That Time I Found Out
I am the product of spousal rape. I didn’t know that as the truth until I was a teenager. But I knew, as a child knows, that my existence caused my mother pain. She was always so angry with me.
Everything I did was a frustration to her. I knew, deep in my kid DNA, that something was wrong. I thought there was something wrong with me.
There are different truths for different people. We each interpret the truth of our world. As my therapist told me in my last session, our truths are fluid. But there are truths, as we perceive them, and there is reality.
It had been another fight that was bordering on violence. We were screaming at each other—our bodies vibrating with the anger that was constantly bubbling under the surface. We yelled a lot of mean, profane things at each other. We both went to bed angry.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I most likely was intoxicated when I came home, and I don’t remember the specifics of the fight or if I ever fell asleep that night. I remember being awoken the following day by the sound of my mother’s steps coming down the hallway towards my bedroom door.
I was ready for a fight, listening to her steps advance towards my room, coiled under my bed covers, ready to spring into action. I practiced keeping my breathing deep and even like I was asleep. It took everything I had to maintain that position as she walked into my room, sitting heavily on the side of the bed.
Sharing the Burden
The weight of the world was on her shoulders, extending out into the room; it was suffocating. And yet, I maintained my feigned sleep. But every fiber in my brain and body was ready to spring into action at the first moment of trouble. I would have fought her if needed.
My back was to her. I always slept facing the door, still do. She chose the side of the bed, so we were back-to-back. She sighed, and I swear that bed groaned under the weight of that sigh. Her shoulders sagged; I could feel it, even though I couldn’t see it.
Story of Spousal Rape
“I know you think I hate you. I don’t. I love you very much. [pause] As you know, I had a stillborn child before you. I was devastated. It was so painful. I felt that I had failed everyone around me. I did not want to have any more children. It was too raw, too rough for me.
But you know Godzilla [my mother’s nickname for my father], ‘no’ was not acceptable. He wanted more children. And well, one night, after the doctor had said that it would be okay for us to try again, he wanted to try again. I did not. He raped me. I was sick the entire time I was pregnant with you.
People told me to have an abortion, but I didn’t. I couldn’t do that to you. You see, I don’t hate you. I hate how you came to be. I know you are awake, listening, and well; I hope this helps you to understand.”
She sighed again. Lifting herself from the side of my bed, she walked across my room and down the hall. The great oppressive weight that she brought with her lingered in my room.
Once I knew that she was gone, I opened my eyes, my vision blurred with tears. WTF? I was fifteen, maybe sixteen.
Sad Facts Indeed
According to VAWnet.org
“Approximately 10-14% of married women are raped by their husbands in the United States. Approximately one third of women report having ‘unwanted sex’ with their partner. Historically, most rape statutes read that rape was forced sexual intercourse with a woman not your wife, thus granting husbands a license to rape.
On July 5, 1993, marital rape became a crime in all 50 states, under at least one section of the sexual offense codes. In 20 states, the District of Columbia, and on federal lands there are no exemptions from rape prosecution granted to husbands. However, in 30 states, there are still some exemptions given to husbands from rape prosecution.”
1993??!!! Seriously?? I bolded that because, wow, just wow.
Reality of Truth
My mother’s story, her reality, is true. My father raped my mother; I know that as a fact. It was a time that spousal rape was not a thing; it was legal. There was nothing that my mother could have done.
She shared the burden of her truth with me. I am not sure that it was fair that she did that. What was I supposed to do with that information? I am not sure at the time what her reasoning was to do that.
It did explain so much to me. It helped me to understand that I was not at fault. It was not me that had done anything wrong. But it didn’t help. I felt even more guilty about my existence. I felt like I had failed my mother before I was even born.
I blamed myself for what had happened to her. That was the result of her sharing that with me. I don’t think that was her intention. But that is what happened. I had been blaming myself for her hatred of me because I could not do anything right.
My mother telling me that I am the product of spousal rape was proof that I wasn’t supposed to be there. And because I wasn’t supposed to be, I was incapable of doing anything right.
I had been internalizing that there must be something intrinsically wrong with me. And now I had proof. I looked to both of my parents, as any kid does, for validation. I never received that, and when I did, it was the wrong validation for the wrong reasons.
Explains So Much
The dynamic of my relationship with my mother is directly related to me being the product of spousal rape. I know this now. I knew it a long time ago, but the more profound meaning was lost on me when she told me.
I think it was why my mother selected me as the scapegoat in the family. I was the target that made sense to place blame. I was the constant reminder of a harrowing experience for my mother. I constantly apologize, partly because I apologize for what happened to my mother so long ago, even though it was not my fault.
It is also directly connected to my need for people-pleasing. I have to make sure that everyone around me is feeling good and people like me. I have an extraordinarily needy desire to be liked because I never felt that growing up. And I needed to be liked, to be loved so badly.
Knowing and Understanding
You know one of the most challenging things about knowing what I know? I get it. I understand why my mother hated me so much. I was, quite literally, the embodiment of a horrible act—a daily reminder of what happened to her. I would have probably hated me too.