Behind Closed Doors
The kids are in finally in bed. They are often sick and unruly. I think the smothering, constant stress around here is hard on them. It’s hard on me too. God, please let him be asleep in his chair tonight. I am so tired. How I dread the night.
“Come here!” he screams from the front room.
I walk in softly. I am fearful of what I know is to come.
“Take your clothes off!” he orders.
Slowly I do as he says. He’s standing here already naked – primed for attack. I’ve seen this look before- too many times to count. Roughly he flings me to the floor. He slaps me across the face – first one side and then the other. He yanks my legs apart. He drops his heavy body on top of mine, penetrates and begins – back and forth, back and forth like a crazed animal. I pray he will come soon and this will be over. He suddenly stops.
“Turn over!” he grabs my arm dragging it across my body forcing me onto my stomach.
No, no, please God, not this. Please, no. This is wrong. I hate this. Please no! Tears fill my eyes and tumble onto the worn carpet. I resist as best I can with every ounce of muscular strength I can muster. Suddenly, the shearing, firey pain of tearing tissue rips throughout my entire body. “Ahhhh! Stop! Stop!”
“Shut up, bitch!” He holds my butt tightly in his raging grip. His nails dig deep into my flesh. He doesn’t stop.
I hate you! I hate you! I scream at him in my head. No words are allowed to escape my lips. Using my fingernails I rip at my own flesh over my chest. This self-inflicted pain is easier to bear than what he is doing to me. I hate him! I hate him! I hate me.
Finally it’s over. I have fallen into the anguishing abyss of pain, humiliation, loathing and fear. How many times have I had to endure abominable rape by my husband? How many more to come? I am defeated. I have searched this house in vain for any safe place to hide. There is no safety. There is no relief.
Won’t someone help me and my kids out of this hell? Who can I talk to?
Family? “You married him. I knew he was bad news from the beginning. I told you but you did it anyway. You made this bed, you sleep in it.”
Friends? I don’t have any. I’ve been mostly a prisoner in my house. I don’t know anyone.
Police? “What did you do to piss him off? You must have deserved it. Go home and behave.”
Lawyer? “Why do you say such horrible things about him? He is such a nice guy. But for triple the amount my normal fee I will pretend to represent you and then betray you to him.”
Society? “What goes on behind closed doors is none of our business. We don’t want to hear it. Go away.” There are only deaf ears in my defense.
We can’t stop here without mentioning the devastating long-term psychological and physical effects of domestic violence and its inherent wife rape:
1. Depression. A counselor told me, “You have been depressed so long you don’t even know you are depressed.”
2. Anxiety. Anxiety is defined as fear of the future. I was out of the drama and thrust into an unknown society totally unprepared for having to find work. I didn’t even know how to go about it. I had no sense that I could do anything to make money. I spent hours sitting on the floor in a corner afraid to move.
3. Numb. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t breathe.
4. Despair. How can I survive on my own? Maybe I should go back to him. No, he’ll kill me. (On an average, women of domestic violence go back five times for this very reason.) I must survive. But how?
5. Trust. Who? NO!
6. Health. Cancer and other physical illness develop over time from the continuous daily stress and assaults both verbal and physical. No money. No health insurance. Cancer was nothing to me. I gave myself two weeks to decide if I wanted to live or die.
Forcible rape, commonly known as ‘stranger rape’ or ‘classical rape’, is a recognized crime in the USA – prosecuted and punishable. (Even though the burden of proof of the rape still lies within the body of the woman raped.) It is, however, the old patriarchal stereotypes and misunderstandings regarding the “rights” of a man in a marriage that takes wife rape out of the scope of the law.
In fact for many years the “marital rape ‘exemption’” legally shielded husbands from being charged with the rape of their wives. It is still coddled to today. Why? In the realm of domestic violence especially there is the belief that a women’s sexuality is a ‘commodity’ that is owned by her husband. He is then ‘entitled’ to sexual relations with his wife and furthermore, she should be a ‘dutifully consensual’ partner at all times. They are married, after all. This prevalent belief makes any idea of wife rape a non-issue. In such a so called modern society as we have here, these ideas, while considered old and outdated, still exert their influence on current attitudes and laws. Thus, wife rape or marital rape is not rare. It is only rarely discussed.
One possible solution to marital rape could be new laws punishing the rapist. But wait, how can she prove she was raped? In her deep distress she no doubt readily showered and/or even douched after the rape thus destroying all evidence. Plus she has many fears and mixed feelings such as fear of retaliation both for herself and her children; fear of negative responses from family and friends not to mention fear of the inherent degradation inherent in the legal proceedings. Most likely she will be shown by the prosecution to be the “bad wife” and thus raped again – publically this time and in detail.
As we women have learned, rape is primarily viewed as our fault. So if a woman does takes her husband to court because he raped her, the rape has to be well within the extreme of abusive domestic violence. Otherwise, she stands no chance of winning. In fact, she stands a better chance of dying.
Many women who have endured severe battering don’t distinguish the rape from the other intense abuse. It is all part of the same package. Often they are unclear about the difference in what rape is and what constitutes normal, acceptable sexual relations. In the throes of violence, it’s all a nightmarish blur anyway.
Although the women will state that the experience of forced sex was painful and unwanted, they don’t recognize it as rape and frame it outside the bounds of marriage. In fact, it was found that survivors of multiple marital rapes only called it rape when it resembled ‘stranger rape’ or ‘classical rape. It was only through later education through a women’s shelter counseling, literature, TV shows or other means that she was able to redefine her own multiple rapes as rape. Of course other factors may be involved as well such as loyalty to her husband and privacy of the family. She may be in denial of her own victimization and, of course, the reluctance to label forced sex as rape.
As of today there is no long-term viable solution. Perhaps wife rape or marital rape in general is a conversation that needs to be exposed. Let’s give up our heart-rendering sense of guilt and shame so that this family travesty may be may be dealt with for what it is – RAPE!