Maintaining a Relationship With One’s Rapist

Posted by on November 20, 2012

I am reposting this article I first published over a year ago. It was written by someone I know only as Benny who posted this on a site called Rape is Never Justified. It has brought more comments from people in similar circumstances who just have no guide in navigating the complexities of having feelings for someone who could rape you. As a result this will be the subject of my next post. May all of you who are struggling with this issue find some small solace in that fact that you are far from alone! rse

Maintaining a Relationship With One’s Rapist

by Benny – RNJ Peer Advocate on Monday, September 19, 2011 at 6:17pm

In my last blog, I shared my story with you all and so this week I feel more confident in talking about maintaining a relationship with one’s rapist. In my case, my rapist was my boyfriend and so I continued my relationship with him, for quite some time actually. As odd as this may seem to certain people, it does happen pretty frequently. There are plenty of cases (85% of rapes) where the perpetrator is a boyfriend, or a date, or any version of an acquaintance and so there is some relationship established already. So after such an awful, traumatic experience, why would anyone choose to continue the relationship with the perpetrator? Many reasons actually.

So I will start this with an anecdote that I hope will illustrate my point. During high school, I was in art class and we were drawing cartoons and so Winnie the Pooh came up. My friend asked, “Why ‘the Pooh’, I don’t get it?” and I responded, “’Pooh’ is a type of bear.” After a few seconds I admitted that I was completely making that up; my teacher interjected and said, “I knew that wasn’t true but because you said it so confidently I didn’t question you.”

I see this happen all the time; I’m sure all of us have seen this happen at some time in our lives. Sometimes when we don’t know about a particular subject, we simply accept what others tell us especially if they seem pretty confident when they say it—why wouldn’t we? And so that’s why I find this example a good way to explain why someone might maintain a relationship with their rapist; when someone acts like nothing is wrong, why would we think any differently? And we come to a more technical term; this is referred to as normalizing.

Let’s use the example of Stacy and Tom, fictional characters. If Stacy and Tom go on a date and everything is going well and then at the end of the night, they end up in Tom’s apartment; at that point Tom rapes Stacy. After he is done, he drops off Stacy at her house, kisses her goodnight. The next day, Tom gives Stacy a call and asks her out on another date.

Although there are a couple of factors in play in the above example, if Stacy has not identified what happened as rape yet, what other behavior tells her that what Tom did is not normal? It is normal for a guy to kiss you after a date, and normal for him to call you and ask you out again…there is nothing about his behavior after the rape that says anything is wrong; not to mention the confidence in his actions. This is seen a lot. After they have raped someone, some rapists will act completely normal as a way of not letting the victim know that something wrong did happen. This can also be seen as a way of the perpetrator to place more control on the victim; by maintaining the relationship with the victim they are close to them, keeping them from telling anyone what happened.

This strategy is even more monopolized on because of the victim’s state of mind after this traumatizing experience. Sometimes, one reason a victim may not identify what happened as rape is because they are not ready to accept it. In this state of mind, one would not want it to be true; many do not want to be “rape victims”. By not wanting something to be true, one would also try to normalize the situation and continue on with “normal” activity. In my personal experience, this played a vital role in why I stayed with my boyfriend. After my rape, my boyfriend acted like nothing happened beyond consensual sex and the last thing I wanted to have happened was rape; why wouldn’t I stay with him and act like nothing had happened? As counter-productive as it may seem now, not facing what happened to me served my own mental health at that time; I was just not ready to accept it.

I only hope this helps (even a little) some people understand why a victim may maintain a relationship with their rapist. Victims receive a lot of backlash for their actions; as always it is this that people focus on. However, the perpetrator’s actions should be in critic; this is another action that is done by the perpetrator only to suffice their own need and exert only more control on their victim. And as always, those actions are never justified.