Trigger warning: emotional abuse and rape
When I got out of my last relationship, I just knew I couldn’t put up with him anymore. It was only a few months later that I realised it was an emotionally abusive one. And after a year, which included speaking to a therapist and a lot of introspection and questioning my own beliefs and opinions, I have come to accept that I was raped by my ex.
The first time we were alone together at his place, he wanted me to take my top off as part of a bet that I’d lost. I refused. He sulked for an hour, and then said, “When I decided to be with you, I said I would do anything to make you happy. I meant that. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” While he was sulking, I was questioning my decision to date him. But that comment threw me off. He made himself sound like some sort of a generous hero, for accepting my wish to not take my top off. I believed him. What should have been a red flag instead ingratiated me to him. Even though I wasn’t forced to take my top off that day, I should have known, things were about to get much worse for me.
Also read: A Feminist In An Abusive Relationship
The first time we actually did engage in intercourse, he insisted on going down me. I wasn’t comfortable enough yet. But he got angry. He said I should be grateful that he’s doing this for me. Most guys never do this, whereas he’s proactive and willing about it. This was followed by some more sulking. I felt so guilty at the time. I was made to feel like I was at fault here, for expressing my desires. I felt lonely and abandoned by the sulking. This was a man I was really falling in love with, and I was refusing to let him do his little charitable act. I wanted to believe he’s right for me, I wanted to believe he is a good person. I acquiesced, but by that time I had bruised his ego too much. Another couple of days of sulking later, we were ‘fine’ again.
After speaking to a therapist and a lot of questioning my own beliefs and opinions, I have come to accept that I was raped by my ex.
He was, as identified by my counsellor, a narcissistic personality. And sex is the easiest way for a lot of narcissists to get instant gratification. Every time I refused sex, he would sulk. Or casually bring up something he had done for me, something he had bought for me. I would say yes to sex. I would say I enjoyed it. I would even say I had an orgasm, just to get it over with and make him stop. He would constantly touch my breasts and nipples, even when I actively recoiled and told him to stop. “I’ve read somewhere women like this,” was his repetitive excuse. “I really don’t like it, it’s making me very uncomfortable,” I would say. He insisted I was wrong. I didn’t see it as rape. It was just something I had to get through to make my relationship more bearable. I didn’t want to displease him, and have myself put through more cold treatment.
He would insist that I tell my friends about his sexual prowess. He would tell his male friends about how many times we had sex, how many times he made me ‘orgasm’. It would embarrass me to my core. A female friend of his once came over to his place. While telling her about our sex life, he placed his hand on my breasts. I was torn between my embarrassment and discomfort, yet I couldn’t express myself because I knew it would make him angry and passive aggressive. She never met us again.
It didn’t help that I had been in relationships before, whereas I was his first. I made the fatal mistake of being open about my sexual history. This was used by him to humiliate me and question my character. I remember being on a road trip with him, suggesting we take the highway instead of an inner lane through a village. “Atleast we know the highway will be smooth, you can’t tell what the quality of the inner road would be like. I don’t know of anyone who’s driven from there,” is what I said. He took this to mean that I was judging him for being sexually inexperienced and comparing him to the inner road. He didn’t tell me this immediately. Only after three days of cold and silent treatment did he reveal this. This is as ridiculous to me now, as it was back then. But now I have the distance to see his toxic insecurity for what it was. I’m no longer terrified. I can laugh about this now.
He would constantly touch my breasts and nipples, even when I actively recoiled and told him to stop.
Whenever we were alone together, he would force me to remain naked even though I didn’t want to. I once went to take a shower alone. That didn’t go down well with him, and using the weapon of sulking and emotional aloofness, he made sure I never showered alone whenever we were together. The first time I showered after we broke up, I cried tears of relief. It was the best shower I ever had.
He never physically assaulted me. I didn’t know a thing about emotional abuse back then. I knew something wasn’t right, he gaslighted me, and I no longer believed my own truth. On one occasion, he was furious at me for not consulting him about flight timings before booking tickets to see my own parents. Even though this didn’t concern him in any way, I remember feeling so guilty and ashamed. Our argument that day led him to punching the wall right next to my face. This scared me, but also made me wish he had actually punched me. Then I would know for sure he’s doing something wrong.
Our family and society tell us that sex before marriage is wrong. How was I to talk of this problem to anyone if I was in the wrong? I thought of confiding in my doctor many times. Or going to see a mental health professional. I needed some validation. But what if they judged me instead? That would just add more problems to my life.
I knew something wasn’t right, he gaslighted me, and I no longer believed my own truth.
It’s amazing what we can be conditioned into doing. It’s amazing what women do to accommodate men’s wishes, and how blind they are to their own.
All this while, I was still a functional adult by all definitions. I went to work, had conversations, and had fun (even with him). No one could tell that I was being raped on a regular basis. Every time he left, I would wash the bedsheets and clean my room, even if they were not dirty. Sometimes I had meltdown and cried in the bathroom. Silently, where no one could hear me. I had trouble sleeping every night. I was constantly tired during the day because of that. I was not a ‘zinda laash’. I was not dull and listless. Most people who saw me regularly at the time would vouch that I was perfectly happy and normal. That doesn’t change the reality that I was raped many times by the man I used to love. All I’m saying is that’s not always an option to say no, it’s not always that easy to just leave. Women are constantly taught to be pleasant, non-confrontational, accommodating, and this can come at the cost of their basic rights as humans.
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