[trigger warning: rape]
My name is Kate, and I am rape survivor. My story isn’t as black-and-white as getting attacked by a stranger in a dark alley late at night. I was in my first year of university, and I was in love.
It was my first time. I’d done other sexual activities before, but this was my first time going “all the way”. I was nervous, so I’d done my pre-intercourse homework about what to expect when losing my virginity. From all my reading, I had gathered that it was most likely going to be painful, but that it was best to give myself time to adjust to my friendly neighbourhood space invader.
Cool, I thought. I can do that.
The night I lost my virginity, I told my boyfriend about the reading I’d done, since he was also a first-timer. I explained that it was probably going to hurt a bit, but that he shouldn’t freak out and just stop because it would probably take a few minutes to get used to it and that we’d likely have to work through it.
I was expecting blood and a bit of pain my first time. That seemed standard. What I wasn’t expecting was that penetration would feel like being stabbed repeatedly in the vagina. To make matters worse, the pain wasn’t getting better, like I’d been led to believe. It was getting worse.
When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I looked at my boyfriend and said, “I’m sorry, I need you to stop.”
I wasn’t expecting his response to be “no”.
I was terrified and just wanted it to end. This was a boy who said he loved me, and with whom I’d felt safe, at least up until that moment. I was frozen for what felt like a long time in total and complete shock. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me, and at the hands of someone and I loved and trusted.
When it finally did end, I just wanted to pretend it had never happened. It took me two years and the dissolution of that relationship before I was ready to acknowledge what had happened to me. It took another two years and the dissolution of another relationship before I was able to no longer see myself as a rape victim.
In the years in between I discovered that I have a condition called vaginismus, which causes my vaginal muscles to contract involuntarily and often without warning when sexually aroused. It’s something I live with to this day, and for a long time it – along with the knowledge I’d been raped – made me feel broken, like damaged goods. It’s only been in the past month or so that I’ve really begun to feel normal for the first time in a long time.
Maybe it just took time and patience to heal, or maybe it took realizing that I have people who know my past and still see me as a normal person, but I don’t see myself as a victim anymore.
I’ve been through trauma, but that doesn’t mean I’m traumatized. I have a painful sexual condition and have a less-than-stellar sexual history, but it doesn’t make me broken.
It makes me a stronger me.
[Contributed by Kate Booner]