Why do we villainize our rapists in a way that makes them seem imaginary? They're rarely given names in our recollections, they're just 'The rapist'.
My rapist was a person. A shy, quiet boy with freckles who was much more polite than his friends.
He was someone's baby. Someone loved him then and someone loves him now. He's someone's son. Someone's brother. He's carried the groceries in for his dad. He's sat with that bullied kid on the bus. He's been kind. He's someone's lover and he's probably held someone in a way that he didn't hold me.
He's a rapist. He's my rapist.
But, not to the people who love him.
You wouldn't believe me if I told you that he's my rapist because to you, he's not like that. He's kind and good-hearted and would never hurt someone like that. He carried the groceries and sat with that bullied kid on the bus.
And you couldn't have raised a rapist.
My grandmother's rapist was her husband. He was a well-known politician. People would come up to her and ask 'How can you stand being married to such a charming man?'
She couldn't stand, not often, because she was beaten down from the first night of their honeymoon. He had children with other women who couldn't withstand his charm. When my Grandma refused to sleep with him after she'd find out, he would rape her.
He tried to burn her and his children, my mother of 6, to death in a fire to collect life insurance. It didn't work and when he ended up in the hospital for severe burns, he was the one being sent fruit baskets and cards because 'He was just such a nice man, that George." When he killed himself, he was missed. Sometimes I still hear people talk about him. They say, "well yes, he beat Grace but he never touched his kids."
When they talk about my Grandma they laugh and say, well she used to taunt him. She riled him up.
"She knew he was no good before they got married but she did it anyway," they say.
What does a rapist look like? Your son. Your brother. Your pastor. Your best friend. Your husband.
But you won't believe us when we tell you because rapists are monsters and the people you love could never be monsters.
So we must be lying.
Maybe we made it up because they didn't want us. We wanted revenge. We wanted attention. Even though that attention meant months of agonizingly personal attacks on our character. Questions about what we wore. What we drank. If we had feelings for them. If they misunderstood. Had we been sexually active? With whom? In what way? Do we like it rough? Are we sure we actually said 'no'?
Don't we know we could be ruining their reputation, their life?
But all you needed to ask was, did you consent?
I take long drives to the house where you raped me. I sit there and I get angry and then I drive home to my family, my son. I make dinner, go to bed and think about you. Even when I try not to.
I desperately search your name on Facebook but you're not there.
I try to remember your face but I only remember your freckled arms because I remember staring at them when you were on top of me. I remember your blue boxers. The blue bedsheets. The alarm clock. But I don't remember much because of the drink you gave me. I was young. This confused me. So for 10 years I thought that it had been a misunderstanding. I drank too much and we had sex.
I mean you had sex with me and I was unconscious for most of it but how was I to know what that meant at 15? Had I drank too much? Could one drink render a girl unconscious? I guess it depends on what you put in that drink.
You knew what was in that drink, but I was 15 and I didn't.
I didn't know for 10 years because I was so ashamed of what I had done. (What you had done). Ten years of thinking about you and hating you and hating myself but never fully understanding the context of what had happened. Never considering it because I had convinced myself and accepted that I hadn't fought hard enough. That maybe you didn't hear me say no. Maybe it was just a big misunderstanding.
Now I know.
It was calculated.
You probably never think about me but I have to think about you.
I've had to think about you since the morning after you raped me and I sat on the bathroom floor of my parent's ensuite, staring at my underwear for what seemed like hours. I have to think about you now as I write this. Wondering if I mention your name, will your family and friends come after me?
I have to think about you whenever I smell alcohol on someone's breath. When I see sex on TV. When men catcall me on the street. When they put their arm around me at the bar. When they scream at me when I'm walking to my car at night. When they tell me to smile and I'm sad or angry or I just don't feel like smiling.
I think of you when they yell "Not all Men!" but I wonder why 1 in 5 women go through what I went through. Why it's "Not all Men!" but why all women are liars in a court of justice. I think of you and I think about these men and I know that you're taught these things. You're taught an entitlement to our attention, to our smiles.
To our bodies.
I think about you when I drive home and there's no distracting my thoughts from how much I hate you. I think about you when I realize that talking about it makes people go quiet and they get uncomfortable and hold their breath until I stop talking about it.
I think about you when I feel the loneliness of carrying this thing that no one wants to hear about. This thing that you probably were given high fives for. This thing that I know from following every sexual assault trial, I could never get justice for.
Not even with witnesses, a rape kit, bruises internal and external. Not with all the proof needed.
Because it might ruin your life.
I think about you, the nameless man with the freckled arms, someone's lover, someone's son, someone's friend. You are all of those things.
But, you're also my rapist.
Marisa Peters is a blogger for the site www.StreamAndStoneYeg.com. A blog on feminism, equality and the everyday musings of motherhood.