I was 17 when I first met him. I was Innocent. Naive. Full of life. Within three months I fell madly and deeply in love with him. A love that consumed every fragment of my soul and every beat my heart would throw. I gave all of myself to him. I gave him my innocence. I gave him all the love I had. I gave him my dignity. I gave him every part of me. I dove head first into the deepest most traumatic relationship I have ever faced; but, I did not know that at the time.
I was 17 when I first met him. He liked this part of me. I was easy prey. Easy to validate. Easy to manipulate. Easy to control. Easy to coerce. Easy to rape. Before him, I had only one other sexual experience. He loved this about me and I know this because he never failed to remind me how important female purity was to him. He loved how I was unscathed. He loved how he was nearly my first everything. He loved how there was almost nobody else on the earth who was able to experience me the way he had been. I was completely and utterly, his. In every single way.
I was 17 when I first met him. Doing any and everything I could to keep him satisfied. Completely blinded by love to notice the abuse I was enduring. The isolation. The manipulation. The controlling. The coercion. I was blind, until he raped me for the first time. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when I asked him to stop and he looked me in the eyes and said “Just hold on, I’m almost finished baby”. My eyes glazed over and I lost myself staring into the ceiling, lying completely still, praying for it to be over. What just happened to me? Why do I feel so dirty? Surely, this is not rape. Surely, the man who claims to love me more than life itself, did not just rape me? Surely, rape only happens with strangers, right?
My Boyfriend, My Rapist. How was I even supposed to repeat that? Am I supposed to tell somebody? Does he know what he just did to me? It won’t happen again, right?? Wrong. That was just the beginning. Four years later, I still remember the times he would cover up my mouth with his hands, asking me to lie still and "Just hang on". I still remember the feeling of my body pushing him out of me without me even noticing it was happening. I still remember the smell of alcohol seeping from his pores. I still remember waking up in the middle of the night with him inside of me. I still remember how painful it was. I still remember the moment I realized we were no longer making love, he was simply carving his name into my bones. I still remember pushing him back with my legs and nearly launching him off of the bed. I still remember the feelings of him trying to open me back up after I said I could not do it anymore. He claimed he was a "selfish lover" when in reality, he was a rapist.
My Boyfriend, My Rapist. There were times I hated when the door would close at night. I hated when the lights would turn off. I hated laying in bed together; because it was never just that. We could never just watch a movie. We could never just talk. We could never just hang out. We could never just lay down. It always ended in sex. If I looked at him too long, it ended in sex. If I touched his leg, it ended in sex. If I sat next to him, it ended in sex. This may sound like a dream to some, and in the beginning, it was. It was exhilarating to become good at something that made my partner feel satisfied. But, that exhilaration quickly shifted into fear when I began to feel the memories of him forcing himself into me burn into the back of my skull. I was traumatized. I was petrified. My body's first reaction to sex was to close up. I even went to pelvic floor physical therapy because I thought something was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong with me, I had just developed such a strong traumatic response to penetration. My body could not take it any longer. It was protecting me. Protecting me from the man I thought I would love until my last breath. Ironic, isn't it? Our love story.
I met him when I was 17, but that Ashley was long gone by the end of our relationship. She had been abused so far out of her true self, she was nowhere to be found. I was lifeless. I had no self confidence. There was no me, without him. I was empty. I was worthless. He groomed me into believing that this emptiness, this pain, was somehow my own fault. I believed him, because how could somebody that loves me, rape me? How could somebody that claimed to see me as the “single most breathtaking and kindhearted woman in the universe” take advantage of me? How could the man whose family I took in as my own, tear me down into nothing? How could the person I loved most in the world, also become my greatest nightmare and enemy? “How could…?” became a question I asked myself a lot. Each time I thought I had an answer and felt ready to leave, I circled right back to him. You think you would know when you’re trapped in a cycle of abuse, until you’re the one running circles around an endless wildfire of confusion and pain. Running circles around him. My manipulator. My abuser. My boyfriend. My rapist.