that we must have had sex that night.

I texted him and he first said we didn't. Then admitted to it but said I wanted it and that I was really into it. And that he didn't realize how drunk I was.

I asked him if he used a condom and at first he said yes. I had a bad feeling, so I pressed him, and he admitted that he did not.

So I was an in pain, terrified teenager, who had to go to CVS and purchase Plan B all alone right before she went into work.

I do sort of blame myself for getting too drunk. I knew what he was capable of. But I also don't know how to label it. Because what if I did consent, I just don't remember it? The whole thing just really keeps me up at night even years later.

I feel like being able to define what happened would help me move on, but I feel stuck and guilty.

SUBMIT A QUESTION

SOPHIA:

There are lots and lots of gray areas in this world. There are misunderstandings and bad sex and sex that brings up trauma that the other person didn’t know about that gets mishandled, despite the best of intentions. THIS IS NONE OF THAT.

This is not a gray area!!!!!

There are no questions in my mind about what he did to you and why he did it. I want you to brace yourself to hear something hard, because it frankly might be upsetting to hear laid out. I don’t know. Maybe it won’t be, but I suspect that that night hurts a lot all these years later because you know it was trauma. Your body knows it was trauma, even if your brain hasn’t decided on a label yet.

You do not need to decide on a label now or frankly ever if it doesn’t serve you. All I am going to tell you is what the situation is in my mind, what it is from the outside. If you do not use the word that I use in this letter, that is ok. If you do not use the word that I use in this letter for a couple months or years or decades until one day you realize, yes, I think that label is precisely what was done to me, that’s ok. If you read this letter and think, “Yes. Yes, I have desperately been wanting to use that word but I felt I was nuts to even whisper it to myself even alone in the dark,” well then great.

Here I go.

You were raped. More specifically, to remove the passive voice, your ex raped you. And I know the reason. Are you ready?

The reason is because he’s a rapist. That’s it. That is the beginning, middle and end of why he harmed you. He raped you for the same reason he abused you: he is an abuser. He is cruel. He enjoys hurting people, and for a while, specifically hurting you.

I’m so so so so so so so so so so so fucking sorry. None of this—not a millimeter of his treatment of you—should have ever happened. I wish I could go back in time and make it so that you’d never met him. You did not need to learn this lesson, you didn’t need to be harmed in order to grow. It was all cruelty and you do not need any cruelty in your life for any reason. This never ever ever ever ever should have happened to you. There’s nothing that brought this upon you. There is no act that you did that marked you as deserving of this treatment.

You did nothing, which is going to be one of the hardest things to accept. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO GET DRUNK AT PARTIES AND NOT BE RAPED. DO YOU HEAR ME???? THAT IS THE EXPECTATION. The world owes you safety, do you understand? You should be able to cross a street and not get hit by a car. You should be able to walk under a building and not have a brick fall on your head. The world should work that way. There is nothing N-O-T-H-I-N-G you did the night of the party that you should not have done, that you should not be able to do with the assurance of safety.

This is not sky diving, this is not jumping into shark infested waters on purpose, this is not juggling knives. You were walking down a sidewalk and a car came barreling of the road and hit you; it is not your fault for walking down a sidewalk. You cannot blame yourself for walking down a sidewalk!!! Someone standing on a sidewalk who gets hit by a car is 0% to blame, just as you are 0% to blame for what he did at the party.

If he took a baseball bat and broke your kneecaps with it that party, you would not be to blame would you? NO! OF FUCKING COURSE NOT!!!! Because he’s an abusive piece of shit who wanted to harm you. And that’s exactly what he did do. He did that! He did almost exactly that. He hurt you; it just happens that he hurt you in a body part that occasionally has to do with sex. It just happens that he hurt you in ways that aren’t as visible to a stranger as broken knee caps. It just happens that we’ve politicized assault and rape because we live in a society that sucks shit a lot of the time. (And when I say “just happens” I mean HE FUCKING KNEW ALL OF THIS, WHICH IS WHY HE DID IT WHERE AND WHEN AND HOW HE DID IT. He did it because he couldn’t take a baseball bat to your kneecaps and get away with it. But he could do this). There is no expectation—there should be no expectation—of danger when you go to a party. When you see someone drunk at a party do you think that means you can have sex with them if you’d like? NO. Because you do not want to rape someone.

The only only only reason you got hurt that night is because he wanted to hurt you.

Do you know how I know that? Because if he had not been there, you would not have been raped. Being raped is not a consequence of being drunk. Getting a headache is a consequence of being drunk. Being raped is not and will never be. The two are unrelated. They have nothing to do with one another. You being drunk had as much to do with what he did as what the weather was like in Toledo, Ohio that day. He is a rapist. That’s it. That’s the entire story.

The question then, is what the fuck on earth do you do with this information?

There are no great answers, but there will be answers that work for you. They might not work for ever, and they certainly won’t be the same answers that will work for everyone. But now begins (although arguably, you’ve already begun) the slow, likely painful, possibly even excruciating process of dealing with what was done to you.

I think—I suspect—it will involve grief. Grief for the younger you who was harmed, grief for the current you who still is giving him the benefit of the doubt (“I do sort of blame myself for getting too drunk.”) Grief for the future you who cannot undo the trauma, who will always have to live with this.

No matter what label you decide to give what happened that night—again, the above is what happened objectively from an outsider’s perspective—you will have to deal with what hurts about it. You will have to deal with trusting yourself and forgiving yourself. (Not because you did something wrong!!! But because you’ve been so hard on yourself). I do not have all the answers for how to reach acceptance of something that is unacceptable, unforgivable, horrific. I don’t know what will help you feel full again. I know that for me, time and distance helped. I know that therapy helps a lot. I know that healing is not linear.

But I do think you will heal. In your own ways, on your own timeline—it may take ages and ages—you will start to heal. I don’t think that means it will be like this never happened. I don’t think that is the goal, even. But I think you will have the chance to learn about what he did, how it harmed and informed what came next, and about yourself. The good news is that you’re resilient, and I’m so so sorry you’ve had to be. That sucks ass; it will always suck ass. I can’t write down what I hope happens to him because it’s too much. None of this should have ever happened to you. No part of you or your actions asked for him to harm you. There is nothing you could have done to make him not harm you. I’m sorry.


You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com