Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.
It was a late December night and I was excited that I could finally get into a club. It was my nineteenth birthday, the night I got pregnant.
The previous year my girlfriends went off to university and since that time the connection we built over the four years during high school was slowly lost. I had taken a year off of school because I was at a point in my life where I was confused about what to do next or even how I felt about myself. Growing up in a household of violence and addiction really took its toll on me and I needed to figure out how to move forward with my life even though I was still living in a hostile environment. Slowly the violence and addiction of a family member had subsided so I made the decision to go back to school although the trauma, pain and lack of love were still there. On top of it, my mother had been going through a very tough time in her life and struggled with her mental health since I was twelve – this too made it difficult for me to navigate as a young woman who wasn’t able to discuss much of anything with her mother.
I began drinking at 16 and smoking at 12. People thought it was because I wanted to “fit in” but mostly it was because I needed a way to cope with everything that was falling apart around me. I learned at a young age that the way to cope was through the use of drugs and alcohol. The volatile environment I called home was a ‘no talking zone’ where feelings and love could never be spoken about freely or honestly. Violence was the norm – a way to express yourself. Addiction to drugs and alcohol was not hidden and suicide attempts were front and centre. At only twelve years old I was trying to figure out how to cope with seeing all these things; coming up with stories to tell my teachers if they asked me where the bruises and deep cuts on my forehead, legs and arms came from, while my friends hung out peacefully at home complaining about their parents not wanting them to wear mascara because they thought they were too young.
The night of my nineteenth birthday I accepted the invitation of two male co-workers to go out to a club downtown Toronto to celebrate. One of my friends picked me up in a cab where we would then meet the other at the apartment he lived in downtown. He bought me a Ciara album for my birthday and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had already bought it. I left my bag at my friend’s apartment downtown because we had discussed earlier in the day that I could stay the night to save money by not having to take a cab home. I lied to my father and said I would be staying the night with a girlfriend of mine. We made our way to the club and got in without an issue. There were no assumptions or expectations for the night ahead, at least on my end. We were all friends.
I had a crush on one of the guys that came out that night. We spoke about it in the past as the feelings were mutual but there were no plans to act on it. Growing up I never received much attention from boys. I was the quiet girl yet quick to stand up for myself or anyone else that was bullied or picked on. I was the girl who couldn’t afford to wear expensive clothes. The girl who barely passed her classes and came to school with bruises and cuts, the girl who hung out at the back of the school drinking and smoking; I was the girl who was never asked by anyone if she was okay. So, to receive the attention of an older attractive man was exciting but intimidating and nerve wracking for me. I wasn’t ready for anything from him – not even a kiss. We would be friends, I decided.
As I danced the night away one of my friends decided to go home so it was just the two of us left: me and the one I had a crush on. He kept bringing me Smirnoff after Smirnoff after Smirnoff while he sipped on water the whole night. He was a fitness and health buff so he wasn’t interested in alcohol whatsoever. I think I lost count at four Smirnoff Ice’s. As 3am rolled around it was time to leave and we headed back to his place where I had left my stuff earlier in the night. He took me on a tour of his building, showing me the amenities it had to offer, and then we headed up. We agreed that nothing would happen that night and even decided we would sleep head to feet. From there things got blurry.
On my nineteenth birthday I was raped.
When I gave birth to my son my whole life changed. Not only because I became a single mother at nineteen years old but something felt off. I didn’t realize I was raped on my nineteenth birthday until I was 25 years old. I always knew something didn’t feel right but I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t have a label for it. I slipped into a deep depression that I couldn’t even recognize. I didn’t know I was severely depressed for the first several months of my son’s life until well into my twenties. I remember having a hard time doing just about anything. I stopped calling friends, answering their calls or returning them. They slowly stopped inviting me out not realizing that something serious was going on for me. Then the phone calls stopped. I lived with my parents at the time and my father, now a sober and completely different man, was extremely supportive. He knew what was going on with me even though I didn’t but he didn’t know how to help me. He would let me sleep while he took care of my son. He would feed him, bathe him and hold him when I couldn’t. He would try to talk to me but was only met with anger or silence. He would encourage me to go out and take care of myself. I resisted but eventually accepted. I would go out not to drink but to get drunk. I had this constant need to escape so that the pain I couldn’t label would go away.
When I was 25 I decided to see a counsellor. I was always hesitant to go to one but I finally decided to. I forced myself because I needed someone to talk to. I had run into my sons ‘father’ after six years of his chosen absence and I was beginning to have confusing memories; flashbacks to my nineteenth birthday and confusing thoughts that I didn’t understand. Within five minutes the counsellor had me in tears and within ten she told me it was normal to feel the way I was feeling about running into my sons ‘father’ because he raped me. I let the word sit in the air, not understanding it; as if I didn’t even recognize it. I remember this intense anger boiling up inside of me towards her. I screamed, “I was not raped!” I immediately grabbed my bag and ran out the door making sure I slammed it on the way out.
I didn’t understand how a complete stranger could tell me I was raped. Wouldn’t I know? Of course I would know. Right? I willingly drank on my nineteenth birthday. I went back to his place on my own free will. I put my pajamas on and decided to sleep in his bed. What do you mean I was raped? But then everything started making sense. The fact that I didn’t remember my clothes being taken off and that I didn’t remember having sex. Do you even call that sex? What would you even call it? I went to sleep but woke up during the night to him on top of me. I vaguely remember trying to push his body off mine. In the morning I woke up without clothes and I couldn't stop wondering how. I recall going to the washroom in the morning and crying because I didn’t understand what was dripping out of me.
I always thought rape had to be violent until I was 25.
Growing up I was told what rape should look like. It was described as violent, aggressive, and painful – an event that will have you running for your life; for your well-being, mentally and physically. So how could this counsellor possibly think that I was raped? It wasn’t violent, it wasn’t aggressive, and I don’t recall feeling any pain. I didn’t wake up with any injuries. I didn’t have to run for safety. So how was it possible for someone who had only known me for ten minutes claim that I was raped on my nineteenth birthday?
Then I began to remember. I was drunk and was given drinks until I was at a point where I couldn’t even defend myself or give consent.
Consent. That was the missing piece. That was what I was missing for so many years.
Yes, I went back to his place. Yes, I laid down to sleep. No, I didn’t give consent. How could I? I was heavily intoxicated. Blacking out. Unable to even understand how and when my clothes even came off. Was a condom used? I didn’t know. I had no idea because I couldn’t remember anything. I willingly went back to his place but my intention was to sleep, his wasn’t. He was sober and I was not.
For years I blamed myself for getting pregnant at nineteen and for getting drunk that night. For trusting someone enough to sleep at their place. I did not want to have sex with him that night. Yes, I had a crush on him but I was not ready to have sex with him. I did not want to have sex with him. I just wanted to sleep but he decided he wanted to have sex with me. He did not have a drop of alcohol the whole night – he knew what he was doing and I wasn’t in the right state of mind to say no, to deny consent. And yet I did physically but it was ignored.
That night he took a piece of me. He helped himself to my body and made me feel like a stranger inside of it for years. He turned my life upside down and walked away with no consequences. No repercussions.
My rapist doesn’t know he is a rapist.
My rapist is my son’s father.
My son is my life. He is everything to me. I am his mother and he has no father and never will. My son is innocent and is not to blame for anything that happened that night. He has nothing to do with any of it. He did not ask for this to happen. He did not ask to have a rapist for a father.
My son changed my life – for the better. He makes me see the world in a completely different way. He is my light, my motivation and my life. I love him with every cell in my body. When I look at my son I see him and only him, not the man that raped me. My son is an innocent light full of love and this is all I see when I look at him; peace. I wouldn’t change what happened on my nineteenth birthday because then I wouldn’t have my son and yet I would want to. These are complicated feelings that I can never fully express or explain, and I don’t think I will ever be able to but the people in my life would get this.
Rape doesn’t have to be violent in order for it to be considered rape. This is one thing I wish I was told when I was young. I blamed myself for getting pregnant for so many years before I realized that it wasn’t my fault. I went out to have a good time – to dance and have some drinks. The plan was to go back to a trusted friend’s house to sleep. Period. Full stop. I am not to blame. It was not my fault. The only thing that was my fault was trusting the wrong person to spend my time with, and even then, don’t we all at some point in our lives?
On my nineteenth birthday I was raped. Nine months later my son gave me a new life; a life full of hope, joy and unconditional love. My son has healed me in ways I could have never imagined and I am truly thankful for him. He is not to blame. I am not to blame. It was not our fault.