In high school I met a boy that I absolutely adored. He was funny and smart and had a charming smile. Sophomore year the sparkle of our relationship began to dull as my busy schedule was not satisfying enough for him. I was busy with theater, sports, and family time. He started to demand my time unreasonably. He would get angry towards me when I would only see him once a week outside of school and said he felt that way because I was too important to him. At first, I thought this was a little odd, but sweet. This became increasingly more of a problem for him and he started to demand that I put him above my family. I decided then that I needed to end our relationship.
It was so hard and I felt like my world was ending. After three months of no communication, I started things back up again. I said I had changed. He said he had, too. We were going to make it work. Our entire relationship became extremely heightened and difficult over the course of the following two years. He began to demand more and more time from me saying "you promised me you changed and you were going to put me first." He began to make me feel indebted to him to the point that when he accused me of "loving a stupid and corrupt religion of lies" more than him when I refused to have sex with him. I actually felt like I was somehow in the wrong.
He would push further and further past my boundaries and then go make me food as I sat alone in tears until he would come back. He hated seeing me cry because he thought it was the "ignorant faith" I had in my religion that was making me feel guilty about our "expression of love and closeness to each other." So, I began to cry at home or take out my feelings on the people I was closest too. After six months of pressure to have sex, he began to try to convince me to participate in anal sex—something he deemed as "not really having sex"—and I resisted. One day after arguing and fighting his pleads for over a hour, I finally said fine. He then asked me if I really wanted to do this, and I said "No, I told you I don’t." This resulted in another twenty minutes of pressure and manipulation that lead me to "consent" a second time.
I remember laying down grabbing the sheets of his bed and crying silently—eyes open, staring at the blank wall ahead. I remember being in so much pain to the point that I screamed and pushed him off of me. He became angry and as he asked me why I had consented to do this if it wasn’t what I wanted. I felt terrible and so guilty and when he told me, "It was okay I forgive you. We can just do oral." I felt desperate and relieved that I had the chance to fix my mistake of not wanting to do what he wanted to do. I don’t remember the rest of the day, but I do remember walking home in tears afterwards, because I was scared to legitimize what had happened.
After that day similar experiences in our relationship followed. Sometimes he would tell me he was going to do one thing, only to whisper "Shhh" when I would feel him doing things he said he wouldn’t do. He did this frequently. I'd yell, “Hey! Knock it off!" This became a common thing. It has taken me a long time to realize that I do not owe anyone anything sexually. I am not obligated to do anything with someone no matter how badly they want to. It is not that I don’t love them if I don’t want to do something they want to do, and just because something had happened the day before, doesn't mean I was obligated to do it again the next day.
Eighteen months later, while in college, I had a friend over and they 'casually' groped me and stuck their hands down my pants. When I said that he needed to stop he replied, "You’re no fun." It wasn’t until this experience that I really began to think about what had happened to me in the past as legitimate sexual abuse.
I have consistently struggled with calling my experience anything other than "weird sex stuff," because technically everything I did was "consensual." For this reason I want to share my Truth. I want people in similar circumstances or with similar pasts to know that it is not your fault. You are not to blame. Knowing that you do not owe anyone your body, your attention or your love can be the most powerful tool to help heal and forgive yourself. As someone who thought that I would never be able to escape the relationship I was in, please trust me when I say there is always hope.
*Editor's note: Consent is not actually consent if it is obtained by coercion or manipulation. Click here to read an article explaining five types of sexual coercion. If you've been pressured or coerced into sex, you can speak with a counselor at the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network at 1-800-656-HOPE.