My Ex told me he realizes he raped me. This is how we both experienced healing: A Hasty Essay.

A hasty essay. My Ex and I met up last night: he told me he realizes he raped me.  This is how we both experienced deep healing.

I’m still processing this. We dated for 4 years, I left him maybe 10 months ago and we are now back in touch and spending some casual time together as friends. I have no desire to date him and he knows. When we met in 2014, I was incredibly inexperienced. He rushed sex with me in ways that were uncomfortable. I’ve never been one for hook up culture or moving fast sexually.  It felt wrong- but I thought this was just how men are.  He tricked/ violated me into oral sex (on me,) and with vaginal intercourse.  To which he said, “wow, normally I don’t go so fast with women.” Thinking about this makes me sick to my stomach. I thought that was what I had to deal with, that all men were like that. 

Eventually I realized how messed up all of that was. I never told him about it because I would just be in his words “bringing up the past,” and “making him feel anxious” or “I didn’t sleep at all last night, was feeling suicidal, now work is going to be horrible,” which I took as him saying that I just.. shouldn’t say anything.  I felt in a constant limbo of speaking up to him and “making him panic/ bringing up the past/ ruining his day,” and not saying anything and then “being moody.” He was always on his phone when we were together, if we were apart, he would be playing pvp video games and not paying attention to our conversation and would get angry when I noticed he wasn’t listening. He found reasons to argue with many of my opinions, seemingly for little reason.  Our sex life was not great, I don’t want to go into more detail, it was not horrible but I experienced guilt and shame that still affect me.  To be clear, there were many great things about him and about our relationship.  It was by no means entirely bad and I would not describe him as “abusive.” I was difficult also.

We’ve been communicating; it’s been good.  He knows I have 0 desire to get back with him.  We’ve become close again in a way that is healthy and benefiting us both.  Last night we went out and he said he wanted to talk to me about something, I could tell he was worried. He told me that he “felt like he raped me,” and “feels like a monster,” and had “felt horrible about it and wanted to tell you for years.” He brought up the above. He is not looking for pity, I know that. I told him yes, it sucked and was horrible. I told him I would not consider what happened to be rape, but a violation. I told him the most important thing to me is that he and I have both grown as people. I told him what I have learned about masculinity (the good and bad.) I gave him tips for navigating consent moving forward and he was happy to have my insight.  I told him how men find themselves in a limbo also of asking for consent vs being perceived as a p***y in dating.  We are both the victims and the survivors of mixed messages from our society regarding sexuality. We are the victims and survivors of a traditional southern city, with Catholic values intermingled with millennial sexuality and a wild party culture and a love of Punk Rock.

Single and dating now, I find myself fearful of sexual intimacy with new men. I also find myself in awe at the variety of men I have the pleasure of spending time with and the kindness they show me.  They are all different.  They all have weird little quirks.  I didn’t realize how well I could be treated; I never knew that men could care like they do. Many men are gentle and kind, they desire to hear my fears and any discomfort they may cause me. They notice when I am afraid. They ask me if I am okay, if it’s okay to kiss me.  One man I was talking to would listen so intently to me on the phone without interruption that I thought the call had dropped. He was still there. He didn’t want to interrupt me. It almost brought me to tears how much I felt he cared.  Most men notice I am nervous with physical intimacy, they check in on me, they tell me they will slow down, they care.  Many men want to hear my opinions, and may disagree, but are open to what I have to say.  They smile and their eyes light up when I talk about things I am passionate about.  In the past I would have said “sorry,” but many men enjoy seeing me excited, they love my passion. They want to get to know me.  One man is a friend of mine, he expressed he wanted to put his arm around my shoulder and that he liked me.  I didn’t like him that way, but in that moment, I felt obligated to not say anything.  I told myself I could tell him the truth, I was afraid, but I politely declined.  I was afraid of his reaction, but he was fine, he. was. fine. He could tell I had trouble, and he talked to me about how it wasn’t a big deal.  He cares about me for more than my body. He cares for me as a friend also.  I felt loved and accepted.

My ex is trying to navigate the same dating pool in the #MeToo era, it’s important to him that he respects boundaries, he wants to learn, he wants to ask for consent. It’s not easy for men either, we all need to admit this and find solutions together. We need to stop shaming men, and allow space for them to speak of their regrets.  Without resolution there will be no change, no growth.  To be clear, no one is obligated to communicate with their abuser, please don’t take it that way.  No one owes shit to their abuser, please decide what is best for you.

I feel in shock today. But I feel vindicated. I feel like I’m not fucking crazy. I want to cry but I can’t. I want to hug someone, but I can’t. I’m proud of my ex, I’m proud of myself, I’m proud of our weird fucking planet and weird soft warm human beings that can have these bizarre conversations, where I can talk with my ex and he can apologize for violating my trust and we can both have a healing moment.

Thank you in advance, kind strangers.