29 July 2018
In Part 2, I left off at the end of my first marriage with my ex-husband finding a new love and me losing both my marriage and the love of my life who, fortunately, would not betray his wife and family for me. Now completely on my own, I found myself being hunted by single men. Some advances were inoffensive, and others made me feel like a prize cow that was suddenly put on the open market, ripe for bidding. I tried dating without much success because, apparently sexual relations had to be part of the deal and I’d always chickened out. The studs in question would, after losing the battle to convince me to concede, move on. I’d love to believe my reluctance to engage in intimacy was purely because of my devout belief in the sacredness of a sexual union between 2 people which is not to be taken lightly, but I always suspected that it was also driven by deep rooted fears stemming from my past experiences.
I was not going to talk about this indelicate aspect in my story, but I was persuaded by a close friend that there are many women out there who have suffered similar ill-fated sexual encounters that may have tainted their views about relationships. So, I’m steeling myself for the comments about my “raw truth” and similar euphemisms. God help me. Here goes..
Having looked forward to the soulful experience that was reputed to come with marriage, to my chagrin (and that of my ex-husband), I was met with a measure of pain and discomfort with the whole affair. I consulted medical doctors who offered no explanation or solution save to say that it was all my head. I took great offense, thinking that they didn’t experience the pain and discomfort and could not possibly know what I was going through. Only years later did I realise that they were right, my head was telling my body not to ‘receive’. It was no doubt connected to my childhood experience which I mentioned in previous blogs. However, at the end of my marriage, I had an encounter that forced me to take a closer look and reflect on how my childhood experience shaped my perceptions of the world and relationships.
I was living alone in the semi-detached house that I previously shared with my ex-husband in Mayfair. The other half of the semi was occupied by a couple who were close friends with us during our marriage and who were part of the close-knit group. During this period, despite all my misgivings and lofty criteria for a husband, I started getting involved with a sporty young man who represented quite the opposite of what I thought I was looking for. He was aggressive, almost boorish and not good looking (unlike my ex-husband). Perhaps I was attracted to his transparency. He was unpolished but there were no surprises, or so I thought. I similarly refused to engage on the more intimate level and although he tolerated it, he continued pressurising me and becoming increasingly irritated. One night, I was alone at home and had settled in for the night. At around midnight I was startled by a loud banging on the front door. I panicked, not knowing what to think, and then heard his voice, demanding to be let in. I was relieved that it was not someone more sinister, jumped up and half-opened the door, peeping my head out but not letting him in. He sounded inebriated and started trying to push his way in. I resisted, and he became noisier and threatened to wake up the neighbours. I panicked and thought about calling the police, but wondered what I would say to them, since he hadn’t done anything yet. Besides I would have to get the door shut first to make the phone call, and he was overpowering me. Any attraction I had for that man before that point disappeared when he turned into the drunken bully that was trying to force his way into my home, my sanctuary. He succeeded in pushing his way through and herded me toward the bedroom and eventually onto the bed, all the while engaging me physically. I detested his bullying and I kept on telling him, and then begging him to stop. He overpowered me. I experienced the oddest sensation, I was revolted by him, yet when he started pushing against me I felt my body responding. It had been a while since I felt human contact and unlike my mind, my body was indiscriminate about the source of that stimulus. Initially, my body seemed to be responding, until it was interrupted by the usual pain. Throughout, my mind was screaming in untold agony. As he forced himself upon me, I felt betrayed by him, by my own body, by my lack of physical strength and mental will to stop this atrocity. I was devastated. Needless to say, that was the end of that “relationship”. I went to the doctor for a pregnancy test, not trusting anything over the counter. I remember sitting in the surgery, contemplating the worst-case scenario. Although I wouldn’t want to take a life at any stage of its development, I understood how women with unwanted pregnancies felt, when faced with the choice of abortion. Your life versus a life which hasn’t yet begun. Self-preservation is a strong instinct. I prayed with intensity to be released from having to carry the burden from an unwanted sexual encounter with a person I now despised. God, in His infinite mercy responded to my call.
I never dared to see this as a ‘rape’. If it was a rape I would be the victim, which I refused to be. I nevertheless felt dirty, violated and ashamed. The violation was attributed to the forced intrusion, the shame and guilt, to the betrayal by my body. I also never told a soul because I was sure that no-one would believe me, and they would likely ask me why I didn’t resist harder, or why I didn’t shout or some other hind sight wisdom that comes from the comfort of one’s arm chair. I refuse to see myself as a victim. The label perpetuates the mentality of victim and villain, which does not prove helpful. It is predicated on the notion of crime and punishment which has never been particularly useful to me, despite my legal training. It was the lawyer in me however, that weighed the odds, and the chances of successfully pursuing charges against him at the time seemed remote. Anyway, I didn’t want to risk exposing myself to the trauma. I had no desire to seek retribution, any ‘punishment’ he would have suffered would have been cold comfort for me, since I held onto misplaced guilt and shame. Instead, I picked myself up, moved on and refused to look back.
By refusing to acknowledge what happened though, I missed a few critical factors. I implicitly condoned the violation I endured. He may do this to other women, believing he had a right to ‘sex on demand’ in a relationship. I was also implicitly condoning the attitude that when a woman says “no” she really means “yes”. I had missed the opportunity to articulate the right of a human being to make the choice to say “no” at any stage of engagement. However, by reporting it, at the very least, this man would have been subjected to the system in some way, which may have been a deterrent for him in the future. At the very least, others would have been aware of the possibility that he could not be trusted. If I had the courage, I could have made a difference no matter how small.
On a developmental level, although I did not want to live my life looking in the rear-view mirror, I had to search for the meaning in that experience. Things did not just randomly happen to me. I could not live my life feeling sorry for myself in the big bad world. I played some part in every aspect of my life consciously or sub-consciously.
Many years later, I realised that one’s bodily responses are automatic. Bodily organs designed for a particular function would perform that function if the correct stimulus is applied, irrespective of what the mind has to say about it. If your bladder is full it provides the stimulus for wanting to urinate, no matter how much you tell yourself to suppress the urge. If the stimulus for sexual intercourse is there, the body responds, which is why it is, in my view, possible for men to be ‘raped’ if they are overpowered in some way. If their sexual organs are exposed to physical stimuli their bodies will most likely respond even if they do not want to engage at that point. Our minds make the choice about what we want our bodies to do, even if it is a seemingly automatic action, like lifting one’s hand, walking or sitting down. The body is unable to respond without an instruction from the brain. We should however, be able to choose to expose our bodies to sexual stimuli and to engage in the consensual act of coitus. If we do not make the mental choice, even if our bodies respond to physical stimulus, it is not consensual. It is our freedom to choose whether to be exposed to and respond to sexual stimulus that set us apart from other animal species. I felt robbed of that freedom to choose. Had I understood these aspects of my experience, I may have carried less shame and had the courage to do the right thing.
My conscious and sub-conscious choices lead me to the situation, which was a necessary part of my evolution as a human being. This was the second unsolicited sexual encounter I experienced in my life and it was no co-incidence. God’s universal law has no place for randomness. Everything in the universe works with absolute precision, even the seemingly random events like natural disasters have a cause and a pattern. Because we struggle to sometimes discover the cause, does not mean that there is none. My ‘disaster’ came around a second time and I had search for the cause and the pattern. I had to look back yet again at that fateful day of my first sexual encounter in my dear grandmother’s house at the tender age of six. But more about that next time God-willing.
Always with love, Radia💚