It is not your fault

One of my best friends is named Alice.  She is an amazingly strong, beautiful woman.  Years ago – just out of college – she was in an abusive relationship.  Part of Alice’s healing process has included ongoing writing about her experience.  The following is something she wrote recently, and gave me permission to post here.


I remember we were not watching The Elephant Man.

I had just returned from a weekend away, and my boyfriend and I were reuniting by lounging around his house watching a movie about actors acting in The Elephant Man. Watching actors act as actors was a nice enough way to spend the evening, but when my boyfriend reached for me, I cringed, knowing what was coming. I cringed, he pulled me closer, and in a split second I made the decision to stop resisting.

I didn’t want to have sex with my boyfriend because I knew it was going to hurt, because it always hurt, sometimes just a little, sometimes worse than any other pain I had ever experienced. The pain scared me, made my body involuntarily tense, my face frozen in terror. Sometimes I rolled to the other side of the bed, trembling with fear. This, he ignored. Sometimes I tried a little indirect verbal resistance. “I’m not in the mood,” I would say, or, “Maybe later?” This did not stop him, either, just added humiliation to the pain when he did it to me anyway.

I was afraid to outright refuse, because the few times I did say “No!” or “Stop!” he flew into a rage that was worse for me than the pain. Mostly, he tapped into my natural fear of displeasing a loved one, yelled at me for making him feel bad, told me I was mean and selfish. “Sexual criticism hurts me very deeply,” he once explained. Since refusing to have sex with him or even asking him to do it in a less painful way counted as criticism, I had no choices.

This is a catch-22 of an abusive relationship: Your partner intends to have sex with you even though you don’t want to. You could choose not to fight back, in which case he will rape you, and if you report the rape, you will be told that it isn’t really rape, since you didn’t fight back. Or, you could choose to fight back, in which case you might stop him from raping you, but you will be charged with domestic violence by for hitting someone who had not hit nor threatened to hit you. Maybe you fight back and he rapes you anyway and then you’re raped AND beaten and maybe then the authorities will believe you, but isn’t that a high price to pay for belief?

It didn’t happen quite exactly like that for me, since the thought of hitting him never crossed my mind; he was my BOYFRIEND, besides being TWICE MY SIZE, I mean HELLO, I’m not STUPID. Besides, I didn’t realize that what he was doing was abuse, because I was one of those people who believed that abuse means hitting. And I was afraid to tell anyone what was happening, because I assumed it was my fault for having sex outside of marriage.

It’s sort of like if someone took a wooden kitchen spoon that still had splinters on it, set it on fire, and shoved it really hard up your nose over and over again while laughing at your screams of pain, and you’re afraid to tell anyone, because you have it in your head that your entire worth as a person depends on your never having had a spoon in your nose.

If you are in a situation like this, please, please, PLEASE tell someone. If there is no one in your life you can trust, call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE and you will be connected with someone you can talk to. It is abuse, even if he isn’t hitting you. It is rape, even if you aren’t hitting him. It is not your fault, even if you’ve also done it with him consensually. Telling is the first step in helping things be okay. Good luck, and I wish you much love in your life.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Alice, thank you so much for your bravery in publishing this. We always need to hear these raw, true stories, as compelling examples of the ability to grow out of such pain, and grow into healing. Blessings to you, your heart, and your example. Blessings to you as you raise your girls into a stronger wholeness. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Ruth. I believe strongly that I would have made better decisions if I had not been afraid to tell the (older) adults in my life what was going on. Having been told “Don’t have sex before marriage,” I assumed that the abuse was my fault and that telling would result in losing my support system. Open, honest, judgment-free conversations between adults and teenagers (young adults, I was 20) are a part of sexuality education that can literally prevent tragedy.

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