Women in the World

01.06.13

Daily Beast Readers Share Their Stories of Rape and Sexual Assault

“Encourage every rape victim and those they love to hold their heads up high and not be afraid of acknowledging what happened.” Readers tell their own stories.

As protests over inadequate responses to sexual abuse erupt across the world, from India to Ohio, we asked Daily Beast readers to share their personal tales of sexual assault and rape.

Women around the world offered powerful memories of fear, stigma and overcoming the past. Here are their stories, and if you have one to share, please submit it here.

"I was raised as a particular kind of Christian and purity until marriage was very important. When I was 14 I went through a brief period of rebellion. During this time I met a guy named Tim. Tim was 24 and pretty much loser of the losers. But I was flattered by his attention at a bonfire and agreed to go with him for a ride the next day.

He picked me up from school and drove out into the desert near where we lived. We were joking and laughing and I didn't feel anything was wrong. Then he stopped the car. He pulled out a gun and leaned over in front of me aiming the gun out of the open window. He shot at a bird sitting in a tree. Then he pointed the gun at me and told me that if I didn't do exactly what he said he'd kill my sister. Not me—my little 11 year old sister. I did what he said and the next while is a bit of a blur. He did choke me at one point until I nearly passed out. I was 14 and a virgin. I had never even kissed anyone prior to this.

I was convinced that I was as guilty as he was due to the religious teachings of my childhood. We had been told that if you didn't fight back when being raped then you were guilty of fornication. I did not tell a soul about this event until I was 20. I told my mother who told me not to tell anyone because ‘what man would want me after that.’ She also said it would hurt my brother and my father too much if I told them. So I kept this inside for about 10 more years.

When I did finally tell a male friend what had happened he simply held me in his arms and cried with me. He was just a friend who cared so much and he encouraged me to get counseling. After years of effort I can talk about what happened and even recently posted publicly to my Facebook about what happened to me because the secrecy of rape is horrible. It makes you feel like you have done something wrong. But I did nothing wrong - I was young, impossibly young and in need of attention. The blame rests 100% with Tim. He robbed my innocence but he cannot rob who I am.

It is time that we throw back the blanket of secrecy women are forced to endure with rape. Encourage every rape victim and those they love to hold their heads up high and not be afraid of acknowledging what happened. You deserve it. It isn't your fault no matter what the circumstances."

— T----


“My rapes were frequent and scary. They started just before puberty at age 9. My rapist was my father, my mother covered her eyes and I was made to understand that if I said anything my family would starve when they took my father away. It has caused me a lot of damage for all I try and tell myself it made me stronger.”

— Y M----


"I was in a relationship with the man that raped me. The abuse grew gradually over time; it did not start out bad, the abuse began after we moved in together. I am a strong woman, I have trained in martial arts, self defense training, and close combat fighting and fencing for most of my life. I am also an ex-sheriff’s deputy. I thought I could never be raped, I would just not let it happen, I was too strong for that. The first time he raped me I was asleep. I woke up to excruciating pain and screamed. He pulled away. It lasted maybe a minute and I was in shock. This happened after I refused to have sex because he was abusive. It was hard to face what he did and accept that I had been raped by someone that said he loved me. Then we had a child. It was a traumatic birth; I was taking a long time to heal and the females in his family, who all hated me, told him that I should be healed and ready to do my ‘duty’. He figured that he had the upper hand, complete control over me. He told me that if I did not do what he wanted, he would take my child from me. I knew he meant it. He raped me three times. The physical pain is indescribable, there was blood everywhere. He said I just needed to get used to it again and he told me to stop crying like a baby. By this time the abuse was constant, a daily occurrence that was getting worse, there was a moment when something in me snapped and I walked away. I did not look back. About a year and a half later I finally faced the fact that I had been raped, and I went to the police. I told them everything. The police officer was the only person I told the whole thing to, besides writing this. I do not speak about what happened to me, maybe I should. Rape can happen to anyone, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, cop or citizen."

— M---


“I was raped by my father when I was 16. He told me, and I already knew, that I couldn't report it because I and my siblings would be placed in foster care. I was able to compartmentalize that incident and have gone on to have a fairly successful and happy life. Worse though, he told me he told me he wasn't attracted to me so he went after my younger sister who was mentally retarded. I never reported that either.”

— Anonymous


“This was Bangalore, India in the 1990s. I was about 12 years old and riding home on my bicycle one evening, not even past 6.30pm, when a middle aged male bicyclist followed me from the traffic stop and grabbed my right breast as he passed me by. I nearly fell off my bike and before I could regain my balance, he was gone. It could have been worse; I could have fallen in the way of oncoming traffic when I lost my balance.

And for the next decade I suffered what is laughably known as ‘eve-teasing’ from random men on the street, at the university, when using public transport, and almost everywhere I went. Eventually I moved to California after graduation and have never felt safer since!"

— Nitu


“When I was 15 I was attacked in the vestibule of my friend’s building. It was late (around midnight) and after walking a friend to a local park I realized I was being followed.

I thought the safest thing for me to do at the time was to go to another friends house who lived close by. I had to go under an archway which led into a courtyard that had four (4) doorways; if you were to imagine the numbers on a clock being the doorways the numbers were 7, 11, 2 & 5. My friend (the one who ended up not being home that night) lived at number 11.

My would-be attacker actually waited for me to ring the bell to get into the building; I could see him and knew there was going to be a problem but there was nothing I could do; neither my friend or his mother were home and I was alone. I ended up having to walk past him on my attempt at exiting. I got back under the archway and that’s when he grabbed me. He slammed me into the wall; put his leg in between my two legs; put a hand over my mouth and told me not to scream but to lie down. My head hurt from where my head had hit the wall and I was scared; his hands were grabbing at me and I was trying to fight him; at the same time I was so angry; how dare he! So, really without thinking, since he had separated my legs w/one of his; I realized I also had one leg in between HIS legs. so I raised my leg & kneed him as hard as I could in his testicles. He made a noise & went down; I pushed him away from me and ran out of the vestibule to the street. I was sliding up the hood of a car to get away from him, screaming in English & in Spanish for help. When he was about to pounce on me I was saved by a lady from the next building who was waiting for her daughter to come home. She had heard my screaming & yelled at him to leave me alone & she was calling the police.

Long story short he was a serial attacker who had actually attacked several women in the area. One woman he actually attacked twice; he broke her jaw the second time. The police ended up getting his victims together after we positively identified him but, as in most sexual assault cases, most were too scared to go thru with the prosecution. Only myself and one other woman saw the entire case thru to the end. The perpetrator pled guilty to an assault charge; but because he had made a plea bargain; he spent his time in a mental hospital rather than a jail... No justice at all in my opinion; however I am still alive.”

— Anonymous



"Things I hate about myself after being raped:

the smell of my body

hair

never feeling clean

not feeling safe

dark shadows lurking wherever i go

having to triple check to make sure all doors are locked

having to check every stall of a restroom to ensure no one is hiding

having to make lots of noise when i enter any room to make sure i am alone

having to convince myself it's ok to go outside

panic attacks

anxiety attacks

insomnia

lost of appetite

not feeling understood

suicidal

nonstop crying

the triggers, all the triggers

society's joke about rape

no one getting me

feeling hurt, betrayed and not believed by my loved ones

losing people

losing interest in life

never feeling happy

never feeling like i'm valuable

hypersexualized activity

hating the world

hating my family

pushing everyone away

blaming the world

knowing that i could never report it because no one would believe me

wishing that i had died

trying to understand why it happened to me

feeling detached

feeling numb

feeling numb years later

inability to truly feel or express any human emotions aside from anger

the subdued nature of not wanting to be triggered

the change

the fact that the ‘old’ me has died

this is part of my life experience

that i will always be reminded whenever i visit planned parenthood

believing it was my fault

harboring resentment and anger

continual resentment at friends

the list continues..."

— Anonymous


“I used to hate the word rape. I never said it aloud and switched my thinking to something else if it got into my head. I needed it to be a fleeting moment of thought and nothing more. I am able to say rape now but it carries so much emotion. At once, it stirs shame, sadness, fear, and grief.

When I was 19, my minister began the grooming process that many predators know so well. He was trusted by my family and congregation. For over two years, nobody knew what was happening. During that time, many assaults occurred.

It took him several months to penetrate me with his penis. He claimed that he wanted to make sure that I was ‘ready’ and used bottles, the end of a flag pole and other items in preparation. On his 50th birthday, he raped me on his living room floor and took my virginity. He said that he was so happy that I was able to have my first time be with someone who really loved me. It was a nightmare and extremely traumatic.

Almost 20 years later, I can say that I have been blessed by extraordinary support from loved ones. Therapy was a godsend. I try to appreciate the many instances of joy that are experienced each day. I don't hate myself anymore and I have learned how to move forward. However, there are times when for even the slightest of moments, I am there again.

No matter how fleeting the flashback, it winds me. I cannot find the words to describe the effects that sexual violations have upon a person. Something from your soul is erased and you are left with a shadow. It takes so much strength to keep going. I am so proud of anyone who is healing.

The man who raped me killed himself when I came forward with the truth.

If he were alive, I would surely be dead, either by his hands or my own. He had me in a literal and figurative choke hold. While the specific details of sexual trauma may differ, the emotional weight is universal. I am horrified and revolted by what has been happening in India. Hopefully, the awareness will lead to positive change. People may feel uncomfortable discussing rape, but it is not a subject that should ever be shunned. Silence will not do anyone any good and only reinforces feelings of shame. I appreciate the opportunity to have shared a small portion of my experience. I did not realize how cathartic it would feel. May strength come to those who need it.”

—Miss H


"I liked him because he was taller than I was. He was in college, in law school. He drank in the corner bar by my apartment, as did I. I was new in town, so my social contacts were limited, except for the friends at the bar on the corner.

I was really attracted to this man every time I met him, so we'd sipped beer and chatted a few times and I liked it.

One Friday evening he stayed on, talking into the evening. I was willing, later, to leave with him, because I'd known when I hadn't been drinking that I was attracted to him. We left with a friend of his, and went to their apartment, where we played a board game, hazily.

A bit later, the law student and I went into the bedroom for the night. As we lay settling in bed he said suddenly ‘How about if my buddy joins us?’

My pseudo-sophisticate jaw dropped. I'd had some pretty hippie experiences, but nothing like that.

Somehow I made myself known as not wanting that connection, and matters proceeded in a more traditional manner, though I by then just wanted to leave because in spite of my big-city veneer, this was totally outside my comfort level, and the question he'd asked hung over the sex act like a creepy pall.

As he lay back afterwards, I felt a hand on my far shoulder, and it was his buddy. The law student made no move to stop his friend from turning my rigid body over and commencing what he undoubtedly referred to in his mind as 'foreplay', in order to pretend that I was willing.

I lay like a rock, petrified by the totally unexpected, terrified because I hadn't even noticed where we were going when we left the bar, so I had no idea where I was, even if I'd been able to move my suddenly wooden body and get out the door.

The two men fell asleep afterward and I lay all night between them, pulled into myself as far as I could go, feeling as if my body were suddenly made of cement.

When morning came, we dressed and got into the law student's car and drove back toward downtown. The two of them were all but licking their lips with satisfaction.

They dropped me off in front of my apartment building and drove away. I saw the law student around several more times but never spoke to him again.

To this day I don't know why I was so stultified during this act, why I felt catatonic while they manipulated my leaden limbs for their amusement.

It took me a few years to realize I'd been raped, been manipulated into a situation where these two could live out what should have been just a fantasy between them, used like a sex doll or a centerfold to jack each other off with an extra thrill.

I never again made that same mistake, of leaving with someone I wanted to leave with, without knowing where in town I was going. I was always able to leave when I wanted because I knew where I was, unlike when I was new in town and just trying to make friends."

— Anonymous


“I am 77 yrs old. From 1953 to 1960 my first husband assaulted and raped me periodically. During my lifetime so far, I have been raped several times by various men.” p>

—[Name redacted]


“When I was 13 a 17 year old guy I barely knew knocked on my door and expected oral sex. When I first saw him naked I thought he was deformed—I didn't know men got erections. I was clueless so he had to show me and explain what I was supposed to do. When I told my "best friend" she laughed and told my classmates what I had done. I got a reputation as a slut. People wrote graffiti about me, I became an outcast. I didn't tell anyone for about 7 years. I knew that if I told my mother she would endlessly blame me; I am now 60 and both my parents recently died. I lived my whole life lying to them. They thought they knew me but they didn't. That was always a source of pain to me. I also learned to not trust anyone. The experience affected every area of my life, including being a mother. Every time I read about sexual assault, women being sexually victimized, women being labeled as sluts I am filled with rage. Despite endless therapy, hearing stories of others', I still blame myself.”

— Anonymous


“It was a Friday night. I had a class after work and got home about 10:30pm and went to bed about 11:30pm. I was dreaming that a man was standing over me telling me to wake up. And I was telling myself to wake up...that it was just a bad dream. But it was real. And he had a gun. It's hard to put into words the absolute terror I felt that night. I wasn't afraid of the sex as much as I was afraid that it was going to be my last night on earth. I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me (I lived alone). I was glad that my father had died the previous year so I wouldn't have to tell him what happened. I worried about my single girlfriends who also lived alone. I wondered how much dying would hurt. When it was over and he left, I grabbed the phone and called a girlfriend. And then I called the police...after trying to remember whether it was 411 or 911. The 911 operator stayed on the phone with me until the police arrived. This was in 1987 and sometimes it feels just like yesterday.”

— Mary Ellen


“I was raped on Sept 27 1972 by a [city name redacted] police officer. I was 24 and in his home with my friend his wife. I later found out he came home hours earlier than planned and talked her into allowing me to sleep and he would take me to work in the morning. I was sound asleep and woke to my arms being pulled up over my head and my knees being pushed apart. I was 5'4" and weighed 135 he was 6'2" and weighed 250. I was pinned and unable to free myself. I did not turn him in, there was no place to go. His uncle was retiring after 25 years as the county sheriff and I knew the system would simply rape me again. Much healing has been done since that time but it never goes away. Thank you for this opportunity.”

— Kate


"I grew up in a large city in the southwestern United States. When I was fourteen I went to the state fair with a group of friends. After eating a bunch of fried things my mother would never have allowed, and gushing over the prize rabbits and goats, my group really wanted to go on this towering ride that looked treacherous to me. I told them that they should go ahead and ride it, and I would just go to the bathroom.

After waiting behind what seemed thousands of sweaty fair patrons, I finally entered a blue portable toilet. I remember absentmindedly thinking ‘this smells foul’, before latching the door a man grabbed the frame of the door and pushed himself through.

I didn't really have time to think or react, he latched the door, flipped open a four inch pocket knife and started shredding my high school choir polo. ‘If you scream, i'll slit your throat and you'll bleed out into this toilet before anyone ever finds you’ he growled. I shook as his slowly shredded all of my clothes, the polka dot training bra my mom made me wear, he even took off my socks and purple Chuck Taylors and threw them in the toilet.

He took his time, making sure that I was absolutely terrified. I just kept my eyes closed. He made a few small cuts on my body, just enough to scare me. One clean one on my cheek, one on my forearm, and one on my lower abdomen.

Later I would remember, in too much detail, the various details of his body. The insignia that the prosecutor would link him to a gang, and the facial features I would see in a line up. At the time I was just terrified, my mind was racing, my eyes were closed.

Then he raped me. Another unfortunate detail is that he wasn't successful at first and kept roughly moving my body, pushing me up against the wall of the that portable toilet.

After awhile it was over, and he threw most of my ripped bloody clothes in the toilet. I would find out later that he took some as proof of his actions, for his gang. I didn't notice that then. For a long time I'm sure I just sat in there crying. After awhile i started to use toilet paper to wipe the blood off of my cuts. I was bleeding elsewhere too, but I didn't even want to register what had happened there.

This was before cell phones, and I had no idea who I would have called anyway. People kept knocking on the door, and eventually some state fair worker had an outside key. I tried to hold the door closed, but he pulled it open enough for himself and the people waiting to use the toilets. He said ‘oh god’ and shut it immediately. I couldn't hear much from in there, but it wasn't long before a female police officer came in the porta potty with a oversized police department tshirt.

She asked me questions, the EMT's asked me questions, the ER nurse and doctor asked me questions. It was hours before I told them enough to call my parents. I had no words to explain what had happened. I don't even think I had registered what had happened. The doctor who did the rape kit tried to be gentle, but it felt like it was happening all over again. I had no intentions of letting anyone down there again. My mother gave them permission to sedate me, but I still remember feeling helpless again. Hours later, with stitches in my face and arm, they took me home.

The questions continued. ‘Who did this?’ ‘Do you have a boyfriend? Was it him?’ ‘What happened’. I just wouldn't answer, I couldn't explain.

Eventually there was a detective, a line up that he wasn't in. Another phone call from a detective, asking me to relive that day. My Dad took me to a plastic surgeon who made the scar on my face less visible. I went back to school, the friends I had been with on that day asked questions, I lied. I tried so hard not to think about it every day, it was enough that it replayed in my mind every night.

A year had passed, psychologists, doctors, detectives, asking me to relive it. More STD tests, and questions and panic attacks. Eventually I told my mom and a detective robotic details. I tried to do normal high school things, but it was hard for me to be out of my house. Eventually my mom took to me to a group therapy session for rape survivors. A lot of those women were older than me, talking about how they don't go out at night, or they have problems with relationships. That was the first time I remember thinking ‘I don't want to be like that’.

One of the women had a therapist she said had helped her, ‘she's cool you know?’. It made sense to me, my parents had taken me to PhD's who had given me prescriptions for psych medications that made me nauseous. I took down the name and number of the ‘cool’ therapist. When I told my mom she grabbed the scribbled paper with her name on it, and called it even though it was 7:30 on a Tuesday.

I remember her listening to the automated voice recording, and she said ‘the office hours are 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday’ as if this were a new and interesting fact. ‘That's pretty common mom, you know for office hours’. That was the first time my mom and I had laughed in a long time. A week later I had an appointment.

That's the moment I started feeling better. Years later the evidence from my rape kit linked him to another rape. By then I was in college, and I flew home to testify.

I just keep thinking what my therapist said about the girls in the group therapy session, ‘Don't let him take anything more from you than he already has’. All of the sudden it started to make sense. He took my sophomore year, he took my trust in men for awhile. He took my ability to use porta potties at public events! He took my JV choir polo with my name embroidered on it! ‘Don't let him take any more,’ I said as I put make up over my scar, and went on my first date. Years later I would that to myself as I sat through the mandatory state college sexual assault seminar. Of course I was careful, but I wasn't going to let him take college parties from me either.

I volunteered at an inner city women's clinic. I also traveled and dug water trenches with a non profit in central America. I finished my undergraduate degree, and I'm now doing a graduate degree in psychology. ‘Will you work with rape victims?’ my best friend once asked. ‘Probably,’ I said, ‘Right now i'm working with children on the Autism spectrum’. She seemed a little confused, as expected a definite 'yes' or 'no' answer.

That's just the thing, society expects us to be defined by it. It's supposed to really change who we are. Everyone handles trauma differently. Be it from rape or war, male or female, everyone has had something happen that really affects them. I once told a boyfriend about it, years later when the prosecutor called me to tell me about a parole hearing. He acted very strangely, and we broke up shortly later. I don't want to think it was about the sparse details I gave him, maybe or maybe not.

In the end for me, it is what it is. I learned a lot about myself from that episode, and if I continue my graduate program and end up working with victims of anything, I'll tell them not to let what happened take anymore from them."

— Anonymous


“When I was 15 I was attacked in the vestibule of my friend’s building. It was late (around midnight) and after walking a friend to a local park I realized I was being followed.

I thought the safest thing for me to do at the time was to go to another friends house who lived close by. I had to go under an archway which led into a courtyard that had four (4) doorways; if you were to imagine the numbers on a clock being the doorways the numbers were 7, 11, 2 & 5. My friend (the one who ended up not being home that night) lived at number 11.

My would-be attacker actually waited for me to ring the bell to get into the building; I could see him and knew there was going to be a problem but there was nothing I could do; neither my friend or his mother were home and I was alone. I ended up having to walk past him on my attempt at exiting. I got back under the archway and that’s when he grabbed me. He slammed me into the wall; put his leg in between my two legs; put a hand over my mouth and told me not to scream but to lie down. My head hurt from where my head had hit the wall and I was scared; his hands were grabbing at me and I was trying to fight him; at the same time I was so angry; how dare he! So, really without thinking, since he had separated my legs w/one of his; I realized I also had one leg in between HIS legs. so I raised my leg & kneed him as hard as I could in his testicles. He made a noise & went down; I pushed him away from me and ran out of the vestibule to the street. I was sliding up the hood of a car to get away from him, screaming in English & in Spanish for help. When he was about to pounce on me I was saved by a lady from the next building who was waiting for her daughter to come home. She had heard my screaming & yelled at him to leave me alone & she was calling the police.

Long story short he was a serial attacker who had actually attacked several women in the area. One woman he actually attacked twice; he broke her jaw the second time. The police ended up getting his victims together after we positively identified him but, as in most sexual assault cases, most were too scared to go thru with the prosecution. Only myself and one other woman saw the entire case thru to the end. The perpetrator pled guilty to an assault charge; but because he had made a plea bargain; he spent his time in a mental hospital rather than a jail... No justice at all in my opinion; however I am still alive.”

— Anonymous