By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved
A cyber friend from the other side of the world sent me a link last night about partner rape. I’ve added it to my list of “Related Websites.” Little did she know the storm she would set off for me.
This is a subject I’ve known I need to write about, but have persistently procrastinated. There are so many other things in the world to talk about. I can talk forever without ever mentioning this subject, surely. Right?
First, I opened her e-mail with the link. I got tense, but added the link to my site; responded to her e-mail. Whew. Made it through OK. Then there was another e-mail from her with an attachment. I opened the attachment. It was an excerpt from the site. Oh, darn. Only one page. OK. I made it through the page. By the end of the page I was physically ill. I almost had to leave the room. I sat back and concentrated on deep breathing and not throwing up.
I got up, unplugged my computer and brought it outside to the patio where I am now, and my stomach is back where it belongs. I guess I really do have to write about this. Because I know I’m not the only one. There are others reading this who know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?
It happens in Christian marriages. Sometimes it is forcible violent rape. Mine wasn’t. In some ways I wish it was. Just like I used to wish he would hit me. If he would just hit me I could call the police and everyone would finally believe me. If I just had some visible bruises everyone else would know I wasn’t lying.
After our daughter was born, in one of his screaming rages, Gary swore he would never come near me in an intimate way again. And he proceeded to denigrate me so horribly that I could certainly not initiate anything and retain a shred of self respect. I remained calm, as I had learned to do, and asked him if he realized what he was saying. He affirmed that he did and didn’t care. He meant it. And he did. He stayed away.
Throughout the next couple years I regularly let him know he was welcome back when he changed his mind. He didn’t change his mind. Then I was diagnosed with cancer. Once we had the details of the type of cancer I had and knew the cancer was highly hormone receptor positive, and I opted for a reconstructive surgery that permanently re-routed my Rectus abdominis muscles which support the uterus during pregnancy, we knew getting pregnant could kill me and would be at best, extremely difficult. We discussed this many times, and I told him repeatedly after that, he was welcome back when he changed his mind AND bought condoms. When he didn’t buy them, I finally did because the risk was just too great for a spur of the moment decision to cost me my life.
Digressing slightly, one of the many side-effects of chemo and the steroids that go with it, is insomnia. Like everyone else who takes chemo, I was prescribed a sleep aid. I attempted to go off it a few months after completing chemo, but my body wasn’t ready yet and I had to go back on the medication. It was a very big deal that everyone in the family was aware of because of the dramatic effects of the attempt. (There’s a reason for that little digression. ) I was finally able to go off the sleep aid about a year after completing chemo.
Meanwhile, however, the last summer we were together, about one year after starting chemo, there were three times when I woke in the night to find Gary having his way with me. Due to the medication I was unable to remain awake (I was in and out of wakefulness throughout), participate deliberately, tell him to stop, or refuse to do anything he told me to do as long as it didn’t require any coordinated action on my part. One time he did something I had repeatedly asked him not to do throughout our marriage, but he had done a few times anyway. One time he “forgot” to use a condom. And once he did something I had always refused to let him do because I felt it was derogatory within the nature of our relationship. He crowed about it for days afterwards and I felt completely ashamed.
And I could say nothing. I was very confused. On one hand, I had told him he was welcome back anytime he changed his mind. But I didn’t mean in the middle of the night when I didn’t know about it. Did he somehow think that was OK? But I knew if I said anything about any of these events three things would happen. One, he would fly into a rage. He was already doing that on an almost daily basis. Two, he would immediately call his parents (he tattled to his parents about everything constantly) and tell them I was “again” denying him sex, which was one of his favorite (unfounded) complaints. Three, he would use this as another mark against me with all his friends and our pastors – another favorite thing to do.
For the next 8 months I had terroristic nightmares every single night, even after I left him, which was 2 months after the last time it happened. I was afraid to go to sleep at night because I didn’t know what would happen. Every night I dreamed he was either trying to rape me, kill me, or had lost our daughter and blamed me (because that sort of thing actually happened). Frequently I woke up sobbing out loud or shaking so hard the whole bed rattled. Three or four days a week I woke up with a screaming migraine.
I will always believe that at least subconsciously he wanted to kill me when he “forgot” to use a condom. How do you “forget” to use a condom when it’s been two and a half years and you know it can kill your wife if she gets pregnant? And you’re sneaking it in when she’s asleep? I also know that when I first told him the doctor told me the biopsy was positive for cancer his response was, “Now I’ll have to find a new wife.” He wanted out but his code of ethics wouldn’t let him be the one to pull the plug.
The only way I eventually got relief was with the help of a psychologist. And I don’t know why it helped. But it did. [Later edit: I remembered why it helped but it’s irrelevant to this article. If it really matters to you, you can e-mail me and I’ll tell you. )
There were a whole pile of last straws in our relationship. The escalating aggression. Realizing that the verbal and emotional abuse were just as deadly as the physical violence. Realizing that I was just as worth saving as my children were. Getting cancer – I believe from the stress of living in the abuse. Realizing I was setting an example for my daughter to marry an abuser. Seeing him start to treat our daughter the way he had started with the boys when they were her age.
But this was definitely another of the “last straws.” And it was one of the hardest ones. It was one of the ones I “felt” the strongest about, but could least express. I told my attorney about it and I told my pastors. But it was certainly not something I could bring up in court. They would have made mincemeat out of me, and at that point I was definitely not strong enough emotionally to bear it. Gary could completely deny any evil intention. And he would have been absolutely believable. I would have looked like a raving lunatic out to destroy an innocent man.
But inside I was destroyed. At the time, I was sure I could never marry again. I was convinced there was no way a man was ever getting anywhere close to me in this lifetime. I think I’ve gained enough distance that it won’t be an impossible hurdle.
At the same time, with the way the church deals with abuse, I am quite sure in the normal way of things, if a wife were to take a situation like this to her pastors she would get no consideration at all. And that would be profoundly wrong, because what happened to me was a gross violation. I don’t really know what to call it. Do you call it rape? I don’t know. It was certainly sexual assault. I wasn’t a willing participant. It was “taken” without my consent, and cruelly at that – without leaving a mark on me. Just because he was my husband did not give him that right.