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A Survivor Story: Amy R.

Amy is a mother of 4, the daughter of a pastor, college-educated, and is pursuing an advanced degree. She is sharing her story to let others know they are not alone and that they are not wrong.

“The first thing I would say and that I want to be really clear on is that I am a very pro-sex person. I am a big advocate for enjoying the human body and all that can bring pleasure to a person. I like good food, I like to dance, I like to be in the sunshine and I am a person that enjoys sex, but it has to be something that both people are equal participants in.

The very first time I was not an equal participant was with my husband after the birth of our first child. I don’t think that consent is a one-time catch-all. To me, I liken it to your taste buds. Some days chocolate is really what you are craving and some days you really want vanilla. After the birth of our first child, I went through a phase that I think is pretty natural for a woman when you are experiencing having a baby for the first time. I was exhausted. Women and society, in general, aren’t taught that a woman’s body is for her pleasure – it is for a man’s pleasure.

I had a good, intimate relationship with my husband when we were first married. He was certainly never an outright rapist. There were a lot of microaggressions after our first son was born. The hardest and most confusing thing for me was that after I received the all-clear from the doctor, my husband wanted to go back to an active sex life. I was tired and exhausted. Breasts are highly sexualized by Americans especially – breasts are for the sexual gratification of a man. My breasts became a source of contention between my husband and me. All of a sudden, this part of my body wasn’t just for him anymore. It was confusing after the baby was born. He would be touching my breasts right after I finished breastfeeding. At the time, I didn’t want my breasts to be sexually touched after they were just used to feed our child. This upset my husband who thought that was not how it is supposed to be when you are married. He flat-out said, “There shouldn’t be any boundaries between us.” I thought you have boundaries that I cannot violate, why can’t I have boundaries as well?

This was the first time that I had ever experienced a lack of dominion over my own body. He would argue so immensely about it that I would finally give in. It became a psychological issue for me. I had enjoyed sex prior to giving birth. I understand his confusion logically, but I don’t understand why he wasn’t more compassionate. Anytime he wanted to touch my breasts I was immediately off-put. I wasn’t enjoying our intimacy as much as I would have, had he respected my boundaries. I remember thinking, this is supposed to be to the benefit of both of us. If I can’t be fully comfortable that you are going to respect my autonomy, am I really going to be present and receive enjoyment from it? And if I am not present and/or receiving enjoyment, should you want it at all?

The second time I was assaulted, I guess some people would consider it to be a minor thing. I worked for a strawberry farmer over the summer. People could pick their own strawberries or buy them already picked. He had a lot of acreage. He would drop his crew of workers off to weed and would go to a totally different part of the farm by the pick-your-own customers. The crew was pretty isolated. It consisted of me, a 17-year-old girl, and 6 inmates from a transition center. They went outside of the prison walls for work. They obviously lacked human contact and really lacked contact with people of the opposite sex. They were good at manipulating. They would say, “Hey, if I give you money, can you pick me up chewing tobacco?” They were good sweet talkers and good at showing appreciation for any kindness that came their way. I always want to be nicer to people than I have to be and I don’t have much of a guard around myself – at least I didn’t use to.

I remember the day it happened. It was scorching hot. The farmer brought bottles of water to us and then returned to the pick-your-own customers. I reached out to hand an inmate one of the waters and then all of a sudden he had his hands on my breasts. I asked him, “What are you doing?” He said, “I couldn’t resist, you are really pretty.” I knew in the back of my mind that was a line. He could have had time added to his sentence if I reported it. I didn’t report it though. I knew that I was being overly accommodating. I talked it over with a male friend of mine at the time and he was absolutely livid on my behalf. He asked me why I wasn’t going to report it. I guess I probably should have.

The third time was the one I consider to be the major incident. I had been divorced for a number of years already. I had just gone through a dramatic weight loss which changed my perception of myself. I joined an online dating service and went on a number of dates. No one really stood out to me, but I was enjoying living in my body. I was enjoying, when I chose to, engaging in consensual and safe sex. I felt I deserved the chance to explore my body. That was when I met John. We went on a couple of dates. The first time I met him he asked if I wanted to meet him when he was done with work. I met him at the bus place he worked at and I drove him home. We just talked. We went out on a couple of other dates. He never bothered to mention to me that he was already in a relationship and that they were a poly couple looking for a third person. That came to light when we were out on a date and she came to join us at the table.

I was a social drinker at that time. It wasn’t something I couldn’t control. It became a problem later – a large portion of which I contribute to the assault. I hadn’t had a whole lot to drink that night. I remember getting really fuzzy, really fast. I don’t know if the bartender made my drinks stronger or if John put something in them. I couldn’t drive home.

I don’t remember going to their house with them. I have flashes of the assault sometimes. I remember laying on their living room floor, trying to see through one eye so I could text my friend, “I think I need help.” I remember John saying I should probably lie down. I remember him putting me in his bed and saying to his girlfriend, “Get in here.” Then I have really no memory of anything until the next morning when I woke up in bed with two naked people. It’s a really gross feeling not knowing what happened. They had no shame in saying that they had sex with me and they thought I was going to be their third person in their poly relationship. That lifestyle is not for me. I would not have chosen them. That choice was denied to me. I woke up in a world, not of my own choosing.

There was so much sick shame about it. His girlfriend tried to add me as a friend on Facebook. I deleted my online dating account and months later I joined a different site. He found me and messaged me saying that “we matched up again.” I deleted that account too. I felt like he was just going to follow me around like a shadow. I kept thinking to myself, you shouldn’t have had a drink. No one will believe you. You did this to yourself. You are responsible. You’re a freak. This is what happens to freaks like you.

I am the daughter of a pastor. I have a college degree. I felt like I should have known better – and this was never supposed to happen to me. I felt like it was all my fault. I didn’t want a story in the newspaper. I didn’t want to be associated with any of it. My dad was still an active member of the clergy. I didn’t want to bring shame to him or to my kids. I thought deep down inside I had been on so many dates – I was bound to run into a creep so again, it was my fault.

A few months later, I started dating one of my friends. We were together for a year. I had found it pretty hard to talk openly about what had happened with John. He was into a less vanilla version of sex. I personally believe there is nothing wrong with that. He enjoyed dominance play. While I could get intellectually behind being submissive, when it came to tying my hands or covering my mouth with his hands, I could never make peace. There was a learning curve. I was re-getting used to being comfortable in my own skin. Since the assault, I have gained a lot of the weight back that I tried so hard to lose.

I also had physical health problems. I had botched cesarean sections that led to uterine fibroids. One was the size of a basketball. I didn’t want to go to the doctor for opioids. Nothing touched the pain. I had already been drinking to dull the feelings of guilt and shame and when I was drunk, I didn’t feel the physical pain either. I developed an alcohol problem. My psychological and mental trauma led me to be drunk to the point of passing out or making the decision to get behind the wheel of a car drunk. Then I received my first DUI. That was the end of a 2-year career as a drinker. For as much as alcohol shut the voices off for a few minutes, all it did was pile more guilt onto the guilt I already had from what happened. I made a decision to be done with alcohol in its entirety. I couldn’t handle it in moderation anymore.

I have always been working on a better version of myself. I took a pretty massive detour because of the assault though. I spent weeks racking my brain trying to remember what happened. I knew they had sex toys and they were used because he was putting them away as I was waking up. Did he use the toys on me? Did he penetrate me? I thought, please have only used the sex toy on me, it will make it better. Ultimately, it doesn’t. I was still violated, but I thought that would make it better somehow.

There is no good way to permanently shake it off. It’s a scar. You can cover it up or ignore it, but at the end of the day, the next time I deliberately choose to have a partner to share myself intimately with, there is this scar they are going to notice and ask me about. It happens to women of every stripe, all over the world. It happens to men too. The ultimate betrayal to me was a woman taking advantage of another woman (me) during my assault. If your boyfriend can do it to a woman (me), what makes you think he won’t do it to you?

You meet some creeps when you are going out on dates. I went out on dates with men who were married, but I didn’t find out until afterward. They all said the same thing: “We are in the process of divorce, but it isn’t final yet.” They are so good at lying and seem so charming. Women take enough shit from men. We are not supposed to fuck over one another. Even though I didn’t know they were married, I still felt guilt over impacting another woman.

I think there are several positive things I have managed to pull from my experiences. They have made me deliberate on how I teach my kids, especially having three sons. My experiences formed the way that I talk to them about how important consent is. Everything is so instant gratification now. They are young and when you are young you make choices irrationally. I want them to think through the consequences of what they do and to think about what they want and how they treat people. I have also become more appreciative of the kind of relationships that are positive and consentingly affectionate. I have become much more aware of these relationships.”

Amy’s Personal Motto/Touchstone

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