I followed an interesting conversation on Facebook a few weeks ago. One woman was calling an act rape, but others were taking issue. The woman’s rape had begun as a consensual act, but at some point during sex the woman had changed her mind. Some people explained to the woman that because of this reason, it could not be rape.
I have struggled with the question of whether I'm allowed to call my rape a rape because it was nonviolent and I was at fault in many ways. Even though I know, just as most men and women do, that no matter what a man or woman does or says or wears, if an individual has sex with him or her against his or her wishes, it is rape.
As soon as somebody says "no," that's it. The sexual activities must stop.
I must admit my own history is in the back of my mind when I'm parenting my two sons. When one boy's doing something unwelcome to the other and is told to stop but doesn't, I make a point of saying, "As soon as somebody says 'no' or 'stop,' you must stop."
I want to instill in them that they must obey when someone asks them to stop something. I want them to feel empowered to be able to tell others to stop what they don’t like. I am also giving this same lesson to my daughter – she can and should say "no" and "stop" if anyone is ever doing something to her that she does not like.
That’s what happened to me. I said "no" and "stop." I know I should not hold myself responsible for it, but I do because of my actions. I put my own safety at risk. It's not to blame myself, but to protect myself and my family in the future.
Now I'm older and wiser and don't practice the risky behaviors that I did when I was younger, and I also know how to protect myself from some types of rape.
If I put myself in dangerous situations, I put myself at risk. Therefore, I will try not to put myself in dangerous situations.
I believe that there's a difference between risk and responsibility. That’s what I want my children to understand.
They have every right to act how they want, dress how they want, and go where they want, but the reality is that some of those actions, attires, and places may put them at risk. It doesn't matter how many times we say that we shouldn't have to moderate our clothes or our behaviors, it isn't realistic in the world we live in.
No one taught me this when I was young. I was sexually active at 14, well before I knew how my behaviors would affect my future.
When I was 18 or 19 and on vacation in Florida, I agreed to meet a man on the beach to go fishing. I honestly thought we were going fishing. Yes, I did have a condom in my bag because I thought that we might also make out and I wanted to be prepared, but I was not scared.
I remember when I saw him walking down the beach toward me with no fishing equipment. I felt my body shiver and I hoped that everything would be okay.
It was 5:30 in the morning. There was nobody around. It was a secluded spot. This was before cell phones.
He jogged over to me and we started kissing and, before I knew it, he was on top of me, holding me down against the sand.
I still had not freaked out. I was still interested in kissing him, but as he held me down tighter and ripped off my underpants, fear rose in my throat. He began to have sex with me and I said, "No." I said, "Stop." He kept going, and I realized he wasn't going to stop.
I couldn't fight him off. I pushed and wiggled, but he was stronger than I was.
"Please use a condom," I managed to say. "There’s one in my bag."
He continued without the condom. Before I knew it, he'd come inside of me while I lay there. He pulled out his dick and tucked it back in his pants, and then turned around and walked away.
No, he ran away down the beach while I lay there.
It wasn't a violent rape. I wasn't injured. I didn't hit him or scream. I didn't kick. I was immobile. I didn't know what to do. I was in shock and didn't even know if I was allowed to say "stop."
I want my daughter and sons to have fulfilling sex lives, to explore and be with the people they want, and feel empowered to be in control of their own bodies and sexuality.
I also want them to be safe. I don't want them to struggle for years not knowing if they are even allowed to call something that happened to them "rape" because of their own choices.
I want them to know that they should never think they're responsible if they're ever sexually assaulted. I also want them to be on guard of the situations they put themselves into. I want them to be safe, and realize and understand that they need to take responsibility for themselves to reduce the risk.
I still feel guilt and responsibility, but that's also mixed together with the fact that I was cheating on my boyfriend. I was not an innocent in the story. I believe the guilt of my cheating made me feel more responsible than I actually was for the assault.
I will teach my daughter and sons to be aware of their surroundings and the situations they find themselves in. I will teach them to fight like hell if someone is doing something to them that they don't want. I will teach them that no matter what they say "yes" to in life, they are always allowed to change their minds.
I was lucky I wasn't injured physically that day, but the emotional scars that I carry remind me how much I love my children and want them to be safe.
Yes, that man raped me, but I went to the beach alone with no safety net. That is not an excuse for him. It's a lesson for my daughter and sons to protect themselves and to understand that sometimes in life, it may be better to give up certain freedoms and potentially fun situations to keep themselves safe.